Friday, January 29, 2021

Review: PJ Harvey's 'Is This Desire?' and 'Is This Desire?-Demos'

If there’s any doubt that OK Computer was the most influential album of 1997, just listen to the albums of 1998. With a single flip of the calendar, artists responsible for some of the most organic music of the nineties suddenly adopted Radiohead’s synthesized, sci-fi textures. They still used their guitars, but they tended to costume those guitars in heavy effects or bury them deep in the mix.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Review: 'The Women of Hammer Horror: A Biographical Dictionary and Filmography'

Hammer Studios became synonymous with horror for a number of reasons: its stylish yet lurid reinterpretations of Universal’s monsters, its groundbreaking bloodiness, the charismatic presence of Peter Cushing, the chilly presence of Christopher Lee. Just as integral to the studios’ personality are the women who so fulfilled certain physical requirements that the term “Hammer glamour” was invented to define/label them. 

Friday, January 1, 2021

Review: 'Phases of the Moon: A Cultural History of the Werewolf Film'

The premise of Craig Ian Mann's new book Phases of the Moon: A Cultural History of the Werewolf Film is that compared to studies of, say, vampire or zombie pictures, there has been relatively little analysis of werewolf films and the ones that do exist tend to oversimplify them as "beast within" metaphors.  He then pores over more than a century of werewolf pictures from 1913's inaugural lycanthropy flick The Werewolf through 2015's Howl to explain how filmmakers have used werewolves to do everything from expressing anti-Native American (The Werewolf) and anti-Japanese (Werewolf of London) bigotry to using them as symbols for Germany's transformation into a fascist state (The Wolf Man), how partisanship is tearing America apart (Werewolves on Wheels), the dangers of sex (Curse of the Werewolf), the conflict between rationalism and superstition (An American Werewolf in London), the evils of Regan/Bush-era conservatism (Silver Bullet; My Mother Is a Werewolf), etc. 

Oddly, Mann uses a great deal of quotes from other writers who support his interpretations, implying that previous discussions of werewolf films have not been quite as reductive as he suggests. After all, merely saying that any werewolf film is about "the beast within" would be like saying that every mad scientist film is about "science gone mad." It is such a limited and obvious conclusion that it doesn't deserve to be acknowledged.

While I think Mann overreaches with his central premise, he still wrote a thought-provoking analysis of the werewolf picture, exposing the creature's versatility in films of great and little quality and from all social, political, and cultural points of view. He even discusses some non-werewolf transformation films, such as Cat People, The Wasp Woman, and yes, The Beast Within.

All written content of is the property of Mike Segretto and may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.