As a child of the 90s, I practically grew up in the local video rental store. I make no secret that it was a profoundly formative part of my adolescent experience, which ultimately helped to determine who I would become as an adult. I look back on the time that I spent there fondly and credit it as being the earliest source for my ongoing education in film. Anyone who is familiar with my work knows that this is a drum that I beat often – but can you really blame me for that? It was where my love of the horror genre first began to take shape and where I was also introduced to most of my favorite films. It was there that I discovered the names of numerous great directors, whose terrifying inventions would influence me to pursue a life in horror. Names like Wes Craven, John Carpenter, George A. Romero, Dario Argento, and, of course, Jeff Lieberman.
In my opinion, Lieberman is criminally underappreciated for his contributions to genre film. While it is unfair, this is actually quite a common phenomenon that happens all the time within our popular culture. Sadly, he is just one of the many talented filmmakers who have managed to fall to the wayside of cinema history. It is a real tragedy that this is the case, but it is what it is. While Lieberman is responsible for a series of unique pictures that have been released over the last five decades, he is likely the most well-known for writing and directing the cult-classic horror films Squirm (1976) and Just Before Dawn (1981).
Jeff Lieberman: Death, Worms, and LSD
If you couldn’t tell, I am a long-time fan of Lieberman’s work. His movies used to grace the aisles of my aforementioned, beloved video store. As such, I’ve seen most of his feature filmography, at one time or another. Truth be told, even all these years later, those films still carry a lot of nostalgic value for me. You can say that I am a bit biased due to this – but I don’t care. The man has had as much an impact on my tastes in cinema as any other established director in the genre has. In fact, one of the first reviews that I ever did was for his 2004 horror film Satan’s Little Helper. I love that shit. Perhaps this is the reason why I got so excited when I heard about the release of his new book.
Day of the Living Me: Adventures of a Subversive Cult Filmmaker from the Golden Age is an abridged account of Jeff Lieberman’s career in the movie industry. The book is written in a series of short segments, that are – for the most part – presented to the reader in chronological order. It features a wide range of fascinating stories and is simultaneously both informative and entertaining. Now, I know what some of you may be thinking, but don’t let the fact that it is basically a memoir scare you away from reading it. While it is non-fiction, it is the farthest thing from being dry. Seriously, there is a lot of wild stuff in there.
The Devil is in the Details
You can say whatever you will about Lieberman and his films, but one thing about the man stands as being indisputable – he has led an impressive life. As such, his story makes for a truly captivating read. It features several anecdotes about iconic figures from both cinema and beyond, some of which you would never expect it to. The likes of Tippi Hedren, George Burns, Red Buttons, and even John Lennon all make appearances. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, so I won’t say too much more about that. You’ll just have to check it out for yourself. It is spectacular, though, to say the very least. I would even go so far as to state that, sometimes, it’s hard to believe all of what he says could possibly be true. But that is where the pictures come in to play. The book has a lot of pictures. They serve as punctuation for his tales, appearing at the end of each chapter, but also validate every one of his claims with undeniable proof. They make an already good thing just that much better.
From a technical standpoint, Day of the Living Me is a testament to Lieberman’s prowess as a writer. The book has the perfect pacing and is incredibly easy to read. The short story format makes it an excellent selection for casual perusing, but it is also a pleasure to read straight through – should you decide to do so. Although it is non-fiction, it doesn’t come off that way in terms of its narrative. It is really the best of both worlds, in that sense. By the time it’s over, you really feel like you know the guy on a personal level.
Overall, I give Jeff Lieberman’s Day of the Living Me: Adventures of a Subversive Cult Filmmaker from the Golden Age a solid five out of five on the Cthulhu scale. It is an outstanding book. Not only is it exemplary in its content, but it is also a superb character study of the author, himself. I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the world of cult cinema. Even if you aren’t well-versed in Lieberman’s catalog of work, I urge you to give it a chance – you can thank me for my suggestion later.(5 / 5)
Interested in picking up your own copy of Jeff Lieberman’s new book? If you are, then today’s your lucky day – it is now available for purchase, here.
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