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The Golden Age of Crap: 77 B-Movies From the Glory Days of VHS Paperback – April 28, 2010
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I quickly realized that I'd only actually seen two of the 77 movies reviewed here, despite being a child of the 80's. I'm looking forward to finding more of these selections, although the author does warn that a few of them are hard to come by these days.
Aspiring filmmakers might well find good advice here, since there are right ways and wrong ways to make a cheap movie. Among with the humorous play-by-play of all the gory details, Shumate details elements of plot, editing, and production that demonstrate good knowledge of what works and what doesn't.
If you've ever trolled the aisles of a rental store looking for something that so good it's bad, or the modern equivalent of looking for something to watch on-demand over a subscription service, you need to get this book!
First of all, it resurrects several long-forgotten b-movie titles for discussion. Some of these, quite honestly, would not have been mourned by history had they been left in obscurity, but Mr. Shumate doesn't just review them. He uses them to illustrate many facets of film-making and story-telling, especially when the budget is lower than low. And since you're not likely to see these any time soon, why not use them to reflect on low-budget film-making in general? This makes this a first-rate guide to making low-budget movies because, while Mr. Shumate does mention technical areas now and then, his real focus is the one thing (to my mind) that must be rock-solid before a frame of film is shot: the script. His insights into the stories of these films are a gold mine of excellent advice for screenwriters. I can imagine the responses of the film-makers: one group smacks their foreheads: "Why didn't I think of that?"; another relievedly claims, "Uh, yeah, I totally meant to do that." (As a bonus, several film-makers responses to the reviews are included.)
Secondly, and most importantly, Mr. Shumate's criticism, while biting, is also fair. He manages to find the things a truly poor film does right, and he shows where a well-made effort still has flaws. The perfect movie may not have been made yet, but neither has the totally worthless one (especially as a learning experience).
Thirdly and finally, Mr. Shumate's writing is not only clear and loaded with insights, it's also frequently hilarious. So you can learn while you laugh without guilt. Highly recommended.
One slight oddity about the Kindle edition are the breaks between reviews. There are many times when the wrap-up of one review occurs on the same page as the onset of the next. Not enough to diminish the pleasure of reading the book, but perhaps a matter to be checked for the next edition.
I remember most of these movies, though I seem to have blocked them out. This book worked like regression therapy, bringing the crap back so I could finally deal with it after all these years. I may still require medication in the form of hard liquor.
If you like to laugh, like bad movies, like VHS, or like to laugh at bad VHS movies, pull the trigger and buy this. It's good stuff.