A History of Horror : with Mark Gatiss

A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss

Mark Gatiss is (apparently) a writer and actor who loves his horror movies. In this three part BBC series he talks about three of the best eras (in his opinion) of horror movies.

The first episode starts off with a nice nod towards the beginnings of horror with an elderly gentleman stepping out from behind some stage curtains and announcing that it would be rude not to warn the viewers of forthcoming horror. Complete with black and white crackles it’s a nice start to the series.

Archetypal old dude bringing warning...

The first episode deals with (roughly) 1930’s – 40’s starting with The Phantom of the Opera. It also delves (briefly) in to the background of Lon Chaney and discusses him being the godfather of make-up. Even showing his original make-up box and a sculpted head he used to use to practice his make-up on. It then moves on to Lugosi and Dracula and explains how it started as a play and how Lugosi got the gig as Dracula in the movie. Then it moves to the last of ‘the big three’ with Karloff in Frankenstein and the controversy it caused with the monster tossing the little girl to her death. All that within 30mins. Hitting the half way mark of ep1 we begin to explore the Frankenstein sequels, Todd Browning‘s Freaks (which I review here) and several other Lugosi/Karloff mash-ups with interviews from the actors who worked with them and Karloff’s daughter. So, episode one ends with (ironically) the mash-ups between horror and Abbot & Costello and with the death of Lugosi.

 

Lugosi, who was buried wearing his Dracula cape.

Part two opens with the next era of horror, Hammer. Starting with Christopher Lee as Frankenstein’s monster, it introduces us to the low budget creativity of Hammer horror movies. Next we see Lee in his most famous role as Dracula and the sexual controversy it created at the time. I was glad to see a focus on Peter Cushing who never seems to get the recognition he deserved. Next we move to the Corman era of lower than low budget movies which, to give credit where it’s due, without him Hollywood probably wouldn’t exist! With the Corman era we’re introduced to Vincent Price and, unfortunately, the inevitable Dracula sequels. Oh dear. Which then leads us in to the forthcoming end of Hammer when they effectively merged horror and nudity to create Hammer/Carry On mash-ups. Such a shame.

 

Peter Cushing - horribly under rated!

The final episode of the series delves in to how America stole back the horror crown with, of course, Psycho. It then shows some crack-pots at a horror convention. The convention scenes have put me off attending any horror gatherings ever. Anywhere. Next we’re off to visit George A. Romero with his seminal zombie movies and, of course, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre from Tobe Hooper. Which I reckon is highly over rated, but that’s just me. Next is Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen. After the half-way mark it’s off to Canada and David Cronenberg. The series ends with Halloween (another film I feel is over rated) and some embarrassing scenes of convention goers doing a zombie walk through the streets. Only in America… only in America…

 

Hooray for Cronenberg and serious nudity!

The series is, as Gatiss says, unashamedly selected from his own favourites, but that’s what makes horror horror we all differ in what we like, but he’s covered the three golden ages of horror very well – although I think a fourth episode should have been created to show the horror of the 80’s to 90’s – but maybe he doesn’t watch more modern stuff, I’m not sure.

 

Either way, it’s a good little series (he covered a lot of ground in three hours) and has made me consider re-watching many of those mentioned. Even Halloween!

Rating: ★★★★☆

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About Ronnie

Having survived the UK's 'video nasty' (prohibition) era I'm eager to catch up with all previously unseen sleaze and filth. I revel in mixtape oddness, boobage, gore, and proper latex special effects, don't get me started on CGI... - email Ronnie
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