Book Review: Universal Terrors, 1951-1955

universal-terrorsUniversal Terrors, 1951-1955: Eight Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Films
Published by McFarland, 2017. 440 pages.

By Tom Weaver, with David Schecter, Robert J. Kiss, and Steve Kronenberg

Anytime I do research on an older classic, if I’m looking for quotes, interviews, or anything type of information, going through the many volumes of books I have from Tom Weaver is one place that I always start. The reason for that is that his books are always so informative, giving a ton of details about the movies and their production, as well as the people that worked on it, from the directors and writers to the actors. Since he’s interviewed so many of these people over the years, the details he’s getting comes first hand. When news of a new book Weaver was working on that covered some of Universal’s films of the ’50s, since I’m a huge fan of that era, I couldn’t wait for it to come out so I could dig into it.

tarantula

Within the 400+ pages here, eight films are covered: The Strange Door (1951), The Black Castle (1952), It Came from Outer Space (1953), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), This Island Earth (1955), Revenge of the Creature (1955), Cult of the Cobra (1955), and Tarantula (1955). With each title, just about every aspect of the film is covered. Not only do we get the cast and crew list, but we get a huge list of people that were uncredited on the film as well. We get to learn about the production, when and where it was shot. Information on the main cast of actors, with some history of them as well. Then there are the stories coming from the people that worked on the film themselves. Then there are pages dedicated to the music of the film and its creators. Then there is the press coverage and how the film was received by critics and fans alike.

In other words, if you want to learn about as much as you can about these eight films, then this book is definitely a must. One would expect to have this kind of material on some of the bigger titles, like The Creature from the Black Lagoon, but even for the lesser known films like The Strange Door and The Black Castle, they are treated just the same. But this isn’t just a puff piece either since Weaver and company give us information, both the good and the bad (and even some ugly, such as the hard life of Mara Corday and her husband Richard Long) about the people behind these movies, even with some conflicting stories from different sources.

creature from the black lagoon

I know some scoff at the prices of McFarland titles, but for $50, this is more than worth the money. You’ll read about some of our favorite films of that era, learning so much information and little tidbits of trivia, that you’ll be re-watching every single one of the movies covered here. Highly recommended.

You can order your copy from McFarland’s website HERE or even calling them and ordering it directly at 800-253-2187.

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