With the popularity of the ‘grindhouse’ film we’ve seen dozens of books featuring cult or exploitation film posters from ‘forgotten’ films that all seem to feature the usual suspects. While most books promise to dig deep into darker recesses of cinema, giving us a glimpse of a world that is now long gone, much like the posters they feature they usually fall short of delivering on their promises. This is not the case, however, with Nicolas Winding Refn’s excellent collection The Act of Seeing, published by FAB Press that is making its debut at Fantastic Fest.
The Act of Seeing was compiled by Refn, who is probably best known as the director of Drive and is also a devoted fan of exploitation cinema. It’s the second project birthed by the director’s obsession with one of 42nd Street’s more bizarre and prolific filmmakers Andy Milligan. Refn had previously teamed with BFI to release the lost film by Milligan Nightbirds and the posters which are featured in the book were also purchased from Author Jimmy McDonough who wrote the excellent tome on Milligan, The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Filmmaker Andy Milligan.
When I first flipped through The Act of Seeing I have to admit I only knew probably a handful of films. But paging through the book again and again, reading the accompanied blurbs by Alan Jones gives you a very rare glimpse at films that have long been forgotten by time. Gazing upon the smiling faces of actresses, and their accompanied tantalizing taglines, may be the closest many us will ever get to a stroll down 42nd street and possibly even seeing some of these films; since some films featured are considered lost.
If you’ve read Sleazoid Express you know most of the Grindhouses on 42nd tended to cater to a particular niche, sub-genre or fetish and this book perfectly shows the manufactured supply and demand of films that were made to feed this system. The book goes from Sexploitation, to Mondo, to general Exploitation, to Blaxploitation, to Nazisploitation and even Hicksploitation, effortlessly. Accompanying each poster Alan Jones tries his best to give us a bit of information and context on the film featured and its stars. Given the rarity of some of these titles, this could not have been an easy task.
The Act of Seeing is an opulent collection that only someone like Nicolas Winding Refn could produce, in that it goes the road less traveled in the most spectacular fashion possible. By featuring more obscure posters, Refn manages to replicate that experience of seeing a poster and not having any clue what lay ahead for the cinemagoer. I added more than a few films to my list to track down after going through the book and you probably will want to hunt down a few yourself. While the price tag may deter some I can honestly say for the hard-core exploitation fan it doesn’t get much better than this.
Size: 330mm x 305mm
Binding: Hardcover, quarter bound with slipcase
Extent: 324 pages
Estimated publication date: 5 October 2015
Market: Cinema / Graphic Art
Edition: First Edition
Cover Price: £60 (UK) / $100 (US)