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.

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