Freaks: We Who Are Not As Others

Daniel P. Mannix

Daniel Mannix is the author of the classic Ballantine sado-historical paperbacks Those About To Die (a vivid account of the Roman gladiatorial games), The Hellfire Club (about the blasphemous and decadent English secret orgy society) and the aptly titled History of Torture. Long fascinated by the carny life and an experienced sword-swallower and fire-eater (see his Memoirs of a Sword-Swallower), Mannix did not get around to completing his book on freaks (originally titled We Who Are Not As Others) until 1976. It was summarily yanked by the original publisher after only one month in print. Mannix recounts with love and respect the life stories of Prince Randian the human torso, Pop-eye Perry, Sealo the “Seal Boy,” Johnny Eck (the legless star of Tod Browning’s Freaks), Percilla Bejano “The Monkey Woman,” Mignon “The Penguin Girl,” Frank Lentini the three-legged man with “double sexual organs,” fat men and fat ladies, hermaphrodites, Siamese twins, pinheads, randy midgets and other remarkable human oddities. This recent edition includes many previously unpublished photos from Mannix’s personal collection. SS

Publisher: V/Search
Paperback: 124 pages

High Performance: The Culture and Technology of Drag Racing, 1950-1990

Robert C. Post

“The fury produced by an engine on a big load of nitro is a sensation one cannot begin to convey in words,” says former drag racer and now Smithsonian Institution curator Robert C. Post. A first-generation Southern California hotrodder, Post has packed High Performance with historical detail and personalities like “Pappy” Hart, who opened the first commercial drag strip, the first professional drag-racing star “Big Daddy” Don Garlits and his Swamp Rats; and female drag-racing superstar Shirley “Cha-Cha” Muldowney. He analyzes the American addiction to speed and presents drag racing as a “new theater of machines.” Covers drag racing phenomena from aerodynamics, the Bonneville Salt Flats and the land speed record to the widespread kid-appeal of Hot Wheels and Mattel model kits. SS

Publisher: Johns Hopkins University
Hardback: 417 pages

DDT Q-Saku National Kid

Suehiro Maruo

Suehiro Maruo is the decadent Georges Bataille of manga. Dragging the already sex-drenched and violent Japanese comic into the furthest depths of degradation and despair, Maruo has established himself as a cult artist who has transcended the trashy “ero-manga” into gallery shows, deluxe print editions and CD covers (for John Zorn no less). In a somber twilight nightmare realm, Maruo’s characters live through a thousand nights of Sodom, pictorially rendered in a brooding blend of German expressionism and 19th-century Japanese “atrocity woodblock” styles. Eyeballs explode, worms crawl, blood and shit spurt, and no orifice is left intact. Japanese-language text. SS

Publisher: RAM
Paperback: 176 pages

Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics

Frederik L. Schodt

Launches you into the raw, brutal yet stylized unconscious of the Japanese mind-kiddie porn, samurai exam-crammers, Yakuza assassins, expressionistic axe-murder, and much more. Mangas are definitely “adult.” Eight color pages, numerous black-and-white illustrations, and 96 pages of sample comics in English. SS

Publisher: Kodansha
Paperback: 260 pages

The Great American Pin-Up

Charles G. Martignette and Louis K. Meisel

Will the art-history textbooks of the year 2525 focus on George Petty and Haddon Sundblom as the true exemplars of 20th-century American painting rather than Jasper Johns or Ed Ruscha? The authors of The Great American Pin-Up clearly think so, and make no secret of the historical significance of this staggering pageant of painterly pulchritude reproduced lovingly in living color and often taken from the original oil paintings of the masters themselves.
This survey begins with the exotic “moonlight girls” of the art deco era and follows pin-up art from the celebrated Peruvian da Vinci of the American Girl, Alberto Vargas, to the salacious pulp covers for Eyeful, Giggles, Titter, and Flirt. Most prominent are the hot-to-trot all-American gals-next-door specialized in by the Brown and Bigelow calendar company of St. Paul, Minnesota. Esquire magazine’s crucial role in disseminating the art of the pin-up through its “Gallery of Glamour” in each issue is recognized here as well.
Besides being the first to compile and reproduce such a plethora of fascinating female figures, this collection emphasizes the personalities behind the pin-ups: Art Frahm and his acclaimed “panties falling down series”; such woman pin-up painters as the glamorous Zoë Mozert (who often modeled for herself by posing in front of a mirror) and Chicago’s sister pin-up team Laurette and Irene Patten; Gil Elvgren and his hugely popular “situation pictures” (over a billion have been reproduced) in which a gusty wind or a mischievous BBQ grill leads to a provocative display of thigh and garter; Fritz Willis, originator of Brown and Bigelow’s Artist Sketch Pad series with sketched-in elements surrounding the vibrantly painted model; and the many other artistic spirits behind the 900 racy images collected herein. SS

