Book Review: EMPIRE OF THE 'B'S

PrintE-mail Written by Martin Unsworth

Review: Empire of the 'B's – The Mad Movie World of Charles Band / Author: Dave Jay, Torsten Dewi, Nathan Shumate / Publisher: Hemlock Books / Release Date: Out Now

For genre fans who lived through the booming video business in the early/mid '80s, the name Charles Band and his company Empire Pictures, evoke memories of low budget but fun flicks, with a passion not seen since the days of Roger Corman.

This latest release from the fantastic UK retailer/publisher Hemlock Books points the spotlight at the prolific writer, producer and director. Laid out chronologically, the book covers the films Band worked on with his eponymous production unit and more significantly, Empire Pictures, from his early films such as Mansion of the Doomed (1975) right up to 1989's Robot Jox. Now, obviously, there has been 25 years of additional activity following this, but it's a natural cut-off point. However, in no way is the reader shortchanged. As well as the overview of the films, there are numerous interviews with such luminaries as Stuart Gordon, actor Robert Ginty and composer sibling Richard Band among others, who all give their views on the films they made for Band. The man himself also provides some insight into his life and work.

Naturally, there are large sections on Re-Animator and From Beyond, but it's the forgotten films which make for some of the most informative reading: be it the obscure Klaus Kinski horror Crawlspace, Terminator rip-off Eliminators, Starburst favourite Terrorvision or that wonderful guilty pleasure (and actually rather good) Troll. To postscript the book there's a brilliant overview of Band's American VHS label, Wizard Video, including a filmography of their releases.

As mentioned, the book only covers the work up to the demise of Empire, so the likes of the Puppet Master and Dollman series will have to wait for another volume. But with such a fantastic tome to live up to, it's an unenviable task! But as Band is still very much active in the business (including just starting his own VOD site, and magazine, Delirium) the story is far from over.

You can't go wrong with this entertaining and enlightening look at the ups and downs of the Band video legacy. Highly recommended.

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