(Air Date: Week Of 1/29/97)
Michael Weldon's The "Psychotronic Encyclopedia Of Film", first published in 1983, was a ground-breaking work for aficionados of "B" movies. I remember one movie night when a couple of friends and I laughed hysterically at "Fire Maidens From Outer Space" while a third friend just sat there. "I don't get it," she said later. "Wouldn't you rather watch a good movie than a bad movie?" Not necessarily! There is something richly satisfying in a film where, as Weldon so vividly described it: "a 1umpy-faced monster in tights attacks five Earth men" & where "alien beauties dance to Borodin's 'Polevetsin Dances.'" Weldon's inimitable reviewing style could only be acquired by watching thousands of psychotronic movies on their own terms. For thirteen years, Psychotronic movie fans waited eagerly for a sequel and finally "The Psychotronic Video Guide" was published last fall, chock-full of thousands of nutty titles for even nuttier fans, you need to have BOTH books, though. (The original is still in print.)
For one thing, many titles that were included in the Encyclopedia are unavailable on video, so they're not listed in the Guide. For another, Weldon's writing style these days is drier and more rarefied. The same guy who wrote, "When my father took me to see (1958's) 'The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad', I ended up having nightmares for weeks. I couldn't wait to see something else that scary,' has (obviously) grown up. The length of the reviews vary, and the shortest are just-the-facts-Ma'am: terse and Spartan. The longer reviews are written like a grown-up and Weldon's child-like sense of wonder and unforced humor has been replaced by a straightforward style in which the virtues of a psychotronic movie are taken for granted. But the whole point of a scary movie is that it resists being taken for granted. It turns you into a quivering mass of fear in spite of yourself. I mean, why else would I screen during movies like "Twister" "The Craft" & "The Relic" even though there are long sections in all these movies when NOTHING happens and the dialogue is absolutely banal? Psychotronic movies are for kids, at least while you're watching them: NO GROWNUPS ALLOWED!
The reputation of the Encyclopedia is pervasive, though. A wretched 1989 Ronnie Cramer movie called "Back Street Jane" plastered its box with unqualified PSYCHOTRONIC raves that suckered me into renting the video. The guide itself offers a more guarded assessment, but this does give an indication of why folks like Karen Black, Johnny Ramone & Quentin Tarantino depend on Weldon's books for their viewing needs. Decide for yourself at your favorite bookstore where "The Psychotronic Video Guide" is now available from St. Martin's Press. For more information on "Psychotronic Video" magazine, published quarterly, write 3309 Route 97, Narrowsburg, N.Y. 12764.
Copyright 1997 Monica Sullivan
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