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Stuart's Movie Book Round-Up #2
Tony and Me: A Story of Friendship by Jack Klugman with Burton Rocks (Good Hill Press, $24.95) An unapologetically heartfelt tribute to his Odd Couple co-star, the late Tony Randall, Klugman's book is less an autobiography than a memoir zeroing in on an epiphany that came late in the popular actor's life, after he lost his voice to throat cancer. A streetwise kid and chronic gambler, as a youth Klugman built an emotional wall of self-reliance and a determination never to depend on anyone for anything. Robbed of his voice, Klugman felt helpless and depressed, and reluctantly put his future as an actor in the confident hands of former co-star. The book then is less a cautionary tale warning of the dangers of cigarette smoking, of overcoming cancer, etc., and instead unexpectedly is about a man learning to trust people who care about him, allowing them to temporarily take the reigns and learning to accept their generosity. This in turn, Klugman argues, made him less of a loner and brought him much closer to his family. The book includes a wonderful little extra, a DVD of Odd Couple Outtakes, running eight-and-a-half minutes. The clips, in varying condition, are frequently hilarious, particularly an exchange of spit-takes between Randall and series regular Al Molinaro. There's more of Jack Klugman at (http://blog.tonyandme.com/), a great site with Podcast audio interviews, video clips, and a message board. Recommended.

The Japan Journals, 1947-2004 by Donald Richie (Stone Bridge Press, $18.95) Beyond its remarkable observations and portraits of ordinary Japanese and the telling differences between their culture and those of the Western world, beyond its deeply personal self-examination of a transplanted Ohioan who ultimately learned that he loved Japan not because he wanted to "belong" to that society but precisely because he could never really be a part of it, The Japan Journals is also a must for anyone interested in cinema, Japanese and otherwise. Richie's journal entries offer fascinating, intimate portraits not only of the major contributors to Japanese cinema, from directors like Yasujiro Ozu, Akira Kurosawa, and Nagisa Oshima, to stars the caliber of Toshiro Mifune, Hideko Takamine, and Shintaro Katsu, but also western filmmakers visiting Japan, from Francis Ford Coppola to Paul Schrader. (To say nothing of numerous great writers and playwrights, from Yukio Mishima to Truman Capote and Susan Sontag.) Highly recommended.

Outlaw Masters of Japanese Film by Chris D[esjardins] (I.B. Taurus & Co., Ltd., $19.95) A must for fans of chambara and Yakuza movies, the book's heart are its 14 interviews with directors (and cult actors Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba and Meiko Kaji) whose work dominates the current fascination with Cinema Nippon. Several genre filmmakers discovered and reappraised in the western world only recently, notably Kihachi Okamoto, Kinji Fukasaku, and Teruo Ishii, have since passed away, yet Chris D's extraordinary, encyclopedia-like knowledge of their work results in the some of their best interviews ever published in English. Most of the interviews are with genre filmmakers who peaked in the 1960s and early-1970s, but the book concludes with lengthy interviews with the cultish and controversial Takashi Miike and Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and there's a surprising interview with Japanese New Waver Masahiro Shinoda. Each interview is preceded by a filmography and lengthy introduction, where Chris D does an excellent job expressing both his own personal enthusiasm while nailing each filmmaker's personality, importance within the genre, and reasons for their appeal. The book includes several very interesting appendices, including one on female yakuza films, an important one summarizing each of the major film studios, a list of titles out on DVD (from all over the world), and a useful list of series entries (Kiyoshi Nemuri, Zatoichi, etc.), and filmographies of "Selected Japanese Outlaw Collaborators" – various screenwriters, composers, and cinematographers most associated with the genre. Highly recommended.

