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Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide: From the Silent Era Through 1965, Second Edition Paperback – January 27, 2010
There is a newer edition of this item:
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"Head and shoulders above the rest."—The New York Times
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"The single most important reference book in every American home."—Esquire
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Well, it's here. But unfortunately, it definitely was not worth the wait. Sure it covers over 1,500 more films than the first edition - but according to Mr. Maltin himself, over 1,200 of the so-called "new" entries are the result of films from 1961 through 1965 being transferred to this book from his annual "Movie Guide". Just over 300 of the reviews in this second edition are genuinely new material that was previously unavailable elsewhere. Divided into five years, that only comes out to 5 fresh reviews a month - which is only a problem because there are dozens and dozens of older films resurfacing on DVD, cable, and the new DVD-R "manufactured on demand" programs like the Warner Archives, the MGM / Amazon exclusives, and the newly announced Universal MOD series. At best, this second incarnation of Maltin's "Classic Movie Guide" isn't keeping up with the market.
Among the missing are such titles as "The Locked Door", Barbara Stanwyck's first talkie which has been rotating fairly frequently on TCM's schedule; "The Ruling Voice", a fascinating Warner's crime drama starring Walter Huston and Loretta Young; early films currently available from The Warner Archives such as "The Flying Fleet", "Let Us Be Gay", and "Son of the Gods"; "The Perfect Clue", one of many "lost" films now found and available on DVD from companies like Alpha Video ... the casualty list goes on and on. Of course, not every title can or should be included in a reasonably sized and priced volume like the "Classic Movie Guide". But still, one is left to wonder ... are more readers going to be looking for information about "A Ship Comes In", for which Louise Dresser was nominated for the first Best Actress Oscar, and is not included - or for "Hear Me Good", a 1957 turkey that is included?
The bottom line - if you have the "Classic Movie Guide", first edition, think twice before you "upgrade". If you don't have a copy of the original, then go ahead and pick up the 2010 version. It's obviously not perfect, but depite its flaws, it's still the best mass market single-volume guide to the classics that's currently available. I give it **1/2 stars.
1) Bump up the cutoff year to 1968, but not necessarily beyond that for the time being. 1968 was the year the MPAA was formed and the era of the modern film really began. After that, we're still really in the contemporary era in terms of how most viewers, even younger ones, percive movies. By going to 1968, the book will have incorporated Bonnie & Clyde (the modern crime film), Night of the Living Dead (the modern horror film), 2001 (the modern sci-fi film), etc., thus leading smoothly into the modern movies included in Maltin's annual guide.
2) Offer a hardcover edition of the book. This is the type of guide hardcore movie fans want in a durable edition, even if it will get updated occasionally. Paperback film guides just don't last more than a year or two when they are consulted frequently. Believe me, serious classic movie fans will buy a revised hardcover edition by the time the next edition comes out, even if their previous copy is still in good shape. They'll want the updates. Meanwhile, continue to offer a paperback version for those who prefer one.
3) Keep updating the book with obscure/foreign titles. Lesser known foreign (and British and indie studio American) films continue to be rediscovered. While it's not often that I can "stump" Maltin's book, it does happen on occasion. For example, when attempting to look up films featured in a recent Film Forum retrospective of British film noir and another retrospective of the films of Mikio Naruse at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, I found that a number of titles were missing. Although it's impossible to be absolutely complete in such a wide-ranging film guide, please keep striving in that direction.
4) Include the production studio for each film. Knowing the studio is extremely helpful. Various classic studios had their own styles and subjects (e.g., Warner brothers' gangster films, Universal's horror films, RKO's always reliable B-movies, the mostly horrible output of PRC and Monogram, and the great films from B studios like Ealing, American International, Hammer, etc.), so it's often useful when coming across a film you've not known about before to know which studio produced it.
All in all, though, this is truly the best guide to classic films out there. I only make suggestions because I'm such a fan of the book, and there are always ways to make even the best better.