Book Review: Movie Studio Book A Complete Package

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Front Cover: Veronica Carlson and Christopher Lee in the 1968 film Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (Warner Bros./Photofest)

 

 

When it comes to horror film companies, the causal fans think of the two most successful ones; Universal and Hammer. But many may not know that just like Universal, Hammer did not only focus on horror, but created many films in the genres of science fiction, kung fu, mysteries, and comedies. Hammer even had television shows and album records. Howard Maxford covers all things Hammer in his wonderful Hammer Complete: The Films, the Personnel, the Company (McFarland, 2019).

Let me preface this review with a flashback to my college days at Kent State University. As an English major, one of the classes we had to take was a Shakespeare course, who is not one of my favorite writers (even when I taught at a high school for a few years, much like the students, I dreaded this part). As many readers here may know, walking across college campus with your backpack filled with books, especially during the winter , was not an enjoyable experience. The Shakespeare class was actually bearable , as opposed to some of the other teachers who taught the subject at the campus, because my class looked at the work more from a theater aspect than looking at the plays as just literature.

The textbook we had to use for the class was The Wadsworth Shakespeare book, which is a hardback (and heavy) , book that had over 2000 pages filled with poems, plays, and all things Shakespeare . When going to the class, many of us only carried that book (with a notebook) due to the heaviness and size of the book. The book was at a hefty price as well for us students (like many text books), so when it was time to decide whether or not to keep the book at the end of the semester, it was a no-brainer for many of us to sell it back and try and get at least $50 bucks back from the $150 we paid for it.

The reason I bring up this story is when Hammer Complete showed up at my door, after requesting a copy for review, I immediately thought of that Shakespeare textbook when I unwrapped the packaging. At first glance (and this rarely happens to me, maybe with the exception of the KISSTORY book I purchased in the 1990s), I was in awe of how beautiful the book outlook was. I do not get emotional about books by looking at the covers, besides the comments of “I like that” or “that’s a neat cover.” This was an exception. The cover features Christopher Lee as Count Dracula from the 1968 Dracula Has Risen From The Grave, ready to sink his teeth into Veronica Carlson. The hardback cover, with the solid binding made me state out loud , although I was by myself, “WOW!”

I started thumbing through the thin pages, just admiring some of the pictures and text, which has three columns on every page. I was amazed at how well put together, along with the sturdiness of the binding.

With all this amazement with the visuals of the book, is the book actually good? Because it was uncomfortable to read in bed, I had to settle for browsing and reading at the kitchen table. I started to read the book from the beginning with the Introduction, where the author states that this project took him 14 years to put together, and that the text is not meant to be read cover to cover, but for “browsing.” I started to try it anyway.

Unlike other McFarland books I have reviewed on this page like Universal Horrors and Bela Lugosi And Boris Karloff (where you can find in the archives, or type in the search engine), it is difficult to read every little thing cover to cover, as the author warns. There is so much information here, from the actors, films, crew members, and anyone associated with the movie company , that I’d still be reading this book for years, and only get so far into it. I suggest following the writer’s advice and look up the topics you are wanting to read about and go from there.

Since this is about Hammer, there are many great topics and stories from the history of the company, from the obvious Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing films, to the television shows and magazines, to some of the rarer known films (at least for me) in the history. For instance, I did not know that special effects legend Ray Harryhausen helped on the Hammer film One Million Years B.C. ,that Patty Duke was featured on an episode of the television show Journey To The Unknown, or that James Bond girl Ursula Andress was in the Hammer film, 1965’s She.

The book also supplies interviews with several of the people who were a part of the film, and gives an entertaining look at some of the behind the scenes tales that is normally absent in an normal encyclopedia, such as the story during the 1966 Dracula Prince of Darkness, where Christopher Lee’s eye contact fell out during filming while he was standing on a salt block. The make up man picked up the contact and put it back into Lee’s eye, with salt still in it.

The Draculas, Frankensteins, Mummys, and the Karstein triology are all covered here, including one of my favorite films (where many dismiss) 1964’s The Gorgon. There are comedies, magazines, and just odd films featured in the text as well. The book even covers the newer Hammer films, like the underrated Woman In Black from 2012, and other films like Let Me In and the bad Woman In Black sequel.

