Book Review: ‘Warped & Faded: Weird Wednesday and the Birth of the American Genre Film Archive’ examines a specific film nerd subculture

Every city has its film culture, and every film culture has its devotees of the weird, the wonderful, ad the out there. In their new book Warped & Faded: Weird Wednesday and the Birth of the American Genre Film Archive, Austin Film Society (and former Alamo Drafthouse) programmer Lars Nilsen (with help from many Austin film lovers) explores that particular niche in Austin, Texas.

Weird Wednesday, a standby series at The Alamo Drafthouse, has been a gateway for many to cinema’s dark and forbidden delights. B-movies, foreign films, and those you might say are so bad they are good. Nilsen was a programmer for the Drafthouse for a long run of these Wednesdays, and opens the book with a 76 page oral history of the program. The discussion features himself, Kier-La Janisse (film writer and director of Woodlands Dark & Days Bewitched, and editor of this book), Tim League (owner of the Alamo Drafthouse), and a host of others including many regulars to the events.

Following this, there is an extensive 200 page listing of every title that ever screened at Weird Wednesdays, and then 20 lovingly written tributes to filmmakers that Wierd Wednesday highlighted.

These events, and the ongoing collection of wild, wacky, and weird film prints that predicated them, led to the formation of the American Genre Film Archive, a body dedicated to preserving said prints for posterity (and future exhibition).

While far more specific a tome than I realized going in, the discussion of this niche of Austin film culture history is still fascinating. Everyone involved has a clear passion for film and the community that forms around it. The story of how the events started, with a van overloaded with unwanted film prints, is both interesting and entertaining, and it’s also just lovely to read about people doing something they love.

The selection of essays is a particular joy to read; if you were a fan of the Birth.Movies.Death magazine, or long reads on film in general, then this section was made just for you. The list of films that are now in the archive, each complete with a descriptive blurb, will certainly yield at least a few titles for your watch list, too.

It’s worth noting that the book may be a little self agrandizing –it is being published by Mondo, another a film memorabilia company that Tim League owns. However, this is still the type of book that anyone with an interest in the fine art of b-movies and shlock would like to have on their shelf.

Warped & Faded: Weird Wednesday and the Birth of the American Genre Film Archive by Lars Nilsen, and edited by Keir-La Janisse, is available to order from now.

Rating: 3/5
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