Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Forgotten Horrors to the Nth Degree

SNEAK PREVIEW: Here reposes the cover painting for our forthcoming Forgotten Horrors to the Nth Degree, collecting John Wooley's and my horror-movies columns from Fangoria magazine (since 2002) and combining those with assorted other rarities from our respective and collaborative projects over the long haul. The components add up to a survey of the often peculiar tangents the genre has taken since the 1960s -- starting with Blood Feast and 2K Maniacs and winding up with the Big Paradigm Shift of the 1980s, when the major studios finally usurped the role of the Poverty Row production companies and the video shakeout left the Old School Grindhouses in the lurch. Afterword by Stephen Bissette. Nice woik if yuh can get (away with) it...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Additional Forgotten Horrors News Just In:

Additional Forgotten Horrors news just in: And all thanx to Dennis King for the enthusiastic nod to the new edition of FORGOTTEN HORRORS (Vol. 1) at his Projections Movie Blog. Herewith:

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Perceptive review just in on Hip Pocket Theatre's SHEENA, QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE -- newly opened on the outdoor stage northwest of Fort Worth:

...and more about that at Facebook, at the Hip Pocket Theatre and Forgotten Horrors Podcast pages.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

“Forgotten Horrors Vol. 2” Due in September -- if not Sooner

An expanded edition of Forgotten Horrors Vol. 2: Beyond the Horror Ban is in preparation for publication in September 2012 by Cremo Studios, Inc. The sequel to Michael H. Price and George E. Turner’s groundbreaking Forgotten Horrors: The Original Volume covers the development of the independent movie studios’ approach to horror, weird mystery, and science fiction during a period of banishment for the genre by the British and European boards of censorship.
“The notorious Horror Ban of the late 1930s accounted for some dark days in Hollywood,” says author Mike Price. “The British Board of Censors had been trying its level best since the late silent-era years to keep the creepier fare out of England, but the group had concentrated on individual titles, such as 1932’s Island of Lost Souls and Freaks, until a coalition developed with the European censors. The foreign market was lucrative enough for the Hollywood studios that this embargo had some teeth. Strange that the censors neglected to notice the moral lessons implicit in classic horror fiction, usually in a warning about ‘tampering with things man was meant to leave alone.’

“The ban lasted from 1936-1937 until well into 1939, when the genre enthusiasts had become sufficiently fed up to make a major hit out of the simple reissue of 1931’s Dracula and Frankenstein as a double feature,” adds Price. “Universal Pictures challenged the ban by reuniting Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi for the entirely new Son of Frankenstein in 1939, and the ban found itself broken.”

Forgotten Horrors Vol. 2 offers an in-depth study of how the prolific smaller studios made it through the ban and rallied in its wake. The new edition covers a stretch from 1938 through 1942, dovetailing with the recently published Forgotten Horrors: The Original Volume—Except More So. New light is directed onto Lugosi’s 10 starring features for the tiny studios of PRC Pictures and Monogram Pictures, Karloff’s series of Mr. Wong detective adventures, and an unusual series teaming Mantan Moreland and Frankie Darro as an integrated team of amateur detectives. Chapters new to this edition cover the haunted-house comedy Comes Midnight, the African expeditionary picture Dark Rapture, and a lowbrow wartime comedy, Hillbilly Blitzkrieg, that contains a surprising foreshadowing of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (1964).

A key chapter, “Beyond the Horror Ban,” relates the little-known tale of how one theatre in Beverly Hills provoked Universal Pictures to challenge the censors. The book also shows how subversive elements of terror and creepy mystery insinuated themselves into otherwise conventional films during the span of the ban.

Vol. 2 also unearths neglected items from the fabled Tyler, Texas, Black Film Collection at Southern Methodist University—Price was among the original discoverers of that trove of historic motion pictures—and resurrects forgotten performances by such celebrated figures of Old Hollywood as Peter Lorre, Dorothy Dandridge, and Franklyn Pangborn. The survey cuts across many distinct genres, from Westerns to comedies to crime thrillers and disaster pictures, all compiled from primary-source research and exclusive interviews.

The Foreword is by Josh Alan Friedman, the author of such books as Tell the Truth until They Bleed: Coming Clean in the Dirty World of Blues & Rock ’n’ Roll, and (with illustrator Drew Friedman) Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead Is Purely Coincidental.

The Forgotten Horrors books, which originated in 1980, represent a benchmark in film scholarship and have been designated as Standard Desk References by the American Film Institute. Five volumes have been completed, with revisions and expansions in place on the first two books, refinements in progress on Vol. 3 and Vol. 4, and additional volumes in preparation. Price and the late George E. Turner originated the series as an offshoot of their research on behalf of the American Film Institute and the American Society of Cinematographers. Price and Turner also are responsible for such books as The Making of King Kong (Spawn of Skull Island) (1975-2002) and The Cinema of Adventure, Romance & Terror (1989).

