Books of the Year: Cinema

These behind-the-scenes revelations have real bite
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The Independent Culture

Having sat through the last Harry Potter movie in utter mystification, I realised that the star of the films is the production design, and Harry Potter Film Wizardry (Bantam, £25) comes directly from the creative team. It's visually sumptuous, filled with fun gimmicks and cut-outs, and acts as a guide to the series as well as the production challenges. My one cavil is that it stops short of the current film and feels a tad premature.

Now that the Hammer studio is back in business, The Art of Hammer (Titan, £24.99), by Marcus Hearn, provides a European round-up of their greatest cheesecake'n'fangs posters, from Don't Panic Chaps!, featuring a model in the world's most gravity-defying bra, to Taste the Blood of Dracula, with its slogan "Drink a Pint of Blood a Day". The ingenious posters were often created first, so the artists' ideas were incorporated into the screenplays.

The Hairspray director John Waters proves he is still delightfully disgraceful in a guide to his Role Models (Beautiful Books, £15.99), from Johnny Mathis to Lady Zorro. More shocking is his obsession with one of the Sharon Tate murderers, which developed after he noted that the arrested hippies looked just like his own friends. We get the expected chapters on extreme porn and cult leadership, but also on Waters' love of reading and fashion. "My look for the last 20 years has been 'disaster at the dry cleaners'," he says, showing that his quirky nature extends both inwards and outwards.

Maurice Micklewhite of the Elephant and Castle has had a lot of biographies, but The Elephant to Hollywood (Hodder & Stoughton, £20) is Sir Michael Caine's official autobiography, and it's the business. When the director Sidney Furie made The Ipcress File, deliberately distancing Harry Palmer from James Bond, a movie executive sent the following (cleaned-up) cable: "Dump Caine's spectacles and make the girl cook the meal - he's coming across as homosexual." They didn't much care for Caine's culinary skill of breaking two eggs with one hand, either, which gives a good clue as to why Hollywood gets so much so wrong.

As well as all the expected career highlights, there are plenty of terrific personal anecdotes, including honest- sounding tales of Caine's life with his wife, Shakira, the different lifestyles of LA and London, the problematic "twilight" years of the early 1990s, and a sense that Caine genuinely loves and understands movies. It's my film book of the year.

You expect shocks in biographies of movie stars, and here's one which includes madness, murder, suicide and odd sexual arrangements. What you don't expect is that it's about Margaret Rutherford, the doyenne of matronly British humour. Which makes Margaret Rutherford: Dreadnought with Good Manners (Aurum, £8.99) by Andy Merriman an eccentric, delightful surprise. So, too, is Do You Think That's Wise? The Life of John Le Mesurier by Graham McCann (Aurum, £18.99), which details the sad and tangled times of the languorous Sergeant Wilson, featuring three marriages, infidelity, alcoholism and his wife Hattie Jacques (left, with Le Mesurier) moving her lover into the couple's home. The actor's relationship with Tony Hancock was also complicated after the doomed comic slept with his third wife.

By comparison, many modern biographies make pallid, unexciting reading. Danny Dyer: Straight Up (Century, £18.99) is like having an extended conversation with the bloke who built your patio, and is about as enlightening.

Instead, satisfy your inner geek with Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties by Bill Warren (McFarland, £87.95), the hugest, grandest and certainly heaviest sci-fi study ever undertaken, featuring giant bats, moths, moles, aliens and the Cucumber Monster. You know you want it.