Gods of Grindhouse
Interviews with Exploitation Filmmakers
Edited By Andrew J. Rausch
Bear Manor Media
Well, by the cover I'd say we're off to a good start. That cover is one of the best I've seen on any film reference book and I have wanted a copy ever since I saw it released back in 2013. I love that cover.
The contents are comprised of interviews of various length with various directors who made films in the 60's and 70's (and beyond), who's work fits into the concept of the book's theme of "grindhouse." Already we're on shaky ground as "grindhouse" is not a genre, it is a place in which to watch movies.
The interviews include chats with the likes of: Charles Band, Greydon Clark, Larry
Cohen, Roger Corman, David Friedman, Frank Henenlotter, Jack Hill, Alejandro
Jodorowsky, Lloyd Kaufman, Herschell Gordon Lewis, William Lustig, Russ Meyer, Ted
Mikels, Bill Rebane, John Russo and Ray Dennis Steckler.
That is one hell of a line-up, and there are many entertaining stories that are shared, but if you've been picking titles off the Hollywood Book Shelf as long as some of us have, a lot of this is a retread of numerous well shared stories.
This is a collection of mostly previously published interviews from different print publications and websites. There is no real theme that binds the interviews except for the fact all these gentlemen worked during the same era, when drive-ins and grindhouses were still a thing.
I came to this expecting specific tales from these filmmakers about specific movies when they played a specific grindhouse. I thought it was going to be stories of gearing films toward inner city audiences and the results of those efforts. While some of that is covered, the collected interviews fall short of what I thought the book was going to be.
That is not to say it's a bad book. It's just not the book I thought it would be. In the case of Larry Cohen and Jack Hill, their interviews first appeared in the book Reflections on Blaxploitation, so of all the films each filmmaker made, only the films they made that were considered "Blaxploitation" were talked about.
It is nice to see John Russo get some attention, as he is an accomplished filmmaker and certainly belongs among these names. Unfortunately, after the author of this interview identifies him as a filmmaker and novelist, he credits Russo with writing the novelizations to Return of the Living Dead (which he did, but the original classic novel that the film was actually based on, and that whole story, is not mentioned) and George Romero's Day of the Dead (I missed that one). Most of the time is spent rehashing old NOTLD lore and talking about the then new 30th Anniversary edition of the film, which is a waste when they could have talked about The Booby Hatch/The Liberation of Cherry Janowski, Midnight and The Majorettes, all films that have way more stories not yet shared than NOTLD.
The interviews with Russ Meyer and Bill Rebane had never before been published, and the Rebane interview was my second favorite. Rebane is the name in the contents that I knew the least about and his interview, for me, was the most informative. My favorite interview was the last one in the book, with Steckler, a guy who never gave a bad interview. (At least I've never read one.)
I enjoyed it for what it was and I respect the fact that I bought a copy of it based pretty much on the cover, much like the movies of the filmmakers within, who used posters to sell movies that some people probably would not have bought a ticket to watch otherwise. This is probably best for newer fans who are doing their homework and learning about the genre. Back in my youth I depended on Fangoria to provide interviews with the "drive-in/grindhouse" filmmakers, and Gods of Grindhouse is a fine primer for new students of exploitation sleaze.
But remember, "grindhouse" is where you go see a movie, it is not a genre of movie.