The Allied Artists Checklist: The Features and Short Subjects of the Allied Artists Corporation, 1947-1978 by Len D. Martin (McFarland & Co., $35) In the tradition of The RKO Story, The Warner Bros. Story, etc., this useful volume, reissued as a "McFarland Classic," is primarily a filmography of the 452 features and shorts released under the Allied Artists banner. Formed in 1946 by poverty row studio Monogram, Allied Artists originally was a subsidiary intended to remove the stigma of the lowly Monogram name for the company's more prestigious productions. Eventually the Allied Artists name was used on all of the company's films, which were mainly low-budget fodder, but which sometimes included big and prestigious films (Friendly Persuasion, El Cid, Billy Budd, The Pawnbroker), and many with cult followings (The Maze, The Phenix City Story, Attack of the Crab Monsters), especially '50s sci-fi and horror, most of which are not yet out on DVD. Each entry includes the film's release date, genre, technical specs (color, widescreen format, etc.), a too-short list of production credits (usually only producer, director, and screenplay), a cast list, a brief synopsis, and helpful notes about the release. The book is littered with illustrations, and the often lurid ad mats are especially appealing. Also included is a brief historical overview, a list of "Problem Films" and short subjects, a complete list of titles by release date, a listing of Monogram/Allied Artists movie series (The Bowery Boys, Charlie Chan, Bomba the Jungle Boy, etc.), cowboy stars, and Academy Awards nominations. This is an especially handy reference as so many Allied Artists titles have fallen into obscurity. The rights on the later films especially have scattered back to their original producers or have lapsed into the public domain. Also, seen together, one gets a real sense of the company's personality, which seemed to reinvent itself each decade of its existence. Recommended.

Charles Bronson: The 95 Films and the 156 Television Appearances by Michael R. Pitts (McFarland, $35) Another McFarland Classic, this soft cover volume is a terrific companion for fans of the actor, who died in 2003. (The book includes his last film and television appearances.) Entries are much more detailed than the Allied Artists tome, with longer synopses, more complete credits (though widescreen processes generally go unmentioned) and production background and critical analysis. Bronson's starring roles deservedly get more attention, but Pitts also provides good analysis of Bronson early film work and late-career TV movies. Also included is a fairly detailed accounting of Bronson's television work, which includes an episode guide for his long-lost series Man with a Camera. A "Chronologies" section puts it all in order, while a list of Video Releases (compiled in 1999) is of little use today. Overall, an excellent filmography with good analysis, tracing a long and fascinating career, so don't be put off by the singularly ugly cover (apparently adapted from artwork from Cabo Blanco. Recommended.

Leonard Maltin's 2006 Movie Guide (Signet, $8.99) Still the best single movie reference book for its price, this latest edition is more than 1,500 pages of mini-reviews and ratings, more than 16,000 features in all, noting title, year or release, color or black & white, running time, a director and top-billed cast list, MPAA rating, and availability on tape, laserdisc, and DVD. Reviews remain squarely populist and middle of the road, with many revolutionary American (e.g., Taxi Driver) and classic foreign films (Red Beard) often conservatively ranking lower than popular, high-concept popcorn movies. A bigger problem is that book's physical publishing limitations were maxed out years ago – the book couldn't get any bigger and for the last several volumes many entries were actually removed to make room for new ones. Maltin solved this problem, sort of, with the debut of Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide, which moved many pre-1960 titles into that volume. Confusingly, many pre-1960 titles remain in the 2006 Movie Guide, and these aren't limited to obvious classics like The Wizard of Oz and Casablanca, but include virtually forgotten potboilers like Chicago Confidential and The Pride of St. Louis. Moreover, this inconsistent separation of old and new movies has resulted in a number of oddball errors. A listing for Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952) advises readers to see My Son the Vampire, but if you go there the reader is advised to see Vampire Over London. Problem is there is no listing for Vampire Over London. Hopefully these glitches will be fixed for the 2007 edition, though a cut-and-dried separation of pre- and post-1960 titles in separate volumes would seem the best solution. Included is a list of "Our Favorite DVDs" (for films released from 1960 onward), a useful "Mail-Order Sources for Home Video," a "Widescreen Glossary" (presumably lifted from the Carr/Hayes Wide Screen Movies), and an awkward but handy Index of Stars and Directors in the back. Highly Recommended.

Coming Soon: Earth vs. the Sci-Fi Filmmakers & The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre.

Be sure to check out the first installment of Stuart's Movie Book Round Up. Also if you're looking for some great film books cheap we're addicted to Book Closeouts and can't recommend them highly enough.

Stuart Galbraith IV is a Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes The Emperor and the Wolf - The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune and Taschen's forthcoming Cinema Nippon. Visit Stuart's Cine Blogarama here.

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