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.
Hollywood Cauldron: Thirteen Horror Films from the Genre’s Golden Age
Published by McFarland, 1994. 404 pages.
By Gregory William Mank
While this is not a new volume, originally published in ’94, and republished in soft cover format in 2001, it is one that I finally decided to dive into. The film covers 13 different titles from the “Golden Age”, from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932) to Bedlam (1946). With each title, Mank covers the production facts, such as who’s in it and what jobs they had, then going through the plot of the film. The real beauty of this is the information given during the story and after it. Mank always brings so much more information about the different actors, the production itself, and little bits of trivia that makes his writing so interesting, as well as entertaining. Such as the paintings from The Picture of Dorian Gray. I knew Ivan Albright painted the “evil” painting of Gray, but had always thought he painted both “good” and “evil”. As it turns it out, his twin brother painted the “good” one, but it wasn’t used. The one used in the film was done by Henrique Medina. Shows you’re never too old to learn something!
I don’t need to really go into much more details because if you’re at all familiar with Mank and his work, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you’re not familiar, then you need to fix that. His style of writing is one that gives you the facts, but presents them in ways that are interesting, easy to read, and I’m pretty sure you’ll come away with knowing much more than you did before hand.
If you’re a fan of the films of the golden era, then this really is a must.