So you think you know your classic horror movies? Well, I thought I knew a few but Steven Warren Hill’s comprehensive listing ‘Silver Scream: 40 Classic Horror Movies: Volume Two 1941-1951’ soon disabused me of that notion. The well-known characters such as the Mummy, Dracula, Wolf Man and the Phantom of the Opera are all here. There are also less famous persons like the Leopard Man, Jungle Woman, the Strangler from the Swamp and, most terrifying of all perhaps, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Certain films mentioned are recognised classics not just of the genre but of cinema generally, including ‘The Picture Of Dorian Grey’ and ‘Dead Of Night’.
Hill has a definite format for the study of each film. First there is a section on the plot, obviously. Next are Highlights and Memorable Quotes which is followed by Lowlights – dialogue mishaps and scenes that went awry. Goofs are where it didn’t go alright on the night, mistakes in continuity and so forth. The Ongoing Story section places the film in cinema history in regard to general trends and ideas. Version has information about changes made during the production of the film or later by the studio. Trivia, Cast and Crew and Music are self-explanatory terms. Critical Words gives us Steven Warren Hill’s worthy opinion on the movie and Another Perspective gives that of some other person, which is generous since it’s his book.
Hill is a big fan of producer Val Lewton, who made nine horror films for RKO, starting with ‘Cat People’. Its follow-up, ‘The Curse Of The Cat People, is also highly regarded by most, especially child psychologists apparently, though it’s not a horror film in the classic sense. If you were finicky, you could also question the inclusion of ‘Black Narcissus’ and ‘Apache Drums’ as westerns and films about nuns are not traditionally included in the genre. My knowledge of cinema is limited but I suspect there was a lack of horror films during and after World War II simply because people had enough real horror to contend with. There’s a gap between the classic Universal Studios stuff of the thirties and the Hammer Horror films of the sixties, which is what most of us know well. The former feature in ‘Silver Scream Part One’, presumably. The latter may get the treatment if Steven Warren Hill writes a ‘Silver Scream Part Three’. If he does, I’d buy it.
Occasionally, these films are shown on late night television and many are available on DVD. Whether you record or want to buy them, this is a useful reference book and a useful guide. There’s a lot of research, a lot of work and a lot of love gone into these three hundred pages. Recommended for horror fans.
(pub: Telos. 363 page illustrated indexed small softcover. Price: £14.99 (UK), $26.95 (US), $28.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-84583-029-8)
check out website: www.telos.co.uk