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Review: Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion


Richard Cosgrove dives into the cult movie ocean with the new Arrow Films book...

Arrow Video have developed a reputation for being the foremost distributor of cult movies on Blu-ray and DVD over the last few years, and it’s a very justly deserved one. The love and attention that they put into releases of not only the more widely known classics like Hellraiser, Dawn of the Dead and Deep Red but also more obscure films that deserve a wider audience as they did with their recent American Horror Project box set, is second to none and ensures that any Arrow release is one that’s worth taking a look at.

Many of the releases include new essays discussing the particular films, and it’s from these that this limited edition book, Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion, has evolved. Rather than aiming at being a definitive guide to cult cinema, an endeavour that would take more than the almost two hundred and fifty pages on offer here, the book instead wisely focuses on five main areas, being key cult films, directors, actors, genres and distribution.

Each of the five sections feature essays by leading genre experts who bring their knowledge and experience of cult cinema, and each of them is dripping with enthusiasm, reverence and love for their chosen topic. The section on key cult movies includes incisive essays on such diverse fare as The Fall of the House of Usher, Deep Red, Withnail & I, Zombie Flesh Eaters, Battle Royale and The ‘Burbs, and perfectly illustrates that the term cult doesn't just mean horror, but actually encapsulates a wide range of films that each have their own unique voice and evoke a passionate following from the audience that they are aimed at.

This maxim carries through the sections on directors, which looks at aspects of the illustrious careers of auteurs David Cronenberg, Lloyd Kaufman, Tinto Brass, George A Romero, Seijun Suzuki and Wes Craven, and the actors section which features essays on Pam Grier, Vincent Price, Meiko Kaji, Herve Villechaize and Boris Karloff,  five very diverse and important thespians.

The fourth section of the book really dives into the cult ocean, exploring cult genres as diverse as Canadian Exploitation Cinema, Christmas Horror, Food Horror, Empty City Sci-Fi, Giallo, the Spaghetti Western and the delightfully named Pornochanchada (that's women in prison to you and me). Each of the essays here a fascinating look into their repsective areas, regardless of whether the reader is familiar with them or not, and for those of us who are well versed in cult cinema offers something of a rediscovery of some of the films that we may have seen many years previously on dodgy VHS cassettes and now want to see again in their full Arrow restored glory.

The fifth and final section, though, is perhaps the most intriguing and resonating for those who have actively sought out hard to find films over the years. Looking at cult distribution, the five essays on offer here look at the early days of cult cinema, Super 8 movies, the Asian DVD explosion, the video nasty (my personal favourite, having spent countless hours and money in my youth tracking down those films I was told I wasn't allowed to see), and Graham Rae's wonderful recollections of horror festivals, fanzines and Nekromantik (which along with its sequel have both enjoyed sumptuous Arrow Film releases).

Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion is, quite simply, an essential addition to the library of any self respecting cult film fanatic, but get in there quick as it's being released in a strictly limited edition and by the time you read this may well even be a scarce as that elusive film you were trying to track down some years ago but which Arrow has now lovingly restored and delivered to you in gorgeous high definition with an impressive raft of extras.

5 stars


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#1 Thanks. Graham Rae 2016-04-27 00:26
Thanks for the great review. Glad you liked the excellent book, and my piece. It was fun to write. Because you liked it, you might find this interesting...enjoy! :)

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