.Am I the only left cold by Stephen Romano's Shock Festival, at least in paper form? Much like the faux trailers in Grindhouse, this book complies a pandora's box of pulpy 42nd Street backwash, filmmakers, and actors that never existed luridly splashed upon soiled paper found on the sticky floors of some seedy Big Apple dime theater. That sounds great...until you flip through the pages for yourself.
Well, that was my personal reaction flipping through this weightless tome at Borders a few weeks back. I had never heard of Shock Festival before this run-in and at first glance thought it had the makings of one of the most awesome cult film coffee books ever on aesthetic grounds. After about three seconds, this lust deflated with the realization everything was made up. Anyone whose been a devotee of maverick exploiters knows it's hard enough to keep up with the real selections lurking across the globe yet to land into our grubby hands for consumption.
Yes, it's colorfully rendered junk food (think those weird spongy pink peanuts) for those who hold Christina Lindberg and Soledad Miranda in goddess status. I just couldn't help thinking that, at best, this rather expensive ($25-40) book can be likened to an annoying dream. You know, those dreams were one finds great material wealth only to realize it'll all be gone once your eyes crack open? You then grumble and roll over trying to avoid the old hag.
This sounds mighty hypocritical of me, but why should I give a damn? No doubt much creativity, knowledge, and love of the aped material from Romano and artists pour from the pages. I'd just much rather pick up and actually learn something from a few Video Watchdogs, HorrorHounds, or a similar priced book/guide covering a real cult movie subgenre or filmmaker. The commissioned poster art and mentions of hiring Shock Festival for said art jobs on the official site only smell of the book being a portfolio with an MSRP for Mr. Romano. The 352-page book is like reading the back stats on baseball cards of players who went nowhere. Who really cares after an initial browse through it? It's not like years later you finally see one of these hidden gems and then pick the book back up to once again read with a new perspective.
There is a Shock Festival DVD release coming in at a whopping three discs (DVDTalk review) that seems like a better investment for the sake of the real trailers included. Still, give me 42nd Street Forever or give me death. Since this entry is basically free publicity for SF, I'd say judge for yourself (preferably first hand before you buy), just because Grindhouse's trailers rocked the Casbah doesn't necessarily lend the concept to something equally as good when presented in such large quantities.