Book Review: Close Encounters of the Third Kind – The Ultimate Visual History

Book Cover

Publisher: Harper Design

Release Date: October 24, 2017

There are two kinds of coffee table books. The first category includes books that are quick cash-in products and have been built around a generous helping of still photography that includes the occasional quote or caption spread throughout the pages. If these books offer text, it is usually generalized fluff that offers very little in the way of actual information. Needless to say, these books are quite disappointing to the discerning reader.

The second category is quite different. These books offer much more to the discerning reader. The images mix organically with textual information in a way that creates a relationship between these two ingredients, and the result is incredibly informative and extremely entertaining. It is our pleasure to assure readers that Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Ultimate Visual History belongs to this second category.

A Glipse Inside # 1

It is described by Harper design as a “fully authorized behind-the-scenes book exploring the creation, production, and legacy of this iconic film” and we feel that the book more than lives up to this description. Created in conjunction with Sony Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, it details the complete creative journey behind the making of the film and examines its cultural impact. The book features a wealth of rare and never-before-seen images from the archives—including on-set photography, concept art, storyboards, and even script pages in an effort to create a visual narrative of the film’s journey to the big screen. Interviews with some of the key contributors were utilized in an effort to create a first-hand commentary about the making of this film classic.

A Glimpse Inside # 2

Needless to say, we can wholeheartedly recommend this excellent book to anyone who has an affection for the film or Steven Spielberg.

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Book Interview: Grace Kelly: Hollywood Dream Girl

hitchcockmaster

Book Cover

Publisher: Dey Street Books

Release Date: October 24, 2017

A Glimpse Inside #2

“Mr. Hitchcock taught me everything about cinema. It was thanks to him that I understood that murder scenes should be shot like love scenes and love scenes like murder scenes.” -Grace Kelly

The creative relationship between Grace Kelly and Alfred Hitchcock was one of the most mutually beneficial in the history of cinema. It’s nearly impossible to even discuss the director’s work without mentioning Grace Kelly’s name. However, she was so much more than the master’s temporary muse. No movie star of the 1950s was more beautiful, sophisticated, or glamorous than Grace Kelly. The epitome of elegance, the patrician young blonde from Philadelphia conquered Hollywood and won an Academy Award for Best Actress in just six years, then married a prince in a storybook royal wedding. Today, more than thirty years after her death, Grace Kelly remains an inspiring fashion icon. This…

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Book Review: Reconstructing Strangelove – Inside Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Nightmare Comedy’

Book Cover

Publisher: Wallflower Press

Release Date: January 2017

Mick Broderick offers Kubrick scholars a rare glimpse into the creation of what may very well be the director’s most important film: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The text makes use of Kubrick’s own production papers from the Stanley Kubrick Archives in order to dissect the film’s creative evolution as well as its legitimacy in terms of how accurate the film’s depiction of nuclear warfare policies actually were. Several popular myths about the film’s production are proven false even as others are confirmed. Broderick doesn’t try to document the film’s creation and the reader shouldn’t expect a comprehensive examination of the film’s creation. Instead, we are given a scholarly examination of how the film was shaped by the cold war environment, the scientists and world leaders who created that environment, and Kubrick’s creative collaborators. It earns an easy recommendation for fans of the director and for those who admire the film itself.

Review by: Devon Powell

Book Review: The Making of ‘The Wizard of Oz’

The Making of 'The Wizard of Oz'

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Release Date: October 1, 2013

The question before us is as follows:

Is The Making of ‘The Wizard of Oza good book or a bad book?

Aljean Harmetz’s seminal text about the production of MGM’s 1939 classic trumps all of the Oz texts that followed it, and this 75th Anniversary edition of the book gives fans of the film a good opportunity to visit this text if they haven’t already indulged. This compressive history of the production is superior even to the various documentaries on the subject (it covers more territory).

