Review

Review

The Best in "Behind-the-Scenes" Movie Books

This coming Friday (the 13th, appropriately enough), Titan Books is scheduled to release an expanded edition of Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th on various digital platforms. This version will have a plethora of new material that either didn't make it into the original 2005 hardcover or has been gathered since that time. Considering how comprehensive that original book was, the fact that there is more to come is a testament to author Peter Bracke's commitment and thoroughness.

Crystal Lake Memories is probably my favorite behind-the-scenes book, but there are several others that have done a phenomenal job of covering the making of some genre classics, and I thought this would be the perfect time to look at some of those.

Although it came first by a handful of months, David Grove's Making Friday the 13th: The Legend of Camp Blood has been largely overshadowed by Crystal Lake Memories. Unfortunately, it's easy to see why when you compare the two; although a true love of the series is evident in Grove's effort, he clearly did not have access to the wealth of materials and personnel that Bracke did. Production values are the main problem; Legend is only available in paperback, almost all of the photos (save for a full-color insert made up of production photos and poster reproductions) are in black-and-white, and the font is easily a couple of points too small. That being said, the book does contain a lot of interesting tidbits and anecdotes, and it's certainly a fun – if not essential – effort for fans of Jason Voorhees.

Moving from the lake to the ocean we have The Jaws Log, a book that chronicles one of the most chaotic film shoots ever, written (perhaps reported is a better word) by Jaws screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, one of the many who was on hand for the production that almost sank – but ultimately launched – the blockbuster-directing career of Steven Spielberg. Released well before lavish coffee table books became the norm for this type of thing, The Jaws Log is a humble paperback with a handful of production photos that nonetheless musters up a fascinating in-depth look at what it took to get Amity's famous killer shark on the screen. A revised 30th anniversary edition was released in 2005.

Although that was the first making-of book about the first real blockbuster, it wasn't the last. Jaws at last got the deluxe treatment with last year's Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard by Matt Taylor and Jim Beller. Stuffed to the gills with photographs and reproductions of memorabilia and other rarities, this book takes the unique approach of telling the story largely from the point-of-view of the locals who lived in the small town that Spielberg and company took over. Between this and The Jaws Log, fans can get a comprehensive overview of the inner workings of one of our most beloved films.

David Carradine, the "Bill" of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill movies, penned The Kill Bill Diary as an account of his days on the set of the massive mash-up of spaghetti westerns, revenge pictures and samurai flicks.  The book begins with the meeting between the two in which Tarantino reveals that Warren Beatty is off the project and Carradine is invited to join.  From there Carradine documents the rigorous training and even more rigorous filming of the two films, culminating with the sometimes contentious publicity process. Told through a combination of diary entries, letters to friends and communications with the movie crew, The Kill Bill Diary is a breezy but fascinating read.

Clearly this is just scratching the surface. There are so many stellar examples of the "making-of" category of books - The Alien Vault  by Ian Nathan offers an in-depth examination of the sci-fi/horror classic, J.W. Rinzler has locked down the Lucasfilm classics with books like The Making of Star Wars, The Making of The Empire Strikes Back and The Complete Making of Indiana Jones, and author Justin Beahm is working on Halloween: The Complete Authorized History which is apparently going to follow the Crystal Lake Memories blueprint when it hits in October 0f 2013. There's also been a veritable avalanche of material examining the legacy of Hammer studios, with books devoted to the posters, publicity and making of the classic British horror films.

So, which "making-of" book is your favorite? Which one sparked your interest in working in movies, writing or otherwise contributing to the genre we all love? Please share your must-reads with us!

Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country, and contributes interviews to the Horror World website. Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand.

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