|Since 1984 The Phantom of the Movies, a.k.a. JOE KANE, has been a columnist and reviewer for such banners as The New York Daily News. His most recent book, The Night of the Living Dead: Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Zombie Movie Ever (Kensington) is among the most complete and thoroughgoing histories of a franchise (and corporate history) ever published in the field of show business. The resonance of this book is reflected in its nomination for a Black Quill Award for Best Non-Fiction, selection by PopMatters as one of 2010's best Non-Fiction Books and honors in the 9th Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards.
JOE KANE is the editor and publisher of VIDEOSCOPE, the premiere magazine for: Horror, Sci-Fi, Action, Asian, Cult, Animation, Thrillers, Indies, Noirs, Art-House, Verite, Vintage, Exploitation and more...
I like the Phantom. He's out there. Watching the screens for us. All the time. - John Huff
JOHN HUFF: When you write of your earlier days when (in NYC) there were many, many marquees in great theater-row streets as well as mighty ornate palaces for movies, what does that all sum up for The Phantom of the Movies?
PHANTOM OF THE MOVIES: A sumptuous golden age of cheap entertainment and priceless film education. While L.A., San Francisco , Chicago and other major cities boasted great celluloid smorgasbords, none could quite match NYC, with its picture palaces, eclectic double- and triple-feature grindhouses, art-houses and retro theaters offering literally scores of diverse titles every week. At times, it seemed almost too much of a good thing, with considerable pressure, in the days before home video, re: which films to catch before they disappeared while still leading some semblance of a 'normal life.' Eventually something had to go, though, so it was pretty much the normal life.
JH: What were the first movies to 'hook' you?
PHANTOM: My earliest addictive movie-going experiences happened in the '50s, when seeing genre flicks like It Came from Outer Space, Creature with the Atom Brain, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Not of This Earth, Black Sunday and Macumba Love hooked me for life. By 1960 (age 12), I was a habitué of a triple-feature grindhouse called the Savoy Theater, which changed programs three times a week, mixing both old and newer films and exposing me to everything from obscure noirs to Sam Fuller films to early Russ Meyer and nudist-camp romps (one 'typical' triple bill I vividly recall and wrote a memoir piece about: Fuller's House of Bamboo, the outré camp classic The Brain That Wouldn't Die and the Jack Nicholson B western The Broken Land). Kid admission was something like 35 or 50 cents--no ID required (though an ID helped) no matter the films playing. That was pure heaven--and it was situated on the way home from school! Something had to go--frequently it was school.
JH: Your sourcing and detailing of certain lesser-known movies, and the personalities behind them, often sounds like the result of detective work. Does it take a 'Phantom approach' when there are no clear tracks of communication, no publicity at all?
PHANTOM: It used to. When I wrote my first film book, Dope in the Cinema, serialized in High Times in the '70s, I spent hundreds of hours poring over old tomes, handbills and programs at the Lincoln Center library, haunting rare book stores like Cinemabilia, and keeping on the alert to see related films, often at seedy venues like the Lower East Side's Variety Photoplays. During my Phantom tenure with the New York Daily News in the '80s and '90s, a good deal of similar detective work, including keeping up with obscure film journals, corresponding with actors and filmmakers, and comparing notes with other movie buffs like Variety's legendary Larry Cohn, was required. The Internet, with sites like imdb.com, has made much of that leg work obsolete, though the film-book library I've amassed over the decades still comes in handy when searching for archival material that goes a bit deeper. The disappearance of many film reference works is regrettable, though some, like Screen World, continue to appear annually. Still, the Internet has become utterly indispensable.
JH: My favorite question: If extra-terrestrials reveal themselves this year, which movie do you think will be a psych-template for that experience? (Genre as Rorschach)
PHANTOM: Robot Monster's Ro-Man remains the once and future face of the impending alien apocalypse. He has already commandeered much of VideoScope. Hu-man--beware 2012, Year of the Ape in the Fishbowl Helmet!
JH: What is the Phantom looking forward to in the immediate future?
PHANTOM: Personally, keeping up the print tradition with books and my magazine for as long as there's an audience. Personally I don't get the same kick writing or organizing websites or blogs, though there are many great ones out there with wonderful audiovisual capacity that I love to peruse. I need the challenging restraints (word counts, fixed image space) of magazines and books and the finite worlds they create. As far as film (or digital), there are enough interesting ones released internationally--and vintage ones newly unearthed--to keep me busy for the foreseeable.
- The Night of the Living Dead: Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Zombie Movie Ever (Kensington)
- The Phantom's Ultimate Video Guide (Dell)
- The Phantom of the Movies' VideoScope, The Ultimate Guide to the Latest, Greatest and Weirdest Genre Videos (Random House/Three Rivers Press)
- Baseball's Dream Team (Ace Books)
- Dope in Cinema (serialized in High Times Magazine)