Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Shopping? Have A Very Muir Christmas

Hey there movie buffs! If you've got some loose change in your pockets this holiday season, and you're out there buying movie books for someone you love (or even for yourself...), don't forget to check out some of my critically-acclaimed film titles. Since it's never as convincing to toot your horn, I'll let the critics speak for my work.

Lots of critics...

Horror Films of the 1980s. This covers of 300 films from the decade of Reagan. The book was recently recommended by
AMC's Monsterfest Blog on the annual Christmas wish list. Check out these rave reviews at, here and here, And here's what the critics say:

"The author watched hundreds of films, interviewed talents behind the movies and invited guest reviewers and critics to round out the details...Writing is clear, with a personal but expert tone. The 2-column layout facilitates reading the dense text. Can a horror film reference book be pleasurable browsing? This volume does a good job, combining useful information and enjoyable commentaries, and is recommended..." - Booklist

"As readable and entertaining as it predecessor, this tremendous tome of terror is the quintessential concordance to the films of the dead teenager decade...Muir opts for comprehensiveness, covering each of the 300 horror flicks released between 1980 and 1989......Muir's genius lies in his giving context to the films. He offers a time line of events for each year, and his introductory essay documents the 1980s uncertainty that led the genre to become both influential and profitable...With the skill of a Jason, Muir has carved out a niche for himself with this kind of reference work. As fun as the films it documents, it will make readers run screaming for the local video store..." - Choice

"Muir again plunges into the dark, following his Horror Films of the 1970s (McFarland, 2002), named an ALA Outstanding Reference Source in 2003. Appropriate to the so-called era of greed, he has this time added more of everything: films, background, appendixes, and critical analyses. Part 1 provides a concise, overarching summary of the decade's social and political climate; juxtaposed photos of President Ronald Reagan and A Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger encapsulate the period's startling contradictions...A time line highlighting noteworthy current events accompanies each year and is followed by ample, witty, well-versed entries on films ranging from Poltergeist and Aliens to Cellar Dweller and Hide and Go Shriek...BOTTOM LINE: The summary in Part 1 would befit a college history lecture; the book as a whole is highly recommended..." -
Library Journal

"Like Jason, Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger, John Kenneth Muir keeps returning to horror films for a little more fiendish fun. In this episode, Muir surveys 300 films of the 1980's, or as he calls it, the "Dead Teenager Decade."...Muir closely examines organizing principles, plot devices, and the use of conventional characters. He looks hard for points to praise, but never lets sloppy work go without comment...Muir weaves contemporary commentary, thoughtful analyses and humor into a true art form. His entertaining guide will find fans in academic and public libraries. " - Gale Thomson

"As his foreword suggests, he pays special attention to the political subtext of the films he covers. He examines Poltergeist as a yuppie dream turned nightmare, while The Stepfather, Parents and A Nightmare on Elm Street are posited as a calculated slap in the face of Republican "family values" propaganda. He also maintains that body image issues surface in a variety of titles from Altered States to An American Werewolf in London to The Beast Within and beyond. Muir spends ample time identifying trends in '80s horror, particularly the slasher film..." - Rue Morgue

Or read the critically-acclaimed predecessor, a multiple award winner (Booklist Editor's Choice; ALA Outstanding Reference, "Best of Reference" 2003 etc.) Horror Films of the 1970s.

Here are some reviews:

"A top notch overview of American horror movies of the 1970s...Muir opens with an entertaining and informative BRIEF HISTORY...Muir's commentaries are well worth impressive resource for all film collections...highly recommended."-Library Journal.

"Muir is an irrepressible commentator, his comments are sharp and often very wry, and they make this volume very fun - yes, even for non-horror's an entertaining analysis. I don't know how many of you go for these films, but if you are interested, this is an excellent study. Muir's sense of humor even makes some of the undesirable ones sound bearable."- Classic Images

"Brilliant and essential guide for the genre enthusiast and casual fan alike, film scholar John Kenneth Muir's comprehensive undertaking is likely to remain the last word on the subject for years to is erudite, incisive and most importantly unassuming...Muir hits all the bases in a beautifully succinct and informative introduction then proceeds to analyze and profile more than two hundred films...seminal..." -Dom Salemi, Brutarian, Spring 2003, Issue # 38.

" well beyond the basics where it counts. His academic introduction is actually a pretty good read on its own and uses the art-imitates-life argument as a critical tool to determine how the disco decade spawned a plethora of new horror trends...Perhaps the coolest feature is Muir's extensive and humorous appendix section, in which he offers his Hall of Fame, best movies, recommended viewing and a list of horror film conventions...Good fun for casual fans and hardened intellectuals alike." - Tom Dragomir, Rue Morgue.

