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Review of Low Budget Hell by Jack McMichael Martin on

This book is a note from the underground with perfect pitch: its language is uncannily faithful to its time and place. On one level, it is about people and an art form “on the edge,” in a penniless state of wonder, of emerging, of “making it” – or trying to – and of paying the bills.

But it is also, for me, a parable of human labor – all the way from Adam, on to the present… but especially of labor in America in the late twentieth century, with its edge of desperation, its closing factories and constricted hopes – described from within, with utter fidelity. Though it’s subtitled “making underground movies with John Waters,” it isn’t Waters’ book, so much as it is Maier’s.

The focus is not on what appears on the screen, so much as on the reality of what lies behind, and beneath it, in “the shadows” (in every sense) of the production. Bob Maier was Waters’ apprentice, assistant, and friend, who worked his way through every stage in the process to become production manager.

It was a toilsome way… It is his story, and, at once, that of all the invisible work everywhere that holds up the visible; and because of this, it now belongs to all of us, and to the life of our country.




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