These pages go beyond the film to discuss the climate and methods of studio filmmaking (particularly at MGM). It goes a long way to dispel a lot of untrue myths that surrounded the production, and should exponentially enhance one’s enjoyment of the film. Other books may provide a larger array of stills and production images, but no amount of eye candy can replace the research that went into this book. It receives a most enthusiastic recommendation.

Review by: Devon Powell

Book Review: Chainsaw Confidential

Chainsaw Confidential

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Release Date: September 24, 2013

Gunnar Hansen has written an incredibly lucid text on the making of one of cinema’s most beloved (and hated) horror films. Chainsaw Confidential: How We Made the World’s Most Notorious Horror Movie chronicles the story of how the original 1974 version of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ was created and the impact that it had on future horror films. Better yet, fans will learn the story from one of the film’s most instrumental actors. Yes, Gunnar Hansen is the man that portrayed “Leatherface.” However, we are not limited to his personal perspective. Hansen has seen fit to conduct interviews with other members of the cast and crew, and he has put these interviews to excellent use.

It must be said that the book is an enjoyable and interesting reading experience. Horror fans that have not yet read the book should remedy this immediately.

Review by: Devon Powell

Book Review: The Films of John Carpenter

The Films of John Carpenter

Publisher: McFarland

Release Date: March 2, 2005

John Kenneth Muir’s The Films of John Carpenter is divided into six units:

A History and Overview of John Carpenter’s Career

This unit is 50 pages of information that discusses the situations surrounding the production of each John Carpenter film. One might say that it is a brief look at the creation of every important film in his filmography. This provides context for the chapters in the second unit. One might prefer that the information in this section be a bit more comprehensive, but this book prefers to focus on a theoretical analysis (and review) of each of the director’s films.

The Films of John Carpenter

The meat of this text is contained in this second section, which reviews each film that had been directed by John Carpenter through 1998. (It is important to note that Ghosts of Mars (2001) and The Ward (2010) are not discussed in this book). The discussion of each film begins with various quotations from critics from reviews of each film. There is then a list of credits. Muir then includes an extremely detailed synopsis of the film being discussed, and follows this with an in depth theoretical commentary (or review) of each film. His essays are extremely fun to read, and never become too dry for the average reader. One can tell that Muir has a sincere admiration for John Carpenter, and this comes across even when his reviews lean towards the negative.

Films Written and Produced by John Carpenter

Five films that are either written by, produced, or based on an original script or treatment by John Carpenter are discussed here. Some of these films have an extremely limited Carpenter influence, so this unit might be less interesting to some than the previous sections. Muir covers each of these five films in the exact same manner that he covers those that were actually directed by John Carpenter.

John Carpenter on Television

This segment focuses on John Carpenter’s telefilms. However, Elvis is merely mentioned in the introductory section, and isn’t given a review. [Someone’s Watching Me! (1978) and Body Bags (1993) are covered here.] These reviews are in the exact same format as the other films, but are less comprehensive.

Epilogue: We Are Transmitting From the Year 1999…

This short epilogue looks forward to what the future may hold for John Carpenter. Muir mentions that Ghosts of Mars has been announced.

Overall, Muir’s work probably falls short of being absolutely essential. However, few books worth reading about Carpenter’s work has been written. This text helps fill a void, and die-hard fans should be thrilled to read the book if they haven’t discovered this text already.

Review by: Devon Powell

Book Review: Stanley Kubrick – New Perspectives

Stanley Kubrick - New Perspectives

Publisher: Black Dog Publishing

 Release Date: July 7, 2015

 This collection of essays about the incredible work of Stanley Kubrick will be a revelation to scholars and fans alike. Tatjana Ljujic, Peter Kramer, and Richard Daniels have arranged a truly wonderful collection of informative essays in a single volume that covers the director’s career in (more or less) chronological order. The essays utilize Kubrick’s personal files, which are currently stored at the University of the Arts in London (The Stanley Kubrick Archives). The book showcases quite a few of these files to illustrate these various articles.