I very much enjoyed browsing through this book, and reading all of the tales about the actors, and films. Die hard fans of the Hammer films will need to add this to their collections. The book holds up very well, as opposed to a few others I have received with huge page lengths, where the pages fell out towards the end of the book. At almost 1000 pages of three columned print (the text is small too), there is much to enjoy in this book, including the photographs of movie posters, and on the set shots. The only question remains is would the casual horror fan be willing to shell out the price of the book to use as only a reference, since it is hard to read cover to cover, to have sit on their shelves? I can not answer that question, as honest as I like to be with my reviews here. All I can say is that I was amazed at the quality of the book , and after reading it for several months, I kept a notebook beside me with a listing of films that I want to check out that I never heard of, thanks to going through this piece. The book may not be for everyone, but don’t dismiss it either. It may surprise you.

 

 

A review copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.

 

Hammer Complete: The Films, the Personnel, the Company by Howard Maxford (McFarland, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-7466-7007-2 (hardback) , 978-1-4766-2914-8 (ebook) can be found at http://www.McFarlandbooks.com

 

 

The Overall:

Pages: 992

Language: Mild

Geared For: Teens 13 and Up

For Fans of: Horror films, film history,

 

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Book Review: A Passion for Prayer Leads Writer In New Book

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Cover Design by Faceout Studio/ Jeff Miller

 

While growing up in churches near my hometown of Columbiana, Ohio during my youth, many pastors and preachers would dispute how people in the church should pray. Is it alright to ask God for something, or are you to just go with the flow and thank God for whatever comes your way? Is there a right or wrong way to pray? What about if you prayed for something , and it didn’t come out the way you wanted? Was it a problem with you, or was it just that God wanted something better for you?

Throughout the years, the subject seemed to get more and more confusing, with different answers and writers weighing in on the topic. In her latest book Gangster Prayer: Relentlessly Pursuing God with Passion and Great Expectation (Worthy Publishing, 2019), Autumn Miles digs into several types, and results, of prayer.

The book starts out by Miles telling a story about her being under conviction after watching a television series about gangsters where she felt God informed her that criminals are more passionate in their law- breaking lives than she was in her prayer life. She then decides to dig into the several different categories of prayer, and how it has affected her life since that day. Miles defines prayer as talking with God and not at him, while claiming at the beginning that she does not claim to be a expert on the topic of prayer.

Throughout the short chapters Miles walks the reader through several different types of prayers such as: the Wrestling Prayer, Scared Prayer, Working Prayer, the Fighting Prayer, and the Thanksgiving prayer among others. Each chapter gives not only examples in the author’s life when she was struggling and experiencing each type of prayer, but also gives some Biblical examples as well to help detail the points being made.

Miles also discusses her thoughts on deeper parts of prayer, such as what does the Christian do if the prayer has not been answered (do they give up after a certain amount of time), what does it mean if God says “no” to the prayer request, how to make sure the person’s prayer is not just for selfish reasons, and more.

One of the great parts of this book, especially in the beginning, is how the writer does not tip-toe around the topic and her views on the subject. For instance, she bluntly states that in today’s society, the church seems to have their minds on other things than on prayer or creating valuable prayer sessions, and how many churches are more concerned with fancy stage shows for the praise and worship portions of the church, instead of the non-glitzy prayer meetings.

In another insightful section of the book, Miles brings the topic of prayer firstly to its basic core, and then goes into the deeper parts of the issues. For instance, she writes about who God is (and his characteristics), before getting into the touchier portions like “why doesn’t God answer me now?”

Gangster Prayer is an easy to read book that has short chapters (always a plus with me) , and is packaged so that a person can read one chapter a day as a devotional, or several chapters at a time. At the end of each section, several deeper questions are asked, so the reader can reflect on what was just discussed in order to apply it to their lives. The different categories of prayer was insightful and informative, which makes the readers think about how they approach prayer in general. Although most of the personal examples Miles uses in her writing are focused towards women (by talking about her love of getting her nails done), this book is not totally geared towards females, which seems to be her ministry target audience. I have never heard of Miles before this book (she has a podcast , radio show, and other writings in her portfolio), but I still took away quite a bit of information from this title. A few times throughout the book she states that she prayed for certain things, such as a bigger house, a book deal, and dealings with other businesses, which made me (and maybe some readers) wonder if praying for those things (which some label this as “prosperity preaching”, where some think God gives any worldly possessions because he wants people to be happy on earth) are in conflict with the Bible. Nonetheless, this only occurs once or twice in the book. I am not disputing that prayer should be an everyday part in a Christian’s life, but a few examples like these made me stop and think for a minute.

