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Book Review

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Masters of Midnight!
Interviews With Cult Auteurs
(Cult Film Confidential Vol 1)


Author: Joe Kane
Publisher: PhanMedia, L.L.C.
103 pages
RRP: £3.85, US $4.95
Publication Date: 25 July 2012

Joe Kane, since donning the Phantom of the Movies mantle for the New York Daily News in 1984 and starting Videoscope Magazine in 1993, has interviewed a wide array of auteurs from every band-width of the genre spectrum. Here he gathers a Butcher’s Dozen (12 with one sliced off) of those artists he most respected for their “ferocity of vision and commitment to quality.” Whatever one knows about the range of titles covered there is something to learn, discern and delight in. The Phantom’s fan epilates encourage these directors to hold forth and share what drove them to make these movies and make them the way they did. Often as not it’s a lesson in ‘short ends”, little time and even less budget and how those necessities became the mother of time-durable art.

No better example of efficacious filmmaking is Kane’s interview with Enzo G. Castellari and his influence on Quentin Tarantino whose “reimagined” Inglourious Basterds (2009) both pays homage to Castellari’s Inglorious Bastards (1977) and becomes a launching pad for his own (respelled) vision of cinematic enfoldment. It’s an insight into the third eye of both directors to watch these two films back to back. A rough-hewn influence of a poetic storm. Kane explores the range of the auteur’s territorial imperative and that his personal favourite in the director’s oeuvre is Keoma (1976), a spaghetti western, little known and less seen, which also happens to be Castellari’s personal pick of the litter. Kane has that kind of intuitive simpatico.

The genius of filmic inspiration on a monofilament budget is Larry Blamire. Kane’s knowing chin wag (his term) with this Renaissance artist (writer, director, producer, painter, soldier of surd conceptualism) teases apart the onion skin layers of Blamire’s cosmic humour springing from spoofery of B-movie beloved mediocrity. The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (2001) is near and dear to this viewer’s heart for its precedent and prescience that such a genre is even possible. There are sequels, including The Lost Skeleton Returns Again (2009) and the all important making of The Origins and Making of the Lost Skeleton (2019). Kane gets the joke within this nest of Russian dolls and has great fun unwrapping the package. Blamire’s paintings can be seen by searching his Facebook page. I have asked him if there is a fine litho-printed coffee table book of this work and he has studiously not answered. This interview itself is rich with humour. If you can read it without laughing, I say call your doctor. If your doctor can read it without laughing, get another doctor.

And then there’s Larry Cohen. The recently departed maestro of both TV and film began his iconoclastic movie foray with Bone (1970) which turns stereotypes inside out before that was fashionable to do. Cohen was and is (historical present tense here) one of the smartest people who ever hit the Hollywood cash register. A pitch session with Larry Cohen was a fearful thing, like appearing before a monarch who didn’t give a shit, letting you know your best story was still stupid by his standards. The problem was, he was right. The ultimate Cohen classic God Told Me To (1976) as Kane notes, is light years ahead of X-Files fare and Q: The Winged Serpent (1982) even resuscitates our love for the passé art of stop motion, with Aztec inspired gore thrown in the skin game. Let it be said, ancient New World monsters roosting in sky scrapers always touches an aorta in this viewer’s cardiac muscle. And Phone Booth (2003); the stringing together of these pearls from one mind reminds us what it means to be an auteur and why Kane’s collection is so aptly titled and why this book is essential reading for every film lover’s collection. The Cohen interview is, by the way, the best this viewer has seen on the subject.

Each of Kane’s interviews lifts up insight and history but most importantly a desire to see or re-see the films of the aforementioned as well as Steve Cuden, Alex de la Iglesia, Richard Elfman, Larry Fessenden, Walter Hill, Patty Jenkins, L. Q. Jones and Slava Tsukerman. The Kindle price of this priceless collection is what? - less than a pack of cigarettes. If you don’t smoke, you shouldn’t start. If you do, you should quit. Either way you should buy this eBook.


John Huff

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