At one time, not too many years ago, there were really only two widely-available, economically-priced movie guides: Leonard Maltin's TV Movies and Steven Scheuer's Movies on TV. However, movie guides now vie for bookstore shelf space with over a dozen other competitors. One of the best of these guides and the only one to really challenge Maltin for top honors (after Scheuer's guide was discontinued) is VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever. While it's hard to beat Maltin's pithy capsule reviews, Golden Movie Retriever one-ups Maltin by providing a slew of indexes that cover a wide range of categories. The indexes are so exhaustive that they take up nearly half of the book's 1800+ pages. In addition to the expected cast and director indexes, you'll also find writer, cinematographer, and composer indexes. However, the real pièce de résistance--and Golden Movie Retriever's hallmark feature--is the category index, where you'll find lists of movies that fit into familiar categories such as "Westerns," "Horror," and "War," as well as capricious categories such as "Wedding Hell," "Yuppie Nightmares," "Eyeballs!" and "Cannibalism."
The indexes are Golden Movie Retriever's claim to fame, but the reviews are no less valuable, with descriptions that concisely describe each movie's plot (however, the reviews rarely go beyond simple plot descriptions). In fact, the capsule reviews in this book do a much better job of conveying the essence of a movie than does another recent VideoHound publication, VideoHound's Horror Show (reviewed 10/21/98). In my review of Horror Show, I complained that the capsule descriptions frequently made exciting movies sound mundane (because the author was afraid of giving away too much plot). In comparison, Golden Movie Retriever's capsule reviews give you just enough information to hook your interest without giving away everything. For example, while I complained that Horror Show failed to use the word "expressionism" in its capsule review of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and the word "telekinesis" in its review of Carrie (unforgiveable omissions in both cases), Golden Movie Retriever addresses both of these concerns.
As much as I like Golden Movie Retriever, it can't really replace Maltin's Movie and Video Guide because VideoHound insists that this book is a video guide--and that means its pages only include movies that have been released on video, DVD, or laserdisc. However, there are many movies that still await their video debut. For example, Kino will soon be releasing two essential crime dramas on video--Jules Dassin's Brute Force and Fritz Lang's The Blue Gardenia. These are important movies that any comprehensive movie guide should contain, but you won't find these movies in the current edition of Golden Movie Retriever. You'll have to wait for next year's edition. It also means that you can't really use this book when you're looking up movies that will be playing on television--and that limits its usefulness severely. Until Golden Movie Retriever begins to include movies that haven't yet been released on video, you'll always need another book to fill in the gaps. Until that time, Maltin's guide will remain the one essential movie guide--but VideoHound is breathing down Maltin's neck.
VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever 1999 is now available from Visible Ink Press. This new edition reviews and rates more than 23,000 movies--with 1,000 new reviews in this edition. Suggested retail price: $21.95. Paperback.