Overall the book was very informative, and insightful, without having a writer with a PHD in Christianity try to write over the reader’s head, which I have read in some books while reviewing in the past. I do think the book is geared towards Christian women, but it should not stop men from reading it (I can read many women writers in the Christian genre, in fact, my favorite writer in the genre is former recording artist Rebecca St. James, who geared her writings heavily towards women). The book may help some who are struggling with the prayer aspect in their lives get more on track in a non-judgmental way.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of Hachette Book Group and Worthy Publishing.

 

Gangster Prayer: Relentlessly Pursuing God with Passion and Great Expectation by Autumn Miles (Worthy Publishing, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-6839-7312-6 (trade paperback), 978-1-5460-1522-2 (ebook), 978-1-5491-5089-0 (audiobook download) 978-1-5491-8123-8 (audiobook CD) can be found at :

http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/imprint/hachette-nashville/worthy-books/

 

For information about the author, go to: ww.autumnmiles.com

 

The Overall:

Pages: 207

Language: None

Geared Towards: 12 and Up

For Fans Of: Christian Living, Women’s Studies, Prayer

Classic CD Review: Oaks Give Audiences Their Voices 20 Years Ago.

Voices was released July 27, 1999 by Platinum Entertainment/ Intersound Records and produced by Ron Chancey.

Even though the Oak Ridge Boys were one of my favorite musical acts as a kid (I got my first drum set one Christmas, along with the Oaks’ Greatest Hits record around 1980) , I never got to see the band live until 1999; I didn’t attend my first concert until 1991 (which was Sammy Hagar’s Van Halen). The group sang many times, at nearby Ponderosa Park in Salem, Ohio, which was not far from where I live in Columbiana. Those that have read Joe Bonsall’s On The Road With The Oak Ridge Boys book (a review can be found here in the archives), he mentions several times the defunct venue. At one time, there was an attempt to restart the outdoor park, which I even bought tickets to see the Oaks, but the managers closed up before there were any major concerts held.

On September 1, 1999, I finally got the chance to see the Oaks live at the Canfield Fair, in nearby Canfield, Ohio, where they were promoting their new release Voices, which was released that June. Even though I am not a fan of the layout of concerts at the fair and it’s policies (you have to pay a $10 price at the entrance on top of your ticket price to the show, and you sit in bleacher seats which are so far removed from the track stage, it was similar to my early concert days of sitting in the lawn areas at pavilions where the acts looked like ants from the far distance), I remember being in awe of how great the group sounded vocally, and what a show they put on. I have seen a two other shows at the fair (Alabama, and Journey with Peter Frampton), and I will say that The Oaks’ were still the best concert I attended there.

The Voices release, which was the only record the band recorded with Platinum Entertainment did not do much on the charts at the time it was put out, but after 20 years gone by, I figured to visit the recording in celebration of it’s anniversary.

The liner notes states that the goal of the album was to mix musicians from Muscle Shoals and combine their talents with the Nashville songwriters. The album is dedicated to all of the songwriters, and the group salutes their successes to the great songs and songwriters that helped them along the way. The group also used producer Ron Chancey, who was in control of many of the group’s top albums in the 1970s and 1980s.

The album’s first single, “Baby When Your Heart Breaks Down,” a song written by Kix Brooks (of Brooks and Dunn fame) leads off the album with a catchy and wordy chorus, which made me wonder how the Oaks could sing the song while trying to get their breath when they performed it live at the fair show. It surprised me that this song did not break into the country charts (Brooks even used it as his first single in 1983 to no major fanfare). Although many country fans in 1999 were listening to the acts that had a more pop feel, this song should’ve done moderately well- the band made the media rounds on TNN and other spots promoting the song. This is the song that brings back memories of the release.

The CD is filled with several good songs that are just plain fun to listen to, including “Deep In Louisiana,” and “What’ll I Do,” both challenges the listener NOT to hit the repeat button on the player and listen many times. “What’ll I Do” was co-written by Skip Ewing, who was known for his work with Bryan White’s debut album among others, which also adds a gospel flavor to the song to blues groove.

