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Staff Recommendations

BG Staff Rec Banner

The Bennett Martin Public Library downtown maintains an ongoing “Staff Recommendations” display – Staff from throughout the library system are encouraged to submit book, audio, CD and DVD/video recommendations for items to be placed onto this display. Items on the display have bookmarks inserted, giving brief descriptions about the item’s appeal factors, and listing similar books, audios or videos that the reader might also enjoy.

This page on BookGuide is used to highlight some of the items that have appeared on our Staff Recommendations displays in the past, including our staff members’ descriptions of the books, plus links to any “official Web sites” for the books, authors or series, if they exist*. Items on both the display and on this webpage may be recent releases, or older titles that deserve another look. Hotlinks on titles or formats (downloadable audio, book-on-CD, Large Print) connect to the appropriate entry in our on-line catalog, so that you may check on the availability of the item.

INDEXES TO PAST STAFF RECOMMENDATIONS: BY TITLE | BY REVIEWER | TV SERIES/SPECIALS ON DVD/VHS | AGATHA CHRISTIE | STAR TREK | STAR WARS

October 2017 Recommendations

Collectibles for the Kitchen, Bath and Beyond: A Pictorial Guide
by Ellen Bercovici, with Bobbie Zucker Bryson and Deborah Gillham [683.82 qBer]

Here is a pictorial guide to some items I didn’t even know existed – and I’m a fan and collector of kitchen items of the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s.

I enjoyed browsing through the photos of Pie Birds and viewing the different colors and poses. I remember my grandmother using the black bird gazing skyward and have always regretted that one getting away from me at the estate sale.

Laundry Sprinkler Bottles are new to me. These items are filled with water and sprinkled over laundry just before ironing. My mother owned a Sprinkler Bottle Top with a rubber stopper that she would insert into the top of a Coke bottle and then shake over Dad’s white work shirts. I always thought that was the coolest item, and I still own it. But the bottles themselves I had not encountered before. You’ll find them in cat shapes, as elephants, as Dutch couples, the list is endless. I MUST locate the fireman figurine holding the firehose. You tip the figure and the water sprinkles out of the hose. Now how cool is that?

This book also covers Napkin Dolls (kinda weird), Razor Blade Banks (very handy), and Egg Timers (some pretty cool ones). Fun viewing all around.

Until.

You encounter the Decorative Stringholders.

Here is your Halloween horror reading.

Stringholders in bird shapes (one with a pair of scissors through his head! Page 54.) Vegetable and fruit shapes (Miss Strawberry, page 71, with her demonic look). Girl and Women stringholders, Boys and Men stringholders, pirates, SANTA, chefs. And clowns.

I had to stop. I couldn’t make it to the Whimsical Children’s Cups.

Perhaps you are better at horror stories than I. Or you could just skip the stringholders and enjoy the rest of this book.

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Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Mercy Thompson: Homecoming
by Patricia Briggs, with art by David Lawrence

This is a graphic novel story that’s part of the larger prose novel series titled Mercy Thompson. Mercy Thompson is the main character of this super natural series and her special power is the ability to transform into a coyote. This does mean she’s a werewolf, there are plenty of those in this book, but there are also vampires and other fae. She is in her 20’s or 30’s and is interviewing for a teaching job in a new town but ends up flipping burgers and working in a mechanic’s shop for a while. In this new town her secret ability is discovered by the local werewolf pack, which is having a territory war with another pack, and Mercy becomes entangled in this plot. In the end the two alphas of the packs fight it out. It was a decent standalone story that was readable to me even though I knew nothing of the series at all before I read it. If you like werewolves and or vampire fiction, then this is for you. I think it’d also be fun to read in October for Halloween to get in the spooky mood, although it’s not really frightening. There is blood, violence and some partial nudity; when she transforms from coyote to human her clothes don’t just appear back on her like magic, same for the werewolves, so it’s not a comic for kids. If you really like this, you should try out the rest of the series (there are ten novels so far).

