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Going Underground
by Betty Jo Tucker

When traveling in unknown territory, it helps to have a knowledgeable guide by your side. Film critic Phil Hall serves that purpose admirably while taking readers on a journey through the expanding world of underground cinema in his book, The Encyclopedia of Underground Movies: Films from the Fringes of Cinema, recently published by Michael Wiese Productions.

“Today’s Underground Cinema is the ultimate hidden gold mine for the true cinephile,” writes Hall -- and he should know. For the past four years, he’s reviewed Underground Cinema productions for Film Threat (, one of the few film sites that cover movies of this kind. He’s also served as programmer and host of the Light+Screen Film Festival in New York City, which gave many Underground Cinema productions a chance to be seen by New Yorkers and to receive a bit of press coverage.

Hall defines Underground Cinema as “a vast and unexplored territory consisting of thousands of films which rarely find their way to audience, media or industry recognition.” Covering the beginning of underground films back in the 1920s -- represented by the efforts of artists like Luis Bunuel and Salvadore Dali -- through today’s digital revolution, Hall deftly analyzes the movement’s horror films, documentaries, comedies, and gay-themed movies while offering sharp summaries of a host of films in each category. He also includes intriguing interviews with people involved in making underground movies as well as helpful tips on how to make an underground movie of your own.    

Armed with a passion for film and an impressive writing style, Hall has created a book that’s not only enlightening but fun to read. While “Encyclopedia” in the title might scare off some people, it shouldn’t. Although packed with tons of facts and lists, this book evoked more than a few chuckles from me. Hall’s unique sense of humor shines through, especially in interviews with filmmakers like the Friedman brothers, Jonathan and Matthew. According to Hall, the Friedman’s created one of the funniest underground films ever made. Titled Moving, Hall claims it mixes “equal parts Kafka and Beckett with healthy pinches of Abbot and Costello.” His amusing banter with the brothers during their interview emerges as one of the book’s many highlights.

This groundbreaking book will surely motivate readers to search out those hidden film treasures Hall mentions. To aid them in their search, the author includes websites for the movies, and when a site isn’t available, a link to the Film Threat review or to the film's Internet Movie Database listing is provided.

(For further information, visit the publisher’s website at            

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