Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Shrieking Sixties: British Horror Films 1960-1969

Edited by Darrell Buxton of Pass the Marmalade, this new volume from Midnight Marquee is a comprehensive guide to British horror films of the 1960s.

The bulk of the 220-page book is comprised of year by year listings of titles, each of which gets one or two detailed reviews.

Horror is defined in broad terms, such that some science-fiction and fantasy films like Dr Who and the Daleks and Jason and the Argonauts are included, along with certain sui generis entries including Girly and The War Game.

British horror is defined in terms of being a UK production with the consequence that the likes of Jess Franco’s films for Harry Alan Towers are included whereas Michael Reeves debut The She Beast is not.

An appendix lists numerous problematic or borderline titles.

Although the usual suspects from Hammer, Amicus and Tigon are well represented, the real strength of the book lies in bringing less well-known films and filmmakers to light.

Some names and titles that are prominent in this regard are Vernon Sewell, with House of Mystery, The Man in the Back Seat and Strongroom; Robert Hartford-Davis, with The Black Torment, Corruption and Incense for the Damned and an abortive Titus Andronicus; the self-explanatory pre-Reptile The Snake Woman; the British Sign Language film The Return of Dracula, and the apparently woeful The Vulture.

This aspect is also to the fore in the appendix of short films, which includes early entries from the likes of Michael Armstrong, the odd Harrison Marks skin-flick and some even more obscure sex films.

The reviews are informative and manage to raise some interesting points without getting bogged down in over-analysis. So, for example, a queer subtext to Gorgo is brought out, without ignoring the fact that it is first and foremost a monster movie.

In his introduction, Buxton identifies a number of inspirations and models – Fragments of Fear, English Gothic, Ten Years of Terror and A Heritage of Horror. His book can stand tall in this company and is a must read for fans of British horror cinema.

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