Cult Movie Stars

Danny Peary has spent so much time in movie theaters that he must look like one of those albino fish they find in the backs of caves. Cult Movie Stars, an earnestly chatty collection of essays for video slummers, continues in the vein of his Baedeker to B movies, Guide for the Film Fanatic. In this case it’s an A-to-Z compendium of filmdom’s lesser-known lights: singing cowboys, porn queens, shuffling black menials, four-hankie divas, drive-in sociopaths, teen dreams, and authentic screen mutant Rondo Hatton (The Brute Man, The Pearl of Death). Peary’s writing can be unreadably verbose, his judgments off-the-wall (he calls Gerard Depardieu ”the most daring actor in the cinema”), and his definition of ”cult star” awfully loose. But he rescues Jeanette MacDonald and Natalie Wood from the patronizing treatment both usually receive, and his pieces on such forgotten wonders as the Nicholas Brothers are worthwhile. Essential more for its affable film-nerd obsessiveness than its insights — but essential nonetheless. B+

Cult Movie Stars
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