"The legendary Cushing stars in many of the films discussed, yet there is more than a retread of his filmography. More mainstream hits (Carrie, The Omen) are here but the book also highlights such lesser known gems as Count Yorga and Sisters, as well as drive-in trash like Squirm and Grizzly. Everything for the devotee is here as each film is given a synopsis, credits and a look at the production. Another bonus is Muir's pithy critiques...An impressive, dedicated and amusing book. RATING: (FOUR STARS) * * * * " - Film Review, May 2003.

"Your reaction to learning of this book's existence may be similar to mine: near pants-wetting....[the book] surely will be referenced by horror fans for years (and decades) to come."- Hitch Magazine # 33, Spring 2003.

"The title of this book says it all and fans of the genre have reason to rejoice. Muir, an authority on horror and science fiction cinema, has finally turned his attention to the decade when the modern horror film genre came into its own...The film descriptions communicate well to the reader, even when the film itself is unfamiliar. Each synopsis gives an overview that makes clear the subject and scope of the film; and his commentary is serious, thought-provoking, and helpful in understanding the meaning and importance of the film...I am aware of no similar reference that covers the same territory as Muir does in this work. It merits consideration on that basis alone, but academic libraries and larger public libraries will no doubt find it to be a useful - and much-used addition to their reference collections." - Kevin Barron, Reference and Service Users Quarterly, Volume 42, Number 3, Spring 2003, page 267,

"The commentary, which can go on for several pages, puts each film in context and discusses style and filmmaking technique. It also explores how topics such as racism, religion and women's rights are represented in films like BLACULA, THE EXORCIST, and THE STEPFORD WIVES, respectively...HORROR FILMS OF THE 1970s is an important reference tool for film collections in academic and public libraries and a must for Editor's Choice, 2002..."-Booklist

"In his entertaining and scholarly filmography of over 200 films arranged by year, Muir sees the historical and social happenings of the 1970s as giving rise to the unusually high number of groundbreaking horror films of the decade, as well as the routine ones." - AMERICAN LIBRARIES: Best of the Best Reference Sources, The 2003 Reference and Users Service Association of distinguished reference works selected by public and academic librarians, by Vicki D. Bloom, May 2003

"A seminal tome to the horror films of the '70s, this offers up reviews of rare gems, honored classics and offbeat oddities. A must. - The Terror Trap: Books and Scares

If horror TV is your bag, there' s my award winner, Terror Television (Booklist Editor's Choice 2001). Here are some reviews:

"....the book he [Muir] was born to write....His analyses are first-rate and based on a wide knowledge of the subject...TERROR TELEVISION is superlative television history." -Big Reel, June 2001

"Muir is well-known in the horror/sci-fi reference field, with previous well-received guides to Wes Craven, John Carpenter and the TV series essential purchase." -Anthony Adam, Reference and User Services Quarterly, Winter 2001.

"Fans and researchers will appreciate the detailed episode-by-episode documentation and even nonfans will be engaged by Muir's informed and opinionated analyses." - Editor's Choice 2001- Booklist, 2001.

"TERROR TELEVISION is a massive 685 page reference guide that documents the history of modern television horror from 1970 to 1999....Muir provides a good format for discussing each series...Not shy to share his views...Muir has obviously done his homework in researching the shows listed in this book...[it] gives an excellent analysis of shows produced during the period of 1970 - indispensable volume of useful reference information..."-Chiller Theater, page 57

"...highly readable, extremely literate...the real strength of the book lies in his unflinching opinions. When a show is lousy, he wastes no words showing where it went wrong; when a show succeeds, he skillfully defines the elements that made it rise above the drivel. All film libraries will want a copy of this book..."-Joseph L. Carlson, ARBA, 2002.

How about superheroes? There's my award-winning (New York Public Library Best of Reference, 2005), Encyclopedia of Superheroes on Film and Television. Again, I'll let the critics describe the book:

"The over-the-top, first-stop-in-pop-culture maven, McFarland has unearthed another killer-kryptonite jewel. This bounteous reference cornucopia documents 50-plus years of 71 superheroes in film and television, providing both basic and detailed information for films and episodic listings for television shows. This is genre guru Muir's 11th book for McFarland, and he knows the landscape like Aquaman knows Atlantis...Divided into four sections, the text includes a history of film and television superheroes, a conclusion, and numerous fun and quirky appendixes. The bling-bling, of course, is the mondo-hefty Part 2, encyclopedia of shows, each entry of which provides a full origin and history of the superhero, full credits, format, cross-references, episode-by-episode descriptions for the television shows, and critical notes. If you can swing it, get two'll need them both. Rock on, Muir and McFarland! A Library Journal "Starred" Review." -Libary Journal, May 15, 2004, pages 77-79.

