In This Exciting Issue!

February 16th, 2021 by Max Allan Collins

One of the small pleasures denied me during this pandemic, where Barb and I have been largely sheltering in place for almost a year now, is going to Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million to check out the new magazines.

But magazines have been a stubbornly dying breed for some time, and my favorites – most dealing with B-movies – have been hit hard. A particularly tough loss to take comes as a double hit – the writer/editor/publisher behind VideoScope, Joe Kane, has died.

And with him has gone his wonderful magazine.

Cover of VideoScope magazine

VideoScope was among the last of a handful of magazines combining reviews of what a prior dead magazine called psychotronic movies with news, articles and interviews. I never met Joe, but we exchanged many e-mails and I was an occasional contributor to the magazine. He was a consistent booster of my films and, when he was writing for the New York Daily News, reviewed both Mommy movies generously.

I looked forward to receiving VideoScope in the mail the way I used to (in my high school years) look forward to snagging my father’s gift subscription copy to Playboy before he got home from work. Of course Playboy – like my father – is gone now, but perhaps that magazine’s demise has to do not just with changing times, but the reality that certain magazines – yes, like the otherwise dissimilar VideoScope – were so much extensions of their creators/editors that they could not survive their absence. The fate awaiting Hustler, now that Larry Flynt is gone, is likely the same.

I dealt with a Flynt-like editor of the Hustler-like Climax magazine in Quarry’s Climax, the sexual content of which offended some readers – usually the same readers who weren’t offended by the violence. And I revisit aspects of that story in the forthcoming Quarry’s Blood. I liked Flynt’s Hustler, which had an outrageous sense of humor and a unique combination of blue-collar sensibility and left-wing politics (only “Asshole of the Month” could do a Tucker Carlson justice). The interviews and articles were often of interest as well (I will stop short of defending myself by saying, “I read Hustler for the articles,” even if it is sort of true – but I doubt I’ll be picking it up again).

Among the more respectable magazines I have looked forward to are two devoted to Old West history/pop culture, True West and Wild West. Both remain excellent and the former is the work of Stuart Rosebrook, a friend of mine who I’ve watched in recent years rise to the position of editor (the magazine’s publisher and creative guiding hand is the great artist/writer, Bob Boze Bell). Stuart Rosebrook’s screenwriter father Jeb wrote the classic “modern” western, Junior Bonner and much else (including The Waltons and The Yellow Rose on TV, The Black Hole feature film and The Gambler TV movies); when Stuart was living in Iowa City, he arranged for me to meet his visiting dad, which was an honor and a thrill.

Shock Cinema cover

With VideoScope gone, only a few stalwart defenders of the psychotronic side of cinema remain. A standout is Steven Puchalski’s Shock Cinema, which combines in-depth interviews with actors and filmmakers with reviews of obscure movies, Blu-rays/DVDs, and books. It has the same kind of fannish yet professional touch as Joe Kane’s VideoScope but with its own distinctive spin. The current issue is typical, featuring incredible interviews with actors Candy Clark (American Graffitti), Veronica Cartwright (Alien), Robert Wuhl (Arli$$), and director Jack Hill (Switchblade Sisters). A similar survivor is Darryl Mazeski’s Screem, another newsstand survivor. Like Shock Cinema and the now-lamented VideoScope, Screem has a personal touch and its own look and feel.

A slicker classic cinema magazine that somehow endures is the UK’s Cinema Retro, with incredible in-depth articles, wonderful reviews, and contributions by my pal Raymond Benson. Every issue is a feast, and occasionally they do a special issue devoted to a single classic film, with the emphasis on the ‘60s and ‘70s.

But these baby-boomer delights are a dying breed, as are magazines themselves, I fear.

Among the first things I did when it became clear we’d be sheltering in place until a vaccine arrived (and we still are waiting, Barb and I, for our shots) was to subscribe to all of the above and a few other magazines. But the joy of going to the magazine section of a book store, to see if a new issue of a favorite periodical is on the stands, is among the small yet keenly felt losses of this pandemic.

Joe Kane, who called himself the Phantom of the Movies, is a loss particularly keenly felt. So are the many magazines we have all loved…and taken for granted.

* * *

Here’s my introduction to the just-published IAMTW tie-in anthology, Turning the Tied. (Kindle link)

I also discussed tie-in writing in the forthcoming MWA, Lee Child-edited mystery writing handbook.


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7 Responses to “In This Exciting Issue!”

  1. Neal Alhadeff says:

    Great post.

    Interestingly, I also subscribed to a bunch of paper-based magazines. I had moved towards electronic subscriptions, but somehow, being shut in made feel a need for magazines I can hold and fold.

  2. Tim Field says:

    I’m a big fan of smaller circulation specialty magazines – after all, what got me interested in one Max Allan Collins was Don Thompson’s rave review of True Detective in The Comics Buyer’s Guide in the early 1980’s. (I recall Thompson mentioning the novel a few other times because he liked it so much).

  3. Mike Gold says:

    Yeah, I miss these magazines as well. These days too many people disrespect creative sleaze. Damn, cockroach capitalism just ain’t what it used to be.

  4. Ed Morrissey says:

    Loved VIDEOSCOPE & am sorry to see it ( and Mr. Kane) go. At least SHOCK CINEMA is still around.

    One mag I discovered during the pandemic last year was BARE BONES, which focuses on cult films, pulps, mystery digest magazines of the 50s, movie novelizations (they did one on the Planet of the Apes series), and little known works by Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, etc. It goes all over the place & is a lot of fun. Here’s a link to the current (fifth) issue:

    I am also grateful for Two Morrows’ ALTER EGO, BACK ISSUE, COMIC BOOK CREATOR & RETROFAN mags during this period. You can’t have too much pop culture coverage!

  5. Nancy Naglin says:

    Thanks for remembering Joe Kane, my partner and husband, with such appreciation and affection.

  6. Jeff Elsom says:

    I love paper magazines, and only read real books! No E books for me! If you like horror films, have you tried the “DarkSide Magazine” from here in England? It is excellent! All the best. Jeff Elsom

  7. Dan Collins says:

    I agree with you on Hustler but the pictorials were just to gross for my taste.