Forgotten Horrors Vol. 2: Beyond the Horror Ban will carry a cover price of $30.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Forgotten Horrors: The Original Volume -- Except More So
Nothing like beating the deadline. Forgotten Horrors: The Original Volume will become available during the next few days at and presently at Kindle edition in preparation. Thanx alot to everyone for the show of interest. The expansion and revision of Forgotten Horrors Vol. 2: Beyond the Horror Ban is in progress. Gathering files and reference reels meanwhile for a companion volume on Frontier Gothics -- Horrors on Horseback -- Phantoms of the Horse Opera -- Shoot-'em-Up Noir -- whatever one might call 'em. The next collection of Forgotten Horrors will jump the chronology into the 1960s-1980s as an anthology of John Wooley's and my columns (revised and expanded) for Fangoria magazine, dating from 2002.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Groundbreaking Movie Book “Forgotten Horrors” Returns to Its Roots for a Revised & Expanded Edition -- Due in August 2012

The publication in 1980 of Forgotten Horrors: Early Talkie Chillers from Poverty Row launched a new direction in film scholarship by subjecting the weirder movies of Old Hollywood’s low-rent district to the scholarly and critical attention customarily reserved for acknowledged classics from the big studios. Authors George E. Turner and Michael H. Price staked out a distinctive territory while rediscovering little-seen favorites and identifying early work from important stars-to-be and emerging major directors.

“We intended the title, Forgotten Horrors, to be a challenge—a self-denying prophecy,” says Mike Price in announcing a new edition, revised and expanded. “With very few exceptions, such as White Zombie and The Vampire Bat, these Depression-era pictures had been popularly forgotten through neglect, careless archiving, and inconsistent copyright maintenance. We sought to make them less ‘forgotten.’

“George and I covered more than 100 such films from 1929-1937 in the original edition, and within a few years of its publication many of these pictures started cropping up on the home-video market,” adds Price. “One large-scale video dealer went so far as to publish a catalogue called Forgotten Horrors. Mission accomplished.”

The new edition, Forgotten Horrors: The Original Volume—Except More So (Cremo Studios; $35), features many new chapters and an introduction by Mel Brooks—the filmmaker responsible for such horror pictures as Young Frankenstein and David Cronenberg’s The Fly. The expansion will serve both to unearth additional rarities and to restore much of the original manuscript. At the behest of the original publisher, the Tantivy Press of London, the authors had removed many chapters for the sake of brevity—including coverage of such significant independent films as Sam Goldwyn’s Bulldog Drummond and Harold Lloyd’s creepy comedy Welcome Danger, both from 1929. These and others have been restored to the text, along with many photographs and advertising images previously unpublished.

A key new discovery is a lost film by acclaimed director Edgar G. Ulmer, The Warning Shadow—made shortly before Ulmer’s big-time breakthrough with the Boris Karloff-Bela Lugosi starrer The Black Cat (1934). While The Warning Shadow remains a missing film, Price has traced its surviving footage to an unlikely location and reports accordingly on the find. More than 50 new chapters complete the package, ranging from weird Westerns to ghostly crime melodramas and offbeat comedies. The book’s 370 pages cover the rise of such iconic stars as Boris Karloff, Ginger Rogers, and Gene Autry; the decline of many silent-era talents who stuck around through the arrival of talking pictures in the late 1920s; and significant relationships between such major studios as Columbia and Universal and low-budget companies including Tiffany, Majestic, Victory, and Monogram.

Michael H. Price and the late George Turner, longtime editor of American Cinematographer magazine, also are responsible for such books as The Making of King Kong (Spawn of Skull Island) (1975-2002); Forgotten Horrors Vol. 2 (2001); and The Cinema of Adventure, Romance & Terror (1989). Price also has delivered Vols. 3-5 of the Forgotten Horrors series in collaboration with genre historians John Wooley and Jan Alan Henderson. A collection of Price’s film reviews for the New York Times News Service (1985-1998) is in preparation.

