Book Review: A Pictorial History of Horror Movies

PictorialhistoryA Pictorial History of Horror Movies
By Denis Gifford
Published by Hamlyn Publishing Group, 1973.  216 pages.

Those of you who know me or have seen me at the conventions, know that I sell horror reference books. And there is no other title that I sell (when I come across them) that seems to bring back childhood memories for some of the people that come to my table than this book. The amazing greenish cover art (by Hammer poster artist Tom Chantrell) is filled with some great images of classic horror characters. I mean, just look at the full piece of artwork used for this book below? How could a cover like this not just capture the attention of any horror fan, young or old? The best part is seeing into the eyes of an older fan gaze upon this book, almost transforming them into a child again. Honestly, seeing that look is one of the best things about selling these books at the conventions. But let us get back to the book.

Pictorialhistory full jacket

Gifford was a British author, collector and film historian. Like Carlos Clarens, Gifford’s book also follows the birth of cinema, moving through the silent years, the rise of Universal Studios, and continues through the early ’70s. Though not as detailed as Clarens’ book, Gifford makes up the difference with a wonderful array of photos plastered throughout the book. While the text is obviously important, it was (and still is) the photos that provide the real impact, with a wealth of black and white stills (as well as a few full-page color photos) covering the entire range of cinematic terror, giving readers an eyeful of movie monsters.

This is one of the staples of horror reference books. Many young fans started out by reading this book. But it was more than just the text in this book but the countless images that were burned into the minds of embryonic horror fans, giving us titles that we were forever seeking out. Long before we even hoped of maybe seeing some of these films one day, just seeing the creatures and monsters here spurred our interests even more.

The was a revised edition published in 1983, with a black cover with a skull with glowing eyes, in both hardcover and softcover. Sure, it might have additional information, somehow missing that glorious cover just didn’t do it justice. Of course, some of us collectors have both editions….

Pictorialhistory revised

3 thoughts on “Book Review: A Pictorial History of Horror Movies

  1. I didn’t know you sold books at conventions. Have you been doing it for a while? What conventions do you attend? Makes me wonder if I’ve run into you.

    I used to go a lot more 15 or so years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been selling at cons for probably over 20 years now. I am always at Cinema Wasteland, HorrorHound, Flashback Weekend, and we just started doing Monster Bash. Those are our regular stops. Didn’t always sell books, especially in the early days, but they slowly starte to take over. Maybe we’ll meet at one of these upcoming shows?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve been to Flashback once. I think it was the first show in 2002. I used to mostly go to Chiller in NJ and Weekend of Horrors in NYC.

        Since I had kids, I’ve been to a lot less. I took my oldest to his first show last October. It’s sort of come full circle for me. I’d like to go to one a year at least now. I love leaving with a good book. It’s where I got most of my great FAB Press releases.

        Thanks for sharing your collection. I love this stuff!


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