Speaking of grooves, ” The Perfect Love” , sung by Joe Bonsall, combines the rhythm of an reggae/island mix, where the listener can find similarities to Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire.” This is one of the songs that drummer Roger Hawkins shines on (along with “Ain’t No Short Way Home”). Hawkins has played on many legendary songs in music history. Combining the great harmonies of the Oaks along with these icons in music, spotlights on this track.

William Lee Golden , who is a very underrated singer and has gained my respect on his abilities rediscovering the groups rarer tracks on albums, sings two songs on Voices; “Old Hearts” and ” Lady My Love,” both are ballads. The lyrics on “Old Hearts” seem to run together, along with breaking the traditional rhyming in song lyrics. “Lady My Love” has a more blues/southern gospel style to it, which is perfect for Golden’s voice. “Lady My Love” is the better of the two songs for my tastes, which salutes the love of a complexities of a woman with many roles.

Richard Sterban takes the lead vocals on the ballad “If All I Had Left, ” a song that has a more adult contemporary feel to it, with blue guitar fills throughout the song. Very few acts can end an album on a ballad and make it work, and the Oaks are one of the acts that can do it. The song placement works here. It’s a short run time on the song, so the song doesn’t have any fillers on it, which gives it more appeal.

When re-visiting albums for reviews (I have written many retro reviews for the hard rock site Sleazeroxx, and on this page, titled “Childhood Classics”) , I like to try and find a hidden gem that I may not have listened to when normally playing the CD, or if I haven’t listened to the CD for some time. On here, the gem is “Ain’t No Short Way Home.” The guitar work leads off the song with a chugging groove sung by Duane Allen, with the rest of the band chiming in with their powerful harmonies. Even though this song hit the country charts at #71, this song would be a great addition to the band’s current live sets. The Oaks have a awesome band live that can bring power and intensity when needed , and this song would be one that would rock out. The guitar solo, along with the drumming, carries the song, along with Sterban’s bass vocals helping bring the song to another level. Although all of the Oaks have their signature style of vocals, I challenge anyone to name a singer with a smoother voice than Allen; he’s up there with Barry Manilow, Frank Sinatra, and Michael Bublè in my picks of great vocalists.

For an album released 20 years ago, Voices still holds up well, without sounding dated with the times. The release has a mix of everything: blues, gospel, and country, along with wonderful musicians and the staple harmonies that the group are known for. Although a few of the songs are weak, seven out of the eleven songs works for me. Although Bonsall is only on one track on this release, which is a downer for me (I’d rather hear another one from him instead of “New Orleans” ) , the CD is a surprise of how good it is considering the lack of response it got. The goal of the album was achieved for the most part, and let’s be honest, it’s hard for a group to have an album with every song a smash (although The Oaks achieved that with 1981’s Fancy Free in my opinion). Voices is one that needs to be re-discovered if fans missed out on it, because it has some solid performances on here.

 

Song listings:

  1. Baby When Your Heart Breaks Down 2. Where The Sun Always Shines 3.Deep in Louisiana   4. Lady My Love 5. What’ll I Do 6. New Orleans 7, Perfect Love
  2. I’d Still Be Waiting 9. Old Hearts 10. Ain’t No Short Way Home 11. If All I Had Left

Childhood Classic: New Edition Turns 35 !!!

New Edition was released July 6, 1984 by MCA Records. It hit #6 on the U.S. Top Pop Albums and #1 on the Top R&B Albums charts.

Every once in a while, I will be reviewing a release from my childhood or musical past that made an influence on me. Some of these will be well known, and others may have been passed by under the radar. Most will not be in the hard rock/metal genre. You can see reviews in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com

 

The first cassette I ever got was 1983’s An Innocent Man by Billy Joel. At the time, I was still listening to 45s and vinyl records. My brother had several of Joel’s singles from the album, and when it was time for me to save enough allowance money (or maybe it was birthday money, I don’t remember), and my parents took me to the local store to pick out a release, I chose Joel’s album (you can read my review of that album in the archives under “Childhood Classics: My First Cassette”).

I listened to many types of music, from country to the pop songs on the radio, but I was also listening to early rock and roll music, like The Beach Boys, Elvis, and other early pioneers of music, at age 11. Joel’s album was a tribute to the early acts of music, with its pop harmonies (at the time I did not know that, but loved the songs that was played on the local radio station). So when it came time for me to get another cassette, I picked a group that was starting to get big on radio in my area, which I also had a 45 single of, New Edition.

