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The Top 30 Best Movie Books: #30-#26

July 16, 2020 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Bronson's Loose Again

The Top 30 Best Movie Books: #30-#26


I’m a big fan of movie books. Making of books, movie analysis books, movie compilation books, director/actor/writer memoirs about making movies, book long interviews about making movies, I love them all. I don’t know how many I’ve read over the years but it’s certainly a considerable amount of my non-fiction reading, especially since I started writing on the internets back in 2005. I’m currently reading The Cannon Film Guide: Volume 1: 1980-1984 by Austin Trunick, which, so far, is terrific. The book got me thinking about the various books I’ve read over the years and which ones were great. So, as I’m still doing this Top 5 thing, I decided, for the next six weeks, why not do a countdown of the top 30 best movie books I’ve read.

Now, obviously, since I haven’t read every movie book ever published, “best movie book” is awfully subjective. This countdown list is more like “Top 30 Favorite Movie Books.” However, “Best Movie Books” sounded better, so that’s what I’m going to use. “Best Movie Books.”

Again, since I haven’t read every movie book published there are books that you may expect to see but won’t simply because I haven’t read them. So I am going to start off with a few movie books that I haven’t read but hope to one day. I’m not sure if this will be a part of every single one of these book countdown features, but since there are so many books out there, who knows? I could probably come up with a few each week to talk about.

Some Movie Books I Haven’t Read but Want To

Cheap Scares! Low Budget Horror Filmmakers Share Their Secrets by Gregory Lamberson: I have it on good authority that this book doesn’t sugarcoat the idea that making a low budget horror movie is hard as hell and, to a degree, almost impossible. It features several interviews with people who have been/are in the low budget horror movie trenches, and tells you everything you need to know, if you’re going to do it, how to do it.

The Battle of Brazil: Terry Gilliam V. Universal Pictures in the Fight to the Final Cut by Jack Mathews: This book is about the making of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and then how Universal didn’t want to release the movie because the studio didn’t think the movie was commercial enough. I’m just going to assume that Gilliam comes out looking good in the book, but I have no idea. You would think, though, that the studio would have known ahead of time who they were in business with.

The Devil’s Candy: The Anatomy of a Hollywood Fiasco by Julie Salaman: This is the book about the making of Bonfire of the Vanities, the Brian De Palma movie based on a novel by Tom Wolfe. The movie stinks, but I’d love to know why it stinks. Apparently Salaman was on the set of the movie from the very beginning and saw everything, so she’s the authority you want to seek out.

And now, onto the main list: The Top 30 Best Movie Books: #30-#26


30- The Kill Bill Diary: The Making of a Tarantino Classic as Seen Through the Eyes of a Screen Legend by David Carradine: I had no idea that this book existed until I saw it on the “New Releases” shelf of my local public library. For some reason I thought it was odd that David Carradine had written a book about his participation in the making of the Quentin Tarantino created Kill Bill movies. Why the hell didn’t Uma Thurman write a book since she was the star? Or Vivica A. Fox? Out of the entire Kill Bill cast, they seemed more like “book people.” So I started reading it, thinking it would be a sort of day-by-day, shot by shot examination of what Carradine did on the movie. Instead, it’s more of a diary from when Carradine made the movie. He tells stories, sure, about working directly with Tarantino and Thurman and everyone else on the movie, but he also talks about his life during that time when he wasn’t on set. For instance, Carradine had serious car problems during that time. You also get a real sense of how much he loved his wife at the time, and, in a broader sense, how much he loved being an actor. It was a job to him, yes, it was work and he had a work ethic and all that, but he really loved just doing it. Reading the book made me understand, in a way, why Carradine made so many movies and appeared in so many TV shows over the years. He loved doing it, and he liked to get paid. And there’s nothing wrong with either of those things.


