Celluloid Atrocities | 05.06

When all of us PLAYBACK:stl writers were compiling our various lists of the best albums, movies, shows, etc., from last year, I was disappointed with myself for not having read more than just three or four books that came out in 2005, because I wanted to make a list of the best books to go with my other lists. Had I read more books released in 2005 and had I, in turn, written a list, the book that would have taken the top spot is The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry, which was written (compiled?) by Legs McNeil and Jennifer Osborne. McNeil, who is best known for Please Kill Me, an oral history of the punk movement, is an exceptionally talented and intelligent man; the oral history format seems particularly demanding, what with all of the interviews that have to be conducted and then excerpted and strung together into a logical narrative. And then, of course, his choice of topics is excellent—The Other Hollywood is just as lurid as you could possibly hope, all full of tales of coke binges and shady mob dealings and a dude who committed suicide because he couldn’t sustain an erection. Reading The Other Hollywood for the first time was one of the most blissfully entertaining things I’ve ever done.

The reason why I bring up The Other Hollywood now is because it was just released inmeyer.jpg paperback (although I recommend you pick up the hardcover edition; at over 600 pages, the paperback is like a phone book), and also because it is one of a few notable film books that have come out recently. The other major one is Jimmy McDonough’s Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film. McDonough’s biggest selling title to date was Shakey, a biography of Neil Young, but he is also the author of the overlooked gem The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Filmmaker Andy Milligan, which ranks right up there with John Waters’ Shock Value, Kinski Uncut, and Roman by Polanski as one of the all-time best biographies about a filmmaker. Andy Milligan was a tremendously creepy grindhouse filmmaker whose name might be recognized by those who have read Sleazoid Express or are aficionados of movies with hilarious taglines (the tagline for Milligan’s Monstrosity: “The brain of a child. The body of a giant. The power of an ape. All programmed to kill!”), but due to the nature of his films, he is relegated to being almost completely unknown. The general public’s lack of knowledge re: Milligan makes The Ghastly One all the more fun to read, as the descriptions of the depraved shit Milligan would cook into his films alone is enough to keep you turning pages.

Big Bosoms and Square Jaws can’t quite reach the high bar that McDonough set with The Ghastly One, but it’s still an entertaining and thorough read. Meyer was notorious for changing stories about his personal life, and was far from a straight shooter with the press, so it’s interesting to read a biography of him from a trustworthy and talented author. Now if someone can only talk McDonough into writing a biography of Jess Franco, my bookshelf would be complete.

It’s also worth noting that my second favorite book of 2005, David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster, while not a book on film, does indeed contain “Big Red Son,” a 50-page essay on the 1998 Adult Video News Awards (for those of you who don’t read as much about porn as I do, is the porn film industry’s closest thing to the Oscars). Wallace occasionally lends his immense talents to Premiere, which was indeed the outlet for “Big Red Son,” and despite the fact that Wallace isn’t exactly known for being a film theorist, all it takes is one essay on film to appear in one sub-par movie magazine every couple of years to make pretty much every other film writer on the planet look like a preposterous hack. That said, “Big Red Son” is his best work within the film industry to date.

Think what you will of pornography, grindhouse movies, and Russ Meyer’s oeuvre—they’re all questionable and potentially inflammatory topics. What is a less risky topic is how rich each of those topics are for our greatest writers to write about.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply