06th Jul2018

Interview: Author Mike Vaughn talks ‘The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema’

by Philip Rogers


How did the idea for ‘The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema’ come about originally?

Well like I explain in my foreword I gained a lot of inspiration from fanzines which was where you had to get film education pre-Internet age. Also, this book is sort of a love letter to my VHS renting days at my local mom and pop store. Writing this book brought me right back to being young and sitting in my room devouring every fan zine I could and the excitement of learning about films like The Beyond and going to the rental shop and checking out crazy stuff like Psychos in Love. I wasn’t sure if other fans would also get a nostalgic thrill out of a reference guide, but a number of people have really respond to it, which they consider a lost art.

What can people expect from the book?

Expect to take a psychedelic ride into some of the most bizarre films from all over the world. I collected over 300 reviews plus trivia some of which was gained exclusively from the filmmakers-plus quotes and full interviews done for the book. The interviews is what I’m most proud of and it really helps to set this book apart in terms of just a reference guide and I got icons like Larry Cohen, Frank Henenlotter etc. I also do movie parings which suggests what might go well with another title to make a double or even triple feature. I just tried to make it a lot of fun. The book is also packed with stills –over 100 in fact. I really hope that both casual fans and more diehard fans alike can find things some slimy cinematic treasures.

The book includes some obscure and hard to find titles. How difficult was the process of finding a copy to view for the book?

Some of the more obscure stuff took some time to track down. I was lucky enough to find someone who deals in rare films and even still some I couldn’t include because they had no subtitles. But I feel like spending the extra $ to get some of the harder to find stuff made it a better read for the more hardcore film buffs.  I still think of the films I could not get because they were just too expensive. One such film is called Goodbye 20th Century which looks properly strange but alas it only had a limited VHS run and it went for like 50.00 and up. But I think I got some great weird and obscure titles for fans to enjoy.

Did you discover any new films which you had previously missed?

Yes. In fact, I think as a film buff I found myself in a rut and this was a perfect excuse to get out of my cinematic comfort zone and really explore films from all over the globe. I watched and reviewed at least 3 movies a day seven day a week. Stuff like the gonzo biker film Mad Foxes (1981) or the incredible works of Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer, it was a fun ride. I would say besides the interviews just discovering these titles was the best thing about this book.

In addition to a brief review and synopsis the book includes facts about the films with quote and interviews with some of the filmmakers. What were some of your favourite moments when doing research for the book?

Researching was a lot of work but also a lot of fun. Staying up till 2-3 in the searching for these weird, obscure crazy grimy flicks was at times surreal but enjoyable. Probably the most fun was not so much research as doing the interviews you mentioned.  Doing those was a blast and how cool is it to spend the afternoon chatting with Larry Cohen about The Stuff and Q? I’m pretty proud of tracking down Joe Flood AKA Mr. Dumpkin from Student Bodies (1981) a favourite film of mine, that was so awesome.

Did you experience any issues when trying to complete the book?

I felt like I ran out of time and didn’t get as much as I wanted to. Schiffer my publisher was great about giving me enough time so that wasn’t an issue. But I had two close family members pass away the summer I was writing it and I took a few months off, so I didn’t get as much in the book as I wanted. In retrospect it was kind of crazy to pick a film guide for a first book project, but it turned out that I was able to finish on time and I am overall very pleased with the final product. Going in I always knew I`d be haunted by the reviews I didn’t get to include but you just have to make peace with it and move on.

Do you plan to write a follow up book to The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema?

I’m not sure if I will do a Vol 2 or if I will just do an expanded edition someday. I know I would love to re visit the subject sometime though. As I said I had a list of movies I wanted to include and its not to suggest I’m unhappy with the finished product, I mean I was able to get over 300 reviews plus over 100 photos not to mention the trivia, interviews etc. I am proud of the amount of work I did, but I think I could do more. Plus, the films that were really hard to find are now suddenly on HD Blu-ray whereas when I was writing them they weren’t widely available. So yes, it’s very possible for a second edition or even a Vol 2 but it might be a little while.

Do you have any other projects which you are working on?

I currently sent out two different book pitches to my publisher – both are nonfiction film related but not film guides. As I said above I would be into another film guide but not for a while. But yeah, I always keep busy with writing for a few different websites and I might be even working on some fiction projects and possibly some screen play work.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write their first book?

It’s an illogical and crazy job but if you really want to do it here are some nuggets of wisdom… Make sure you choose a subject that you are willing to spend at least a year of your life working on. Writing most defiantly dominate your every waking moment. Have a clear idea and write out an outline and even do a mock table of content and if you are still excited about it you have a project. Find a publisher: self publishing has its own rewards but with a publisher you have an entire team behind you not to mention an editor who will shape the material and a marketing team to help promote it. Finally, have fun doing what you do, work hard but don’t take yourself too seriously or it will start to become a job-and no writer wants an actual job that’s why we write.

You can keep up to date with news about Mike Vaughn and his future project by following him on Twitter: @StrangeCinema65

The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema is now available to purchase on Amazon and you can my review of the book right here.


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