29-The Zombies That Ate Pittsburgh: The Films of George A. Romero by Paul R. Gagne: This is a tremendous book about the movies of director George A. Romero, right up until Day of the Dead. Author Gagne interviews Romero and gets comments from Romero’s friends, including fellow director John Carpenter. There are in depth examinations of all of Romero’s movies, his commercial work, the formation of his commercial company The Latent Image, Romero’s relationship with Richard Rubinstein and how they worked together on multiple sports documentaries, how the Tales from the Darkside TV show began, and so much more. There’s also plenty of cool speculation on potential Romero movies that never happened (Romero was going to make a kind of superhero movie at one point), and there are some nasty goddamn pictures in the middle of the book, including a still of the infamous exploding head from Dawn of the Dead. This book is incredibly hard to find in any sort of condition (I’ve seen online listings for the book, both in hardcover and softcover editions, priced at thousands of dollars). My local library had a copy of it, which is the only way I was able to read it (I’m not sure if they still do). I’m surprised that this book hasn’t been reissued in some capacity since its publication in 1987, or updated by someone (I have no idea if Gagne is still alive). I bet the book would sell.


28--80’s Action Movies on the Cheap: 284 Low Budget, High Impact Pictures by Daniel R. Budnik: The great think about this book is that it’s exactly what the title suggests, a look at 284 low budget action movies from the 1980’s. Author Budnik doesn’t delve too deeply into the various movies, but he provides the necessary details for each one and provides a nice, succinct overview/commentary on each movie. Budnik covers the various Cannon ninja movies, other ninja movies (lots of ninja movies made in the Philippines), plenty of low budget post-apocalyptic movies, and more. Budnik breaks the movies down by year, which helps put some of the movies in context (there are lists of the big movies that came out each year, too, at the start of each chapter, which helps with that context). My only real quibble with the book is the inclusion of Samurai Cop, as I’m pretty sure that movie was made in the very early 1990’s. Still, this book provides a great overview of some of the low budget action movies that appeared throughout the 1980’s.


27-Taking Shape: Developing Halloween from Script to Screen by Dustin McNeill and Travis Mullins : Dustin McNeill has produced several great movie books the last few years. His book on the Halloween franchise, co-written with Travis Mullins, while not exhaustive (I’d imagine that someone could plausibly write an in-depth book about each Halloween movie), the book provides some great behind-the-scenes stuff on each movie, including some stuff people probably didn’t know (I had no idea that, before H20, there was almost a direct-to-video Halloween sequel). There are also some great interviews spread throughout the book with various people involved in the movies, including the screenwriter for Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, Michael Jacobs. The most bizarre stuff? The sections on the various novelizations that were written (there’s some real deal batshit insane stuff in these sections). A must own and a must read for Halloween franchise fans.

And be on the lookout for a sequel to this book, Taking Shape II, a book that will apparently look at the various unmade Halloween sequels that were bandied about over the years. Should be fascinating.


Honorable Mention: Slash of the Titans: The Road t Freddy vs, Jason: This book, also by McNeill, provides in-depth analysis of the various Freddy vs. Jason scripts and ideas that were produced over the years. McNeill talks with the various screenwriters that were hired to come up with something, and there’s a terrific section on the proposed Ash vs. Freddy vs. Jason movie.


26- Bronson’s Loose Again! On the Set with Charles Bronson by Paul Talbot: When I first heard about and then read Talbot’s great book on the making of the Death Wish movies, I wondered if Talbot would eventually do a book on some other Bronson movies, like the awesome action flicks Bronson did in the 1980’s. In 2015, Talbot answered that question with Bronson’s Loose Again!, although the book isn’t about just the 1980’s movies. Talbot also delves into some of Bronson’s 1970’s movies, like Hard Times, the movie Bronson made with James Coburn and director Walter Hill, and Love and Bullets, and the stuff that Bronson did in the 1990’s, like the Family of Cops TV movies and Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. There’s also a great interview with actor Kirk Taylor, who played The Giggler in Death Wish 3 (you can’t do a Bronson book and not include some Death Wish franchise stuff, even when there’s already a book devoted to the franchise. You just can’t). Bronson’s Loose Again! is an excellent companion piece to Bronson’s Loose! and something you should absolutely read if you’re a Bronson movie fan. You will learn stuff. You really will.


Next week: #’s 25-21!

Action! Horror! Insane Stunts! And a true blue Hollywood Fiasco!


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Bryan Kristopowitz