Friday, April 1, 2011

Book Review: Swedish Sensationfilms: A Clandestine History of Sex, Thrillers, and Kicker Cinema by Daniel Ekeroth

One of the great things about doing this blog, besides constant exposure to the raucous and bawdy adventures of my corpulent, concupiscent compadre in crime, The Duke of DVD, is the opportunity it has afforded me to delve into the dark recesses of world cinema. In the years since we started this project, the Duke and I have discovered the wonders of Indonesian Black Magic, Canadian Canniblism, Brazilian batshittery and even Finnish sexploitation featuring lustful Laplanders. And still there remains so much to be uncovered, so much out there awaiting experience, the task can be a little daunting. Without the hand of a dark deity guiding one's steps to the altars of the Mad, Forgotten Gods we worship here at MMMMMovies, one might swim through oceans of cinematic sludge before alighting on a paradisaical beach of wonderment.

Luckily for you, dear readers--and indeed, for us all--one such Dark Deity has sprung from the Scandinavian hinterlands to offer said guidance. In earthly form he goes by the name Daniel Ekeroth, and his tome of knowledge, Swedish Sensationsfilms: A Clandestine History of Sex, Thrillers, and Kicker Cinema, is a book that should be on the shelves of mad movie fans the world over. With 200+ reviews of Swedish exploitation films from the 1950s through the 1980s, Ekeroth gives readers an encyclopedic tour of the maddest the Swedes have to offer, and also paints a nostalgic picture of a bygone time in international filmmaking when anything went--and when it did, usually went through Stockholm.

(Note: Bazillion Points Publishing provided a copy of this book to MMMMMovies for review purposes.)

Ekeroth has an engaging, conversational writing style, both in the reviews and in his wonderful introduction, in which he traces the origins of the "Sensationsfilms" genre as a reaction against the stringent censorship Sweden's homegrown product was subjected to. If you know nothing about Swedish culture and history, don't worry--Ekeroth broadly but helpfully sketches the Swedish cultural mindset circa 1950 and how it changed over time, a change documented by the sensationsfilms and later influenced by them. He also traces his own personal history, growing up in the most frenzied era of sensationsfilms (the 70s, of course) and how he, like his country's filmmaking heritage, was shaped by their peculiar and often insane forms of excess.

The reviews themselves are organized alphabetically, none more than a page long but full of concise synopses, interesting facts, critical reactions, and often witty authorial asides. Ekeroth sees the sensationfilm as a big tent concept, including sleaze merchants like Joe Sarno (whose sensationsfilm Vampire Ecstasy is reviewed on MMMMMovies here), and Bo A. Vibenius (Thriller: A Cruel Picture) as well as acknowledged masters like Ingmar Bergman. (Bergman's 1960 film The Vigin Spring [Jungfrukällan] was of course the inspiration for Last House on the Left and its many grindhouse imitators; and Ekeroth also reckons it includes the first ever onscreen vomiting in cinema history! Take that, Mr. DeMille!)

The types of films run the gamut from the sexy (Kärlekens språk, 1969) to the comedic (Här kommer bärsärkarna, 1965) to the violent (Stockholmsnatt, 1987) to the downright baffling (Breaking Point, 1975). Through it all, the author displays an affection for the mad and an adherence to the Doctrine of the Glorious Failure that marks him as a kindred soul to your ever-lovin' Vicar. Which I like.

In his afterword, "A World Without Sensationsfilms," Ekeroth narrates the downfall of the genre in the 90s, though he closes with a little hope for the future thanks to some modern blockbusters with sensationsfilms sensibilities--most notably Let the Right One In and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. But whether a new golden age is dawning in Sweden or not, the author makes a strong argument for mad movie gluttons everywhere to go in search of the obscure and insane movies he's just lovingly detailed. And with his ultra-helpful appendix, 20 Sensationsfilms to See Before You Die, he even provides a shopping list to start from!

Also included is a detailed interview with the Queen of Sensationsfilms Christina Lindberg, brief biographical sketches of some of the most important actors and directors in the genre, and a glossary of Swedish cultural terms that is nothing short of hilarious. Cover to cover, a wonderful read, and 3 Literary Thumbs Up!

Swedish Sensationfilms: A Clandestine History of Sex, Thrillers, and Kicker Cinema is available from Bazillion Points (publishers),, and god knows where else. A worthy addition to your library, and worth every penny!

Nota bene: if you're into extreme metal as well as extreme movies, you might also check out Ekeroth's first book, Swedish Death Metal--a subject about which he's no doubt as passionate and knowedgeable. It's on the Vicar's wishlist, for sure.


dfordoom said...

I'll definitely be adding that book to my shopping list.

Karswell said...

looks like a must read for sure! thanks for the heads up!

Lazarus Lupin said...

Thanks I can see I'll need to make room on the shelf for this baby!!

Lazarus Lupin
art and review

db said...

Ordered this a few days ago off Robin's suggestion: can't wait! Between this and Stephen Thrower's upcoming Franco book I expect to have a whole new list of films to hunt up...

Word verification: coped, or when you and your middle school buddies all go on in a moped, leading to a series of fights ending only when Jimmy rolls the moped after trying some Viva Knievel jazz on his halfpipe.

dfordoom said...

db, I didn't know about the Stephen Thrower book on Franco. I'll definitely be buying that one!

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