While I re-read them all, I'd often look at the photographs. They helped put most of these films on my 'must see' list. I fixated on them, trying to imagine what the films were going to be like. This sometimes lead to disappointment, the same way that lobby cards and posters outside the cinema often hyped up elements that weren't actually in the film. I'm obviously very fond of these few volumes for giving me my horror education, but they hold their value - many of their photos haven't reappeared in other publications, making them still worth a look. Remember that much publicity material for colour movies were only ever in black and white. The lack of colour photos for colour films reflects this. From their publishing dates, it looks like the mid-1970s saw a steady trickle of new books, as well as reprints of the few existing titles on the subject.
At the time, I ignored some of the weightier books which were only available in (expensive) hardbacks, aimed at academic use. With the accent on text and analysis and far fewer photos, I passed on The Haunted Screen (silent horror in Germany) and An Illustrated History of the Horror Film (1967, Carlos Clarens). Though I know many horror fans started off with those groundbreaking works. For me, it was the following editions that started me off...
A Pictorial History of Horror Movies
by Denis Gifford
My very first guide to horror films was this large-format hardback first published in 1973. A well-researched history starting with the earliest silent short films of Melies, ending just before The Exorcist. The ilustrations were as important as the text - I think I've memorised all the captions. It includes rare photos from Hollywood, British and even Japanese horror films - this was my first glimpse of Horror of Malformed Men. There are a few full page glossy colour pages with a fantastic shot of Dr Phibes sitting at his organ, a Bela Lugosi poster for The Mystery of the Marie Celeste. and poster art of Claude Rains (before the mask) from Phantom of the Opera.
by Alan Frank
Concentrating on the (then) modern decades of the 1960s and 1970s, Horror Movies was another large hardback that offered more photos and more colour. The striking cover photograph is from Dr Terror's House of Horrors. Like many overviews of the genre, it's mainly a stream of themed plot synopses and reviews, rather than analysis. Also, these British books pay as much, if not more attention to horror from the UK. The photos are what's important, including two more great full-page colour Dr Terror publicity shots inside.
An affordable pocket-sized 1970 reprint of this early 1967 guide, has a more international view of the genre. It includes a choice checklist of must-see horrors, whetting my appetite for Onibaba and Kwaidan. It includes chapters on the Roger corman Poe cycle, and Roman Polanski's early films, championing the importance of Repulsion to psychological horror.
The House of Horror
A large weighty 1974 hardback, dedicated mainly to vintage American horror. Everson makes personal, authoritative choices, dedicating a chapter to each of his favourites. Again this is illustrated with rare black and white stills, special attention given to silent movies like Faust. His addition of a chapter on newer movies like The Exorcist looks like a grudging afterthought. He highlights some very weak entries like Dr Cyclops and Murder By The Clock - they may have their moments but I doubt they're in anyone else's top tens. He also nominates London After Midnight without having seen it (it was already lost by then).
Everson followed up with 'More Classics of the Horror Film' in 1986, including a look at recently rediscovered classics, informing many of us of the alternate Spanish version of Dracula (1931) and the colour prints of Doctor X and Mystery of the Wax Museum.
Horror & Fantasy in the Cinema by Tom HutchinsonBy now I was getting new books just for the photos. This one at least included more sci-fi movies (which were also getting more specialist coverage). Some of the colour pages include a beautiful full-page hand-coloured publicity photo of Fredric March as both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. There's a also brutal b/w shot of Peter Cushing cutting up a topless victim from the 'continental version' of Corruption, a version I'm still waiting to see.
by Alan FrankObviously Alan Frank's Horror Movies sold well, and lead to this 1976 photo-heavy volume. With a spectacular still from Dracula Has Risen From the Grave on the cover and a gruesome portrait from Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell on the back, of the monster with dirty rags stuffed into his empty eye sockets! Like Horror Movies, this has great-looking stills, but many are from very poor movies like The Frozen Dead, Doctor Blood's Coffin and The Mutations. Compensated for by some rare glossy colour shots of a green Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein.
by Denis GiffordLastly, three books I found in the local library. This one divided all the existing Movie Monsters into categories. It was an expensive small-format hardback (1969), before being reprinted in paperback (1974). The whole volume is printed on heavy, glossy paper adding extra quality to all the black and white stills, again biased towards classic Hollywood. Gifford also compiled a similar volume called Science Fiction Film.
by David PirieThis book focused my admiration for British horror movies, with intelligent analysis and categorisations. The links Pirie makes between Night of the Demon and Night of the Eagle, the 'Sadian trilogy' of Peeping Tom, Horrors of the Black Museum and Circus of Horrors, are hard to forget or deny. He includes a chapter on Amicus films and centres his predictions on the future of British horror on the work of Michael Reeves (which indeed happened for a while) including a lovely still of Reeves on location with Vincent Price. The dramatic black and white photographs are carefully chosen, with an unforgettable shot of a zombie pushing its way out of a grave (from Plague of the Zombies). The exhaustive appendix, listing his choice of British horror films, gave me something else to aim for. There are hardback and paperback editions (from 1973) with the above cover art. A Heritage of Horror was widely admired for many decades, though very hard to acquire. I think it would have been far more influential had it been republished more often. When it was finally reprinted in 2007, Pirie took his chance to update it. But I think his key observations were considerably diluted by the new material. I'd recommend you try and hunt down the original.
Special effects are a key ingredient for horror, sci-fi and disaster movies. The late John Brosnan left no genre unturned as he enthusiastically produced this overview of the key special effects techniques in use before Star Wars. This is a fascinating and entertaining overview on early (non-digital) visual effects. I loved this book. After Movie Magic (the hardback edition is pictured), behind-the-scenes articles in Cinefantastique magazine thankfully became more technically interested in visual and make-up effects (before Fangoria and Cinefex took over in 1979).
Before any of the above, one of the only sources was American Cinematographer, which of course only covered Hollywood films. The magazine began its spectacular run all the way back in 1920! The 1970s saw a revolution in the horror genre, where realism replaced gothic, chain saws replaced poisoned teacups, and the boy next door was a more likely threat than a Romanian count. By the end of the decade, the success of new horror and slasher movies had given rise to internationally sucessful and available horror movie magazines. The drought was over. But when I've dug them all out, I'll take a similar look at my earliest horror movie magazines. Unlike the USA, in mid-1970's London, Famous Monsters of Filmland was hard to find...