Grande Dame Guignol Cinema
Published by McFarland, 2009. 340 pages.
By Peter Shelley
Kudos to author Shelley for coming up with a great idea, highlighting some classics in horror cinema that some of them I feel tend to be left behind. Shelley writes in the preface, “for me the sign of good writing about films is that it compels one to see the movie under discussion. I hope my book does this for my readers.” Not only do I completely agree with that statement, but there are more than a few titles discussed in this book are now on my Need-to-Watch-AGAIN list.
Shelley does a great job in his introduction explaining the title of the book, and clearly defining what he means by it. This is a good way to stop people from asking “why did you leave this movie out?” … granted that will still probably happen. But at least going in, we are well aware of his point and what he is trying to accomplish with this book. With each title, he gives us a little background on the actress who is filling the role of the book’s title, and why they fit so well here. Once again, any book that sheds a little light on some horror history, I’m all for, and Shelley does an admirable job here.
There are a wide range of titles covered in the book, from the early ’60s with What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1962), the mother of all Grande Dame Guignol Cinema, to the more recent Inside (2007), with plenty of great titles covered in between. One minor warning here though is that the plot is discussed in each chapter, so if you haven’t seen the film, any spoilers will be revealed. So I would advise watching the film first, if you haven’t seen it already, before reading about a title. But there is a great array of titles, from big budgeted Hollywood flicks, to sleazy little grindhouse fare, but all guaranteed to give the audience a little bit of enjoyment, depending on your taste in cinema.
I feel he might read a little too much into some of the films covered, such as in Die! Die! My Darling! (1965), when discussing Stephanie Powers’ suitcase, stating “the red interior of Patricia’s suitcase can also be considered as a vaginal wall”. But that really is kept to a minimum.
This book is available from McFarland, through their website HERE or you can call them (800-253-2187) to place your order.