While everyone is currently in awe of reading books on their Kindles, I-pads etc. etc. that might all be good and well, but you’re missing a lot. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of books are ripe candidates for digital consumption, but none of them are (and won’t be anytime soon) on this list. I for one enjoy an old fashioned hunt through dusty bookstores and libraries. So do yourself a favor and get that Ipad, dick etc. etc. out of your mouth and eyes and go look for these tragically vanishing titles.
5. The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Filmmaker Andy Milligan by Jimmy McDonough
While tragically out of print for the moment, do whatever you can to get a hold of this book, whether it means murdering an especially film-literate friend, kidnapping a library book (because we know how long you’ve kept that Joy of Gay Sex) or blowing a load on-line. McDonoguh submerges himself into the deep, filthy world of Andy Milligan, low-budget horror film director extraordinare who made over 27 films from the sixties into the eighties. Whether its his violent, disturbing origins as NYC underground playwright, his truly mind-boggling filmography with such gems as The Rats are Coming! The Werewolves are Here! (1972) and Guru, The Mad Monk (1970) or his tumultuous relationship with a mentally retarded Louisiana hustler called ‘the Human Toothpick’, The Ghastly One is one of the most disturbing non-fiction accounts, and books on films ever written.
4. The Parade’s Gone By by Kevin Brownlow
One I found at the Chicago Public Library, the cover torn and replaced by a hideous, innocuous orange binding. What I discovered was a true, secret treasure. Here, Brownlow lovingly interviews as many people possible about the Birth of Hollywood and the Golden Age of Silent Film. Everyone from actors and actresses, directors and camera-men, editors and technicians are given loving attention. Not only is it a delight to any reader, but the lavish collection of black and white photos is a delight to the senses.
3. The Making of The Wizard of Oz by Aljean Harmetz
Another one startlingly out of print, but very easy to find in any Public Library. One doesn’t even need to be a die-hard fan to enjoy this account of what is perhaps, the most watched film in the entire world, or what John Waters calls ‘the biggest cult of them all.’ Harmetz linear approach is one of the most personal, fascinating and informative accounts of 1930’s Hollywood’s production process ever written. Harmetz leaves no stone unturned, interviewing everyone from surviving munchkins, make up people, costumers, even stunt-doubles and stand ins. For die-hard fans, this book is a bible, answering nearly every question one could have, such as how Glinda’s bubble was made, to how much Toto got paid. (More than Judy Garland, unfortunately.)
2. The Haunted Screen by Lotte Eisner
Eisner is the den-mother of German Cinema, because she was there. Whether it was watching Fritz Lang direct many of his classic UFA productions or being a private confidante to Werner Herzog, Eisner not only is the most important historian and figure of German Cinema she is a damn good writer. The Haunted Screen spans the origins that eventually accumulate German Expressionism in Film, in what is perhaps one of the most important works of Film History ever written.
1. The Celluloid Closet by Vito Russo
The fact that this book is out of print is a frightening fact that needs to be changed. Even with a HBO film still wildly popular, even a well received documentary on Vito Russo himself does not seem to alleviate the fact that his masterpiece is still vicariously difficult to find, even in as large a library in Chicago. This book is the Trojan Horse of Gay Theory in film, inviting the then shocking notion that Gays have been a long and large presence in film history in nearly every way, shape and form. Whether its silent comedies, buddy cop movies or even action flicks, Russo proves we’ve been there, better or worse. Do yourself a favor and read this, not to mention see the excellent documentary.