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"Sometimes it feels like there's nothing left to discover. Bookshelves bend under the weight of tomes devoted to all things 'cult,' 'B,' or obscure. Films you might once have crossed town to see now turn up on new video labels every week. [But] for those who still value the shock of the new, the special kind of thrill that comes from confronting previously unsung greatness, ... there are plenty of strange new worlds left to explore.... Mondo Macabro is a peek into the treasure trove of fifty years of film from around the world. We've sifted through the dross and picked out the dusty jewels."
Those who enjoy horror movies, and bizarre movies of all types, will find Peter Tombs's Mondo Macabro: Weird and Wonderful Cinema Around the World a welcome companion on the shelf next to their (and Cathal Tohill's) Immoral Tales: European Sex & Horror Movies 1956-1984. With the help of three other writers (Giovanni Scognamillo, Diego Curubeto, and David Wilt), Tombs gives us an overflowing cornucopia of well-written descriptions of movies made in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and Japan. Each section provides film-historical background on the individual countries and studios, a handy folklore primer on the indigenous monsters and myths that appear in the films, plenty of movie stills and poster art, and portraits of important personalities such as Brazil's José Mojica Marins (creator of the infamous evil persona Zé do Caixão, a.k.a. Coffin Joe).
As horror-fantasy writer Ian McDowell writes, "The sheer range of bizarre cinema that Tombs covers is amazing. My only serious cavil involves his first chapter, one of three on Hong Kong cinema. I know that he leaves the mainstream fare to others, but he still makes some odd statements about the timing of the golden age of Chinese martial arts films."
Best of all, Tombs prizes the pungent, if sometimes raw, flavors of individual creativity and local traditions, so his book is especially helpful for distinguishing between horror films that are unique to a country or region, those that are hybrids of Western models and local themes, and those that are mere copies of Western films. Mondo Macabro also includes top 10 lists from five world cinema experts, tips on where to find the videos, and an index of film titles. --Fiona Webster