Tuesday, 1 October 2013
But that's fair enough because it's a lovely book, both to look at and to read. It's lavishly illustrated with movie stills, film posters and behind the scenes photographs, all illustrating the story of a quite remarkable man.
In case you don't know, Roger Corman is a hugely prolific film-maker who produced enough films to make him practically a studio. He's the man who shot THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS in two days, but also made my favourite THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, which is just a gorgeous film.
This is not a critical biography of the man, though. The story is told in interview snippets from so many people that worked with (and for, let's be honest) Roger Corman and other movie luminaries. John Landis, Jack Nicholson, Joe Dante, Jonathan Demme, James Cameron and many more all put in their penny's worth.
And pennies seems to have been Corman's ethos. Pay as little as you can get away with and make a profit on everything that you put out. Some of the films were outright exploitative rubbish, but others were bona fide masterpieces.
If only through the people whose careers he helped to kickstart, Roger Corman has been a huge influence on the movie industry and this bright, cheerful and fun read seems just the right way to celebrate him.
As a result of those expectations, 100 Science Fiction Films by Barry Keith Grant is something of a puzzle.
Now, don't get me wrong - the author knows his science fiction films. Whilst all the usual suspects are there (Metropolis, Blade Runner, Star Wars) there are a few less obvious entries. Nobody could argue with La Jetee, for example, but it's a bit on less well-known side as are Born In Flames and Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America (what do you mean, everyone has heard of that one?).
No, the reason for puzzlement is the form of the book. Nobody would expect a book from the BFI to be a vapid picture gallery, but the assessment that goes with each film proves to be mainly a precis of the storyline (and yes, spoilers ahoy!) with only a small amount of time spent on why the film is notable. Each film only gets two pages and that's reduced to only a page and a half when you take into account the single image that goes with it. This really doesn't give enough space for the author to go into any great depth.
So, here's the rub - who is this book for? True, if you are a newcomer taking on the genre for the first time, then this might be the book to guide you on your way, but there are plenty of 'best of' lists online. For the the experienced sci-fi moviegoer, there really isn't enough here to make it even a worthwhile gift from a loved one.