Book Review: A Pictorial History of Horror Movies

PictorialhistoryA Pictorial History of Horror Movies
By Denis Gifford
Published by Hamlyn Publishing Group, 1973.  216 pages.

Those of you who know me or have seen me at the conventions, know that I sell horror reference books. And there is no other title that I sell (when I come across them) that seems to bring back childhood memories for some of the people that come to my table than this book. The amazing greenish cover art (by Hammer poster artist Tom Chantrell) is filled with some great images of classic horror characters. I mean, just look at the full piece of artwork used for this book below? How could a cover like this not just capture the attention of any horror fan, young or old? The best part is seeing into the eyes of an older fan gaze upon this book, almost transforming them into a child again. Honestly, seeing that look is one of the best things about selling these books at the conventions. But let us get back to the book.

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Horror History: Tom Chantrell

tomchantrell-3Tom Chantrell
Born Dec. 20th – Died July 15th, 2001

It’s a very old story how Hammer CEO would take a poster art of a new film to the distributors and sell the picture, only to then give the poster to the screen writer and tell them to write the movie! One of men responsible for those posters was Tom Chantrell, who turned out over 7000 designs in his career, averaging about 3 posters a week! If you’re a fan of Hammer films then you are well aware of his work, even if you didn’t know it. His designs highlighted the selling points of what Hammer was trying to do…sell tickets! Just try doing a Google image search of his name and see the hundreds of works of art that this man did in his career.

His first film poster was for the 1938 film The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, and he continued to work well into the late ’70s. When the ’80s came, that style of poster art seemed to be replaced by cheap computer Photoshop works of “art”. He did work a bit designing video covers, but it just wasn’t the same.

But at least that before his death, he was able to learn and realize that his artwork, as well as many other great poster art, was now being regarded as great works of art and had become highly collectable. Never one to give himself the credit he deserved, Chantrell was very modest, calling a good poster a “ripsnorter”.

Maybe one day this style of poster art will come back.  We can always  hope.

For a great interview with Chantrell, along with some great examples of his work, as well as many other Hammer posters and celebrities, head over to Hammer Horror Posters.