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‘Nozone – Reviews of Art, Cult, and Genre Cinema, 2003-2012’ (review)

Written by Tim Lucas
Published by Bear Manor Media

 

By way of full disclosure, even though we’ve rarely spoken in recent years, I first met Facebook friend Tim Lucas three decades ago this year.

In fact, I arranged his first autographing at my bookstore, for his disturbing horror novel Throat Sprockets. (He says it wasn’t the first but the inscription he wrote in my copy of the book that day reads, “To Steven, thanks for arranging my first signing! Go for the throat!”).

Before Throat Sprockets, Tim had come out with various guides to movies of all sorts on video cassettes, so I knew him to be a film buff even before I met him.

After Throat Sprockets, he and his wife Donna (whom I had actually known 20 years before Tim, when she was selling tickets at a theater I had gone to nearly every weekend in the early ‘70s!) became known for Video Watchdog, a slick, digest-sized publication visually similar to the old Films in Review, only VW chronicled international horror and genre films and filmmakers in intelligent articles, interviews, and reviews.

For us former Monster Kids, VW was a true gem and it spun off several books including, most importantly, Tim’s massive, gorgeous book on the life and films of Italian director Mario Bava, All the Colors of the Dark. Sadly, the mag folded after 27 years, followed by Donna’s passing. Tim has become known in more recent years for his many insightful, award-winning DVD and Blu-Ray commentaries, showcasing him again as a particularly astute and perceptive film critic.

Me, I’m not a film critic. I’m a film reviewer. It’s a different job description. When I write a review of a movie, I tell if I liked it, what I liked, what I may not have liked, and if I think you, the reader, will like it. When Tim addresses a movie, whether in print, online, or vocally, he looks at the movie itself, regardless of whether he or you might like it. He examines it with a keen eye for all aspects of filmmaking and concludes if it is, in fact, a good film or a bad film. Thus, all types of films from American porn to Indie art to Euro horror to kiddie matinee fodder or mainstream blockbuster hits all start on a level playing field and are reviewed on their own merits first and foremost.

And that’s what we get in Tim Lucas’s awkwardly named new book Nozone: Reviews of Art, Cult and Genre Cinema 2003-2012.

“Nozone” was the name of a monthly column Tim wrote for the UK mag Sight & Sound, the official publication of the British Film Institute. The book collects all 112 of his published columns as well as one unpublished at the time.

Along with movies, the book offers looks at some television series as well, including right up front examples as diverse as Naked City and The Monkees. All of the reviews herein deal with specific transfers on whatever media on which they were available at the time they were written. One of my favorite aspects of the book, though, is that Tim offers updates at the end of most chapters, often pointing out even better releases that have come out since.

Putting The Monkees in larger context, Tim points out, “Furthermore, as a Bob Rafelson/Bert Schneider production, The Monkees begat Head (1969) which begat Easy Rider (1969) and Five Easy Pieces (1970), so it can’t be ignored as the seminal enabler of some of the progressive American cinema produced in the 1970s.”

I’m a sucker for that kind of “connect-the-dots” stuff in all things, but less so for the detailed descriptions of aspect ratios and audio quality which show up in most of the films covered here.

And what are some of the films?

Well, as one might expect from the type of column this was, they’re a mixed bag. Just like in Video Watchdog, however, as much as I enjoyed reading about ones I knew in the book like Myra Breckinridge, After Hours, and The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, discovering new-to-me films treated on the same level was fun.

My favorite overall review might be of Hannie Caulder, the all-star Raquel Welch spaghetti and crumpets western from 1971, where Tim perfectly puts into words my own pull-your-hair-out perception of its one-off weirdness.

Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes flicks are covered here, too, as are Woodstock, Metzger, Godard, Warhol, Malle, Klaus Nomi, Dick Cavett, Jerry Lewis, some German porn, weird trailers, and all those dull German Cowboy and Indian pictures they used to show on the 4 O’Clock Movie. Like I said, a mixed bag…but all of it fun to read about, even the stuff I have no interest in watching.

These reviews would likely have been largely forgotten without this impressive collection, and yet they’re another important step in the evolution of Tim Lucas, one of the most accessible and insightful film critics of our day.

Booksteve recommends. 

 

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