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on March 17, 2005
As new movies proliferate but Leonard Maltin's bestselling Movie Guide remains more or less constant at 4" thick and about 18,000 entries, more and more minor old movies have gotten squeezed out (even as they become more and more available on TV).  The answer, at long last, is to split the old movies out as their own book, removing all but the most popular ones from the Movie Guide and adding many, many more entries.  (To start with, Leonard proudly announces, for the first time the complete oeuvres of R. Rogers, G. Autry and W.B. Elliott are reviewed.)

This is one of those things that one can read as a sign that we live either in the best of times or the worst of times for old movies.  On the one hand, it's a recognition that there's a whole lotta folks out there who just won't watch anything before The Godfather at all.  On the other hand, it's really kind of impressive to flip open what looks like the old familiar volume and see Arsenal or Hell's Hinges or People on Sunday rather than, say, the most recent works of Vin Diesel or Jennifer Lopez.

The other encouraging thing, too, is that these all seem to be new reviews.  The fact is, given the enormity of the task of creating a guide, a lot of old movies have always been covered off in the Movie Guide by ancient capsule reviews from some service that supplied synopses to newspapers for their TV listings, and it's clear no one had actually reviewed many of them in any meaningful sense.  So when you see a new entry (say, The Sin of Nora Moran), it actually is a pretty good capsule review, not "**1/2; Lurid programmer about woman on trial for murder," as it might have been if that had been in the old editions.  (In case you think I'm accusing Maltin of something others don't do, go look through a Video Hound guide with a discerning eye and you'll soon see that perhaps only 10% of the "bone" ratings are really based on viewings of the films.)

Flipping through these reviews of movies no critic has actually taken the trouble to write about in decades, one discovers all kind of interesting-sounding things for which one lifetime of movie-watching will surely not be enough-- Mary Boland steals the otherwise static The Solitaire Man... The First Hundred Years is an interesting early treatment of the strains on a two-career couple... did you know that Wild Bill Elliott ended his career with a series of Dragnet-like police programmers, beginning with Dial Red 0 in 1955?  Well, I didn't.

Inevitably, of course, even a 9000-title guide is going to be an arbitrary selection, but it is often frustratingly hard to predict whether something will be in there-- for instance, a weak and utterly obscure Edward Everett Horton vehicle, The Poor Rich, is in there, yet a much better one, Wild Money, which I take to be decidedly better known since I've managed to see it twice theatrically over the last 20 years, is not.  Someone clearly watched the whole John Ford preservation weekend on AMC a few years back, since things like Men Without Women and The Blue Eagle are in there, but on the other hand, no one has yet made an effort to catch up with all of David Shepard's Soviet silent film releases on DVD, as Arsenal may be in there but not the wonderful Bed and Sofa or Outskirts (indeed the foreign film selections seem highly arbitrary and a bit spotty in this first edition).  

It seems to me that if the book is a work in progress (and always will be), and likely to add hundreds of reviews with each new edition, the main progress it needs to make is in keeping up with major DVD releases and showings on TCM, which are the most universal way that people all over the country, not just those in cities blessed with venues like MOMA or the Siskel Center or PFA, see such things.  On a much smaller note, there's a list of classic films which have been blessed with especially good editions on video-- which might be a useful thing if it gave you any clue as to which edition of The General or The Phantom of the Opera is actually good, but doesn't do much more than list a bunch of famous films as it stands now.

But quibbles, quibbles.  I expect this will sell a fraction of what the Movie Guide sells, and yet it will still be one of the best-selling books about classic film in the market, thanks to the magic Maltin name.  People leafing through its dozens of famous and thousands of not so famous titles will discover not only Arsenal but The Arsenal Stadium Mystery, Men Without Women and Men Must Fight and Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail.  Someone looking for a quick review of a minor programmer from 1942 will get a real review, not a long-dead newspaper hack's quickly cribbed synopsis.  It is A Very Good Thing, in short, go and get yours now.

