New Books on Film and TV

Universal Terrors, 1951-1955 by Tim Weaver  McFarland  Tim Weaver is perhaps the doyen of writers and researchers on the classic 1950s era of American science fiction and horror films, and his interviews with the surviving writers, directors and actors of the period are an essential adjunct to any study of the subject. This weighty new volume might well be his most stimulating addition to the Weaver library, focusing on a more narrow range of films (just eight movies, in fact) than heretofore, but crammed full of the customary attention to detail and scholarship, which will be catnip to admirers of the genre. As with previous books by Weaver, one of the great virtues of this volume is the serious treatment accorded to a genre which in its day (and for many years subsequently) was simply not taken seriously. It is a credit to writers such as the assiduous Weaver that the situation has now changed, and his latest book will send you us back to those films he and his colleagues discusses with renewed interest.

I Am Not a Number by Alex Cox  Kamera Books, £9.99  Alex Cox is a man of many talents. There is his skill as a filmmaker (sadly underused of late) with such cult movies as Repo Man to his credit, along with his talent for communicating his immense love and scholarship concerning film – Cox’s introductions to eccentric and ambitious movies on television are firmly lodged in the memory of many a cinéaste. The ultimate cult television show is, of course, Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner, in which the famously curmudgeonly actor took his John Drake character from the highly successful TV series Danger Man and placed him as ‘Number 6’ in a Kafkaesque prison The Village (although McGoohan, for a variety of reasons, never admitted that it was the same character). The show initially baffled viewers with its utterly surrealistic take on the thriller format (something taken to almost Olympian levels in the show’s astonishing, nation-baffling finale), and Cox’s take on this phenomenal series (that has never lost its cult appeal) is one of the most persuasive and provocative yet — of many. Subtitled ‘Decoding the Prisoner’, Cox’s very personal view of the show renders makes any future viewing of the episodes impossible without this guidebook to hand.

Black Masculinity on Film: Native Sons and White Lies by Daniel O’Brien  Palgrave Macmillan  A contemporary writer on film who brings a totally individual approach to the genre is the perceptive Daniel O’Brien, whose volume on the Italian ‘pepla’ (or ‘sword and sandal’) genre quickly became the definitive disquisition on the subject. This provocative new volume contains more of the writer’s incisive approach to his subject (a relatively underexplored one), with a rigorous analysis of the treatment of black males in film and literature, even taking in such subjects as the treatment of race in the 007 universe, along with studies of significant black American actors through the ages. It’s a fascinating volume for anyone with even a glancing interest in the subject, studiously avoiding tendentiousness.