The 1984 self titled release was actually the group’ second album, but I was already jamming to the single “Cool It Now,” which was being played on a local television video show from Akron/Canton ‘s channel 23 (we didn’t have MTV at this time- it was a pay site, and we didn’t have cable) hosted by Billy Soule. When it came to the early days of buying music, I would usually get a 45 single, which was under $2 at the time, and listen to the B sides to see if I liked the other songs, wait until the group had two or three songs out before I could have enough money to get the whole album (which was a pricey $9 back then), or wait until the album went on sale for the $5.99-$7.99 sale price.

Being a fan of Michael Jackson at the time, especially The Jackson 5 era, the guys from New Edition really hit the spot with their strong harmony vocals, and pop feel to the songs. I was also a fan of the music videos, with the guys in the group hanging out together , playing basketball and chasing girls in the park, while breaking out into song with fancy dance moves and hand motions to the songs, which helped in my opinion of how cool these guys were at the time.

The second single, “Mr. Telephone Man,” (written and produced by Ray Parker Jr.) was one of my favorite songs at the time, where I would study the music video every time it was played on Soule’s video show, so I could mimic the hand gestures to the song. I remember impressing several of my classmates at the time , when they saw that I could do all the hand movements exactly like they did in the video. It was this song that convinced me that I had to have the whole cassette. The fact that both “Cool It Now” and “Mr. Telephone Man” were the first two songs on the cassette was like finding King Solomon’s gold when playing the cassette, because I did not have to fast forward to my two favorite songs (the cell phone era people may not understand why “Mr. Telephone Man was so relatable at the time)

The album released four singles; the two mentioned above, “Lost In Love” (not to be confused with the Air Supply song), and “My Secret (Didja Gettit Yet)?” The video for “My Secret” detailed the guys hanging out at a L.A. Lakers basketball game during the video. I don’t remember the video being played as often as the first two in my area, nor was the song on my local radio station in Youngstown , Ohio. Anyway, I remember it started the second side of the cassette.

There are three rare cuts on the release that I enjoyed now revisiting the music. “I’m Leaving You Again” and “Delicious” are two slow R&B songs that would’ve been played at school dances or roller skating rinks to slow things down. They also would have been a great fit on the soul and black radio stations at the time. “Maryann” is a song that has the 1970’s Spinners style to it. The saxophone solo gives the song an adult contemporary style added into the mix.

If there are any fillers on the release, it’ll be “Kinda Girls We Like” which is too much rap for me (even in the 1980s, I was not a fan of rap- a little bit was ok, like on “Cool It Now” but that was enough), “Baby Love,” and “Hide And Seek.” But having 7 out of 10 songs on an album being great- that’s a good mix, especially for a pop group.

Music groups who could sing and dance were not new in 1984; acts like The Osmonds, The Jacksons, The Temptations, The Four Tops, and The Spinners were doing it long before. However, New Edition brought the same concept to the 80s, with a mass appeal as well; they had both white and black audiences buying their records. They were one of the pioneers of the boy band craze that happened in the 1990s.

After a dispute over royalties during this album, the group sued manager Maurice Starr, who went on afterwards to form The New Kids on The Block , wanting them to be the white version of New Edition. Bobby Brown left New Edition years later to go solo (I was a huge fan of his 1988 Don’t Be Cruel album) along with the other members being a part of Bell Biv Devoe, and both Johnny Gill ( a replacement for Tresevant) and Ralph Tresvant had solo careers. The group went on to have a few other good singles, such as “Count Me Out” (from their next album),  a remake of the Penguin’s hit “Earth Angel” , and 1988’s “If If Isn’t Love.”

Is New Edition going to be listed as a classic album, where many others may proudly say it was their fist record? Probably not. However, it was filled with good pop vocals, and has several wonderful musicians that was a part of the songs- Teena Marie, Ray Parker Jr. , and Michael Sambello had songs or production on it. Not everyone had their first two or three records or cassettes (or later CDs) masterpieces. The album for me brings back memories of going to a record store trying to decide what to spend your money on, studying pop vocals and harmonies, and going back to a time when some music  and videos were just plan fun without all the political agendas like today.