The Missing Link Reviews

Horror in Silent Films.
A Filmography 1896-1929

by Roy Kinnard. McFarland & Co.

Review by Kenneth

Horror in Silent Films by Roy Kinnard“Horror in Silent Films A Filmography, 1896 – 1929” by Roy Kinnard was first published in a library bound edition in 1995 by McFarland & Company, Jefferson, North Carolina, USA. It has now been released as a paper bound McFarland Classic.
Mr. Kinnard brings the same care and attention to this volume demonstrated by his “The Lost World of Willis O’Brien” (1993) and “Science Fiction Serials” (1998), both also published by McFarland & Company.

Mr. Kinnard argues that the horror film didn’t really exist before talking pictures. He states that movies like The Phantom of the Opera (1925) were marketed more as colourful melodramas and that silent screen stars like Lon Chaney were not limited to such roles as were later performers. He states that films like Nosferatu (1922) and The Golem (1920) were presented – in the United States anyway – as special “art” films. More often than not, strange happenings were explained away logically in the last reel to dispel any belief in the supernatural.
However, the seeds of the horror film were sown long before Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931) and James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), stalked across the screen and officially ushered in the genre. Mr. Kinnard emphasizes that many sound films now considered classics owe their atmosphere and intensity to their silent precursors.

The author has compiled a chronology of silent films with horrific scenes and/or plot elements into what is the most complete listing I have ever seen. The films are listed year by year, and while there is more information listed on some of the more famous films, all relevant available information is listed for every entry.
Also included with a short bibliography are two indexes, one by film titles and the other by names. Films are listed both by their original language titles and in English translation. Photographs, some of which are the only record of the film’s existence, liberally illustrate the text.

It has been known for years that much of our early cinematic legacy has been lost due to the physical deterioration of the film medium. That is the reason I feel that Mr. Kinnard’s book is an important step toward preservation. It is an interesting and accessible a work for the scholar as well as for the fan.


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