John L. Balderston
Born Oct. 22nd, 1889 – Died Mar. 8th, 1954
Ever wonder why the original ’30s film versions of Dracula and Frankenstein didn’t seem to follow the novels too much? Well, one of the men responsible for that was writer John L. Balderston. He started his career as a journalist, even before he finished school, working for different newspapers. He would even be a war correspondent during WWI. He eventually started in show business as a playwright, while continuing the journalism gigs as well.
In 1927, he was hired to re-write Hamilton Deane’s stage play of Dracula for American audiences, making more than a few changes. Because of its huge success, he was then hired to do the same for Peggy Webling’s play version of Frankenstein. He would later have his name attached to many of the early monster classics, even if his scripts were never used. But because of his work, a lot of the foundation of these early monster flicks were due to him.
In 1953, Balderston and the heirs of Webling won a lawsuit with Universal, getting paid not only $20,000 but also 1% of any of the films that resulted from their work, including any sequels!
The Monster Movies of Universal Studios
By James L. Neibaur
Published by Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. 213 pages.
Anytime there is a book about the Universal monster movies, then count me in, since I’m always up for revisiting these classic films. Of course, the only problem is that since this subject has been written about just a few times before, it might be tough to come up with something new and different for readers to get information that have haven’t several times before. But overall, I think that Neibaur does a good job discussing these films.
After a very brief history of Universal Studios (which could be a book on it’s own), the it follows all the movies from there that feature their main set of monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, the Invisible Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. So any film that featured one of these monsters, or possibly their descendent, the title is covered. There is a total of 29 features covered here, starting with 1931’s Dracula and ending with The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), with each chapter covering each of the titles. The credits and cast are listed, before Neibaur gets into details of each film, such as the plot, information about the people involved, and some other trivia as well.
Vampire Films of the 1970s
By Gary A. Smith
Published by McFarland, 2017. 240 pages.
Being the ’70s is the decade I grew up in, watching more than my share of flicks on TV, I’m always up for reading more about this wonderful decade and the movies that came out. Decades before zombies would finally take over, at this particular point in time, vampires still ruled both in theaters and television. This is more than proven with the amount of titles covered here by Smith.
The book starts with a brief overview of the sub-genre, some rules of vampires, then we jump right into the Hammer Film era, where he first gives a little history about the famous British studio before jumping to their ’70s Dracula flicks, then moving on to other fang flicks. Since Hammer made quite a few of them during the ’70s, they are all covered here, lumped together in different sub-categories. There are other groups in the book, like Asian vampires, the Mexican Santo movies, even one on vampire porn! So there are plenty of titles to seek out if you are relatively new to the vampire genre, or are always looking ones you have missed.
The Turn to Gruesomeness in American Horror Films, 1931 to 1936
By Jon Towlson
Published by McFarland, 2015. 240 pages
One of the wonderful things about reading up on the history of horror films is that there is always something new and interesting that can be learned once a subject is really put under the magnifying glass. Now this isn’t to say that if you look for something you’ll find it, even if it isn’t there, but Towlson has done a great deal of research to back up his thoughts and ideas in this recent book. It also shows that no matter how long you’ve been a fan, there is always more to learn.
Born 1880 – Died Oct. 25th, 1958
Hamilton Deane was a actor and playwrite back in the late 1800’s, first appearing on the stage before his 20th birthday. While he worked with the Henry Irving Company (the one that Bram Stoker was the stage manager for), he went on to form his own troupe in the early ’20s. He wanted to bring Stoker’s Dracula to the stage and spent 4 weeks writing it out when he was sick with a bad cold.
Deane was the man responsible for turning Dracula from the monster he is in Stoker’s novel, to the urbane, well spoken (with an accent of course), well dressed in a tuxedo and flowing cape. He wasn’t the monstrous creature from the novel, or like the one from the unauthorized German film Nosferatu, where he was a rat-like creature. Deane’s play was a big success, with him playing the role of Dr. Van Helsing, and played for many years.
When it came over the states, it was rewritten by American playright John L. Balderston, where it also was a big success. It was this adaptation, the combined ideas from both Deane and Balderston, which pretty much what the Tod Browning film was based on. A few years later, he would also commission a play adaptation of Shelley’s Frankenstein be scripted as well.
While Little Shoppe of Horrors usually covers only films from Hammer, they occasionally venture into other films. Such as in issue # 20 where they did an incredible issue on the history of Amicus films, or # 29 when they covered the Vincent Price classic The Abominable Dr. Phibes and its sequel. In their upcoming issue # 36, they put the spotlight on the 1979 version of Dracula, starring Frank Langella, Laurence Olivier, Kate Nelligan, and Donald Pleasence.
Okay Hammer Dracula fans, start saving those pennies, because there will be a book coming out this summer that you’re going to want to add to your library. Thanks to the wonderful (and incredibly talented book publishers) people at Peveril Publishing, they will continue to put out amazing looking volumes dedicated to the Studio that Dripped Blood, and that we all love.