Stephen Prince is the author of numerous books on cinema and cinema history. These books are available from his Amazon author's page.
An Introduction to Film Genres (Norton, 2014) was co-written with several of Prince's friends and colleagues and provides an introduction to the basic movie genres. The book is intended as a text for college film classes. Prince's chapters focus on three of the most important genres in American film -- the Western, the horror film and film noir. Each chapter discusses the history of the genre, the images, settings and character types that appear in the genre, the themes of the genre, and the most important directors and actors who worked in the genre.
Movies and Meaning: An Introduction to Film (Allyn & Bacon/Pearson, 2013). This introductory film textbook has been published in six editions, and it provides a comprehensive overview of film study, what filmmakers do in designing image and sound, how genres work, how viewers react to and understand cinema, and discussions and profiles of major filmmakers, trends and movements in world cinema. Copiously illustrated with frame enlargements, the chapters cover key terminology and concepts and the topics of cinema structure, cinematography, production design, acting, editing, sound design, narrative, visual effects, modes of screen reality, the cinema industry, and film theory and criticism. The book features a lively tone of voice and a writing style that is very clear and accessible.
Digital Visual Effects in Cinema: The Seduction of Reality (Rutgers UP, 2011) examines the digital transition in cinema and the new wave of visual effects that a greatly expanded digital toolbox has enabled filmmakers to create. Prince compares visual effects in the analog and digital eras in terms of the roles they play in cinema and argues that the digital era builds upon the artistic and narrative traditions that existed throughout cinema’s photographic era. This is a fairly technical book that goes into detail about the history of digital images, how they work, and how specific kinds of visual effects are created. Many high profile movies are targeted for discussion, including Avatar, Iron Man, Ratatouille, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Lord of the Rings and many others.
"An enjoyable, informative read. Highly recommended." -- Choice
Firestorm: American Film in the Age of Terrorism (Columbia UP, 2010) is one of the first close studies of the effects of the 9/11 attacks upon American cinema. Right after the attacks it was commonly predicted that Hollywood would have to change its game and stop making movies about big things blowing up. Of course, that did not happen, and this book examines the numerous ways that American film did respond to 9/11. Prince covers the big-budget studio movies and small, independent pictures, documentaries as well as fictional portraits. A lengthy chapter covers the Iraq War and the numerous documentaries and dramas that it inspired. Prince integrates film analysis with detailed and substantial discussions of the history of terrorism in the U.S. and overseas and engages in the debates that surrounded questions about the efficacy of torture as a means of gaining intelligence. A timeline of key events and films places each in context in relation to the other. This is a substantial historical study that shows the ways in which films comment upon their era as well falsifying and distorting it. In the conclusion Prince writes that “it will prove to be exceedingly difficult to get out from under the huge shadow cast on the national consciousness by September 11,” that “we cannot get out of or beyond the age of terror.”
“A rich record and accounting of the first decade of responses by both mainstream and marginal American filmmakers.” – Cineaste
“Essential” – Choice
“A remarkable achievement” – Survival
“Informative, well argued, awash in sparkling insights, and, not incidentally, quite moving.” – Thomas Doherty, author of Hollywood's Censor: Joseph I. Breen and the Production Code Administration
Kurosawa at 100 (Criterion, 2010). This lavishly illustrated book provides an overview of Akira Kurosawa's career and assesses his place in cinema and global film culture on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth. It also includes a film by film discussion of twenty-five key films that he made during the course of his career, which include samurai films, crime movies and Shakespearean adaptations. Published by the Criterion Company, the book was included in their now out-of-print deluxe box set of Kurosawa movies, entitled AK 100.
Screen Decades: Hollywood in the Eighties (Rutgers UP, 2007). This is Prince's third book on the 1980s in Hollywood, after Visions of Empire and A New Pot of Gold. It is an anthology of essays focusing on each year of the decade and key films that illuminate the zeitgeist of that era. His introduction offers a primer on studying this period and stresses the importance of avoiding clichés, such as the tendency to reduce eighties films to a set of ideological symptoms tied to the Reagan era.
The Horror Film (Rutgers UP, 2004). This edited collection of essays focuses on one of contemporary film's most popular and enduring genres. The first part of the book examines horror in the silent and classical Hollywood eras, and the second takes up horror in the contemporary period, where virtually anything can be depicted on screen and, consequently, the opportunities filmmakers take to frighten and shock audiences are much more expansive. Horror is the most protean and prolific of genres and probably the one that speaks most deeply and intimately to our experience of the world and of the dilemmas inherent in being alive. Thus it remains forever fresh and relevant.
Classical Film Violence: Designing and Regulating Brutality in Hollywood Cinema, 1930-1968 (Rutgers University Press, 2003) is the first book to examine the relationship between the evolving stylistic design of screen violence and the censorship of screen violence during the classical studio era. Prince shows that many choices about camera position, editing and blocking of action were functional responses by filmmakers to regulatory constraints. This is the first stylistic history of American screen violence grounded in industry documentation, primarily the files of the Production Code Administration.
