The Monster Show:
A Cultural History of Horror
by David J. Skal. Plexus Publishing. Paperback.
name of David J. Skal can almost be considered as a seal of approval when it comes to film
research. This recent offering manages to combine all the essential ingredients that make
up the limitless boundaries of the horror genre. Beginning with the origins of the
sideshows and theatres, right up to todays intense public demand for horror related
This book is a follow up to Skal's HOLLYWOOD
GOTHIC that is a superb example of research and is partially responsible for
bringing Universal's Spanish version of Dracula
to the attention of MCA who unearthed the third reel found in Cuba and promptly released
the film on video in America.
Likewise THE MONSTER SHOW is brimming to capacity with detailed accounts, facts and
some amusing anecdotes accompanied by an impressive selection of stills. One of the most
intriguing illustrations is a rare photograph of Max Schreck without makeup. Equally of
interest is a glimpse at the Theatre du Grand Guignol of Paris that began in 1897 and
flourished by producing a succession of blood-curdling plays that were initially inspired
by the earlier Punch-and-Judy shows.
Skal also offers the reader some insights
into the struggles that the rival studios faced during the horror film boom of the 1930's
and the effects of the demarcation enforced by the Production Code. In addition the author
explores Hitler's fascination with the symbol of the wolf, E.C's vastly popular and
extremely graphic comic books and the works of Stephen King.
Interestingly Skal reinforces the theory that the public appetite for horror movies seem
to grow in proportion to actual horrors experienced at the time. The biggest booms in the
horror product occured during the Depression of the late 20's, the advent of World War II,
the Red Scare, the growing threat of nuclear war and finally to the AIDS epidemic of
David Skal's smooth-as-silk writing style
and infectious enlightenments make this contribution to the study of cinema history
I eagerly await, cash in hand, for Skal's next offering.
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