BooksNonfictionReviews

Mondo Macabro (book review)

When you‘re starting your love affair with movies – not just watching movies, but actually getting to know and love them – going beyond the latest blockbusters or proved evergreens from yesteryear, suddenly a whole new universe opens. A movie universe many have no clue about, the underbelly of the glittery Hollywood PC-polished timewasters, offering a whole new experience both to a newbie and a seasoned mainstream watcher alike.

You might want to ask – how to get there, how the get the key to unlock the mysteries of cinema and start to enjoy the unique experience world of the celluloid pictures offers?

Well, for the great introduction to even greater cinematic unknown, there is this book: Mondo Macabro by Pete Tombs. And I dare to say it provides a reader with enough material and movies to chase and watch to spend quite a lot of time with the moving pictures. But there‘s a catch, as always, and I‘m gonna talk about it later.

First, let‘s have a look at the book. If I am not mistaken, my copy comes from a second edition, released in 1999 (oh my…20 years ago!) and straight from the cover art we are greeted with pictures a newbie (like I was, and to some extent, still am) would have no knowledge of. Exorsister? Disi Killing? Cleopatra Wong? Imagine my blank stare. Nothing. Nada.

Page sample from Mondo Macabro

Well, page of content reveals a great selection of the world cinema – Hong Kong (in three parts, dealing with kung fu – or chop socky – movies, erotic sinema and horror movies), Phillipino movies, Indonesian cinema (and I have to say, both cinemas offer some great and fascinating flicks), Indian cinema, Turkish trash cult movies (co-authored with Giovanni Scognamillo), Brazil is represented by Joao Marins a.k.a Coffin Joe, Diego Curubeto brings Argentina to the table, while David Wilt talk sabout Mexican cinema. Last 3 chapters are reserved for great Japanese flicks – among those horror and pinku eiga movies.

Supported by many black and white stills, lobby carts and poster reproductions, along with the 8 pages in full colour, there is hardly a fault to be found with this book. Although one there probably will be –
OK, we can’t blame the book for that, that’s for sure – if you are like me, full of enthusiasm to discover new experiences, you will quickly realize many of these fantastic movies are unavailable via standard sources. Indeed, some are available only in gray market copies, in VHS quality movie files found through various torrent sites, some are unavailable altogether…and many available only in their original language with no dubbing or subtitles. None at all. 

But this comes as no problem to the one who loves movies. With many action movies you hardly need to know the details as the plot of many is so straightforward, with many horror movies it‘s about the effects and gore…and with many rip off movies you know the plot already. But even the language barrier is done with by the sheer volume of movies available.

Mondo Macabro is dedicated to more exotic areas of worldwide cinema, therefore you won‘t find sections about, say, spaghetti westerns or eurospy movies. But there are other books dedicated to these and we will cover some of them for you.

Now, about the catch mentioned earlier. Well, it‘s simple. If you expect a Hollywood production, big budget effects and celebrity names – forget that. Many of these flicks are really a low budget movies with terrible acting, laughable „special“ effects…but there‘s a charm about all of these. True, not many would appreciate it, for it takes a while to get adjusted to a different mindset than what‘s offered by a mainstream popcorn „culture“, but if you overcome the initial obstacles like aforementioned lack of dubbing/subtitles, if you can overlook lack of HD transfers…you will be rewarded by a cinematic experience like no other. Trust me, I‘ve been there.

Mondo Macabro is sold out (no wonder, it was released 20 years ago), but good copies can be purchased either through eBay or through second hand book sellers like Abebooks. And I can‘t recommend it enough.

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Rudolf Schütz

A father to two little perpetuum mobiles called kids, Rudolf is a main force behind The Rubber Axe webzine, a bookworm, musick lover and a movie fan - not to mention his virgin forays into the comics and board/card games.

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