[ official Graphic Novels page on the official Patricia Briggs web site ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

Check out Scott C.’s earlier review of this same title from January 2010!


hooplaThe Essential John Carpenter Film Music Collection
by John Carpenter [Hoopla digital streaming service]

Film director John Carpenter is considered to be one of the modern masters of horror or dark suspense films. In addition to writing and directing most of his own works, Carpenter has also created the music for many of his films…though not all of them. This 18-track music collection features some of the signature themes from several of Carpenter’s best known film soundtracks, including: Escape From New York, Halloween, Starman, Big Trouble in Little China, The Fog, Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween II, The Thing, Dark Star, They Live, Prince of Darkness and Village of the Damned. Of these, only two films have scores attributed solely to other artists — Starman (Jack Nitzsche), and The Thing (Ennio Morricone). On all others, Carpenter is the sole composer or a co-composer.

Carpenter’s soundtrack music is heavy on electronics, and emphasizes rock and roll. But, he can also craft a creepy track now and then. For me, one of the most memorable things about Big Trouble in Little China, Escape From New York and They Live is the highly atmospheric score and background songs. And Morricone’s score to The Thing is masterful as well, contributing to the claustrophobic and xenophobic tone of that incredibly frightening film. If you’re like me, and you like reliving your movie-going experience after the fact with soundtrack music, you’ll enjoy this collection of Carpenter tracks — initially a single-disc CD, but currently available from the libraries only as a downloadable resource from our Hoopla streaming service. It’s not quite as fun as listening to a full soundtrack to any of these films, but this is a fine sampler to put you in the mood for the full films or full soundtracks.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try viewing the various films attributed to John Carpenter as the writer/director.] [ official John Carpenter web site — including sound files ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Star Wars ReviewsBattlefront II: Inferno Squad
by Christie Golden

Novel tie-in’s to video games tend to be a mixed bag. Fortunately Battlefront II: Inferno Squad by Christie Golden is a pleasant exception. “Inferno Squad” centers around Iden Versio, an ace Imperial pilot, a decorated officer and one of the few survivors of the Death Star’s destruction. Iden is recruited into Inferno Squad, a small group of Imperial elite tasked with countering the threat posed by the Empire’s enemies. Inferno Squad is tasked with infiltrating and eliminating the Dreamers, remnants of Saw Gerrera’s Partisans and devoted to destroying the Empire by any and all means. “Inferno Squad” is a well-paced, character-driven story in which no one is completely heroic nor truly villainous. The ending is a bit abrupt and a touch clunky. It is also a touch frustrating that to find out the rest of Inferno Squad’s story will require purchasing and playing the video game (or at least waiting for Wookieepedia to summarize the plot and story). However, knowledge of other Star Wars books or video games is not required to enjoy “Inferno Squad.” Those who have seen “Rogue One” and “A New Hope” will have all the background needed to understand the novel’s context. Fans of the “Clone Wars” cartoon will get a bit more enjoyment from the book as it reference’s events that took place in the series. Overall, I would recommend this book to just about any Star Wars fan.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Dark Disciple, by Christie Golden, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, by Alexander Freed, Rebel Rising, by Beth Revis, or Battlefront: Twilight Company, by Alexander Freed.] [ official Battlefront II: Inferno Squad page on Wookiepedia ] | [ Christie Golden page on Wikipedia — her own website appears to be off-line ]

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Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library


Fashion: The Evolution of Style
by Lucinda Gosling [391 Gos]

This is a charming and compact “coffee-table book”, making use of hundreds of photographs and advertisements from the Mary Evans Picture Library in London, England. From bathing suits to bridal gowns, the author walks us quickly through several categories of British and American clothing styles and fads, touching on iconic designers and celebrity clotheshorses along the way. The title is overly encompassing, however, because what is actually presented from the worlds of fashion and work-a-day people spans only the late 1800s to the early 1980s. Nonetheless, this is a fun and fascinating look at who and what determines our wardrobe choices and how, recurringly, “everything old is new again.”

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Icons of Fashion: The 20th Century, by Gerda Buxbaum (391 qBux), 100 Unforgettable Dresses, by Hal Rubenstein (746.922 qRub), Vintage Style, by Tiffany Dubin (646.34 Dub), Vogue Women, by Georgina Howell (391.2 qHow) or What Shall I Wear: The What, Where, When, and How Much of Fashion, by Claire McCardell (646.34 McC)]

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Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


The Dynamite Room
by Jason Hewitt

One intersecting week in 1940 in the lives of Lydia Pendell, a 12-year-old British evacuee, and Lance Corporal Heiden, a German infiltrator, is fraught with danger, despair, and regrets but also holds a faint glimmer of hope for redemption, and belief in a happier life ahead. How will Lydia cope with this very calculating yet somehow vulnerable enemy spy being in her family’s home, wearing her father’s clothes? How will Heiden fulfill his mission and/or reclaim his soul after what he has seen and done and lost? Hewitt has penned a gripping tale of the Second World War — or any war — that is intricately constructed and morally complex, with moments of both horror and transcendence.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Summer of My German Soldier, movie, not in Lincoln City Libraries collection, Inglourious Basterds, directed by Quentin Tarantino, Paths of Glory, eBook, movie not in Lincoln City Libraries collection, All Quiet on the Western Front, by Eric Maria Remarque, or The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane.] [ official Dynamite Room page on the official Jason Hewitt web site ]

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Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


Frankenstein: A Cultural History
by Susan Tyler Hitchcock [398.45 Hit]

This is a fascinating scholarly look at the 200 years of cultural history behind the phenomenon that has grown up around Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein: Or…the Modern Prometheus. But it is not simply for literary scholars — Hitchcock writes with great accessibility, and this book can easily be enjoyed by just the casual reader.

The book is broken into three primary sections — “Part One: Birth”, explaining the origins of Mary Shelley’s story, both in myth and reality; “Part Two: Coming of Age”, exploring the expansion of the Frankenstein story via popular feature films, and how the story was co-opted by other writers and mythologized; “Part Three: Our Monster”, examining how Frankenstein has exploded in the popular culture, and taken on new life in ways that Shelley could never have imagined. Hitchcock provides a coda at the end, “The Monster and His Myth Today”, that synopsizes how broadly the Frankenstein story has permeated cultures around the world.

I found this book a fascinating read, especially for its sense of completeness — even rare, obscure versions of the Frankenstein story get worked into Hitchcock’s narrative — Of course, one of my all-time favorite films, Young Frankenstein, is mentioned prominently, but so is Frankenstein: The True Story, a 1973 TV-movie version by Christopher Isherwood. The history of the creature in a variety of comic-book forms was fairly detailed as well. And Herman Munster from The Munsters gets plenty of mentions.

If you’re even just the slightest bit interested in the history of Dr. Frankenstein and his namesake monster, you’ll enjoy browsing this volume, or even reading it cover-to-cover!

[ publisher’s official Frankenstein: A Cultural History web site ] | [ unofficial Susan Tyler Hitchcock background on Encyclopedia.com — author’s official website appears to be off-line ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
by Jonas Jonasson

Mayhem and merriment combine in this imaginative story. What if Albert Einstein had a much dumber younger brother and he crossed paths with an apolitical explosives expert who kept getting caught up in critical conflicts around the world? Then advance to the present day and the bomb-maker’s 100th year, and throw in a suitcase full of money, a 70-something reprobate poacher, a spunky red-haired woman with a stolen elephant, a disgraced “biker gang” of three, two estranged brothers, a Balinese aristocrat, and a pursuing police inspector. What you get is a formula for — ultimate serendipity — as far as titular protagonist Alan Karlson is concerned. Along the way, toss in Alan’s back story and his encounters with historic figures like Mao Tse-tung, Robert Oppenheimer, Harry Truman, and Kim Jong Il! It’s a crazy, funny, and even educational look at how life, history, culture, and circumstance could intersect.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared (DVD), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (DVD), Forrest Gump (DVD), A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove (DVD) or Zelig (DVD)] [ official 100 Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Wndow and Disappeared page on the official Jonas Jonasson web site ]

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Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


The Complete Book of Kitchen Collectibles
by Barbara E. Mauzy [683.82 qMau]

This is technically a price guide of hand-driven (non-electric) kitchen gadgets and kitchen items of the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, but with lots of photos to browse and reminisce over.

