Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Review: 'Graphic Horror: Movie Monsters and Memories'


John Edgar Browning’s new book Graphic Horror: Movie Monsters and Memories (Schiffer Publishing) is a coffee table collection of movie posters and recollections from fans familiar (David Skal; Philip Riley) and otherwise. My favorite part of the book is easily the foreword by one of my heroes. Skal is our finest horror commentator, the thinking man’s Forry Ackerman, and he gets more personal here than I’ve yet to read in his own books (The Monster Show, Hollywood Gothic, etc.), discussing his boyhood introduction to monster memorabilia collecting with wit and candor (I was also thrilled to learn he’s at work on a new book about Bram Stoker!).

Perhaps the other memories and insights strewn throughout the book didn’t affect me similarly because I don’t really know who most of Browning’s guest commentators are. Or maybe they’re just too insubstantial and blurby. In at least one case, the commentator didn’t really know what she was talking about: Caroline Joan (Kay) Picart notes how in Hammer’s The Curse of Frankenstein the Monster was called “The Creature” instead of “The Frankensteinian Monster” for possible copyright reasons. Huh? In what movie was he ever called The Frankensteinian Monster?

Of course, as is the case with any coffee table book, the purpose is more the graphics than the text. Browning selected a really intriguing hoard of images, passing by the more familiar U.S. posters to illustrate how London After Midnight was marketed in Argentina, The Mummy was hawked in Sweden, Psycho was sold in Israel, and so on. There are some fabulous graphics in Graphic Horror; I particularly dug the groovy space-au-go-go poster for The Astounding She Monster and the underground comix style Astro-Zombies promo. I just wish the designer had taken better advantage of the book’s size to present larger reproductions of this artwork. A bizarre illustration promoting Dead of Night with a giant vampire bat looming over decadent images from the film simply begs to be studied closer.

Get Graphic Horror: Movie Monsters and Memories at Amazon.com here:

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