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Book Review

Book Cover

Silver Scream
40 Classic Horror Movies
Volume Two - 1941-1951


Author: Steven Warren Hill
Telos Publishing
RRP: £14.99, US $26.95 Cdn $28.95
ISBN: 978 1 84583 029 8
Available 05 April 2010

Following on from Volume One (was it really as long ago as November 2008?), Volume Two of Silver Scream covers the years 1941-1951. The quality of paper and binding from Telos maintains its high standard, and the intricate attention to detail and sheer love for the content comes through as powerfully as before. For more detail on the categories and format uniformly utilised for each film, see my review of Volume One.

We're into the 1940s now, and if Universal Pictures ruled the roost for horror films in the 1930s, it's relentless frequency of releases continued throughout most of the following decade. Although the majority could be seen as being sequels, pitching monster against monster in what on face value would seem to be cheap money-making exercises, there were many enjoyable examples of Universal at its best. Even the Second World War failed to slow its impact, but was nevertheless ultimately responsible for the viewing public's temporary movement away from this genre. It was probably just as likely that these by now common characters had simply outstayed their welcome. Universal flicks covered from this period include, The Wolf Man, The Ghost of FrankensteinThe Mummy's Tomb, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, Son of Dracula, The Invisible Man's Revenge, The Mummy's Ghost, House of Dracula, and... well, you get the picture. Regulars such as Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr appear to pop up with unsettling regularity, to the extent that other film companies also secured their services.

The on-going argument about Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein is an interesting one. Does it work only as a comedy? is it ridiculing or parodying the creatures that have spooked audiences for several years? An almost identical argument exists with old school Doctor Who fans over the William Hartnell Dalek story, The Chase (you know who you are), when the Doctor and pursuing Daleks come up against Frankenstein and Dracula. Universal did experiment successfully with non-traditional horror, with titles such as Captive Mad Woman, The Mad Ghoul, Weird Woman, and House of Horrors.

Perhaps most notably, the book also covers a number of interesting and outstanding examples from the RKO Radio Pictures canon - probably Universal's main rivals in the field of horror in the early- to mid-forties. Being more diverse in content, they are perhaps of more interest. I enjoyed reading about such treasures as Cat People, The Devil and Daniel Webster, The Seventh Victim, The Ghost Ship, Isle of the Dead, and Bedlam.

It's also worth mentioning a couple of my favourites from this bunch. The Picture of Dorian Gray (no, it's not as good as the Oscar Wilde novel upon which it's based, but it's impressive all the same), and Dead of Night (a sort of anthology of tales which loops back on itself, and no doubt inspired the likes of The Twilight Zone and Tales From the Crypt).

For anyone who enjoys horror fiction as much as I do, both of these volumes are not only a valuable reference guide, but pure reading and reminiscing entertainment. What would be an exciting follow-up is another volume or two covering the science fiction horror movies of the 1950s, both classics and turkeys.


Ty Power

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