Modern gen­re his­to­ry dic­tates that the inter­net replaced the ‘zine.  To a large extent that is true but that didn’t kill the fond­ness that hor­ror and exploita­tion fans have for the ‘zine for­mat.  Cinema Sewer car­ried the ban­ner for this for­mat dur­ing its lean years, clev­er­ly mix­ing it with the comic book, and recent years have seen a print resur­gence for clas­sic zines (Cashiers Du Cinemart, Liquid Cheese) as well as new ones (Weng’s Chop).  There was even a recent his­to­ry of the hor­ror zine in Xerox Ferox.

Sheer Filth arrives just in time to cap­i­tal­ize on this resur­gence, offer­ing a time­ly refresh­er on how the fan com­mu­ni­ty spread knowl­edge and enthu­si­asm before the advent of the World Wide Web.  It com­piles an array of arti­cles and reviews from the tit­u­lar ‘zine, a U.K.-based pub­li­ca­tion from the late ‘80s/early ‘90s that drew its inspi­ra­tion from the D.I.Y. xerox rev­o­lu­tion hap­pen­ing across the Atlantic but put its own spin on the for­mat.

SheerFil-covSaid ‘zine was the brain­child of U.K. writer David Flint, who cur­rent­ly runs the Strange Things Are Happening web­site, and incor­po­rat­ed the tal­ents of a group of like-mind­ed writ­ers who would go on to impor­tant things in the U.K. genre/underground scene.  Among the con­trib­u­tors here are Cathal Tohill, co-writer of the excel­lent for­eign gen­re film study Immortal Tales, critic/author David Slater and future Headpress hon­cho David Kerekes.

The result­ing read­ing finds its own inter­est­ing stretch of ground between schol­ar­ship and sleaze-lov­ing fun.  A pro­file and inter­view for David Friedman get the book off to a great start, both writ­ten in a fun yet well-researched style that sets the tone for what fol­lows.  Reliable inter­view sub­jects like Herschell Gordon Lewis and Johnny Legend make spirit­ed appear­ances here.  That said, the most inter­est­ing inter­views might be the more-English cen­tric sub­jects like U.K. nude pin­up queen Pamela Green, pornog­ra­pher and sex­u­al activist Tuppy Owens and screen­writer turned sex­ploita­tion schol­ar David McGillivray.

Sheer Filth also includes a vari­ety of in-depth film reviews, includ­ing impas­sioned trea­tis­es on Orgy Of The Dead and Horror Of Party Beach.  There’s a sur­pris­ing­ly thought­ful appraisal of Salon Kitty that focus­es on how it uses its extreme con­tent to por­tray its opin­ion of the Nazi régime and a neg­a­tive take on Behind The Green Door, which is usu­al­ly con­sid­ered a clas­sic of adult film­mak­ing.

Other film-relat­ed high­lights include detailed explo­rations of a few Cicciolina porn videos, which show just how art­sy and trans­gres­sive European adult film­mak­ing can be from its American coun­ter­part.  Along sim­i­lar lines the short-form book and film reviews that were a sta­ple of any self-respect­ing ‘zine get exten­sive sec­tions here, cov­er­ing mate­ri­al of all types.  Since its authors were also inter­est­ed in under­ground cul­ture, Sheer Filth also incor­po­rates cov­er­age of SPK’s infa­mous Despair video and Coil.  The best piece in this area is a thumb­nail his­to­ry of extreme music penned by Phil Taylor.

However, the most inter­est­ing piece in the entire book might be a jour­nal­is­tic piece of the ban­ning of a DeSade nov­el in England, an ugly effort that was spear­head­ed by an unlike­ly mar­riage of intel­lec­tu­al crit­ics and moral-watch­dog types. Flint wrote this piece him­self: he has chron­i­cled the moral­is­tic, oft hyp­o­crit­i­cal nature of U.K. cen­sors for decades and he explores the mud­dle-head­ed think­ing and moti­va­tions behind the ban in a smart, inci­sive way.  Railing again­st cen­sor­ship is com­mon in the gen­re film zine world but Flint does it with an impres­sive elo­quence here.

Sheer Filth is round­ed out by a zineog­ra­phy of all the issues it was drawn from, com­plete with a table of con­tents for each issue, and a brief set of updates on what has hap­pened to the peo­ple and sub­jects it deals with since the zine was pub­lished.  All in all, this col­lec­tion offers a heady brew of sleaze schol­ar­ship, enlivened by the writ­ing tal­ent of the par­tic­i­pants and a cer­tain gal­lows wit that comes nat­u­ral­ly to U.K. gen­re fans accus­tomed to deal­ing with the BBFC and Mary Whitehouse.  Anyone inter­est­ed in gen­re ‘zine cul­ture will find it worth read­ing.