When I first found out about this recently-published book, I was literally beside myself. The very concept of it seemed so utterly perfect for me that I had never before even dared to dream of something like this! My taste in films covers most genres, eras and styles, but – although this idea had perhaps not fully crystallised in my mind until I learned of the book – if a film features punks, then there is a fairly good chance that it will be of interest to me.
To describe Destroy All Movies!!! as thorough and comprehensive would be something of an understatement. The book covers over 1,000 films, from the very well-known to the (sometimes deservedly) ultra-obscure. Even barely-seen TV movies that feature little more than a fleeting glimpse of punk characters get a short write-up, but the book rightly deals at greater length with more significant and influential features such as Suburbia, Class Of 1984 and Repo Man. The book also looks and feels gorgeous, as one would expect from the celebrated Fantagraphics imprint.
On top of the reviews themselves – written in a style that is often humorous, but imbued with a genuine love and enthusiasm for the material – the book features fascinating interviews with key punk-film figures such as directors Penelope Spheeris and Alex Cox, actors Mary Woronov and Jon Gries, and musicians Richard Hell and Lee Ving, amongst many others. The most shocking revelation that I have uncovered so far from reading these is that actor Stefan Arngrim – in his role as the infamous Drugstore – genuinely shot up heroin on-screen in Class Of 1984!
Needless to say, I have barely begun to scrape the surface of the vast wealth of information offered by this book. So far, only one omission has slightly intrigued me: the book covers several films involving Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vernon Wells (the legendary screen uber-punk Wez in Mad Max 2), but overlooks their collaboration in Commando. This interests me, as I’m sure the film must have been considered and, for me, in his villainous role as Bennett, Wells’s leather trousers, mesh vest, chains and cropped hair (not to mention his prior status in the field) make him a punk – a moustachioed gay-clone/leather-daddy punk maybe, but still a punk in my opinion!
Anyway, to conclude, I think Richard Hell’s foreword to the book best sums up how amazing it is, and how much of a compulsory purchase it is for anyone even vaguely interested in the subject:
This is one of those gems of immaculate editorial conception, perfectly executed, that will probably not stay in print for long. Like Jesus. The world is really not worthy of this book, and if you don’t buy it now, you will regret it later when it’s a lot more expensive.
You can learn more about the book and its creators, Zach Carlson and Bryan Connolly, on their excellent website, www.punksonfilm.com, and as a taste of the riches within, I’ll leave you with their review of our favourite film of all time, Tuff Turf: