Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My Monster Madness & the Book that Started It All!

"A Pictorial History of Horror Movies" by Denis Gifford
Review by T. Reed - 2009

In 1973 Denis Gifford, a British author who wrote several books on the culture and genre of Horror and SciFi, published "The Pictorial History of Horror Movies"( © 1973/74 - Hamlyn).
I received this book as a gift as a kid less than 10 years old, and for years I carried this around , like a sacred tome, studying every word and picture .
From the original dust jacket picture one might get the mistaken impression that this was a book primarily featuring Universal's Monsters, but further inspection proves it to be far more. Most of those dust covers don't exist any more, like mine, they disintegrated. I actually recovered my copy from my parents house over 20 years later, showing the incredible wear and tear I put this thing through.
While most of the photographs in the book are black and white on cheap paper that easily yellowed, there are a few nice full page color glossies, one, most notably a full page picture from a rare and difficult to find film starring Boris Karloff called "The Sorcerers" (Tigon 1967).
The black and whites are easily every bit as fascinating, offering a good blend of images from many classic films as well as a host of rare and seldom seen images, such as pictures from Georges Melies silent films done at the edge of the 19th century, featuring amazingly well crafted demons, devils, skeletons, and assorted fantastical creatures and events, (including one of the first cinematographic ventures to to the Moon). Also striking were pictures from Terror in the Sun (Ungar 1961), and some of the Asian titles very few outside of Japan were seeing i.e. "The Snake Girl and the Silver Haired Witch" , Living Skeleton (Schochiku 1968), and "Horror of Malformed Men" (Toei 1969).
But beyond the awesome pictorial record, there are tidbits of information and very cool and obscure facts about many of the movies and artists we are all familiar with, as well as the many of the less familiar. From Melies to Poe, from "Fiend Without a Face" to the "Mad Doctor of Blood Island" and from all across the World, Denis Gifford presented an intoxicating look into the heart of the Beast that is the Art of Horror and SciFi film-making. To my knowledge, this book is no longer in print but can still be obtained as a used book via Amazon.

T. Reed - TAO X Productions - Nightmare Sound laboratory

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