There is a new book that just came out called 40s Universal Monsters: A Critical Commentary, covering all of the monster films that Universal put out during that decade. Author John T. Soister had published a similar book back in 2001 covering the Universal films of the 30s, entitled Of Gods and Monsters: A Critical Guide to Universal’s Science Fiction, Horror and Mystery Films, 1929-1939. Now, along with contributors Henry Nicolella, Harry H. Long, & Dario Lavia, they take on the ’40s, covering 66 titles from The Invisible Man Returns to Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein.
But what does have to do with opinions? Hear me out. Looking through my own library, I have several books that deal with the early days of cinema. If we’re talking about the silent era, we have Silent Screams by Steve Haberman, or Wayne Kinsey’s entry in his incredible Fantastic Films of the Decades series, as well as Troy Howarth’s own series, Tome of Terror, who has covered the decade of the ’30s as well. Kinsey is already up to halfway through the ’40s with his ongoing series. But then I also have Universal Horrors by Tom Weaver, Michael and John Brunas, Soister’s aforementioned Of Gods and Monsters, Mank’s Hollywood Cauldron, Senn’s Golden Horrors, and even a few others titles. Then we move into the ’50s and beyond with multiple titles in each of those as well.
So why do I need so many on the same subject? That’s easy: Opinions. Yes, a lot of these address the same facts, such as production dates, who is in front of and behind the camera, and all the other production information. But you’re also going to get the author’s thoughts and opinions on the films discussed. Now why is that important? Because it could possibly get you to see or think of the film in a way you might not have noticed before. Maybe it was just part of the film, say the performance of one of the actors, that makes you look at it slightly different. You may not agree with what the author stated, may even be surprised they could even have such an opinion, but it will still get you to think. And that is why opinions are important to a film fan, no matter if they agree with yours or not. It is all about thinking more about the film and getting a different perspective.
The most important part is to think about what they are trying to say. Doesn’t mean you have to change your mind or agree with them, but at least ponder their idea and see where it takes you. You may end up in the same place you started, but at least you’ll have a more rounded understanding of different views on the subject.
Or, on the other hand, it might just be an excuse for me to buy more books.