A History of Horror [television]

It's October, and the BBC seem to be bringing out the vintage horror, which suits me, sir. However, watching A History of Horror, I couldn't help wishing that they'd had someone other than Mark Gatiss doing it. Kim Newman, say, or Sir Christopher Frayling, as then it might have lived up to the name.

Gatiss loves horror, and appears to love an awful lot of vintage film and literature, but last night's programme (the first in a series of three) was sketchy at best, and entirely devoted to Hollywood film so it wasn't even a History of Horror. It doesn't even qualify as a History of the Hollywood Horror Film because it was so roughly done. The silents are all but ignored (he only really discusses The Phantom of the Opera, and the great Expressionist German horror films aren't even named.) In the comments on the decline of Bela Lugosi's career his work with Ed Wood and the British film Mother Riley Meets the Vampire aren't mentioned. You simply can't ignore the impact of the Germans on the Hollywood horror film of the 1930s because film crew fleeing repression in their home country brought a lot of Expressionist style to Universal horror films. All those wonky angles in the Frankenstein films, for example.

Not a good beginning to the series, but I will be watching the others nonetheless simply because it's so rare to get much vintage horror on telly.


  1. Oh bother. I forgot this was on – was thinking about iPlayering it but reluctant as we have capped download limits and it uses loads. Not sure what to do now!

  2. I turned all the lights off (bar my Edwardian style table lamp) and settled down to watch Bride Of Frankenstein. Unfortunately our local BBC transmitter was on the fritz so reception was patchy at best. Still very atmospheric and great fun, though.

    P.S. Thanks for following my blog!

  3. This time of year is fab for watching horror!

  4. Bruce, I love your blog - I don't often meet people into the 1920s, although I do have one friend who's got really into Annette Hanshaw over the past year.

    Rhian, if you know anyone with a recorder, they keep repeating it on BBC4. Ian has it in some form, although I think it's Sky Plus.

  5. To be fair to Mark Gatiss he did state very clearly at the start of the episode that it was only going to feature his personal favourite films and he made no apologies for that.

  6. Miss Magpie, I know - I wish they'd named the programme something different, that's all.


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