Usually I hate Hollywood celebrity interviews because (a) it reveals that the person being interviewed is either an idiot or an ego maniac and/or (b) celebrities usually lie about whatever movie they had just been involved with.

The celebrity being interviewed might think it’s the biggest pile of crud since Battlefield Earth, but they are contractually obliged to be positive about the film in question. Also, no use in badmouthing, let’s say, John Travolta as the scientologist stooge that he is because you might just have to work with the man again. So don’t go burning down any bridges . . .

Oh all right, if you’re somehow involved with Hollywood that means you’re probably an ego maniac in any case. So excuse me my naivety there!

If I dislike celebrity interviews so much, then why am I recommending John Carpenter: the Prince of Darkness by Gilles Boulenger then? After all, the book is nothing but one long extended interview with cult director John Carpenter . . .

Well, that is because Carpenter comes of as neither an idiot or an egoist. Also he seems quite candid most of the time badmouthing some people in the industry, especially producers – not a very clever thing for a director to do.

John Carpenter? The man is a virtual trade mark in himself. Even before he attained his status as cult director, he was being marketed as one. Long before the 1980s saw Steven Spielberg’s name appearing prominently on posters, Carpenter’s name was clearly affixed to movie posters in cinema foyers everywhere.

If you’re a fan of Carpenter’s work then you’ll definitely be interested in reading this book. It is also however recommended to more casual genre fans and anyone interested in Hollywood. I found it quite engrossing even though I can’t really remember the last time I was actually excited about a new Carpenter film even though I do occasionally wax lyrical about some of his older efforts.

The interviews never focus too much on the technical side of directing so anyone studying directing might be disappointed in that department. However, the interviews are logically ordered (first his childhood and early beginnings with subsequent chapters focusing on individual movies).

The questions are informed although one gets the idea that interviewer Gilles Boulenger is more conversational than he is confrontational. A few tougher questions would have been nice (“just why is Ghosts of Mars so bad?” is one). Also, one sometimes gets the “I have to be nice about Michael Douglas in this interview because I would like to work with him again some day”.

On the whole however, Carpenter seems to be on the level. In fact, I enjoyed the book so much that I made me decide to make September John Carpenter month and check out some of his efforts on DVD again. So watch out for some new DVD reviews later this month . . .

After a promising start in the mid-1970s Carpenter’s career went through several highs and lows throughout the decades that followed. An auteur – he directed, edited, writes and even most famously writes the music for his films – Carpenter is actually an anachronism today, out of step with current Hollywood trends.

For instance, you won’t in any of the flashy Michael Bay use of music and editing for his films. Carpenter may not tackle any “high art” like Bergman or Tarkovsky, but his use of wide lens photography and music is distinctly his – quite an achievement in era where most Hollywood movies look and feel basically the same . . .

Unfortunately Carpenter probably never realized his full potential as evidenced by his promising early start. He will probably be ultimately remembered for Halloween (his biggest box office hit) and The Thing (probably his best movie) . . .


Next: "Quite gruesome and gory even by today’s standards . . ."

John Carpenter: The Prince of Darkness
by Gilles Boulenger
$19.95 paper  
296 pages, 6x9, B&W photos, plus 24-page color section
ISBN: 1-879505-67-3

Silman-James Press
(distributed by SCB Distributors)
Pub. date August 2003




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