Trash Literature (and literature about trash)

“The I was a Teenage Juvenile Delinquent Rock ‘N’ Roll Horror Beach Party Movie Book” – Alan Betrock. Plexus. 6.95.

A title that just fits on the spine, and about 150 pages of nostalgia on the subject of the teenage exploitation film, from 1954 to 1969 including gems like “Beach Blanket Bingo”, “Diary of a High School Bride”, “Girls on the Beach”, “The Hallucination Generation”, “Kitten with a Whip”, “No Time to be Young” and “Teenagers from Outer Space”, to name just a few of the 300 or so films catalogued in this book.

They are grouped into eras, with a few pages of text beforehand discussing the general trends, social climate, etc of the period, with about ten lines ( plus the credits ) describing each film , and normally a still or piece of publicity material to illustrate it.

Therein lies the problem. Most of these movies have similar plots, which means that reading 300 descriptions of more or less the same film is pretty wearing after a while. Alan Betrock tries to pep them up with bits of dialogue and other trivia, such as pointing out early appearances of future stars ; Jack Nicholson, Robert Vaughan (in “Teenage Caveman”) and Dennis Hopper, but it’s not an easy task, and he can hardly be blamed if some of them are not exactly riveting. The short passages introducing each section are easily the most interesting parts.

The strong point of this book is the artwork, which is a joy to behold, even in black in white. Even nowadays, it still makes you want to see the films, and makes current movie publicity look very tame by comparison [Having seen a few of the films mentioned, I can state that sometimes the poster is easily the best thing!]. The reproduction quality is generally good, helped by the choice of illustrations which look as impressive in black and white as they did in colour.

Overall, a useful reference book, especially for harassed editors looking for cheap illustrations, just a shame that the text isn’t quite as wonderful as the pictures.

“Lost, Lonely & Vicious” – Michael Barson. Fourth Estate. 5.95.

This book takes the idea of the one above to it’s logical conclusion, and almost dispenses entirely with the text. It is a collection of ‘postcards from the great trash films’, 30 in all, which works out at a reasonable 20 pence each. They are larger than normal cards, which makes them perfect for expressing sentiments too long to fit onto a normal postcard, though not long enough to justify a letter – given the nature of the pictures on them they’re not perhaps totally suitable for maiden aunts. They portray sex and violence (or at least, sex and violence 50’s style, which isn’t really all that sexy or violent) in full, glowing COLOUR (for those of you reading in black and white, the previous word was in virulent, fluorescent yellow) and this book really has all the good points of ‘I was a…’ with none of the disadvantages, except perhaps for the harassed editor who will find that colour doesn’t photocopy as well! Buy it, and make your postie smile.

“Cabal” – Clive Barker. Fontana. 2.95

Mr Barker is a busy man. Having got “Hellbound” past the BBFC with far less cuts than was once feared (either 2, 3 or 6 mins depending on who you talk to), he’s now busy filming this book, ‘with David Cronenberg as the villain, Marc Almond as a hermaphrodite and Suzie Quatro as someone who gets killed’. He then moves on to work on, but alas not direct, “Hell on Earth – Hellraiser III”. Then there’s the film of “Son of Celluloid”, ‘about a cancer that does John Wayne impressions, rather than John Wayne, who ended up doing cancer impressions’.All this and a new paperback too.

It’s a comparatively slim affair at only 270 odd pages. The ‘hero’ is a madman, convinced by his doctor that he is responsible for some especially nasty murders. He goes on the run seeking Midian, a sanctuary he has heard of from other insane people, and reaches it, but is gunned down by the police. However, his body vanishes from the morgue, and his girlfriend starts searching for it. She discovers he is now one of the Nightbreed, a strange race of creatures who dwell in the dark beneath a Canadian cemetery.

Writing about this book under “Trash Literature” isn’t really accurate as trash it certainly isn’t. Clive Barker is the most consistently acclaimed horror author on the scene in Britain today – his only main contender, James Herbert, has turned to ghost stories which fail to horrify, though they are still entertaining. This book is good, even if it doesn’t quite reach the heights of ‘The Damnation Game’ or ‘Weaveworld’ – it suffers a bit from first-part-itis, being the start of a trilogy, and thus doesn’t have a nicely rounded ending (the same sort of feeling you get at the end of ‘Friday the 13th Part I/II/III/IV…’ when they set up the sequel).No matter. Despite being only an occasional reader of horror, this still entertained me, and I’m looking forward to the second and third parts, not to mention the film!

USEFUL ADDRESS TIME – from “Video World”, March 89.

“I need to convert some videos I bought abroad to our PAL system. Can you suggest anyone who might do this and not charge an arm and a leg?”

“No problem. I’d point you in the direction of a company called LTV of Unit 4, Portland Industrial Estate, Portland Depot, Kingsway, LU4 8HA.”