These articles are organized in a manner that takes the reader on a journey through Kubrick’s entire career in a truly unique manner. The following is a comprehensive list of included essays:

 A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: The Influence of Look Magazine on Stanley Kubrick’s Career as a Filmmaker (Written by: Philippe D. Mather)

 This is probably the most comprehensive study of Kubrick’s career at Look that has ever been published. This is essential reading, and the rare photographs from this period that illustrate the text are very much appreciated. The article makes one wish that an entire book would be written about Kubrick’s time at look magazine. It would truly make a wonderful “coffee table” book. In the meantime, this article does a lot to satisfy this particular craving.

 Complete Total Final Annihilating Artistic Control: Stanley Kubrick and Post-War Hollywood (Written by: Peter Kramer)

This article discusses Kubrick’s need for control over his projects, and in doing this discusses his evolution as a filmmaker. His earliest efforts are discusses in the most detail. His short films are commented on, and there is quite a bit of information about his first few features. The financing of these films is given quite a bit of space within the article, and his relationship with United Artists is touched upon, as is his association with James B. Harris. The article seems to climax as Kubrick achieves a certain amount of notoriety for his financially successful ‘work-for-hire’ feature, Spartacus.

 The most interesting passages are those that discuss Fear and Desire, Killer’s Kiss, The Killing, and Paths of Glory. These films are often only briefly commented upon and any new information is welcome information to fans of the director. Some of the director’s work from the 1960s is also covered briefly here.

 An Alternative New York Jewish Intellectual: Stanley Kubrick’s Cultural Critique (Written by: Nathan Abrams)

 This article discusses how Kubrick’s upbringing as a Jew in New York contributed to hidden social commentary in his films. Lolita and Dr. Strangelove are probably the two most thoroughly examined films in this essay, but other films are briefly mentioned as well. There is plenty of insightful information to be learned from Abrams’ essay.

 Selling the War Film: Syd Stogel and the Paths of Glory Press Files (Written by: Richard Daniels)

 While examining Syd Stogel’s publicity campaign for Paths of Glory, readers are taken behind the scenes of this film. Kubrick’s limited involvement with this campaign is also discussed, as is his association with James B. Harris.

Having His Cake and Eating It Too: Stanley Kubrick and Spartacus (Written by: Fiona Radford)

 “…Spartacus is not a case study for those interested in a typical Kubrick production. The fact that Kubrick brought his typical temerity to this production qnd fought for his own vision, however, means that Kubrick’s largest contribution to this film is its overall lack of coherence…” –Fiona Radford

This quote seems to sum up this particular essay quite nicely, but it is perhaps Kirk Douglas and Dalton Trumbo’s inability to allow Kubrick to actually have a reasonable amount of control over production that caused this unevenness. When one hires a director, it seems like a good idea to allow them to do their job. There is a lot of great information here, but I would have to disagree with Radford’s conclusion about what this information actually proves.

 Re-Writing Nabokov’s Lolita: Kubrick, the Creative Adaptor (Written by: Karyn Stuckey)

 Stuckey discusses Kubrick’s adaptation of Lolita using existing pre-production documents. Fans of the film should be thrilled to read this particular essay.

 A Constructive Form of Censorship: Disciplining Kubrick’s Lolita (Written by: Daniel Biltereyst)

 This examination of censorship’s role in shaping Lolita is a good companion to the previous article. Readers should find the information provided in this text to be of great interest.

 Reconstructing Strangelove: Outtakes from Kubrick’s Cutting Room Floor (Written by: Mick Broderick)

 This particular article might very well be a favorite to many readers. Deleted scenes are examined in detail, and there are many revelations for readers to discover along the way. The article is both scholarly and entertaining.

