I hear all the inquisitiveness in bookstores across America every year around the holidays: “How in living hell will Leonard Maltin keep publishing his annual Movie Guide without having to put it out in two volumes?!”
Well, those people needn’t worry–because Leonard Maltin’s ever-growing classic and annual publication that reviews old and new movies is magically getting thinner by the year. How so? Because Maltin has recently decided to thin out some older, classic movies from the Movie Guide and transfer them over to another compendium that he plans to update periodically: “The Leonard Maltin Classic Movie Guide.” And, of course, this instantly riles people thinking that Leonard Maltin is trying to get more money out of his loyal readers by forcing them to buy a second book to get a comprehensive volume of old and new films. Trust me, it’s necessary–unless you want his annual Movie Guide to collapse your book shelf someday…after the binder on the book splits. His annual Movie Guide is already heavy enough, and in order to fit newer movies in there, he has to do something with those older titles. A lot of people will probably ask, though, which of those older titles he’s moving into the Classic Movie Guide.
This is where the Classic Movie Guide needs some clarification in the concept of semantics. In the mind of Maltin (or, more likely, his longtime team of editors)–a “classic” would mean ANY movie made up to the early 1960’s. Even that, however, might raise an eyebrow or ten when the general thought is that the classic period of Hollywood ended approximately in the early 1970’s. Nonetheless, Maltin has no movies in his Classic Movie Guide made after the early 60’s–and mostly focuses on much earlier films that aren’t anywhere near the quality of “Gone with the Wind.”
When the first edition of his Classic Movie Guide was published in 2005–Maltin promoted it in his regular Movie Guide that year to show people what his intentions were. One thing you’ll know if you’re a loyal viewer of Turner Classic Movies is that there were just as many ho-hum shorts and features made from the 1910’s-1960’s as there are now–despite having a higher ratio of classic, high-quality movie events year to year compared to today. Maltin used to have extensive sections and write-ups in his Movie Guide of 1930’s serials, movie series and reviews of individual, obscure two-star movies in that same era that were mostly forgotten–yet still interesting to watch when shown on TCM. These are the items that he reportedly took out of his annual Movie Guide and transferred over to the Classic Movie Guide. No wonder, then, that I couldn’t find his old write-up on the Mickey Rooney 1930’s Andy Hardy series in the Movie Guide in my edition from last year.
Yes, this book is being promoted as being your ultimate companion guide for those who like classic movies and watch TCM regularly. If you’re only stuck with the Movie Guide now–and you’re looking up the Andy Hardy series there–all listings under “Andy” will only take you to a review of “Andy Warhol’s Dracula” (and all of Warhol’s other bizarre films). Fortunately, Maltin does still list an “Andy Hardy Series”–but with a little note next to the subtitle of “See Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide.” Maltin isn’t afraid to remind you in various parts of the book…
Leonard Maltin has too many irons in the fire to update regularly…
That above statement isn’t an exaggeration. While I appreciate most of Maltin’s books and output (especially his overseeing the Disney Treasures DVD series)–he has several excellent movie books that are in dire need of updating. One of those is his “Movie Encyclopedia” listing profiles of actors, directors and all other legends related to film. It hasn’t been updated in 13 years, though. Will that happen to his Classic Movie Guide from the Malt Man having too many plates being spun in the publishing world? As of this writing, it’s heading on to three years since the first edition was published–and he really has a long way to go to get more material in the book…along with correcting some glaring info and printing errors.
What might be strange for some people is the disjointed action of keeping the classics that come to mind first (“Casablanca”, “Gone with the Wind”, “Wizard of Oz”, etc.) in the Movie Guide instead. The Classic Movie Guide is for the more diverse classic movie fan who occasionally stays up at 3 in the morning watching that old, obscure (but fascinating) Film Noir movie made with a string of B-list stars in the late 1940’s. The good news is that the book is large enough to let Maltin treat each movie with a respectful review. For that, we can be grateful that all movies made in their true golden era get noticed and fairly analyzed rather than being treated as thin air.
For those who wonder what the price may be on the Classic Movie Guide–it’s the same price as the larger-print edition of the regular Movie Guide ($13.60 at Amazon.com). Since it likely won’t be updated for another year or two–I recommend buying it if you were more apt to look up classic movies in the Movie Guide over seeing what glib comment he and his editors made over the latest Adam Sandler comedy.
In that regard, Maltin is really the epitome of the classic movie reviewer. He’s always been more kind to the classic era than the modern one, which seems to tick more than a few people off who probably hang out too much on IMDb.com message boards and watch TCM only once a year.
If you need to have both books–then be sure to space them out evenly on your bookcase so you truly don’t collapse your bookcase. With Maltin still making the heavy volume of movie entries in book form a viable product in the age of CD and DVD-ROM’s–it’s enough of a high achievement for the book and movie-loving population.