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A Thousand Cuts - The Bizarre Underground World of Collectors and Dealers Who Saved the Movies

A Thousand Cuts

The Bizarre Underground World of Collectors and Dealers Who Saved the Movies

By Dennis Bartok & Jeff Joseph
Hardcover : 9781496807731, 266 pages, 47 b&w illustrations, August 2016

The colorful, compulsive, secretive history of famous and infamous film fiends


A Thousand Cuts is a candid exploration of one of America's strangest and most quickly vanishing subcultures. It is about the death of physical film in the digital era and about a paranoid, secretive, eccentric, and sometimes obsessive group of film-mad collectors who made movies and their projection a private religion in the time before DVDs and Blu-rays.

The book includes the stories of film historian/critic Leonard Maltin, TCM host Robert Osborne discussing Rock Hudson's secret 1970s film vault, RoboCop producer Jon Davison dropping acid and screening King Kong with Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore East, and Academy Award-winning film historian Kevin Brownlow recounting his decades-long quest to restore the 1927 Napoleon. Other lesser-known but equally fascinating subjects include one-legged former Broadway dancer Tony Turano, who lives in a Norma Desmond-like world of decaying movie memories, and notorious film pirate Al Beardsley, one of the men responsible for putting O. J. Simpson behind bars.

Authors Dennis Bartok and Jeff Joseph examine one of the least-known episodes in modern legal history: the FBI's and Justice Department's campaign to harass, intimidate, and arrest film dealers and collectors in the early 1970s. Many of those persecuted were gay men. Victims included Planet of the Apes star Roddy McDowall, who was arrested in 1974 for film collecting and forced to name names of fellow collectors, including Rock Hudson and Mel Tormé.

A Thousand Cuts explores the obsessions of the colorful individuals who created their own screening rooms, spent vast sums, negotiated underground networks, and even risked legal jeopardy to pursue their passion for real, physical film.


"Best Film Books of 2016"

- Huffington Post

"These are warm histories of eccentrics, each story by itself a kind of minor-key Moby-Dick. Taken together, they amount to an elegiac portrait of a vanishing filmic subculture."

- Publishers Weekly

"A real eye-opener . . . this book will provide a much-needed boost to the spirits of movie fans who fear that photographic film--the stuff that comes in rolls--is disappearing from our planet."

- David Pitt, Booklist Online, August 30, 2016

"Dennis Bartok and Jeff Joseph's A Thousand Cuts: The Bizarre Underground World of Collectors and Dealers Who Saved the Movies describes itself as 'a book about the death of Film' as opposed to the death of The Movies, but make no mistake: this sweeping, warts-and-all survey of the world of private print collecting is far more elegy that paean."

- Steve Macfarlane, Cineaste

"As the use and very existence of physical media continues to dwindle in the modern era, A Thousand Cuts reminds us that many movies would be lost today if not for the obsessive archiving of reels of film by often fascinating individuals. The familiar and detailed ways in which the authors describe their subjects solidifies the connection between aging technology and the aging people who appreciate it."

- Sara M. Cole, Johns Hopkins University, The Journal of American Culture, Volume 43, Issue 1

"A Thousand Cuts is a wild, surreal trip down the rabbit hole of obsessive movie love. The rogues' gallery of characters--from Planet of the Apes' Roddy McDowall, to the FBI, to the man who put O. J. Simpson behind bars--is one of the strangest and most fascinating I've come across."

- Adi Shankar, producer of Dredd, The Grey, Power/Rangers Unauthorized [Bootleg Universe], and A Walk Among the Tombstones

"A Thousand Cuts reads like a collection of lost Raymond Chandler or Jim Thompson stories, detailing the piracy, theft, and out-of-control passions that led film collectors to hoard these precious prints. Thank God they did--or many treasures would have disappeared."

- Monte Hellman, director of Two-Lane Blacktop, The Shooting, Road to Nowhere, and Cockfighter

"A Thousand Cuts is a beautiful elegy for the death of film, that fragile creation of acetate, sprockets, gears, and shadows. Few books have ever captured the singular and mysterious purity of movie worship like this one."

- Adam Simon, executive producer and writer of Salem; writer of The Haunting in Connecticut; and director of The Typewriter, the Rifle, and the Movie Camera

"A haunting portrait of a soon-to-be-lost world of hidden film vaults, private movie palaces, and the collectors who fought over their precious film prints. A great read for anyone interested in the underbelly of Hollywood."

- Alison Martino, journalist for Los Angeles Magazine and Vintage Los Angeles

"I've known Dennis Bartok for many years through his work showing rare films at the American Cinematheque. There's no one better to document this strange subculture literally vanishing before our eyes."

- Mike Hodges, director of Get Carter, Flash Gordon, and Croupier