Trashfiend is a book that almost wasn't, with author Scott Stine losing his manuscript and materials due to computer trouble. Its subject is disposable horror fare of the 1960s and 1970s – films, comics, magazines and collectables.
The first section comprises 60 pages of horror film reviews, looking at 24 films ranging from The Asphyx to Zombies, better known as I Eat Your Skin. Each review is structured around a comprehensive list of credits, followed by a spoiler-free plot synopsis, Stine's verdict and some details of note. There are some interesting discoveries here, such as The Asphyx being inspired by one Hippolyte Baraduc's attempts to photograph the spirit leaving a dead person's body. But there is also some misinformation, as with attributing Seddok to Mario Bava and crediting Bryan Edgar Wallace with working on Dario Argento's first three films. (Stine also has a habit – admittedly one I share – of overusing dashes and parentheses, which some may find irritating.)
Next is a forty or so page discussion of blaxploitation horror films, including Blacula, Ganga and Hess (which Stine correctly acknowledges isn't really a black exploitation film) and The Thing with Two Heads. For me the discovery here was that Welcome Home Brother Charles, whose trailers had led me to believe was more of a straight drama, is actually a monster movie, with the title character having what Stine amusing calls a “kaiju eiga” sized penis in reference to Gojira and company! Another interesting point is that many of the poster reproductions that illustrate the chapter - the book is profusely illustrated throughout - are of Mexican origin.
This is followed by a shorter article on William Beaudine's Billy the Kid vs Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's daughter, along with an interview with Cal Bolder, who played the Frankenstein's daughter's monster.
Next up are another two interview based pieces, one on The Crater Lake Monster with actor and writer Richard Cardella, the other with Nightmare in Blood director and horror show host John Stanley, both of which sell but crucially do not oversell the films, making you curious to see them for yourself if you haven't done so already.
The same can be said of the next pieces, on film-maker and comic creator Pat Boyette and Rankin Bass's Mad Monster Party and Mad, Mad, Mad Monsters respectively.
By this point, it's also becoming clear that Stine is better subjects closer to his heart than reviewing more or less random horror films that he doesn't necessarily like. While his introductory piece on Belgian horror posters is disadvantaged by black and white reproductions and a relative unfamiliarity with the artists themselves, none being identified, subsequent articles and interviews with horror comics writer Bruce Jones (which includes illustrations from his story Jennifer, later adapted by Dario Argento for Masters of Horror); Marvel's horror magazines; Haunt of Horror, horror digest magazines; Shriek and House of Horror, seem much better.
The issue is that seems: Although, for example, Stine discusses Stephen King's pre-Carrie work in Startling Mystery and various girlie magazines, I just wasn't sure what to make of such information in the light of the earlier film reviews. Certainly Stine appears to know a lot more about his chosen specialist subjects, also noting the golden age comic character The Heap as a possible precursor of Marvel's Man Thing and DC's Swamp Thing alike, for instance, but there was still that lingering doubt at times.
This is less of an issue in the subsequent articles on 8mm horror films, Mars Attacks and Wally Wood, and monster-themed children's toys, precisely because they are more about Stine's own experiences as a collector of such memorabilia. (I did note, however, that a super 8mm film box for the Korean Yongary is incorrectly identified as being the Japanese Frankenstein vs Baragon.)
The book closes on a high with a 25 page essay on Nightmare Theatre, a Seattle TV programme from Stine's childhood, and his quest to find out more about its host, Joe Towey. From this you really get a sense of what it means to be a fan of something and of the kind of effort that can be involved when seeking to know more about it. It also gives you a renewed appreciation for Stine's accomplishments after that somewhat awkward opening 60 pages.
With the appendix providing a comprehensive checklist of the various horror comics and magazines discussed earlier, the final impression is of 240 pages of good to great material out of a total of 300 – an agreeable ratio, especially when the trying circumstances of the book's production are factored into the equation.
Trashfiend is published by Headpress, http://headpress.co.uk/
Scott Stine's personal site is http://thetrashcollector.com/