North Adams Transcript
Destroy All Movies:
The Complete Guide To Punks On Film edited by Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly
If Michael Weldon’s "Psychotronic Guide To Film" (and its follow-up) still sits on your shelf being of use, or at least making you smile, then Carlson and Connolly’s "Destroy All Movies" is the book for you.
If these words mean nothing to you, then listen up: A world of film and a way of looking at them is about to open up that will change everything for you.
At just short of 500 pages, Carlson and Connolly’s effort is packed with reviews of well over 1,000 films and accompanied by interviews with actors and directors of some of the most obscure and interesting.
The conceit here, as the title suggests, is to provide a listing of every punk rocker featured in any film ever. In other words, these are not just punk rock films -- if a punk appeared in a Tom Hanks or Whoopie Goldberg movie, that movie should be listed in here (and, for the record, "Bachelor Party" and "Fatal Beauty" are).
What this ends up doing is not just providing the reviewers the chance to document the presentation of punks from all realms of the film world, but also to exhibit some of that swaggering spirit by tackling reviews of films like "Pretty In Pink."
That supposed John Hughes classic, the book states, does "reach the heights of fantasy and fairytales, except fairytales are more poignant and complex," and it further proclaims that Hughes "may be the finest propaganda filmmaker of our generation."
I don’t know if this is the book for you, but with entirely correct and inarguable statements like that, it’s definitely the book for me.
Much of the typical review style also hearkens back to the Psychotronic books, understanding that the appeal of some of films covered are the holy-moley quality they induce in the viewers. Any given review might be a list of these moments, parsed out in order to present the movie as the sideshow it deserves to be perceived as. This tactic makes any movie enjoyable, frankly.
Mainstream movies often need to duck for cover. In a review of the Justine Bateman film "Satisfaction," it is asked of actors portraying musicians that "if you’re going to play [a musical instrument] onscreen, wouldn’t it be prudent to learn the rudimentary fundamentals of that instrument, so you don’t look like an ape fondling a sabertooth’s leg bone?" Luckily, that film gets off being dismissed as "an enjoyable mess."
Diving to the lower end of the cinema spectrum -- and that’s pretty low when you’re beneath "Satisfaction" -- is 1992’s "Prison Planet," a cheap science fiction movie featured due to several extras with mohawks. The book declares that "the film stands out for its fearless, unblinking stupidity" and proclaims it a "stillborn, brain-dead cinematic error suit only for illiterate, extremely muscular virgins." They saw that movie so you didn’t have to.
Of course I take issue with some of their opinions -- what’s the fun of a movie review book if you don’t? For the record, I think their assessment of the Rocky Horror sequel "Shock Treatment" is entirely off the mark, and I think while they give proper credit to the visionary concepts behind 1981’s "Ladies And Gentleman, The Fabulous Stains," they go way too easy in their assessment of its inherent watchability. Seriously, I’ve seen movies in Super 8 that were done so much better.
But as much fun as it might be to pick up the book to quibble and giggle, what makes it really worthy is the space it gives to discussing the movies covered -- films like "Breaking Glass," "Class Of 1984," "Der Fan," "Border Radio," "Smithereens," "Suburbia" and "The Return of the Living Dead" are given respectful ink.
Equally, the team is thorough enough to include a few bizarre porn releases, some ‘80s straight to videotape horror and even the films of New York City avant-sleaze punk Nick Zedd. What it all adds up to is a wonderful, personal bizarre alterna-history of cinema. These are the movies that teenagers hung out and watched together late at night, or disreputable film students might’ve sought out on the wrong side of town -- and they’re all a vivid part of many people’s film-going experience.
This is a great book that will live with you for a long, long time.
John Mitchell is the Transcript’s arts and entertainment editor.