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From the earliest days of cinema, visions of blood-thirsty vampires, musty mummies, fanged wolf men, invisible men, insane phantoms and bolt-necked patchwork monstrosities have stalked, stomped, crept and lurched their way across popular consciousness. In this book we journey back to the very start, when the silver screen was silent and the horrors were presented in flickering black and white. Revisit the days when the names of Lugosi, Karloff, Lorre and Chaney ruled the cinemas, and when the myths and legends of iconic monsters were created and developed...
From Telos, the publishers of cult TV and film books, comes this new factual horror tome. As with Zombiemania and A Vault of Horror, Silver Scream: Vol 1 is well-presented and printed on high-quality white paper with some nice photos. The writer, Steven Warren Hill, began with over a hundred films for study, but whittled it down to 80 to keep it in line with the aforementioned two books. Having said that, he concentrates on only a manageable half of that amount in the first volume, reluctantly sacrificing a few genre cross-overs, such as King Kong, which aren't horror in the strictest sense. Selecting his first period carefully, he begins with 1920's The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, and finishes with The Thing From Another World in the forthcoming Volume 2 - a suitable cut-off point which would then enter the era of Science Fiction monster movies.
These studies are categorised into several uniformly-titled sections, such as Plot, Highlights and Memorable Quotes, Lowlights (bad dialogue and clunky scenes), Goofs (mistakes of all kinds), The Ongoing Story (firsts or influences, and its place in film history), Version (changes to the production or cuts by censors), Trivia (fascinating facts and critical reviews), Cast and Crew, Music, Critical Words (the author's own thoughts on each film), and Another Perspective (other points of view).
I remember one of the terrestrial TV stations running what they called a Red Triangle series of previously cut or banned films. This was when I saw Freaks for the first time, and the unusual atmosphere created by that film inspired me to seek out many other early and often over-looked horror flicks. In more recent years, a well-known pub in Camden has on occasion screened some silent gems such as The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Island of Lost Souls, Dracula, and the absolute bonafide classic Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror. Nosferatu, from 1922, is stylish, creepy and poetic. To put it simply, it’s a masterpiece which has lost none of its effectiveness over the years. It is still the best vampire film ever, and by a mile. Did I mention that I like it?
Other compelling films covered by the book include, The Black Cat, The Raven, Werewolf of London, Dracula’s Daughter and Son of Frankenstein - the DVDs of which I have reviewed in recent months - as well as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Invisible Man, The Phantom of the Opera, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Devil Doll, The Mummy, Faust and Vampyr.
Many non-fiction reference works tend to make for tedious reading; requiring the sifting through of countless pages of dry and somewhat cold text looking for the one snippet of information you need. Whether it’s the gold mine of classic material being researched, or the manner in which it’s categorised and put across (probably an equal measure of both), what strikes me most about this volume is the warmth and enthusiasm for the subject matter. This is truly a purple patch for horror, with several gems here being re-examined. In this case it proves great fun to revisit them. Highly recommended for followers of early outstanding horror.
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