"For years I have wanted a book on superhero movies, and the new 600 + page brick known as THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SUPERHEROES ON FILM AND TELEVISION by John Kenneth Muir goes one better by including TV shows too. From the early days of Adam West camping the cape of Batman to the current Marvel movie bonanza of X-MEN and SPIDER-MAN, this book covers them all...Each title gets an individual discussion and review, with the TV shows often accompanied by detailed episode guides. The book's introduction is a terrific history of the genre, with Muir demonstrating he knows his stuff..." - Rod Lott, Hitch Daily, March 8, 2004.

"Those seeking a highly detailed guide to such colorful crime fighters should discover John Kenneth Muir's 'The Encyclopedia of Superheroes on Film and Television.'...Going back more than 50 years, the author offers a history, episode guide, film description and critical commentary for every entry. Muir also details information on arch-villains, gadgets, origins and super powers."-Lou Gaul, The Burlington County Times, March 4, 2004, page C1-C2.

"* * * * (FOUR STARS/OUT OF FOUR)...The book opens with a succinct history of the subgenre, and notes how various eras have presented comic book figures, on home and cinema screens, from the straight-faced gung-ho action of postwar America through a camp phase of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and a decade of nostalgia, to the 'dark age' of hard-edged cynicism that characterised 1990s' vigilantes...Having written books about Blake's 7, Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, Space 1999 and the films of John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Wes Craven, and Kevin Smith, author John Kenneth Muir is well-grounded in the lore and minutiae of sci-fi and fantasy adventure...This is the first book where all three Captain America movies are featured. Coverage of The Crow is particularly welcome...and [the book] provides the most comprehensive section on The Six Million Dollar Man...I've yet seen in print. Of course Superman, the mainstay of this book's entire subject, demands and gets a suitably expansive chapter-size entry and along with the write-ups for Superboy and Supergirl, this offers the most extensive coverage of DC Comics' veteran figurehead outside of those specialist single-character books." - Tony Lee, The Zone: The Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Mystery Website, June 13, 2004.

"There seems to be no end in sight for the dominance of comic-book heroes at the movies. That's why it's a good time to dive into this hefty 600-page-plus compendium of trivia and essays about caped crusader types from the past half century. John Kenneth Muir, whose credits include Horror Films of the 1970s and Terror Television is our knowledgeable guide through this tour of supernatural heroes. Each entry includes a detailed history, cast and credits, TV episodes and live-action and animated film descriptions, as well as critical commentaries and entertaining data on origins, catch phrases, gadgets and arch-villains. There are some great focuses on recurring themes - almost-exposed secrets, lost powers, misfits, crossover shows, etc. - and nice appendixes such as "The Best, Worst and Most Influential Productions...[a] must-have geek reference book." -Animation Magazine: "BOOKS WE LOVE" July 2004, page 6.

"John Kenneth Muir must have had one mis-spent youth. In his 'Encyclopedia of Superheroes on Film and Television' he gives superhero fans a good resource to the various movie/TV incarnations of our favorite heroes. Covering animation as well, this book is current up to mid-2003, and reaches back to the early 1950s. His presentation covers comic book and comic book-inspired heroes in an entertaining 'Did you know'/documentary format...Filled with great anecdotal and historical information, the entries are illustrated with a smattering of photographs...I love superheroes. And during the course of this writing I was 'lost' several times in numerous entries. That is the beauty of the book, no matter what information was missed due to space, or time limitations you can enjoy it fully...Buy this book. And wait for the second edition where John Kenneth Muir updates the entries and gives us more delight and comic book/superhero video fodder...Happy reading. May your cape never need dry cleaning!"- Penguin Comics, June 2004.

"John Kenneth Muir's books for McFarland are distinctive because of their authority and effective research. The Encyclopedia of Superheroes on Film and Television is no different...the detail is mind-boggling." - Classic Images, May 2004.

"...riveting...Muir sandwiches entries on 71 superheroic individuals or teams from the past 50-plus years of broadcast media between a pithy historical overview and back matter that includes a compendium of plot cliches and several "Best/Worst" lists...Where else are readers going to find such depth of detail, not only on such major figures as Superman or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the likes of Captain Nice, Isis and Saturday Night Live's Ambiguously Gay Duo?...this is a browser's delight." - SLJ August 2004.

"Muir characterizes the superhero genre as a uniquely American myth that he tracks from the early age of straight-faced crime fighters through its camp and nostalgic phases and to more recent incarnations as dark heroes powerful heroines...and re-imagined characters." - C&RL News, June 2004 page 338.

"...the encyclopedia is well-researched and provides a wide array of television and film superhero characters' backgrounds, histories, ways they were perceived by critics, plus valuable facts about the TV shows and motion pictures that will prove useful to library patrons who are researching topics as varied as female superheroes in TV and film to the evolution of superheroes from comic book characters to TV and/or film central subjects. As this work is unique in its subject matter...academic, public, school and special librarians will find this title to be a good jumping off point for patrons when they are beginning research on TV and film superheroes. It will also be a good ready reference tool to consult for a particular fact or piece of data on a specific movie or TV programme that centres on a superhero. It is a valuable addition to any library's reference collection." - Carolyn Frenger, Reference Reviews, Volume 18, Number 6, 2004, pages 49-50.

