Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Guide to the Best in Cinema Thrills

Genre: Film Reference

AUTHOR: John Howard Reid

For all you movie buffs out there, this is an outstanding reference book. Subtitled Mystery, Suspense, Film Noir and Detective Movies on DVD, this is one of the most comprehensive and detailed summaries of the genres (as indicated by the subtitle) that I’ve seen compiled to date. Written in two parts, the first 300 pages provides short but concise descriptions of well over 200 titles on currently released on DVD. Sorted alphabetically, each mini-review provides detailed information on the cast, the film crew and studio, a synopsis, interesting production notes and a critical summary of the film itself. The book is illustrated by a couple hundred photos–mostly stills from the actual movies–, which work nicely to break up the text in this extensive project.

A pseudo-historical essay on film noir dominates the second part. (I use “pseudo” here, as it’s neither chronological, nor dominated by industry facts). The main vehicle for the education is a discussion of the actors and directors, and comments about the films themselves. This combination provides revealing and colorful insights on the evolution of this long-lived era of film. This includes sub-genres such as musical noir, comic noir and mysteries and thrillers themselves. Also included are interesting (albeit much shorter) essays on film noir character icons such as Sherlock Holmes and The Thin Man; and the screen adaptations of author Raymond Chandler.

It is clear from the writing that Reid knows his stuff. Most of the work concentrates on films from the late 20’s to the 50’s, which includes a mix of no holds-barred criticism and scholarly interpretation of the industry. The author has a crisp and concise writing style that is both rich and at the same time interesting and easy to digest.

If I have one criticism for this book, it’s very minor. I would have liked to see an introduction by the author to introduce the two parts and how they were written. I’m sure that this would have been as fascinating as the rest of the work.

Professional film critic, John Howard Reid, examined over 1,200 DVD’s in the mystery/suspense field, resulting in more than 700 film reviews.

For film aficionados of the genre, this is a must read and fine contribution to your library. I’d recommend reading the essays first (the last 150 pages), then place this next to your DVD player for constant enjoyment.

Reviewer: Gregg J. Haugland, Allbooks Reviews.

Title: A Guide to the Best in Cinema Thrills
Author: John Howard Reid
Publisher: Lulu Books
ISBN: 978-0-557-12223-3
Pages: 468
Price: $24.50
Jan. 2010