P.S. Two factual notes in regards to other reviews posted here: while it is true that the same reviews of some better-known pre-1960 movies also appear in Maltin's main movie guide, the overlap is not large. This book has thousands of pre-1960 reviews not in the other one; that book has thousands of post-1960 reviews not in this one. As for the person who felt deceived by the term "classic," well, yes, it is used in the sense of "belonging to a classic age" rather than as an indication of individual merit. For them I would suggest Roger Ebert's The Great Movies, which is strictly devoted to genuine classic films.
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on October 26, 2005
A book not meant to do everything for all movie fans, but for its intended audience, highly useful - not as a replacement for Maltin's main book, Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide, but as a supplement and complement. Don't buy it as your main guide or you will be disappointed: it has no movies newer than 1960.
Also, the title can be confusing: classic here means old movies, not best movies. Some other reviewers here obviously did not understand that, and understandably felt cheated.
For 31 years, I've found it hard to imagine selecting movies to watch on TV - and more recently movies to rent or buy on DVD - without Maltin's Movie and Video Guide. For handy, short reviews, it's usually reliable - at least for my taste, which runs from action to romance, mainstream to arty, foreign to old Hollywood. Probably like yours if you bother to read reviews.
However, with newer movies forcing out older ones from the main guide, Maltin decided to create this one, allowing him to add back some he'd had to drop over the years, and also add in some there was never room for, because they were more obscure or not as good. (That includes some of the old B westerns of Rogers, Autry, Hopalong and early John Wayne.)
There is not an extensive list of directors and only a partial list of the main stars. The idea of this book is to be able to haul it into the store, or keep it by your TV, to get a quick idea if a movie is worth catching. And, of course, for just pleasant browsing. For more detailed reviews or complete filmographies, you'll have to go to other books or websites. For newer movies, you'll need a different book such as the main Maltin. But if you think Turner Classic Movies is the greatest network in the universe, grab this baby.
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on February 28, 2006
A good book for lovers of old movies who hate browsing through the 1600 pages of Maltin's regular guide only to find the film their looking for between a BOMB by Adam Sandler and a Yugoslavian-Japanese Documentary nobody has ever heard of. The Classic Movie Guide was not made to be a list of 4-star, really great old movies. It was made as a companion guide to the regular book as a place to put older, minor films to make room for newer movies in the regular guide. People who feel cheated because their 2006 guide still contains Gone With the Wind should probably know that it will always be in both guides, but films such as Law and Order(1953) or O. Henry's Full House(1952) may one day only be found in the classic guide. They should also note that their 2006 guide is about 100 pages thinner than the 2005 guide and that reviews of vintage series (e.g. Blondie, The Thin Man) are no longer listed in the regular guide and have been moved to the classic guide. In my understanding of this book, more and more minor old films will be removed from the regular guide and placed in the classic guide which will be revised every 5 years. My suggestions for this book would be to change the title to Leonard Maltin's Vintage Movie Guide and add films made before 1965 but after 1960, such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Lawrence of Arabia. I also would suggest making a third guide in about five or six years just for foreign films, excluding British films of course.
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on September 15, 2008

When I read about Maltin's decision to create a Classic Movie Guide I thought it was a wonderful idea. A great solution to his somehow justified insistence to NOT divide his traditional Guide into two separate volumes.

But I also hoped that as he moved all the "minor" classic films to the new book (the true classics would appear in both volumes) he would make room for two things:

1. For him not to have to drop 250 to 300 films from his Movie Guide EVERY YEAR to make room for the new entries.

2. And something that I have not seen many people advocating for: so that Maltin could reinstate many of the worthy films he has had to "sacrifice" for the sake of space back where they belong: in the main volume. But I don't see that he has. I don't expect him to reinstate every single made-for-TV-movie (though at one point many, many years ago he boasted that his book included every one of them)... But, being from Argentina, the first thing I checked was whether he had reinstated Man Facing Southeast (1986) to which he had given a very good review (3 stars, I think). Well, no such luck.

And, let's be honest, the Movie Guide still includes preposterous duplications, such as films from the 1930s with two stars or less. Come on! I have the feeling that the Classic Movie Guide was rushed into bookstores without devoting to it some very much needed, additional time and effort. I hope all these issues are resolved when its second, updated edition appears (supposedly) in 2010.

