New book: COCKFIGHT now funding on Indiegogo!

book perk image

“He came into town with his cock in his hand, and what he did with it was illegal in 49 states!”

There is no shortage of loaded – and often gendered – symbolism in the sport of cockfighting. And this becomes a starting point for author Kier-La Janisse (HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN) to investigate the themes of obsession, competition, divination and self-ascribed nobility that dominate the hyper-masculine world of Monte Hellman’s existential and controversial film, COCKFIGHTER (1974).

In this, its fifth book, Canadian micro-publisher Spectacular Optical explores the intersection of Southern Gothic, ritual masculinity and second wave feminism in COCKFIGHTER with a combination of cultural criticism and production history. The book will also examine in detail the Charles Willeford pulp novel and the bloodsport that inspired it. While Willeford always maintained that it was a tale of obsession and not ‘about’ cockfighting, this unique sport nonetheless provides all the contradictions necessary for a great lone wolf story. And here, author Kier-La Janisse faces up to her own contradictions as she personally delves into the strange world of cockfighting in the American south.

COCKFIGHTER stars character actor Warren Oates as Frank Mansfield, a career cocker who has taken a vow of silence until he can win the Cockfighter of the Year Award. Surrounded by fellow cockfighters played by Harry Dean Stanton, Ed Begley, Jr, Steve Railsback, Richard B. Shull and even author/screenwriter Charles Willeford himself, the film traverses the underground cockfighting world of the Deep South, with a highly detailed documentation of this unique subculture brought vividly to life by esteemed cinematographer Nestor Almendros.

“While I’ve been publishing the work of other writers through my imprint Spectacular Optical for the last several years, I have not personally written a book since 2012, when FAB Press released HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN.” says Janisse. “So this book is more than just a single-film monograph to me. It is a highly personal labour of love, the culmination of a nearly 20-year obsession with this film that saw me doing research in real American cockpits as well as a lot of soul-searching. The subject matter of the film is not for everyone, but I think this inherent repulsion is a big part of its appeal for me. Because at its core it is a story about work, obsession, drive, conviction and finding religion and beauty in strange places – which I think many people can relate to regardless of whether they are fans of the film COCKFIGHTER or not.”

The book features interviews with director Monte Hellman and producer Roger Corman – who will sign special edition copies of the book available only through the IndieGogo campaign – as well as several other surviving cast and crew.

Special perks for the IndieGogo include belt buckles, tote bags, a Cockfighter-themed flask and deck of cards, an original cockfighting gaff necklace designed by silversmith Ben High, a two-night stay at Monte Hellman’s AirBnB and a deluxe edition signed by Roger Corman, Monte Hellman and Kier-La Janisse that comes with the Cockfighter of the Year medal as depicted in the film (rendered by illustrator Andrew Barr and created by Pallbearer Press). In addition we have blu rays from our colleagues at Severin Films and The American Genre Film Archive!

About the author:

Kier-La Janisse

Kier-La Janisse is a film writer and programmer, Owner/Artistic Director of Spectacular Optical Publications and founder of The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies. She has been a programmer for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, co-founded Montreal microcinema Blue Sunshine, founded the CineMuerte Horror Film Festival (1999-2005) in Vancouver, was the Festival Director of Monster Fest in Melbourne, Australia and was the subject of the documentary Celluloid Horror (2005). She is the author of A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi (FAB Press, 2007) and House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films (FAB Press, 2012) and contributed to Destroy All Movies!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film (Fantagraphics, 2011), Recovering 1940s Horror: Traces of a Lost Decade (Lexington, 2014) The Canadian Horror Film: Terror of the Soul (University of Toronto Press, 2015) and We Are the Martians: The Legacy of Nigel Kneale (PS Press, 2017). She co-edited and published the anthology books KID POWER! (Spectacular Optical, 2014), Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s (Spectacular Optical, 2015) and Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema of Jean Rollin (2017), and is co-editing Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror on Film and Television for release in late 2017. She is currently writing A Song From the Heart Beats the Devil Every Time: Children’s Programming and the Counterculture, 1965-1985, monographs about Monte Hellman’s Cockfighter and Patricia Birch’s Grease 2, and is in development on a TV series based on her book House of Psychotic Women with Rook Films.

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