Monsters In The Movies: 100 Years of Cinematic Nightmares by John Landis. Dorling Kindersley / Penguin Random House. P/B. ISBN 978-0-2412-4624-5 320
When I interviewed Harvey Fenton for Dark Side recently, we reminisced about coffee table books by the likes of Alan Frank and Dennis Gifford, from which he has derived much of the inspiration for what he’s achieved at FAB Press. Coffee table books surveying Horror film history have dwindled since the 1980s (when I remember WHS and even M&S having a crack at this market), increasingly so since the advent of the internet, so it’s nice to see D&K attempting to revive the format with John Landis’s Monsters In The Movies: 100 Years Of Cinematic Monster (originally published in 2011, this edition dating back to last year.)
Like many of its predecessors, MITM is more of a picture collection than anything else, with over 1,000 stills and posters from the Kobal Collection (many of them in full colour) beautifully reproduced within its 320 glossy pages and organised into such self-explanatory sections as “Vampires”, “Werewolves”, “Mad Scientists”, “Zombies”, “Mummies” and so on. What strikes you immediately is just how many Horror movies have been made (this is the one cinematic genre, after all, that’s never gone out of fashion) since the heyday of Messrs Frank and Gifford. Indeed, you’ve got to give credit to Landis and / or the people who put this volume together for casting their net so wide and unsnobbishly, despite the odd nits that you inevitably find yourself picking (for instance the fact that Suspiria is represented by one small b/w still, indeed for the fact that Italian offerings in general are a little under represented… but I would say that, wouldn’t I?)
Landis makes no, er, bones in his introduction or any of the micro-essays that preface each section, about the fannish rather than academic orientation he brought to the text of this visual treasure trove. Any suggestion of profundity is defiantly absent from his commentary, though his (?) captions to many of the illustrations are equal parts witty and opinionated. His biggest contributions to the book though are the interviews that he conducts with a coterie of genre luminaries, comprising the late Sir Christopher Lee, Joe Dante, David Cronenberg, Sam Raimi, Guillermo Del Toro, Ray Harryhausen, Rick Baker and John Carpenter. Obviously at ease with his peers, Landis gets some fascinating stuff out of these guys, many of whom (notably Dell Toro) have very precise ideas about what constitutes a Monster Movie or indeed a Movie Monster. Harryhausen, whom many would nominate as Mr “Monster Movie” Incarnate, confides that he doesn’t care for the term at all.
MITM is available for 20 quid on Amazon, where you can also get a skinny-assed “Bookazine” digest of it for nearly a tenner. Save that tenner for the full monty version, available for that price (or less if they’ve currently got a voucher thing running) here. Jeez, Martin Lewis has got nothing on me…