British Gothic Cinema by B. Forshaw

By B. Forshaw

Barry Forshaw celebrates with enthusiasm the British horror movie and its fascination for macabre cinema. A definitive learn of the style, British Gothic Cinema discusses the flowering of the sphere, with each key movie mentioned from its beginnings within the Forties via to the twenty first century.

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With The Curse of Frankenstein, comparisons to James Whale’s more excessive, operatic approach to his material are inevitable, but essentially pointless. These are two very different films, and within the parameters that the two English directors set themselves, they signally achieve their precise aims (the differences might be encapsulated in Whale’s steady accumulation of dread as opposed to Fisher’s abrupt and visceral use of shock cuts, the latter set against a more ordered and precise dramatic schema).

And from this point on, the elderly Christopher Lee (watching the film today) would see how wrong he was about how relatively innocent this film that made his name was. The violence and power of The Curse of Frankenstein (with the creature clutching his face after a gunshot as blood streams through his fingers) still carries a charge in the twenty-first century, and that first sight of the creature’s mutilated face is a harbinger of a new era in macabre cinema. It is worth considering for a moment Phil Leakey’s famous creature make-up, utilising rubber solution and morticians’ wax.

G. Wells – the impressive film of the writer’s The Island of Doctor Moreau starring Charles Laughton was only to enjoy wide currency (in uncut form) in the twenty-first century, when the furore was long over. Re-christened Island of Lost Souls, Erle C. Kenton’s 1932 film was unseen for many years. This once-banned classic showcases a wonderfully sly (and, at times, camp) performance by Laughton, but this asset apart, the film now looks like one of the great horror/science fiction films from Hollywood’s Golden Age.

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