The author covers salt and pepper shakers, mixing bowls, butter dishes, (egg) beaters, ricers, cake savers, rolling pins, ice picks, potato mashers (39 pages of potato mashers), scoops, sifters, and garnishing tools just to name a few.

Each chapter begins with a short history and use of the item, sometimes info about the handle color and how value is determined. Color photos accompany each item along with a listing of the manufacturer, a short description, and approximate value.

I had a good time looking through the photos and inflicting them upon my coworkers with “I have that!” or “Grandma had that!” Sadly, I also found a few items I can’t live without, and will be pursuing at the local antique shops.

[ Today’s Pleasures, Tomorrow’s Treasures — Barbara E. Mauzy’s ebay page ]

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Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Optimists Die First
by Susie Nielsen [YA Nielsen-Fernlund]

What do a phobic teenage girl and a “bionic” teenage boy have in common aside from their therapy group and their normal young-adult hormonal state? And how do rescued cats with names like Stuart Little factor in? Infused with both light and dark humor, this study of traumatic loss and the resulting guilt and coping strategies is an engaging read. Along the way you’ll find out why: Petula’s picture is on her high school principal’s desk; Jacob doesn’t want his name on his homemade videos; love does NOT conquer all; it IS possible to die as the result of a paper cut; and iconic mime Marcel Marceau remains relevant. (Due to some sexual situations and harsh language, parents may want to review this before letting younger teens read it.)

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Beatle Meets Destiny, by Gabrielle Williams, and The Lonely Hearts Club, by Elizabeth Eulberg.] [ official Optimists Die First page on the official Susan Nielsen web site ]

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Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


Tell Me a Scary Story…But Not Too Scary!
by Carl Reiner, with art by James Bennett [jP Reiner]

Legendary comedy actor/writer/producer Carl Reiner (the brains behind The Dick Van Dyke Show), brings a goofy sense of humor to this children’s picture book, which is accompanied by an audiobook-on-cd disc, on which you can enjoy him reading the story in his inimitable comic fashion, accompanied by spooky sound effects.

Reiner is the narrator of a tale about a plucky young kid who has a mysterious (and slightly creepy) new neighbor — Mr. Neewollah — move in next door. When a marble that looks like an eyeball falls out of the new neighbor’s luggage — the boy decides to return it to Mr. Neewollah at midnight. But, his efforts to do so lead to a series of misadventures that eventually brings him to a scary basement laboratory and a lesson in first impressions. James Bennett’s overly-exaggerated illustrations provide good scares but also good comic relief. And Reiner’s narrator regularly interrupts his tale to make sure the listener isn’t too scared to continue.

A fun, spooky story for beginning readers, or for parents to share with their young ones during October! This 2003 Reiner & Bennett book was followed up by a sequel, Tell Me Another Scary Story…But Not Too Scary! (2009), and the non-scary Tell Me a Silly Story (2010). Sadly, the libraries do not own either of those two whimsical volumes.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try TITLE, by AUTHOR, TITLE, by AUTHOR or TITLE, by AUTHOR] [ Carl Reiner page on Wikipedia ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Daughter of Deep Silence
by Carrie Ryan [YA Ryan]

Frances Mace is the only person who knows that Senator Wells and his son Gray are lying about what really happened to the cruise ship Persephone. According to the Wells’, a massive wave sunk the ship. As they were adrift for 7 days, Francis and her friend, Libby, relived the horror of unknown men boarding the ship and shooting everyone. Hours before they were rescued, Libby died. Believing Francis could be in danger, Libby’s father offers her protection by taking Libby’s identity until they can figure out the truth of what happened.

Years later, Frances has yet to figure out what happened the day that Persephone was attacked. Her confusion, hurt, and despair have turned into anger towards the Senator and his son. Using resources available to her as “Libby,” Frances comes up with a plan to work her way into the Senator’s life, where she can continue to search for answers, and set her revenge in motion.

