Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


GHOULS, GIMMICKS, AND GOLD: Horror Films and the American Movie Business, 1953 - 1968. Kevin Heffernan. Duke University Press; 2004.

During the 1950's film studios were afraid all of their business would be lost to television, so they tried all sorts of gimmicks from expanding the screen [CinemaScope] to 3-D to new sound and color systems while inventive producers like William Castle came up with other gimmicks [such as wiring certain chairs during showings of The Tingler] in an effort to bring patrons into the movie theater. During this era [and afterward] it was realized that the audience consisted mostly of young people, teenagers, and many films – such as horror and sci fi items – were geared to their tastes and mentalities. In this atmosphere it’s no wonder that so many films in these genres were released. [Nowadays sci-fi/fantasy/horror items are no longer necessarily considered “kiddie fodder.”] With engaging prose that rarely descends into dull ‘academic-speak,’ Heffernan traces the changes in the film industry, especially as it pertains to genre/exploitation films, encompassing everything from 3-D and “hypnovision” to the emergence of Hammer Horror films (and their new bloodier take on Universal’s monsters) and the horror stardom of the florid, often hammy Vincent Price in Roger Corman’s “Poe” pictures and others. There are also chapters on Italian horror films, other foreign films dubbed into English that made great profits for American producers, British horror, Rosemary’s Baby and Night of the Living Dead.

Verdict: Quite entertaining and informative. ***.

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