Will be out of town a couple of days so no Ivy versus Gata pages although I may post some short VielsDen Keep chapters on the ol' laptop. Seeing out of state friends as well as some 'on the road' thinking..traveling up and down the Northeast corridor is a nice time to reflect and think about things..trying to implement some of the things I have been trying to do since 2008..when I first started on DA and also started my career at the hospital I work at.
a Short Review
A Pictorial History of Horror Movies
Dennis Gifford 1973
I found this book in an old box full of books some of which were my late girlfriend's. I think I bought this at a long gone used bookstore back in 2002 but Im not entirely sure. This is quite an extensive historical book by a British author with many pictures and filled with alot of information that even I , a major classic horror geek, was not aware of.
This was published in 1973, the year of my birth and so the gory 'modern horror' genre is not quite a movement yet. Gifford is one of those old school horror critics, the ones who thought Hammer films were too gruesome and racy and instead were totally enraptured by the classic Universal horrors of the 30's and 40's. Well maybe this is too generalized on my part, he acknowledges the silliness of the 40's Universal films while admitting the 50's early Hammer efforts were noteworthy. He also has that dry British wit which comes off in his writing which I enjoy, even when being less than enthusiastic about a particular film he is never crass or insulting.
The real interest to me is his extensive covering of the early silent films..When I mean early I am talking George Melies early in the late 1800's..when silent films were three minutes long and shot on one stage like a play. Melies was quite an innovator and from the very beginning the fantastical was a part of cinema.
Its interesting how the French were the innovators of visual horror between the gory Grand Guignol plays(many influenced by American Edgar Allen Poe) and early short silent films (already covering the fantastic like Mummies, killer apes, ghosts and Satan himself). The torch passes of course to the Germans who made expressionist shadow filled horror films like no other after the horror of the Great War. The fantasy of before giving way to the bleak horror of a meaningless and deceptive world with themes of insanity and corruption throughout.
The author who is English makes a great observation about his home country being the natural potential home of horror cinema but not really fulfilling that role until well after the French, Germans and Americans. The home of bloody Shakespeare plays and the ghost stories of Algernon Blackwood was quite conservative towards horror..outright banning and cutting and renaming many of the imports.
Special mention is made of classic preHammer British horror like the groundbreaking 'Dead of Night' (1945), the first horror anthology (multiple separate stories in one film) and the 30's films starring Todd Slaughter (one of them a film version of Sweeney Todd). Another great observation by the author is the sheer number of British actors and directors who were part of the Universal stable in America and the irony of them having to go abroad to seek fame. The Universal films joke of the central European fictional countries with people wearing lederhosen and speaking in cockney accents is spot on and quite amusing.
I am a huge Hammer films fan and I enjoy their 70's films as well for the sheer audacity and diversity they were going for to compete with the changing times, so I don't agree with the author on all his observations but regardless this is a gem of a book. A great resource and most importantly jam packed with photo after photo.
He also makes the ultimate observation which stands true today and resonates with me. Of all the genres of film, classic horror films are the rare ones that actually seem to get finer with age.
One has to also be aged somewhat and see the passing of time themselves to see the immortality inherent in cinema..
the most basic primal drive of humankind is fear and horror cinema was there from the beginning and in the future, whatever this godforsaken world turns into, it will still be there long after other genres are gone.