The Missing Link Reviews

The Monster Show:
A Cultural History of Horror

by David J. Skal. Plexus Publishing. Paperback. 432pages. 12.99.

The Monster Show by David J. SkalThe 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 merchandise.

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 today.

David Skal's smooth-as-silk writing style and infectious enlightenments make this contribution to the study of cinema history indespensible.
I eagerly await, cash in hand, for Skal's next offering.

Available in the UK click here
Available in the US click here