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Halliwell's Film & Video Guide 2003
edited by John Walker
HarperCollins Entertainment paperback £20

review by Christopher Geary

This is the 18th Halliwell's, a fully revised and updated edition, and now in its 25th year of publication. It remains by far the most successful and useful of all general movie guides on the market. Despite its broadly populist approach to reviewing, if you're after a reliable mainstream oriented reference book, this is undoubtedly the premier choice.
   Obviously, as a bulky yet single volume, this film and video guide must struggle to be comprehensive and has no chance of being complete. Where Halliwell's wins out against more thoroughly inclusive multi-volume studies, or genre-specific books (e.g. Aurum's film encyclopaedias), is that it serves the purpose of a family guide to home entertainment. Mums and dads and teenagers will find it very helpful, even if film buffs requiring more detailed info and reviews with more depth prefer the level of criticism found in the latest Time Out book, or Elliott's greater range of video listings. Halliwell's also now includes a pictorial symbol to indicate whether or not each of the 23,000 films covered in its main A-Z section are recommended as suitable for family viewing.
   There are further icons that indicate currently available VHS (widescreen, PAL or NTSC), laserdisc, video CD, soundtrack CD, and DVD region 1 or 2 releases; alongside the text of film title (and alternatives), synopsis, main cast and crew credits, critical assessment usually limited to a few brief quotes from notable reviews, other points of interest, and wins or nominations at the Oscars and BAFTA awards. All the top Academy Awards are also listed chronologically at the back of the book, and there's a handy 22-page index of leading directors, which lists all their films covered in the book.
   Out of a prepared list of 50 titles, randomly chosen from my 20-year collection of tapes, I found that 18 are not covered here. Here are the missing movies: Cthulhu Mansion (1990), Deep Red (1994), Evil Toons (1990), The Fear Inside (1992), Hellgate (1988), Inferno In Safehaven (1990), Moontrap (1988), Night Trap (1993), November Men (1993), October 32nd (1992), Out Of Time (1989), Pointman (1994), Rampage (1987), Rocinante (1986), Samurai Cowboy (1993), The Taking Of Beverly Hills (1991), Vital Signs (1990), and Wishful Thinking (1989). I have no doubt there are many other omissions (there always have been in previous editions) but, since I was not trying very hard to catch the editors out by looking for particularly obscure films and because some - if not all - of the above list may turn up on TV (again, in a few cases) in the near future, the point of this exercise was to test the depth of this book's research, and the results indictate that Halliwell's may simply be not good enough as a guide for keen (yes, ok, read that as geeky, if you must) fans of genre cinema and TV.
   However, to be fair, it's also true that, as evident from my listing of excluded titles, only deleted, direct-to-video ex-rental stuff, TV movies, and largely unexceptional genre films are omitted from this book. Furthermore, I'll admit that if you have not heard of any or all of the above, then, with possibly just two or three exceptions, you are - honestly - not missing out on anything important.
Halliwell's Film and Video Guide 2003
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