[ official Daughter of Deep Silence page on the official Carrie Ryan web site ]

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Recommended by Marie P.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Decap Attack on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection
[Video Game Sonic’s]

Decap Attack is a retro game from the Sega Genesis/MegaDrive that is included in Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection on PS3 or Xbox 360. The character you play as is Chuck D. Head whose entire body is wrapped up in bandages, his eyes are peaking out of his torso and if you can find it and keep it, a skull to sit on his shoulders. This is a platforming game and I like that some levels require you navigate vertically rather than just horizontally. You don’t have to defeat enemies to progress through the stages, but you will need to defeat a boss at the end of each level. Your attack is normally extending your eyes out of your torso, but if you have the skull, you can throw it and any enemy it comes in contact with will be instantly defeated (unless it’s a boss).

I really liked this game after a while. At first I thought it was OK, and it took me a few sessions before I could get past level 2. Once I did get past the second level I really enjoyed it; the backgrounds and enemies changed and I got better at finding and keeping the skull, which makes things easier. I won’t spoil the ending for you but your Chuck D. Head character is rewarded for his efforts, which let’s face it, going through all seven levels with bandages for skin and no head – most of the time, he deserves a reward. I suggest you try this if you like platforming games, retro Sega games, or if the review here sounds interesting. If you don’t have a PS3 or Xbox 360 to try it out on, you can also get it on Steam for PC for about $3. For more information, including a walk-through for DeCap Attack, check out the GameFAQ page: www.gamefaqs.com/genesis/586135-decapattack.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to watch a longplay (someone playing the whole game start to finish): archive.org/details/Mega_Drive_Longplay_273_Decap_AttackR ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


hooplaThe Hits of Halloween
by The Taliesen Orchestra [Hoopla downloadable service]

If you are in the seasonal spirit, you may want to try this album out, as it’s full of Halloween tunes. Classic tracks such as Monster Mash, Ghostbusters, and the Purple People Eater are mixed in with Mars (from the Planets Suite by Holst) and other instrumental tracks, which are quite enjoyable overall. I would recommend it if you are looking for some fun “themed” music this October, although there’s no reason you couldn’t listen to it year round. It’s available on Hoopla to download or stream, either via the app or their website hoopladigital.com.

[ YouTube playlist of the tracks from this album ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


Screening Room

formatdvdBeing Human
[DVD Being]

There’s a long-standing tradition of American TV series that are based on popular British TV series, but there’s usually a gap of a few years before the Americanized version pops up on our screens — the US series Sanford and Son started in 1972, based on the UK’s Steptoe and Son in 1963. The US All in the Family started in 1971, based on the UK Till Death Do Us Part in 1965. Even the relatively recent US Life on Mars series (2008-2009), was at least a year behind the UK version (2006-2007).

Being Human was an unusual exception. The UK version of this paranormal drama ran from 2009 to 2013 (and aired on the BBC America cable network), while the US version at pretty much the same time (2011-2014) on the Syfy cable TV network. Both were fascinating in their own way, but despite a similar start, they also both charted their own separate courses. I enjoyed both series, which feature a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost all rooming together — one set in London and the other in Boston — and helping each other out with the complications their respective afflications have on their lives, and trying to retain as much as possible of their original humanity. The casts for both series were terrific — in the U.S. version, Sam Witwer is Aidan the vampire, Sam Huntington (marvelous!) was Josh the werewolf, and Meaghan Rath was Sally the ghost. I think I actually liked the British cast better — Russell Tovey was George the werewolf, Lenora Crichlow was Annie the ghost, and for me, the standout was Aidan Turner as the vampire John. Turner has gone on to far greater fame as Ross Poldark in the newest version of the Poldark series on PBS. The British show lasted for 36 episodes in short, 6 to 8 episode series, while the American version ran for 52 episodes in 4 13-episode seasons.

