Hollywood East
 By Stefan Hammond
$15.00 - Softcover
260 Pages

In 1996 Stefan Hammond along with co-author Mike Wilkins wrote one of the very best books on HK film – Sex and Zen & A Bullet in the Head. It was a fabulous and enthusiastic introduction to the wonder of HK cinema and it covered a number of the different genres – heroic bloodshed, fantasy, girls with guns, martial arts and much more.

Now four years later, Hammond returns with Hollywood East and to some degree it picks up where Sex and Zen left off. First, though I have to comment on the book cover. Any book with a picture of Almen Wong and Ellen Chan on it is nearly impossible not to like! The book is again written in Hammond’s spirited and humorous style (though a few of the chapters are contributions from other authors) that is always a pleasure to read – but the main dilemma for the book is that one senses that the cupboard is a bit bare. So much territory was covered in Sex and Zen and there sadly has not been a plethora of interesting films since 1996 for Hammond to discuss.

This forces the book to become a bit of a hodgepodge with no discernable theme running through it. Some of the material explores recent films – the Milkyway chapter is welcome, some Category III films, a few horror films and some terrific recent cops and robbers films. On the other hand much of the book re-ploughs material from Sex and Zen – Jackie Chan, John Woo (written by Michael Bliss) and Jet Li (written by Wade Major) have lengthy sections devoted to them. Another chapter delves into the work of Wong Kar Wai (written by Jeremy Hansen) that I quite enjoyed while the chapter on kung fu films was much too short too be of much value. As a few people have pointed out, one odd omission from either book is a discussion of the UFO films that were very influential in the mid-90s. In fact, dramatic films in general get short shrift from Hammond.

I should also mention the valuable section that is included on where to purchase HK films and movie souvenirs in Hong Kong and an excellent essay from Tim Youngs on where to catch a film in a movie theater.

For the most part all the sections are informative and interesting, but the book doesn’t hold together as well as Sex and Zen does and it does not exhilarate and inspire the reader in the same way. Nevertheless, this is an excellent and valuable addition to the HK film catalog.