ADDITION: One very important consideration that should keep Mr. Maltin and his team on their toes is the incredible number of rather obscure (or shall we say "forgotten") films that are being brought to life, particularly by Turner Classic Movies. Even silent films in pristine, remasterized versions, without a single one of the traditional stars of the silent era in their casts! A quick analysis of two weeks of programming of TCM allowed me to determine that out of every 10 films shown by TCM, only between 6 or sometimes 7 of them appear in this volume. I am really looking forward to the next edition (read what Mr. Maltin has to say about it in the 2010 Edition of his Movie Guide).

One final comment. Now that my "anger" has somewhat subsided one year later, I would give this volume three stars (***)... if for no other reason, for the initiative and the effort.
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on March 21, 2008
I purchased this book after being reminded of it on the inside back cover of Maltin's latest (2008) Movie Guide. I had first heard of it after complaining that thousands of most valuable *older* movie listings (the very ones one most needs the book for) had been omitted from *every* annual update since 2000 - more among the missing with every edition - and being informed that they were being placed in a forthcoming "Classic Movie Guide."

When the "Classic" arrived, I was initially hopeful in that the front cover promised 9000 movie listings (rather than the mere 7000 promised in the latest ad and even the Amazon promo - it's worth noting that the 2008 main guide boasts 17,000 listings - an adequate "Classic Movie Guide" from Maltin sould easily have had more than the main guide - especially since it is expected to remain in print relatively unaltered for longer!). Same ISBN number, a few more movies. Unfortunately, virtually every page I turned to had a majority of garbage (or at least lesser efforts) from the 1950's. HARDLY the older "classic" films from the 20's 30's and 40's and before promised. Not ONE of the first 10 films I looked for from this week's TCM offerings was included. Fully HALF the 1950's films I checked at random in the "Classic" guide were also listed in the 2008 Guide.

While Maltin's Guides in *general* remain far more useful than any of his competitors, I cannot in good conscience recommend this half hearted and highly disappointing effort. First time Maltin buyers who love old films would be far better advised to seek out the 2000 Movie Guide no matter what second hand condition it can be found in. Ultimately, it is (remains for me in any case) more useful that both the "Classic" and 2008 Guides together.
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on April 30, 2008
This volume includes all of the previous movie guides pre-1960 Ratings and reviews. Very nice to have for a classic movie buff, since older "less" necessary films were being ommited every year for the inclusion of newer releases to keep his annual guide at s useable size (not to mention weight!) His and his staffs reviews are as always well thought out and indexed. Also the inclusion of many more early sound and silent films is very helpful.
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on May 1, 2015
I had read another review book with a much smaller listing of movies and I did not agree with more than some, of the reviews. But reading through Maltin's book, I found his reviews (and some occasional added comments) fair and balanced and given a reliable review, of the many I have watched. Saying this, I found many movies that I had not watched, wanted to or wanted to watch again. Now I need to order the updated version!
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on April 20, 2015
Another "treasure" reference book for the vintage i.e. super senior fan to identify Charlie Chan, Boris Karloff, a teen age Cary Grant etc. in their screen appearances during the long ago. I use it occasionally, but I woud get Maltin's most reason movie guide book and encyclopedia as better buys.
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on July 9, 2008
l've purchased Leonard Maltin's annual movie guide for years. As the book grew, I wondered when it would come to a breaking point. Then I found that the 2008 guide did not go back beyond 1960, except in rare cases. At first I felt gouged tbat I would have to spend money to buy a second book, but Amazon had a fair price and now I have a book that will not have to be rebought every year. Some movies are missing, of course, but you can't expect a complete listing. Besides, it gives Leonard a chance to issue a new book every few years while he fills in the gaps. I think the ratings in Maltin guides are reasonable and the synopses catch the flavor of the movie. This book is worth having if you like to watch movies pre-1960.
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on May 9, 2013
Keeping informed on movies shown on local movie channels can be difficult. Write ups in the paper, or online are often very inadequate. Through Amazon we were able to order this treasure of a book. We can now get great information on older movies. this greatly helps us determine whether or not we want to see the movie.
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