I wasn't expecting to be blown away by Destroy All Movies!!! It's a 566-page A-Z reference of over 1,100 movies with punks in them. It's exhaustive, covering excellent movies with punks as main characters, awful movies where pseudo-punks have minor roles as buffoonish thugs ("No '80s party comedy was complete without some pierced, rainbow-colored man-turd doing a human cannonball through a plate glass window"), straight-to-video drek, 16mm documentary gems, and "movies that barely exist." I was sure I would get tired of reading it after a few pages. The opposite happened -- I got hooked and couldn't stop.
Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly, the editors of this mind-bending reference of cinematic trash culture, are obsessives to be sure (read Carlson's blog post titled WHY?), but not the kind who exhaust you with eye-glazing otaku trivia that doesn't matter to anyone but other obsessives. Instead, their reviews (written by Carlson, Connolly and their cohorts) are accessible, insightful, entertaining, and funny in a way that doesn't ruin their usefulness.
Notable punk movies -- such as Liquid Sky, Suburbia, Repo Man, Desperately Seeking Susan, Ladies and Gentlemen: The Fabulous Stains, and Rock 'N' Roll High School -- are given special consideration, with much longer reviews, essays, and interviews with their directors and stars. I especially enjoyed reading the interviews with Rock 'N' Roll High School's P.J. Soles ("[The Ramones] were like wallpaper. They were shy and quiet and out of their element. They had to be pulled by their arms to the catering truck at lunch and convinced it was OK to eat with us"), and Mary Woronov (who played Principal Togar in Rock 'N' Roll High School): ("The last scene of any kind in LA was the punk scene, and since then it's been totally dead.") Other good interviews include: Richard Hell, John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Alex Cox, and Ian MacKaye.
The reviews of the minor movies are worth reading too, either for the humor value or the solid advice (eg., The Clash's Rude Boy: "For fans of the group, it's a satisfying barrage of material from an era when they were still strong. For anyone else, it's British people stumbling around and frowning.")
As usual, Fantagraphics' in-house designer Jacob Covey produced a drop dead gorgeous book that enhances the experience. With a cool flexibound cover and a tub of Jamie-Reid-pink and Photoshop's halftone filter, his treatment feels appropriately retro and timeless at the same time.
As Richard Hell says in his introduction, "This is one of those gems of immaculate editorial conception, perfectly executed, that will probably not stay in print for long ... if you don't buy it now you will regret it when it's more expensive."
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.