The acting, writing, and production values were all top-notch. Both series are definite “modern” horror shows, and featured a lot of gruesome, blood-and-guts violence. But at the heart of each show, they were about friends trying to salvage their humanity in the face of overwhelming odds against them. I recommend them both, but would ultimately give the British version an “8” and the American version a “7”. As of the time of this review, the libraries have all seasons of both shows in our collection on DVD.

[NOTE: Another simultaneous-airing series recent occurred when Doctor Who actor David Tennant starred in the UK series Broadchurch in 2013, an Americanized version, Gracepoint in 2014, and returned for 2015 and 2017 seasons of Broadchurch back in the UK — all basically the same show, but with setting and character names changed.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for the British series ] | [ Internet Movie Database entry for the American series ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


hooplaGhidorah: The Three-Headed Monster
by Yosuke Natsuki [Hoopla Digital Streaming Service]

If you haven’t seen a Godzilla movie before this could be a good starting point because it’s got four monsters in it; however, Godzilla is not really the bad guy here as he is in other movies. Even though this is called Ghidorah, Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra (in caterpillar form) also appear. Not everyone who watches giant monster movies really cares about the humans; sometimes I’m like this and sometimes not, but in this one it’s pretty entertaining. There is a princess in danger of assassination that flies to Japan, where she’ll supposedly be safe. While in route, she seems to become entranced and jumps out of the plane seconds before it explodes. She’s presumed dead, but then starts appearing on the news claiming to be from Mars and predicting the future. She says the world is doomed because the space monster Ghidorah, who destroyed her home planet, is here on Earth and will destroy it too. Meanwhile a team of scientists are examining a strange new meteorite impact out of which eventually comes Ghidorah. The Martian Princess also says the monsters Rodan and Godzilla will return soon. She’s right, and after all the monsters come out, it’s fighting time. First Godzilla and Rodan fight, then caterpillar Mothra (summoned by twin fairies at the request of the Japanese government – this is not a joke) tries to stop them and get them to join in its fight against Ghidorah. The fights are absolutely hilarious. Rodan, pecks at Godzilla’s head, Godzilla throws and kicks rocks, there’s tail biting and all kinds of goofiness. Its people in large rubber suits fighting, so there’s only so much they can do. It’s not a movie to take seriously or else you probably won’t like it. If you want a laugh, that’s what this is. It’s not trying to make a statement, it does not have character development, the plot is weird, there is no impressive computer graphics, it’s just a movie pretending to be scary and serious and failing miserably. It’s greatly entertaining and is available on Hoopla to download or stream, either via the app or their website hoopladigital.com.

[If you enjoy this, more giant monster movies are available on Hoopla, including but not limited to: Gamera the Giant Monster, Gamera vs. Gyaos, Godzilla vs. Megalon, Rodan, Godzilla’s Revenge and Destroy All Monsters] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


formatdvdStephen King’s It
[DVD It]

The success of the recent theatrical release of It, featuring Bill Skarsgard as the demonic clown Pennywise, has me thinking back with great fondness to the 4-hour 1990 TV mini-series adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, which featured Tim Curry (Rocky Horror Picture Show) as Pennywise. Whereas the current feature film is merely the first half of the story, with the second half expected in two years, the adaptation was complete in two nights, and featured a veritable “who’s who” of recognizable TV actors from the late 1980s. Also, the pre-teen actors who played the 12-year-old versions of the main characters were all excellent, and in the subsequent 27 years many of them have gone on to great success in film and television.

The “adult” cast included Harry “Night Court” Anderson, Dennis “Profiler” Christopher, Richard “Transparent” Masur, Annette “Smallville” O’Toole, Tim “WKRP” Reid, John “Three’s Company” Ritter, and Richard “The Waltons” Thomas. The “kids” included Jonathan “SeaQuest” Brandis, Brandon Crane, Adam Faraizl, Seth “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” Green, Ben Hiller, Emily Perkins and Marlon Taylor.

