Book Review: “THEME 70″

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Theme ’70: Tackling the Beast They Call Exploitation Cinema
Mark J. Banville
Headpress, 2014
212 Pages
£19.59

Reprints of well-loved film fanzines seem to be gaining popularity in horror and exploitation book publishing circles lately, drawing heavily on internet-age nostalgia for tactile magazines. Theme ’70, now out from Headpress, collects a wealth of blaxploitation and ‘70s action material from an early ‘90s UK zine run that nudged readers headfirst into the deep heart of the grubby grindhouse circuit. Like other recent fanzine anthologies Sheer Filth and Fatal Visions, Theme ’70 is a distinct reminder of a time when typewritten reviews and badly photocopied ad mats were often the only window into genre film fandom, giving even seasoned bootleg traders a peek at titles they may not have even been aware of.

Of course, that’s all changed with the prevalence of the internet, which has made information on the obscurest films—and sometimes even the films themselves—available with just a few mouse clicks. It’s the main reason why this particular DIY medium decreased in numbers and importance in recent years. As with many other zines, Theme ’70 is primarily composed of capsule reviews and short biographies which, though decent enough at the time, have since been superseded by the average IMdB entry. This means that, despite Banville’s enthusiastic prose about films like Death Race 2000 and Dolemite, or write-ups about stars such as Ron O’Neal and Pam Grier, the book simply doesn’t work as the reference his zine once was.

But what the book now lacks as an informative source it more than makes up for in incredible, full-colour images that fill the book and make Theme ’70 easy to recommend. In addition to watching these films, Banville was an avid collector of related memorabilia, and together with art director Dan Black have assembled many eye-catching images and promotional material from these films that aren’t regularly seen. Check out the hand-painted Savage Sisters and Black Angels posters, a Betamax cover for South African exploiter Mister Deathman and the cover for a ‘70s comic based on The Super Cops. Other highlights include a crazy Viking-esque ad mat for The Black 6, an adult mag with cover star Tamara Dobson and even a spread of Claudia Jennings pics.

Since the internet effectively replaced many of these zines, it’s interesting to see them make a comeback 20 years later. But it’s important to remember that times have changed, and these zine anthologies can still be relevant as long as they provide an interesting angle or approach to accompany the nostalgic kick. Scene ’70 gets marks in both columns.

 

About the author:

Since 1999 Paul Corupe has shared his passion for Canada’s film history at Canuxploitation.com, a site recognized as the essential source for uncovering the forgotten films of Canada’s past. He regularly writes about genre film and Canadian cinema in publications including Rue Morgue magazine and Take One: Film and Television in Canada. He has appeared in several documentaries about Canadian film and scripted episodes of Bravo’s On Screen! television series.

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