HANCOCK ON HANCOCK (hardback)
For more than sixty years John Hancock has pursued a remarkable and often tumultuous career as a writer/director/producer. From the hallucinatory horrors of Let’s Scare Jessica to Death and the gritty fantasy of Prancer to the unshakable humanity of Bang the Drum Slowly, Weeds and The Looking Glass, he has cultivated a deeply personal yet accessible cinema; one that yields a textured emotionalism and philosophical richness that belies its surface simplicity. Hancock on Hancock draws on a series of in-depth interviews conducted with the filmmaker over the course of five years, providing a candid commentary on one man’s life and work filtered through his unceasing desire to create art and tell stories.
With chapters devoted to every film he has made – including his Academy Award-nominated short Sticky My Fingers, Fleet My Feet and his anonymous contributions to the troubled Hollywood movies Wolfen and 8 Million Ways to Die – these conversations also throw a spotlight on Hancock’s lively experiences directing classic and contemporary plays Off-Broadway, as well as charting his labors on such iconic television shows as The Twilight Zone and Hill Street Blues. Additionally, he offers a harrowing account of his notorious dismissal from the blockbuster sequel Jaws 2 and shares unbuttoned recollections of collaborators like Robert De Niro, Tennessee Williams, Jean Arthur, Nick Nolte, Faye Dunaway and Dorothy Tristan.
"John Hancock's Let's Scare Jessica to Death is my favorite horror film and I'm delighted that his entire career in the cinema, theater and TV is now the subject of an in-depth study … it's a rare book about the entertainment industry that's honest about the many films that don't get made, or finished, or are finished by others—Hancock has had films taken away from him, and has come in to finish films taken away from other directors—as well as fascinating about the Hancock projects brought undiluted to fruition." - Kim Newman
Author of Nightmare Movies: A Critical History of the Horror Film (1968-1988); critic for Sight and Sound and Empire
“While versatile indie auteur John Hancock isn't primarily known as a genre director, he's responsible for crafting two enduring cult thrillers, 1971's trippy Let's Scare Jessica to Death and 2001's harrowing Suspended Animation (aka Mayhem). Author Doyle, late of the excellent Larry Cohen: The Stuff of Gods and Monsters (BearManor Media), scores the inside scoop re the making of both chillers, as well as the 1973 baseball classic Bang the Drum Slowly, an early showcase for young actors Robert De Niro and Michael Moriarty. At a generous 776 pages, Doyle and his insightful subject don't stint on the details. Hancock, who frequently works with his writer spouse Dorothy Tristan, provides many an inspirational anecdote about overcoming obstacles to get quality films on screen. Withal, a worthy companion to Larry Cohen and an instructive read in its own right”.
- Phantom Bookshelf
“HANCOCK ON HANCOCK by MIchael Doyle (BearManor Media; www.bearmanormedia.com; $38.00). One of the more underappreciated directors of his era, John Hancock created the atmospheric LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH and the sports-themed drama BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY, only to hit a major career pothole after being fired from JAWS 2. No question, any fan of Hancock's work will want to check out this insightful 750-page volume, culled from Michael Doyle's numerous, exhaustive interviews, in which Hancock discusses every imaginable aspect of his life and career. We get in-depth recollections about all of his features - reworking a horror-comedy script entitled It Drinks Hippie Blood into LET'S SCARE JESSICA, Robert De Niro and Michael Moriarty's differing styles on BANG THE DRUM, and how Hancock's decidedly somber and brutal vision for JAWS 2 clashed with the studio's commercial goals - and it overflows with fascinating info, including Hancock's early, NYC theatre work; having CALIFORNIA DREAMING re-cut by AIP; the journey to get WEEDS to the screen; dream projects that never came to fruition (e.g. an adaptation of Joseph Heller's Something Happened); helping to salvage Michael Wadleigh's WOLFEN and Hal Ashby's 8 MILLION WAYS TO DIE; plus hundreds of KMart commercials in between stalled film projects. Personal moments are also laced throughout, involving Hancock's wife and work-collaborator Dorothy Tristan, the heartbreaking loss of their Malibu home due to wildfires and moving to Indiana. Filled with warm memories and humorous anecdotes about the people he worked with along the way, this is an outstanding tribute to John Hancock's artistic legacy, as well as an enlightening glimpse into the highs and lows of working within the Hollywood studio system”.
- Shock Cinema