Warren Clements writes (April 4, 2014):
How to Get to Heaven and Back, a subject I’ve been gnawing at for years, is almost off to the printers. It’s a 144-page, 5-by-8-inch movie book, about films in which people die, go to Heaven, Hell or Purgatory/Limbo, and return to Earth. (Think of Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Heaven Can Wait, A Matter of Life and Death and Defending Your Life. Not to mention Oh! Heavenly Dog and Little Nicky.)
Films about the Grim Reaper, God or Satan visiting Earth, resurrection (though not demonic possession) and angels made the cut, but films about vampires (undead), zombies and mummies (immortal) didn’t. Ghost films fill a lengthy chapter, but honestly, you could write a ten-volume series and still not cover all of them. To complicate matters, it’s not always clear whether particular ghosts have gone to Heaven or Hell and returned, or whether they have stayed on Earth to do their ghostly business. I ducked the issue.
There is a brief bibliography in the book, but many more titles could have been included. In the interest of completeness, I’ll paste them here. Thanks to YouTube, a miraculous way of finding material that is otherwise unavailable. (I would rather pay the copyright owners for a DVD of You Never Can Tell than see it piecemeal on the Web, but the option wasn’t there.) I got ideas from the Toronto International Film Festival program books, Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and other film guides listed below. The AFI video series The Directors gave me lines from Terry Gilliam. Other aids:
The Best Old Movies for Families, by Ty Burr (2007, Anchor Books)
Doug Pratt’s DVD-Video Guide, by Douglas Pratt (as well as his DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter, a labour of love that ran for years and from which the guide was compiled)
Blaxploitation Cinema, by Josiah Howard, although I ended up not focusing on demonic-possession films (Abby) or vampire films (Blacula).
Chicks on Film, by Gabrielle Cosgriff, Anne Reifenberg and Cynthia Thomas (Avon Books, 1998)
Films in Review, by John Esposito
From Cyd Charisse to Psycho, by Dale Thomajan (1992, Walker & Co.)
Halliwell’s Hundred, by Leslie Halliwell (1984, Paladin Books), source of the Halliwell quote in How to Get to Heaven and Back.
The Handbook series (print-on-demand monographs from Tebbo), including The Cate Blanchett Handbook (Debra Farber), The Jeff Bridges Handbook (Karen Reynoso), The Julia Roberts Handbook (Ellen Woolsey) and The Nicole Kidman Handbook (sorry, no record of author)
The Hollywood Book of Love, by James Robert Parish
Home Movies: Tales from the Canadian Film World, by Martin Knelman (1987, Key Porter Books)
Hong Kong Babylon: An Insider’s Guide to the Hollywood of the East, by Frederic Dannen and Barry Long (1997), although I scaled back the section on ghost films (A Chinese Ghost Story, A Chinese Erotic Ghost Story)
If You’re Talking to Me, Your Career Must Be in Trouble, by Joe Queenan (1994, Hyperion)
Ken and Em, by Ian Shuttleworth (1994), source of the note about turning colour to black-and-white in Kenneth Branagh’s Dead Again
Levinson on Levinson, ed. David Thompson (a book of interviews with Barry Levinson)
(More Than) 20 Questions About Angels I Can’t Answer, an article by Lynda Barry in Self magazine (December, 1997)
The Movie Guide, by James Pallot (1995 ed.)
The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies (1999, Avon Books)
The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood’s Worst, by John Wilson (2005). Wilson founded the Golden Raspberry Awards, commonly called the Razzies.
The Pocket Essential John Carpenter, by Colin Odell and Michelle La Blanc (2001, Pocket Essentials)
The Pocket Essential Steven Spielberg, by James Clarke (Pocket Essentials)
The Psychotronic Video Guide, by Michael J. Weldon (1996, St. Martin’s Griffin)
The Rough Guide to Horror Movies, by Alan Jones (2005, Rough Guides)
The Rough Guide to Kids’ Movies, by Paul Simpson (2004, Rough Guides)
Talking Pictures: With the People Who Made Them, by Sylvia Shorris and Marion Abbott (1994)
Total Film magazine’s 50 Greatest Interviews
The VideoHound series of books from Visible Ink Press, especially VideoHound’s Video Premieres (Mike Mayo), VideoHound’s World Cinema (Elliot Wilhelm), VideoHound’s Sci-Fi Experience, VideoHound’s Epics (Glenn Hopp) and VideoHound’s Horror Show (Mike Mayo).
Video Trash and Treasures II, by L.A. Morse (1990, HarperCollins Publishers)
Your Movie Sucks, by Roger Ebert (2007)