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Necronomicon presents:
Shocking Cinema Of The Seventies
edited by Xavier Mendik
Noir hardcover £18.99

review by Steven Hampton

This is the first book in a proposed series tackling specific decades at the movies, launched here with the 1970s - mischievously dubbed "the decade that humanity forgot" in the publicity notice. An introduction by director Michael Winner sets the scene, appropriately, with his amusingly smart aleck recollections of working with some of Hollywood's great and good, and tinsel town is also at the heart of the editor's own intro to the first section, 'Hollywood on the Edge'.
   Benjamin Halligan's 'The New Mesmerica' looks at celluloid lawlessness, 'Disneyfication' the ambiguity of art house themes in US cinema, 'visual alienation' on the road in Zabriskie Point, The Last Movie and Two-Lane Blacktop. The article presents some interesting, if rather forced, connections between Hollywood's attempts to absorb the styles of European aesthetics and the surviving remnants of 1960s' counterculture. Mark Sample's 'There Goes The Neigbourhood' is a thorough and worthwhile retro of various elements, genre and political, in classic dystopian SF movie, The Omega Man, examining this drama's subtextual anxieties of class and race issues in American culture.
   Stephen Keane addresses further issues of class and race, alongside questions of gender and the status of actors as heroes in his article on disaster movies, 'The Stars Don't Always Survive'. Although Keane's ill-advised quoting of statistical figures compromises the readability of this piece, several fascinating points are made concerning the power of superstar performers in this particular form of action cinema.
   The editor of this book, college lecturer on media and popular culture, Xavier Mendik presents an overview of Michael Winner's 1970s films in his 'Urban Legends' essay, which scrutinises the misunderstood political aspects of Death Wish, and Winner's other films with Charles Bronson. Politics is also to the fore in Michael Cobley's 'Justifiable Paranoia', where conspiracy theories, surveillance, and assassination in The Parallax View and The Conversation are questioned and stresses how important it is to place these dramatic thrillers in the context of American political situations in the real world.
   Part two of this volume looks at 'The Ethnic Other in Action', beginning with one of the book's highlights, Leon Hunt's 'One-Armed and Extremely Dangerous', a greatly appealing overview of the career of Hong Kong's neglected martial arts star (Jimmy) Wang Yu. Steven Jay Schneider's 'Possessed By Soul: Generic (Dis)Continuity in the Blaxploitation Horror Film' is a curious and rather pointless chapter, which attempts to categorise and find deep cultural meanings in cheesy vehicles (Blacula, Blackenstein, Sugar Hill, Dr Black And Mr Hyde) for African-American actors. It isn't half as successful in its aims the following article, 'Jonesing James Bond' by Christopher S. Norton and Garrett Chaffin-Quiray, which re-reads the differing levels of racial stereotyping in 007's Live And Let Die (in which Roger Moore tackles voodoo villainy) and the two Cleopatra Jones blaxploitation adventures starring Tamara Dobson. Closing this section, I.Q. Hunter's 'Hammer Goes East' revisits the British studio's underrated The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires and finds it to be a landmark genre hybrid, in spite of the film's apparent racism and muddled plotting.
   The third part of Shocking Cinema... fulfils the promise of the book's title with material on horror. Linnie Blake gets this specific genre coverage off to a good start with 'Another One For The Fire', an essay on George Romero's The Crazies, Martin, and Dawn Of The Dead. Jonathan L. Crane's 'Come On-A My House' considers the "inescapable legacy" of Wes Craven's formidably grim The Last House On The Left (still banned in censorious Britain, but now happily available on DVD from the USA). In the next essay, 'Head Cheese', Martin Jones writes about the conventions affecting and afflicting horror films in general - and slasher movies in particular - since Tobe Hooper's seminal The Texas Chain Saw Massacre launched Leatherface as a disturbing icon in US movie subculture. Crossing the Atlantic for a brief yet wide-ranging survey of British urban shockers, Nick Freeman regales us with tales of monsters in the English metropolis, in Dracula A.D. 1972, the excellent Death Line (aka: Raw Meat), and Theatre Of Blood. Finally, publisher Andy Black weighs in with 'False Gestures For A Demonic Public', exploring the links between freakish effects and the casting of real life handicapped people in supernatural horror pictures, Winner's The Sentinel, and Alberto de Martino's The Antichrist.
   Overall, then, this collection of engaging and disparate essays manages to avoid all the usual problems of tedious waffle and overuse of jargon that stymies many academically minded texts, without insulting the reader's intelligence, and is highly recommended to all fans of independent, low budget and genre cinema.
Shocking Cinema Of The Seventies
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