Book Review: TCM Presents Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide (Third Edition)

Although some books on cinema should be taken with a few grains of salt, not just because of some ways that movies are described, but also the movies that were chosen as well. As with the late great Roger Ebert, whose books on cinema are still the standard for anyone who wants to study movies and loves them, beloved film critic Leonard Maltin has also written his fair share of successful and sometimes infuriating books on film culture. Fortunately for us, his newest book on classic movies should enlighten and infuriate once again, which is great because it allows for conversation for films that are famous and those that are odd and offbeat.

In this book, Maltin has included some new entries, films that I have never heard of such as Cuban Rebel Girls, The Cape Canaveral Monsters, Hollywood and Wine, and Looking for Love. This is ironic since all of these are listed with the word ‘BOMB’ next to them. I think the rule of film history is that not every film can be a classic, because for every Casablanca, there is always going to be an Attack of the 50th Woman (which is one of the worst films ever made). I have to give much credit to Maltin because I don’t know how he does it – having time to see these films, even the ones that are so bad they’re good.

Obviously while reading this book, you’ll find some of the greatest films ever made: Casablanca, The Third Man, It Happened One Night, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Defiant Ones, Hud, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The 400 Blows, Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, and Notorious. These films have symbolized time and again the beauty of the motion picture and their continued influence, so Maltin hit the nail on the head for including these beloved classics.

Speaking of finding something to read about, he has included some sections that represent an entire series of films that include recurring characters: the Ellery Queen series, the Falcon series, the Henry Aldrich series, the Huldegarde Withers series, and the Jungle Jim series. This is excellent because you’re able to choose which films are your favorites and those you’d rather stay away from. Reading the book, it’s amazing too find so many silent films, because films from the silent age are for an acquired taste, but even those who are not generally silent-film fans will find at least one film to like, and Maltin has provided the perfect way to start your film checklist.

Regardless of what page you open to, there’s certain to be a few movies you have never at any point knew about. It’s likely the only spot where you’ll see the 1946 noir classic The Killers placed near 1954’s Killers From Space. Flip to another page and you’ll see the original adaptation of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty included near The Secret of Blood Island. In addition to the main alphabetical listings, Maltin also includes lists that rundown movies by star and director. Additionally, he denotes whether a motion picture is accessible on DVD, VHS, or even Laserdisc.

Overall, this new classic movie guide is a perfect gift for the film lover in your life, and it will also make great guidance to that special movie night, filled with the most influential films to the most obscure ones because we all need that one special movie in our lives.

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