Review: Claws & Saucers – Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film – A Complete Guide – 1902-1982 / Author: David Elroy Goldweber / Publisher: Lulu.com / Release Date: Out Now
Since the advent of the internet, film reference books have almost become a thing of the past. So to undertake a project that involves attempting to watch and review every sci-fi, horror and fantasy film made in the first 80 years of cinema is quite an audacious task, and one which author Goldweber manages admirably.
With books of this type, their charm lies in the way they disclose interesting new factoids about old favourites, while at the same time introducing you to films you never knew existed. Claws & Saucers succeeds at least in part in this. Goldweber makes the wise decision to cap his survey at 1982, which coincidentally would be around the same time most people began to have access to a home video machine and, through it, to a library of obscure films on tape. There are over 1500 movies listed, with others mentioned in passing; Umberto Lenzi's Cannibal Ferox and Eaten Alive, for example, crop up in the entry for Man From Deep River.
The format of the reviews is nice and quirky. Alongside the usual info (director, release date, running time), there are brief entries under such heading as “what's happening”, “famous for”, “don't miss” and “notable moments”. For example, former video nasty Night of the Bloody Apes is described as “rampaging gorilla-beast kills men and rips women's clothes off”, a description no one can argue with. The rating system is also different. Instead of the standard star system or marks out of ten, we have five separate categories: action, gore, sex, quality and camp. If that sounds complicated, it is, especially as Goldweber's reasoning can be far from straightforward. Gore is not necessarily the amount of gore, but rather the quality and effectiveness; if the on-screen claret becomes revolting, the score goes down. Sergio Martino's The Slave of the Cannibal God thus rates 7 on the gore scale, while Woody Allen's Sleeper rates 6, and many older, black-and-white, films rate 6 or 7. Similarly, the sex rating goes down if the nudity and/or heavy petting is in a rape or torture scenario.
For all the author's efforts, Claws & Saucers inevitably has some omissions. First port of call for this reviewer was Paul Naschy's Waldemar Daninsky werewolf movies. They are covered, with the exception of his 1975 effort The Werewolf and the Yeti (La maldición de la bestia) – a film which is still classified as banned in the UK – and, of course, the unreleased and long lost second film Las noches del Hombre Lobo. (But to be fair, both are namechecked.) The cheesy 1975 Satanic vampire flick Satan's Black Wedding is overlooked too. Full marks, however, for including often forgotten gems like Woman Who Came Back (1945) and the 1969 Czech classic Witches' Hammer.
On the whole, it's a fabulous, unpretentious guide to the genre. Not necessarily essential, but worthwhile, if a little pricey should you choose the print version – although just under £30 for 630 pages of text (there's no illustrations or photos to pad it out) isn't too bad when you consider the work that has gone into it. The eBook edition retails at a more reasonable £6 or so. Although self-published, the book is available from most online book retailers and worth putting on your Christmas list.