Did this year really include a hardback tome on the history of the Vocoder and a full guide to punks in movies? Somebody up there likes us. You need ‘Destroy All Movies!!’ in your life. It’s heartening to know that there’s people out there who are truly sick with it. Like, really, really obsessed with a single niche. Like cinematic punkers. As in every single punk appearance in a film, whether it’s the substantial role played by Trash and company in ‘Return of the Living Dead’, classic documentaries like ‘DOA’ or the nerve pinched punker in ‘Star Trek IV’…then onto the b-movies of the 1980s where every vigilante grindhouse treat, slasher, sex comedy or subculture cash-in included at least one does of mohawked bad attitude or an outsider with studs on a jacket. Who would be deranged enough to try to compile this? Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly amassed a crew of fellow weirdos and trawled increasingly defunct VHS rental spots to create the definitive tome on punks in movies. Everything’s here—even the blink-and-miss crowd moments warrant a full review.
The very best books on cinema, like Kim Newman’s ‘Nightmare Movies’ (which gets an update next April), Chas Balun’s (R.I.P.) ‘Gore Score’, Danny Peary’s ‘Cult Films’ trilogy, Stephen Thrower’s ‘Nightmare USA’ or Creation Books titles like David Kerekes’s ‘Killing For Culture’, this one will make you realise that you’ve only just scratched the surface of b-movies and provide a comprehensive education on some total rarities. Where else does Fassbinder in animal print nestle alongside an interview with the man who helmed 1989’s sleazy ‘Skinheads: The Second Coming of Hate’. Even old favourites like Penelope Spheeris’s superior punker flick ‘Suburbia’, ‘Ladies & Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains’ and ‘Times Square’ benefit from added insight and a few sacred cows are skewered throughout. Fantagraphics have been sating a personal taste for the esoteric since my childhood, but this one really has blown me away. There’s even an enlightening interview with Ian MacKaye that answers a few open questions from repeat viewings of ‘Another State of Mind’.
With YouTube and imdb.com primed, the reading experience is even more enlightening. It’s a single-minded subject matter, but it’s surprising how much the rebel figure invaded cinema over the last thirty something years, which makes this one resonate even harder. There’s a curious diplomacy to ‘Fight Club’ getting the same level of coverage as ‘Grotesque’—a truly split-personality viewing experience which veers from home invasion grittiness to high camp. The entire tome has a no-frills, but truly thorough feel that evokes memories of finding similarly obsessive retrospectives in comic book stores, university libraries and second-hand book stores. It’s instantly familiar but riddles with surprises. Hell, there’s a lot of information that’s a Google search away, but it’s never this lucid, structured, insightful or crucially, offered in one place. A sense of seen-it-all complacency gave way to a certain urgency after an inaugural browse—’UK/DK’ and ‘Scarred’ just went on the must-see list.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll attempt to find omissions. And chances are—just like me—you’ll fail. Invest. Looking at the ‘Class of 1984’ poster art on the front, you can judge this one by its cover.