Erle C. Kenton
Born Aug. 1st, 1896 – Died Jan. 28th, 1980
While Kenton didn’t make but 4 horror movies in his career, the ones he did do are pretty important. He started as an actor, but took any job in the industry to learn as much as he could. Then in 1919, he got to direct his first picture. In his career, he directed 131 films, sometimes making over 10 pictures a year. In 1924, he directed a total of 15 films. Pretty funny when you compare it to today’s working directors and how often they turn out films.
Kenton was mainly known for directing comedies, even doing a couple for Abbott & Costello. But his first entry in the horror genre was in 1932, which is probably his best, the classic Island of Lost Souls (though author H.G. Wells would probably argue that point). Kind of strange that a man known for comedies could turn out a dark film like this one. Sure, some say that Laughton’s over-acting makes it a dark comedy, though I’ve always found this film pretty disturbing and quite effective.
His remaining efforts might not be as good, but are not only entertaining, but staples in the genre. With The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), House of Frankenstein (1944), and House of Dracula (1945), he helped continue the Universal monster series with some entertaining films. Sure, they weren’t the same classics that James Whale had turned out, but us monster kids just ate them up. And even today, as dated as they might be, I still find them pretty entertaining, as do many other classic monster fans.
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.
At the end of August, at the Skyline Drive-In Theater in Shelbyville, IN (just south of Indianapolis), they are holding their annual festival of classic monster movies being screened over 3 days. We were there for one of them a few years ago and have been trying to get back again for the fun, but just don’t seem to make it. But once again, we’re going to try to make it this year.
Starting on Friday, Aug. 28th, they will be screening Mighty Joe Young (1949), Hammer’s Curse of the Werewolf (1961), Island of Lost Souls (1932), Tarantula (1955), and Horror Express (1972). Then on Saturday the 29th, they will be showing the original King Kong (1933), American Werewolf in London (1981), Hammer’s Abominable Snowman (1957), Toho’s War of the Gargantuas (1966), and then Teenage Monster (1958). On Sunday, they will have repeat screenings of Curse of the Werewolf, Island of Lost Souls, and Abominable Snowman. I can’t tell you how excited I am thinking of having the chance to see some of these amazing films on a huge screen, not to mention at a drive-in! How cool is that? I mean seriously….the original King Kong!?!?!