I’m sure I’ll eventually see the 2017 It, although I may wait until I can see both halves of the story back-to-back. But I absolutely loved the 1990 mini-series — the performances were all marvelous, especially Curry as Pennywise…the images of his red-haired menace staring out of the sewer opening still scares me to this day. The only thing that keeps me from giving this a “10” rating is the ridiculous ending, which I also didn’t care for in King’s original novel. But, that silly ending notwithstanding, Stephen King’s It mini-series is definitely worth revisiting!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Stephen King’s The Stand, Stephen King’s The Shining or the TV series version of The Dead Zone, starring Anthony Michael Hall.] [Also available in traditional print format.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Kolchak: The Night Stalker
[not currently in library collection — easily available through InterLibrary Loan]

The 18-episode TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-1975) grew out of two TV movies, The Night Stalker (1972) and The Night Strangler (1973). All featured Darren McGavin as intrepid and annoying newspaper reporter Karl Kolchak. In 1972’s The Night Stalker, Kolchak follows a story that leads him to believe that a vampire is stalking the alleys of Las Vegas — although he uncovers the truth and helps the police to destroy the vampire, nobody wants the story told and he’s run out of town. In 1973’s The Night Strangler, Kolchak has landed in Seattle, where he follows a lead to uncover an ancient man preying on young women to extend his own life. Again, Kolchak helps destroy the creature but is run out of town.

In the 1974-75 series, Kolchak is now a stringer for a news service in Chicago. And he keeps stumbling across supernatural menaces — this time on a weekly basis. For the mid-1970s, the stories that this series told were pretty edgy — dealing with werewolves, voodoo zombies, mythological sewer creatures, Native American monsters, headless motorcyle riders, demonic politicians, a Rakshasha, aliens, killer robots, a succubus, a witch, a preshistoric reptile, and even Jack the Ripper. One episode was a direct sequel to the original 1972 TV-Movie, featuring a vampire created by the original vampire. As the series progressed, the stories got occasionally silly, but they still managed to provide for plenty of scares. The show was NOT played for laughs — it took itself very seriously, although there was comedy in the characters — Kolchak was an abrasive character who annoyed everyone around him, and who used humor to deflect hostility. Carl’s co-workers at the news service, including his editor Tony Vincenzo (played by the inimitable Simon Oakland), fellow reporter Ron Updyke (Jack Grinnage), and the elderly crossword editor Emily Cowles (Ruth McDevitt) — were all comic characters, and Kolchak’s relationships with each providing laughs that balance out the horrors Carl attempts to report on.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker served as the inspiration for producer Chris Carter when he created The X-Files, 20 years later. In fact, he wanted to have Kolchak appear on the show, but Darren McGavin did not wish to reprise the role — McGavin did appear as retired FBI agent Arthur Dales (“the father of The X-Files”) in two episodes, during the 5th and 6th seasons of that series. A re-imagined version of Kolchak appeared as simply The Night Stalker during the 2005-2006 TV season, with Stuart Townsend taking on the role. The series didn’t last long — less than a full season — and had a very different style and tone from the 1970s version. But it did feature one unique connection to the original. Through the magic of digital manipulation, McGavin’s original Kolchak character appears in a newsroom background scene in the pilot episode of the new show — a bit of a tribute to the original show.

Sadly, the libraries do NOT have Kolchak: The Night Stalker, nor either of the two original TV-Movies, in our DVD collection. However both can be ordered through InterLibrary Loan, and you can find some of the episodes on YouTube. The full-series DVD box set is also commonly available for purchase.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The X-Files, Supernatural or Shadow Chasers (a marvelous comedy drama about investigating the paranormal, unfortunately not available on DVD — find it on YouTube and other online sources). I also recommend the graphic novel Cry of Thunder, which crosses Kolchak across time with Sherlock Holmes, and the book The Night Stalker Companion, by Mark Dawidziak, which is a marvelous look at the making of the series. Dawidziak is also the author of The Kolchak Papers: Grave Secrets, a 1994 tie-in novel, which is one of the best TV Tie-In novels I’ve ever read — you can get this through InterLibrary Loan, as well as the two paperback novels by Jeff Rice that came out associated with the original two TV-movies.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ Wikipedia page for Kolchak: The Night Stalker ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


last updated October 2017
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