"This book is to be read and referenced. Hardcore superhero enthusiasts will treasure it...Recommended." -Library Media Connection, Nov/Dec 2004, page 185

"An amazing collection of superhero biographies...detailed." - THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY, "Best of Reference, 2005" Selection.

"Muir's encyclopedia should find much use, issued at a time when superheroes have made a strong comeback in feature films and animation...The book is recommended for libraries...and superhero researchers and fans." - ARBA, Volume 36.

Maybe a director book? How about The Unseen Force: The Films of Sam Raimi. Here's what the critics say:

"Enter prolific genre scribe John Kenneth Muir, an aficionado and unapologetically hardcore fanboy who's already authored tomes on John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Wes Craven, as well as the indispensable coffee-table crusher Horror Films of the 1970s. Muir's gift for recognizing and interpreting film grammar serves him well once again, and while most of us could immediately (and correctly) identify Raimi trademarks like camera gymnastics and Three Stooges references, Muir digs even deeper to analyze themes and visual hooks that have evolved throughout films as diverse as Army of Darkness, The Gift and Spider-Man...Muir continues to prove himself as one of horror film's more gifted and passionate commentators." - John Bowen, Rue Morgue, August 2004, page 18.

"Muir, author of Horror Films of the 1970s, admires and enjoys Raimi's highly praised work. Examining Raimi's oeuvre, from the cult classic low-budget horror film The Evil Dead (1981) through the mega-hit Spider-Man (2002), he offers lively, behind-the-scenes accounts via interviews with many of Raimi's collaborators. For example, he divulges the trade secrets of Tom Sullivan, the man responsible for the special effects in The Evil Dead, which illustrate the resourcefulness Raimi inspires in his colleagues...Muir shows how signature flourishes (e.g., his "Point of View subective shot") pop up in Raimi's fledgling works yet still thrill when used in Spider-Man. If there is a downside to the nonconformist director, Muir has yet to find it." - Publisher's Weekly, May 31, 2004.

"...Author Muir is a staunch Raimi fan, waxing enthusiastic about each of Raimi's films - they're given a chapter's more than a cut-and-paste job; he's interviewed assorted cast and crew and makes excellent use of their recollections. And he writes splendidly. An insightful chapter, for example, on the Raimi film I most admire, A Simple Plan, demonstrates how much it owes to the Cain and Abel story, Macbeth, Of Mice and Men and...The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Chapter by chapter, the book builds a case for Raimi as one of our most accomplished filmmakers...GRADE: A-." - Lawrence Tucker Sci-Fi Magazine, Page 78. July 04.

"With two sections of photographs, including 20 never-before-seen stills detailing the making of the first two Evil Dead films, not to mention an amusing Raimi lexicon...The Unseen Force is in the end a must for the director's enthusiasts. " - Jeremiah Kipp, Fangoria #235 page 79.

"The Unseen Force is a welcome and greatly appreciated contribution to the annals of filmmaking and filmmaker histories."-
Midwest Book Review.

"This is, overall, an excellent book by noted film author John Kenneth Muir. It takes us behind the scenes of every Sam Raimi movie from Evil Dead up to the newly released Spider-Man 2 and is for the most part, a riveting read...The most interesting thing about the study is the depth of detail to which Muir goes using information provided by key principals (where possible) to provide a neat analysis of each movie...the amount of information revealed is fascinating...a must for lovers of Evil Dead...Great for Raimi fans and Evil Dead fans alike with a strong analytical approach to keep prospective film students happy. RATING: 4.5 CHAINSAWS (out of 5)." -
WITHIN THE WOODS: The Evil Dead Appreciation Site

So if you like my blog, chances are you'll like my books too. And the books pay the bills...


  1. Speaking of Christmas...where was You Better Watch Out in the '80s book?

    1. Ben,

      Hi! Thank you for your comment.

      Well, the book IS over 800 pages long and covers in detail more than 325 films of the 1980s.

      But it is -- and advertises itself -- as a survey, which means it doesn't cover every single last movie ever made in the decade.

      I covered as many films as I could, specifically the ones I had access to seeing, so I wouldn't rely on memory.

      So I'm very sorry that one film isn't in the book. I guess it's only 99.5 percent complete. And there isn't a more complete book out there about the 1980s.

      But if I get a chance to do a second edition, I'll definitely remember your query, and include the film if I can see it again.

      Thanks for writing. I appreciate it.



Jaws Binge: Jaws (1975)

A modern film classic,  Jaws   (1975) derives much of its terror from a directorial approach that might be termed "information over...