A New Pot of Gold: Hollywood Under the Electronic Rainbow, 1980-1989 (Scribner’s, 2000, University of California Press, 2002). This is a comprehensive, very detailed history of American cinema during the eighties, and it was published as part of Scribner’s History of American Film, a larger series that covered its topic decade by decade. Today the eighties gets much blame for allegedly ruining American movies by tipping the scale from the edgy, unconventional movies of the ‘70s to what has become the blockbuster focus of today’s Hollywood. Like much conventional wisdom, this idea contains some truth and much that is misleading and unreliable. While mapping the economic changes that brought Hollywood into the domain of multinational communications companies and while profiling the business history of each major studio, Prince also emphasizes the diversity of the decade’s production. Blockbusters coexisted with challenging works by David Lynch, Oliver Stone, Spike Lee, Steven Soderbergh, and others. Understanding the eighties for American film is not a one size fits all exercise. The decade, too, gave us home video and the beginnings of a sweeping set of changes in movie viewing venues that continues into the present era.
“Prince’s book pushes us to reconceptualize the interactions of economics and ideology.” – Film Quarterly
Screening Violence (Rutgers UP, 2000). This edited collection of essays examines movie violence in terms of its design, the psychology of its appeals to viewers, and the debates about its social effects. The material draws from work in the humanities as well as the social sciences. My introductory essay, "Graphic Violence in the Cinema: Origins, Aesthetic Design, and Social Effects," maps the conceptual terrain that the book covers.
Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (Cambridge UP, 1999). This edited collection of essays offers a variety of critical perspectives on Peckinpah's most famous movie. In its day, The Wild Bunch was a ferociously violence movie that offered a commentary on the Vietnam War and a radical revisioning of the Western. Peckinpah's accomplishment perhaps is most evident in the fact that, to date, the movie has been endlessly influential but never remade.
The Warrior’s Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa (Princeton UP, 1991, 1998) is a comprehensive critical study of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, one of the giant figures in cinema and best known in the West for his samurai movies (Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Ran). Prince analyzes the films in very close visual and thematic detail and places Kurosawa and his work in the context of Japan during and after World War II. When the first edition appeared, Kurosawa was still working and, in fact, was embarking on a prolific late period of filmmaking. A subsequent revised and expanded edition of the book appeared after his death and covers his remaining films and offers an assessment of his place in movie history. Through this book, Prince was fortunate to know and become friends with Donald Richie, who did so much to promote Japanese film and filmmakers.
“An essential text about a great subject” – Choice, which named it as an Outstanding Academic Title.
"The Warrior's Camera is not only a thoughtful, stimulating and rigorous study but also a major addition to both Kurosawa and Japanese film scholarship. Its examination of the intersection of self, culture, and history is meticulously done; its extended close analysis of individual films, especially Ikiru, Yojimbo, High and Low, and Red Beard, is superbly confident."--Film Quarterly
Savage Cinema: Sam Peckinpah and the Rise of Ultraviolent Movies (University of Texas Press, 1998). Sam Peckinpah is one of the uber bad boys of American cinema. He was a roguish, renegade figure in his time, and he remains so in ours. Best known for The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs, two ultra-violent movies that were highly controversial in their day, he made a relatively small number of feature films but remains a cult figure and an influential one. Most of the existing studies of Peckinpah view him primarily in terms of Westerns and examine how he transformed the genre relative to the more staid terms of John Ford.
But examining Peckinpah’s papers, which are archived in Los Angeles, shows that he was a keen observer of late 1960s culture and participated in its various rebellions and revolutions of thought. He was a social critic, and, as a filmmaker, he turned his cameras on contemporary America even when he was making Westerns. The Western is a contemporary frame, he said, in which it is possible to talk about today.
Prince examines Peckinpah and his work in terms of the crucible provided by the social revolutions of the late ‘60s and that period’s political turmoil. Peckinpah did his best work in this era, and as its cultural energies ebbed, he went into a lengthy and protracted artistic decline. The book shows how vitally connected Peckinpah's work was to the political and social currents of sixties culture. The book’s other major theme is screen violence, and Prince examines the techniques that Peckinpah used to stylize violence and to give it aesthetic and emotional force and shows, as well, the candor and self-lacerating honesty with which Peckinpah investigated the problem of human violence, which he took as his great theme. Prince shows why Peckinpah remains a central figure in cinema today and how his work connects with issues beyond the terms provided by the Western genre.
"...an extraordinary work ...beautifully written ...Prince has recuperated Peckinpah's reputation as one of the most important artists of the postwar American cinema -- perhaps the crucial link between late classical and postmodern Hollywood." David A. Cook, author of A History of Narrative Film
Visions of Empire: Political Imagery in Contemporary American Film (Praeger, 1992). Prince's first book on 1980s Hollywood, it explores film in a social and political context by looking at movies that explicitly addressed contemporary topics. These included the new Cold War begun under the Reagan administration, the revolutions in El Salvador and Nicaragua, the Vietnam War whose depictions on film finally appeared in great number during this decade, and fearsome visions of the future in such films as Blade Runner and Robocop. An introductory chapter places movies in a general political context and traces the ways that they have so operated throughout the history of American cinema. This was Prince's second book, following the Kurosawa study, and it remains salient and timely.