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The Son of Psychotronic Hits Bookstore Shelves
by Gary Johnson

Biker gangs tripping on LSD, masked killers slashing nubile teenagers, bullet-shaped rocketships spewing sparks, cave women strutting to a fertility dance, mad scientists twisting dials and grinning maliciously, bikinied babes gyrating on the beach: this is the stuff of "psychotronic" cinema.

In this alternative universe of moviemaking, stars such as Allison Hayes, Yvette Vickers, Mamie Van Doren, Vincent Price, Buster Crabbe, and John Carradine take the leading roles and directors such as Roger Corman, Ed Wood Jr., Mario Bava, Edgar G. Ulmer, Russ Meyer, and Jess Franco create the outrageous images.

Michael Weldon coined the term "psychotronic" to describe these movies, and his first book, The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film (published in 1983), emerged as a road map for eager fans of weird movies who desperately needed some help deciding which movies were the weirdest. Covering many of the movies that Leonard Maltin wouldn't touch will a ten-foot pole, Weldon provided short, pithy reviews that pointed out eye-catching nude scenes, grisly murders, and slipshod special effects.

And now Weldon has penned a sequel, The Psychotronic Video Guide which covers some 3,000 additional films (with a few rewrites of the entries in the original book). But make no mistake about it. This book isn't a replacement for the original. If you're looking for info on Plan Nine From Outer Space, Faster Pusscat! Kill! Kill!, or Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1957)--some of the essential "psychotronic" movies--you won't find any entries here. You'll need The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film for that.

Cult star Claudia Jennings stars in one of her best roles in Unholy Rollers.

The Video Guide contains a bevy of movies released in the 13 years since Encyclopedia was published, such as Army of Darkness, Re-Animator, and Near Dark, as well as tons of movies released prior to 1983 that have only been unearthed in the last few years thanks to video, such as Sin in the Suburbs, Bell, Bare and Beautiful, Gun Crazy, and Kitten With a Whip. And some of the entry rewrites correct past errors, such as the new Kiss Me Quick entry, which immediately points out that "Russ Meyer had nothing to do with this Boxoffice International release."

If anything, the quality of Weldon's writing has improved drastically in the past few years. Whereas many of the Encyclopedia listings give you little information that couldn't be gleamed from simply scanning a film's credits, The Video Guide contains slightly longer listings with juicier descriptions and more insightful comments. For example, the Encyclopedia dismisses Night of the Bloody Horror (1968) by saying "Inept gore murder movie filmed in 'Violent Vision' in New Orleans." However, in The Video Guide, Weldon manages a joke at Dan Quayle expense and then launches into an inspired description involving a woman getting stabbed by a priest during a confession, a man dreaming about making love to his mother, a crude band singing about "plastic fantastic dreams," and an amputated hand. Yeah, this is definitely "psychotronic" stuff, and it starred Gerald McRaney of Major Dad fame as an ax murderer!

Jungle Street Girls stars David McCallum of Man from U.N.C.L.E. fame "as a young criminal who hangs out at the Adam and Eve strip club. He mugs an old man for money, double-crosses a guy who helps him rob the club's safe, and kidnaps a stripper (Jill Ireland!)." An adults-only release.

The Video Guide is a welcome addition to my movie book library, but I wish it wasn't simply Volume Two of "Psychotronic"-mania because now I have to search through two books when I'm looking up a movie. But even with the awkwardness of flipping back and forth between the volumes, The Psychotronic Video Guide will give fans of the outrageous and weird an important new reference book to plop down beside the TV and VCR.

The Psychotronic Video Guide by Michael Weldon, A St. Martin's Griffin publication, $29.95, softcover.

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