 2001: A Space Odyssey and “The Dawn of Man” (Written by: Robert Poole)

 Poole’s article focuses on the “Dawn of Man” sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. A lot of ground is covered in what is essentially a limited number of pages. Kubrick’s collaboration with Arthur C. Clarke on both the screenplay and the novel is discusses in addition to the various theories about mankind’s evolution that formed the basis of their work on this sequence.

Speculative Systems: Kubrick’s Interaction with the Aerospace Industry during the Production of 2001 (Written by: Regina Peldszus)

 Peldszus cover’s Kubrick’s interaction with certain NASA representatives during the pre-production phases of 2001: A Space Odyssey in a relatively large amount of detail. This article (along with the ‘Dawn of Man’ article) has an entirely different tone and focus than most of the other articles. It is enlightening but somehow less engaging than most of the other articles (of course this is totally subjective).

 What’s it going to be, eh?: Stanley Kubrick’s Adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange (Written by: Peter Kramer)

 Kramer begins his article by discussing the infamous Napoléon project that he was never allowed to make, and how he decided to set this project aside for a time in order to make A Clockwork Orange. The themes from Burgess’ novel that may have appealed to Kubrick are also discussed in general terms while comparing them with earlier Kubrick films. This leads to a discussion of various differences between the novel and the film. It makes for very enjoyable reading.

 Painterly Immediacy in Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (Written by: Tatjana Ljujic)

 Those that appreciate Barry Lyndon should find this discussion about the influence of both eighteenth and nineteenth century art on Kubrick’s aesthetic fascinating. While eighteenth century paintings and drawings were used as resources for the film’s costume and production design, nineteenth century art was used to guide the director’s mise-en-scène. These issues are elaborated upon in great detail throughout this essay.

 From Thackeray to the Troubles: The Irishness of Barry Lyndon (Written by: Maria Pramaggiore)

 Pramaggiore’s scholarly essay about “Irishness” in Barry Lyndon isn’t quite as accessible as the previous article, but it does include a few interesting revelations.

 Creating The Shining: Looking Beyond the Myths (Written by: Catriona McAvoy)

 This is certainly one of the most accessible articles in the book. The article’s focus is Stanley Kubrick’s working methods throughout the making of The Shining. It argues against the image of Stanley Kubrick as an obsessive megalomaniac and dictator. It is extremely interesting, and certainly a highlight of the book.

 Kubrick’s Lens: Dispatches from the Edge (Written by: Pratap Rughani)

 Rughani’s essay discusses the manner in which the media was shaped by propaganda during the Vietnam war, and how Kubrick commented on this in Full Metal Jacket. It is a rather dry article, but fans of the film should find it engaging.

 “UK frost can kill palms”: Layers of Reality in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (Written by: Karen A. Ritzenhoff)

 Many readers will no doubt prefer this essay that focuses on similar issues concerning Full Metal Jacket, but delves into the film’s production quite a bit more than the previous article.

 Archived Desires: Eyes Wide Shut (Written by: Lucy Scholes and Richard Martin)

 The book ends on a high note with this wonderful article that discusses many aspects of Eyes Wide Shut. Especially interesting is a discussion about Kubrick’s working relationship with Frederick Raphael in adapting Arthur Schnitzler’s Dream Story (Traumnovelle) to the screen, and how the film’s publicity campaign had a negative impact on the critical and audience reception of the film.

 Due to the fact that various writers are responsible for each of these individual essays, information is sometimes contradictory. An example would be that one article claims that Paths of Glory was never banned in France. Instead, it was simply never released in that country. This is contradicted by a later article that suggests that the film was banned in France to illustrate the controversy that surrounded most of Kubrick’s films. This isn’t really a problem because one takes it for granted that the topics discussed were handled by various individuals with extremely focused goals. However, one must keep this in mind while digesting the great deal of information that is contained in these pages.

 Stanley Kubrick – New Perspectives is a gift to cinemaphiles and scholars alike. It earns an easy recommendation.

Review by: Devon Powell