Publisher: Taschen
Hardback: 380 pages

Behind the Mask of Innocence: Sex, Violence, Crime—Films of Social Conscience in the Silent Era

Kevin Brownlow

An extensively researched look at the lost era of silent movies dealing with the seamier side of life (abortion, drugs, bootlegging, red-light districts, opium dens, political corruption, poverty, venereal disease) and political issues such as labor unrest, women’s suffrage and the Russian Revolution. Beautifully illustrated with stills from films like Human Wreckage, The Devil’s Needle, City Gone Wild, The Godless Girl (a women-in-prison flick directed by Cecil B. DeMille) and The Cocaine Traffic, many of which no longer exist in any form due to neglect. SS

Publisher: University of California
Paperback: 606 pages

Black Action Films

James Robert Parish and George H. Hill

An alphabetical film-by-film listing of the classic blaxploitation films (Shaft, Superfly) which also covers related Hollywood fare like In the Heat of the Night, Rocky IV and 48HRS. Notable for digging up such obscurities as Black Gestapo and Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde, Black Action Films is valuable also for being one of the few sources for “making of” info on lesser-known blaxploitation gems as The Mack (a cinéma verité look at the rise of an Oaktown pimp starring the screenwriter of Cleopatra Jones and written by an incarcerated pimp) and The Spook Who Sat by the Door (the bloody tale of a renegade black CIA agent turned urban guerrilla). SS

Publisher: McFarland
Hardback: 385 pages

Bridge of Light: Yiddish Film Between Two Worlds

J. Hoberman

As established in the recent cultural history An Empire of Their Own, the monolithic Hollywood studio system has, from its inception, been primarily a Jewish-run operation. Yet by delving into the low-budget movies shot in Yiddish and made for a primarily Jewish audience, Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman has excavated not only an overlooked chapter of film history but also a compelling history of the real-life Jewish experience from the era of the Russian pogroms until the establishment of the Hebrew-speaking state of Israel. He brings to life Yiddish cinema and its relation to the once-roaring Yiddish theater world of New York (also a breeding ground for such Hollywood talent as Edward G. Robinson and Eddie Cantor) and shows how ironically they both functioned as a secularizing force setting both American and Soviet Jews on the road from blind tradition and rabbinical oppression.
Hoberman also establishes Yiddish film’s connections to Hollywood movie history with examples such as Jimmy Cagney’s fluent, rapid-fire cameo as the Yiddish-speaking, Irish-American cabbie in Taxi! (1932) and the early Yiddish talkies of B-movie directing genius Ed Ulmer (Detour, The Black Cat), who is regarded as having created the greatest artistic moment in Yiddish film with the earthy shtetl-nostalgia flick Grine Felder (Green Fields). Bridge of Light also explores the Yiddish-language European art films such as the truly gloom-laden, Hasidic-Gothic of The Dybbuk, shot in the years before the almost total demise of the Jewish population of Poland. This book contains the story of how Yiddish-speaking, often culturally avant-garde, politically radical, sexually libertine and ultimately tragic Jews, persevered to create their own cinema under adverse circumstances which would make the Sundance Festival-feted “scrappy” indie filmmakers of today shrink back in abject terror. SS

Publisher: Pantheon
Hardback: 350 pages

Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction Film

Erik Barnouw

Barnouw, former chief of the Library of Congress’ Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, covers a lot of celluloid ranging from the earliest cinematic experiments of Muybridge, Lumière and Edison to Shoah, Sherman’s March and Roger and Me. Such towering figures of documentary filmmaking as Dziga Vertov (Man With the Movie Camera), Robert Flaherty (Nanook of the North, Moana), Leni Riefenstahl (Triumph of the Will, Olympia), the Maysles Brothers (Salesman, Gimme Shelter) and Frederick Wiseman (Titicut Follies, High School) are given their proper due along the way in this densely packed ride through a century of non-narrative film history. SS

Publisher: Oxford University
Paperback: 400 pages

El Lissitzky

Sophie Lissitzky-Kuppers

Having moved in the radical Russian art spheres of Constructivism and Suprematism from before the Russian Revolution all the way through the Stalin years until his death in 1941, El Lissitzky forged his utopian strivings into such aesthetically demanding examples of pragmatic Soviet mass expression as exhibition design, wartime propaganda, book illustration, photomontage posters and architecture. Fluent in German and English, Lissitzky was an important bridge between the German Dadaists of the ‘20s and ‘30s and their contemporaries in the idealistic Soviet art organizations. Compiled by his wife and sometime collaborator, Sophie, and originally published in East Germany in 1967, this book includes a comprehensive collection of his writings and manifestoes, a biographical sketch based on his letters, and hundreds of examples of how Lissitzky help to define the revolutionary modernist aesthetic. SS

Publisher: Thames and Hudson
Hardback: 410 pages