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Book of the Dead: The Complete History of Zombie Cinema Paperback – April 10, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jamie Russell is a freelance film journalist, author and broadcaster with a PhD from London University in English Literature. His reviews and features have appeared in numerous film publications and on radio and TV. He also writes DVD film notes.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Few horror movie monsters are as maligned as the zombie. While vampires, werewolves and even serial killers command respect, the zombie is never treated as anything other than a buffoon who stumbles around in the cultural hinterlands messily decaying. There are no aristocrats, blue bloods or celebrities among zombies, no big name stars or instantly recognizable faces, just low-rent, anonymous monsters who usually can’t talk, can barely walk and spend most of their energy trying to hold their decomposing bodies together. Zombies are the great unwashed of horror cinema, soulless creatures that wander around without personality or purpose - a grotesque parody of the end that awaits us all. For all their lack of finesse or style, though, the living dead have been a constant presence in horror films since the 1930s. In the many ways it has been deployed in western popular culture, the zombie has slowly been transformed, signifying something much more complex that just the fear of death. Bound up with a wide range of cultural anxieties - from American imperialism to domestic racial tensions, Depression era fears about unemployment, Cold War paranoia about brainwashing, post-1960s political disenfranchisement and AIDS era body horror - the zombie has become, as we will see, a potent symbol of the apocalypse. It’s a monster whose appearance always threatens to challenge mankind’s faith in the order of the universe. Forever poised in the space between the traditional Western understandings of white/black, civilized/savage, life/death, the zombie is a harbinger of doom. Its very existence hints at the possibility of a world that cannot be contained within the limits of human understanding, a world in which these binary oppositions no longer stand fixed. Trampling over our cherished certain certainties, the zombie is, above all else, a symbol of our ordered universe turned upside down as death becomes life and life becomes death. In the chapters that follow, this book hopes to explain the allure of such a catastrophic occurrence, placing the development of the zombie in its socio-historical context in an attempt to understand why it is that, after all these years, we are still so fascinated with the dead that walk.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: FAB Press (April 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1903254337
  • ISBN-13: 978-1903254332
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #983,204 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jamie Russell is an author, screenwriter and journalist. His work has appeared in the Sunday Times, the Guardian, Wired, Total Film, EDGE, and many others.

Jamie writes screenplays with his friend and co-conspirator, the very talented Mr. Nev Pierce. They have several feature scripts and a graphic novel in development.

Jamie's books include Generation Xbox: How Videogames Invaded Hollywood ("fascinatingly detailed and revealing" reckoned the Guardian) and the bestselling Book of the Dead: The Complete History of Zombie Cinema ("the definitive history of the living dead" according to director John Landis).

Jamie has a Ph.D. in English Literature but he only calls himself Dr Russell when talking to bank managers. He lives in Shropshire with his wife and two daughters, who are fed up with "those silly zombies" and want him to write a book about princesses instead.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By MartinD1 on March 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is 100% PERFECT.

Mummies aren't zombies, if you're a mummy you're not a zombie, sorry.

Now, some info about this book you might find interesting:


Introduction. Dead Men Walking

Chapter One. Caribbean Terrors

Tracking the Walking Dead

The Origins of the Zombie

The Zombie in the West

Chapter Two. The Zombie Goes to Hollywood

Horror Hits the Stage

Cultural Anxieties: Haiti, the Depression and Race

The Zombies Are Revolting

Chapter Three. Down and Out on Poverty Row

Horror Comedy on Black Island

The Poverty Row Years

Val Lewton: A Touch of Class

Chapter Four. Atomic Interlude

Sci-Fi Horrors

Voodoo's Last Gasps

The Mass Destruction of Men's Minds

Chapter Five. Bringing It All Back Home

Keeping It in the Family

Stiff Upper Lips and the Walking Dead

South of the Border

Back on American Soil: Night of the Living Dead

Chapter Six. Dawn of the Dead

Romero's Children

The Ghouls Can't Help It

Destructive Tendencies

Sex, Death and Amando de Ossorio's Templars

By the Dawn's Early Light

Chapter Seven. Splatter Horror

The Italians Are Coming!

The Apocalypse of Narrative: Fulci's Zombie Trilogy

The Return to the Caribbean

Splatter House of Horrors

Chapter Eight.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Bob Fingerman on February 23, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jamie Russell has done a remarkable job with his "Book of the Dead", a thoroughly engrossing history and critical overview of zombie cinema. His writing is sharp and his observations astute. It's as up-to-date as books on an ongoing subject can be (I would relish updated supplements, as needed), including recent zombie fare and even some titles that have yet to be released. In addition to the excellent text are many color and B&W photos and posters from all over the world. It's the best book of its type I've ever encountered. Buy it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Patrick S. Dorazio VINE VOICE on April 29, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Other reviewers have pointed out how detailed this work is. I can only really say that I concur-this book has a fantastic level of detail for anyone who would like to explore all things zombie.

The book is a chronology of zombie events. It serves as a history guide to undead cinema but goes even further back to the origins of voodoo, discussing the written works of Lafcadio Hearn and William Seabrook. We are treated to a comprehensive review of what I would have to guess is every movie ever done all the way up to the latest installment from Romero and every other movie that has come up in the past few years.

An exhaustive filmography is another treat at the end of the book with a brief synopsis of each film. Excellent pictures and detailed analysis of every significant movie and pretty solid details on lesser movies make this tome absolutely essential for any fan.

Jamie Russell has made a reference work that for me will give me a chance to look at some lesser known but high quality films such as 'The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue' and 'Shockwaves' which I was unfortunately unaware of and also serves as a reminder of how incredible the works of Fulci were. I think any fan will find something new and intriguing to pour over in this fantastic book.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Keith Rainville on March 16, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book, especially for the color plates and foreign posters. Now, all sorts of hardcore fans, obsessed geeks and nitpicky nerds can attack a book that boasts being "The Complete History of Zombie Cinema" and I'm not really one of those people.

However, there is such a glaring flaw in the book, I have to make note. Russell completely omits the significant Mexican "momias" genre. Misses it entirely.

For the unfamiliar, the "momias" movies are based on the creepy-as-hell city of Guanajuato, where extreme levels of alkali in the soil have the effect of dead and burried bodies NOT decaying. Corpses interred in Guanajuato cemetaries are naturally mumified. When the graveyards hit capacity, the grotesquely preserved dead are actually removed from their graves and put on display in the catacombs beneath the city. It's a huge tourist attraction - halls lined with un-rotting natural "mummies."

Several films have depected "Las Momias de Guanajuato" as becoming animate again, leaving their tombs, graves and/or the museum galleries, and attacking people. Don't let the word "momia" or mumification throw you here, this is not your bandaged Egyptian king on the vengeance trail, but rather they are legions of corpses staggering around trying to kill the living. Zombies in EVERY sense of the word.

In some of the films, the momias obey the commands of an arch evil-doer, in others they just swarm innocent Mexicans Romero-style. Some guard castles and punish trespassers, other seek out ancient relics.

ALL of them have the classic zombie look - tattered funeral suit, straggely hair, empty skull-like eyesockets and exaggerated head deformities. Classic zombies all the way.
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