Book Review: ‘Sin and Vice in Black & White: 15 Classic Pre-Code Movies’ by Rupert Alistair

I picked this up on my Kindle because it was just a few bucks. However, after recently watching a few pre-Code movies, as they featured some on the Criterion Channel last month, I wanted to read more about them to sort of map our which others might be worth my time and yours.

This is a pretty short book at sixty or so pages but it still covers fifteen of the best pre-Code movies between 1931 and 1934.

The book did give me a few movies worth checking out that feature Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Collins and Clark Gable. So it was certainly helpful in suggesting things.

However, the fifteen chapters are pretty much just quick rundowns of each film and not a whole lot more beyond that. We get some production info but it’s all fairly minor. Granted, in this book’s defense, a lot of that information could’ve been lost to time.

This does a decent job of explaining what the pre-Code era was though and also, how the Hays Code came to be.

If the subject interests you, this is probably worth a read, especially at three dollars and change.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other books on classic cinema, I’ve reviewed a bunch here.

Book Review: ‘The Marvel Art of Conan the Barbarian’ by Various

Overall, this was a pretty cool art book that had enough text and information to give good context to the pages of art that were featured.

My only real complaint is that I wished that this also featured the great art that was used in the Savage Sword of Conan magazines.

But that could be due to a future release where Marvel does another art book focused solely on that unique series.

Plus, this is the art of Conan the Barbarian, as the title specifically states. Although, it also features art from the King Conan series too.

Anyway, this is a pretty cool book to check out if you are a Conan the Barbarian fan. It’s mostly giant art pages with blurbs. But it does have a nice introduction and some pages with more text than those standard blurbs.

Whether or not it’s worth the price point is up to the buyer, I guess. I can’t recommend it as a must own. Full disclosure, I read my friend’s copy and didn’t buy one, even though I was mostly pleased with it.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel art books.

Book Review: ‘Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko’ by Blake Bell

Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko reminds me a lot of another book I recently read and reviewed: Kirby: King of Comics.

Both books are very artistically driven with lots of pictures and pages upon pages featuring the men’s artwork over their careers but they also serve as proper biographies that delve into their personal lives but more importantly into their legendary runs at the major American comic book publishing companies.

Before reading this, I thought I knew quite a bit about Steve Ditko but this is so full of information that almost all of it was new. Frankly, it’s a great read if you care about the man behind the great work.

Ditko was an interesting guy, who had his own views on the world that often times had him at odds with publishers and the business world in general. This does a fine job of going through all the highs and lows of the man’s life and career.

If you are a Ditko fan and I don’t know why you wouldn’t be, this is certainly worth a read. Heck, even if you don’t read it and want to flip through it, admiring the man’s art, it’s still worth the cover price.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other books on comic books legends.

Book Review: ‘Film Noir: A Critical Guide to 1940s & 1950s Hollywood Noir’ by Eddie Robson

I’ve read and reviewed a lot of books about film-noir. But what I really liked about this one was how it was organized and presented.

The author picked out some of the absolute best noir pictures and really goes into great detail on them. At the end of each big chapter, he adds in a few other noir movies that one can pair or compare with the movie he just spent a lot of time talking about at length.

This is a big, meaty book and while I’ve read close to a dozen books on noir cinema, there is a ton of information and details here that I hadn’t heard elsewhere. A lot of these books feel like more of the same but this one doesn’t. It’s rich and it comes from a place of real appreciation and love for these movies.

Additionally, once the book gets to the end of what’s considered the classic film-noir era (the 1940s and 1950s), it spends some time going over a lot of the neo-noir films that came after.

All in all, this was a refreshing read with a lot of unique insight that I hadn’t found anywhere else.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other books on film-noir: Into the Dark, Film Noir FAQ and The Dark Side of the Screen.

Book Review: Famous Monsters – Ack-ives, Vol. 1: Godzilla

I recently picked up and read the Famous Monsters – Ack-ives on Hammer Horror. While reviewing it, I noticed that it was the second volume in Famous Monsters new Ack-Ives magazine specials. So when I looked it up and saw that the first one was focused on all things Godzilla, I had to track down a copy of it.

Like the Hammer one, this is basically full of a book’s worth of material in a large, colorful, photo heavy magazine format.

There is a lot here and I really enjoy these releases by Famous Monsters and I hope they keep doing more.

Essentially, these are collected archives of past articles focused on the specific subject. I think that this one was released to tie in and help promote the recent American Godzilla sequel.

Ultimately, this magazine was a treasure trove of Famous Monsters’ best articles on the top kaiju franchise in the world.

For fans of kaiju movies, especially those featuring the King of Monsters, this is definitely worth picking up and adding to your collection.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other classic horror magazines.

Book Review: ‘Florida Man’ by Mike Baron

Being that I am a true Florida Man and a fan of Mike Baron’s comic book work over the years, I wanted to give this a read. However, when it was first announced, I thought it was going to be a comic book and I think that version of this story is still forthcoming but what this is here is a novel.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the story, Baron’s humor comes through on every page and he does a pretty solid job of encapsulating the characteristics of good ol’ boys form the Sunshine State.

Honestly, Gary and his pals remind me of some of my uncles that were always in and out of my life, up to one scheme or another, as I grew up on the edge of the Everglades on both coasts of Florida.

There is a lot that happens in this book and it all happens at a pretty rapid pace. That being said, I thought that the general pacing was fine and there weren’t any dull moments but some things felt like they didn’t need to be wedged into the story.

For a comedic tale about the Florida Man, a lot of this feels ripped from the headlines but I don’t feel that every bonkers scenario was necessary. This is a pretty long book, as it comes in at 470 pages. But I’m also saying this as someone without a lot of free time on their hands and who has de-evolved into having the attention span of a chihuahua on speed. But that’s my personal problem and I blame the whiskey, beer, Colorado edibles and all the red meat.

I like good, quick reads. However, my personal preference might not be yours and you might want to delve into this for a longer period of time.

In the end, I still enjoyed it cover to cover. Florida Man is a pretty amusing tale that could honestly happen to just about any real Florida Man in my home state.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Mike Baron’s comic book work.

Book Review: ‘What Would Skeletor Do?: Diabolical Ways to Master the Universe’ by Robb Pearlman

What Would Skeletor Do? is a a self-help and life advice book by none other than Skeletor himself. Well, at least it is Robb Pearlman writing as Skeletor because sadly, Skeletor isn’t real.

It’s a pretty funny book, overall.

Although, it’s more or less a picture book with some captions. Each page or spread is an image from the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe or She-Ra Princess of Power cartoons from the ’80s. Accompanying each page is a blurb where Skeletor gives you some sort of wise advice on how to better yourself and on how to master your own universe.

That’s pretty much it. It’s nothing fantastic but it’s still a very quick and entertaining read, especially for He-Man fans.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other books from the Masters of the Universe franchise.