Forgotten Horrors: The Original Volume—Except More So will be issued in August of 2012 by Cremo Studios, Inc.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

John Wayne's Gothic Westerns

This just in from the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History:

John Wayne rides again in the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History’s Lone Star Westerns film festival — a triple-shot of the Duke’s favorite movies from his earliest years of stardom during the 1930s! Selected from Monogram Pictures’ Lone Star series by Hollywood historian Mike Price, the films capture John Wayne in his youthful prime as a maverick lawman at large in a lawless frontier, fighting murderers and land-grabbers on their own ruthless terms in Randy Rides Alone (Jan. 15), The Star Packer (Jan. 22), and Blue Steel (Jan. 29). As a novice player working in modest circumstances, John Wayne was the genuine article – serving Monogram Pictures’ Lone Star Westerns series as a grimly resourceful protagonist who was not above stooping to the villains’ level in order to thwart their treacheries…

Each film will play at 2 p.m. in the Museum’s Oak Room, with introductory remarks from Price’s interviews with John Wayne. Admission is FREE with Fort Worth Stock Show/Moo-seum Experience admission. Films include:

2 p.m. Sunday, January 15, 2012 RANDY RIDES ALONE (Monogram Pictures; 1934)
Undercover lawman Wayne is gathering evidence on an outlaw band when he finds himself accused of murder in connection with a barroom massacre. He breaks jail and tracks the criminals to their lair. A principal role belongs to George Hayes, who had not yet transformed himself into the beloved Western-film sidekick “Gabby” Hayes.

2 p.m. Sunday, January 22, 2012 THE STAR PACKER (Monogram Pictures; 1934)
Another outlaw mob (“What a nest of hornets!” says Wayne) led by a mysterious boss attracts the attention of U.S. Marshal Wayne. The follow-up to Randy Rides Alone emphasizes action from start to finish, with a spectacular array of stunt falls and a terrific struggle between Wayne and stuntman Ed Parker. George Hayes reappears as a character leading a secretive double life.

2 p.m. Sunday, January 29, 2012 BLUE STEEL (Monogram Pictures; 1934)
An attempt to drive settlers from a supposedly worthless townsite inspires heroic teamwork by John Wayne and George (not yet “Gabby”) Hayes. The picture is as distinctive for its extravagant stunt-action routines and imposing scenery (California’s rugged Alabama Hills) as for the showcase it allows John Wayne as an emerging star.

BACKGROUND: The Lone Star series of Western movies of the Depression years represents a cornerstone in the Hollywood career of John Wayne. Despite a promising break in 1930 as the top-billed star of a big-studio picture, The Big Trail, Wayne remained a struggling actor until tiny Mascot Pictures put him to work during 1932-1933 as the star of three low-budget action serials. These brought Wayne to the attention of Warner Bros., which cast him in the earliest Lone Star pictures, combining recycled silent-film footage with new scenes.

After six of those patchwork films, Warner Bros. ceded the Lone Star franchise in 1933 to Monogram Pictures, which developed 16 entirely new features. Our selections come from the Monogram Lone Star series — a turning point for Wayne, and for Western movies as a class.
Wayne’s portrayals, in conflict with criminals in an untamed frontier, were consistent with a formula followed by such established stars as Buck Jones and Ken Maynard — but Wayne brought such innovations as a breezier manner and an ability to develop new standards of realism on extremely small budgets. With director Robert N. Bradbury and stuntman-actor Yakima Canutt, for example, Wayne created a style of make-believe fighting that eliminated the risk of physical impact while appearing authentically strenuous. This method has remained in use by generations of action-stunt players.

By the later 1930s, Wayne had graduated to greater prominence as part of the Three Mesquiteers ensemble of cowhand heroes, though still in the low-budget sector. His big-studio star power reasserted itself in 1939 with the breakthrough of John Ford’s Stagecoach. The Monogram Lone Star Westerns were among Wayne’s most fondly remembered assignments.

ABOUT MICHAEL H. PRICE: Hollywood historian Michael H. Price began researching the long-obscure early films of John Wayne in 1967 after meeting the star during a promotional tour for The War Wagon. Having learned that Wayne relished the experience of making the Lone Star Westerns at the dawn of his career, Price secured television-syndicate prints of Randy Rides Alone and The Star Packer, among other Lone Stars, and found them rich in inventive cinematic technique and pioneering stunt-action tricks — the very source of the dynamic screen presence that Wayne would convey in such bigger films as Stagecoach, The Searchers, and The Quiet Man. Price and fellow author George E. Turner have chronicled the Lone Star Westerns for the American Film Institute’s Catalogue of Feature Films and the American Society of Cinematographers, in addition to their own studies of American independent filmmaking.

Price is a founding archivist of the Tyler, Texas, Black Film Collection at Dallas’ Southwest Film & Video Archive; a consultant to Los Angeles’ Gene Autry Museum; curator/presenter of the quadrennial Van Cliburn Film Festival in connection with the Cliburn Piano Competition; and founding president of the Fort Worth Film Festival, Inc., forerunner of the Lone Star International Film Festival. His film programs include the John Wayne postage-stamp cancellation ceremonies (2004) at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and a long-running American Cinema series at the Carter Museum. Price’s books include five volumes in the Forgotten Horrors series of movie encyclopedias and (with George Turner) Spawn of Skull Island: The Making of King Kong.