Another day, another title borrowed from Matheson—not that he coined the phrase or anything, but he did use it for a short story that he later adapted into a fun episode of Amazing Stories. Be that as it may, John Kenneth Muir recently posted about the film and TV books he grew up with, and while the six years I have on John help explain the only partial overlap between his list and the one I’d compile, he makes some interesting observations about the treasured tomes that were our Bibles in the pre-Internet era. For the record, our shared frame of reference consists of these:
- Stephen King, Danse Macabre (although I did not acquire it until years after it was published)
- Paul R. Gagne, The Zombies That Ate Pittsburgh: The Films of George A. Romero (where I first learned that Romero openly admitted I Am Legend inspired Night of the Living Dead)
- John Stanley, Creature Features Movie Guide Strikes Again (I’ve owned several iterations of this periodically updated book, and what it lacks in depth it more than makes up for in wit and breadth)
He also name-checks such mainstays as John Brosnan and Ed Naha, and mentions the books by my sometime mentor John McCarty, several of which I’d publicized at St. Martin’s Press. Muir, you will recall, posted an incredibly generous review of Richard Matheson on Screen, and kindly cited me in this recent entry as one of those now writing quality books on the genre. That makes up a little for the fact that—despite the recommendation of no lesser light than Video Watchdog’s Tim Lucas, whose book on Mario Bava is the envy of us all—RMOS wasn’t even nominated for the Rondo Award (for which The Twilight and Other Zones got an Honorable Mention in 2009).
My own almost-200-volume reference library of film and TV books is also a sore subject, for it suffered the most damage during our recent leakage. Nine were soaked to one degree or another, and must be considered write-offs as actual possessions, although I will probably cling to them stubbornly for whatever bits of information might still be gleaned therein. (Because most if not all are probably long out of print, I have to decide which are worth trying to replace.) They are:
- Williams, Lucy Chase, The Complete Films of Vincent Price
- Willis, Donald C., Horror and Science Fiction Films II
- —–, Horror and Science Fiction Films III
- —–, Horror and Science Fiction Films IV
- Winter, Douglas E., Faces of Fear: Encounters with the Creators of Modern Horror (which I value despite Winter’s doing me a disservice years ago)
- Wolf, Leonard, Horror: A Connoisseur’s Guide to Literature and Film
- Wright, Bruce Lanier, Nightwalkers: Gothic Horror Movies: The Modern Era
- —–, Yesterday’s Tomorrows: The Golden Age of Science Fiction Movie Posters
- Zicree, Marc Scott, The Twilight Zone Companion, second edition (autographed “To Matthew—in friendship—Richard Matheson.” Son of a BITCH!)
Fortunately, only one of these, the earliest Willis volume (I never did get his first), would be on my own roster of formative texts, some of which are listed below. For simplicity’s sake, I am restricting myself not only to Muir’s time frame of books published by the time I was 21, but also to those that made it into the bibliography for RMOS. Mind you, not every one of these books is invaluable, and many were easily surpassed by the Phil Hardys of this world in later years, but they and others such as Carlos Clarens’s Illustrated History of the Horror Film were virtually the only game in town when the genre enslaved me.
- Baxter, John, Science Fiction in the Cinema: 1895-1970
- Beck, Calvin Thomas, Heroes of the Horrors
- —–, Scream Queens: Heroines of the Horrors
- Bojarski, Richard, and Kenneth Beals, The Films of Boris Karloff
- Brosnan, John, Future Tense: The Cinema of Science Fiction
- —–, The Horror People
- Everson, William K., Classics of the Horror Film
- Eyles, Allen, Robert Adkinson, and Nicholas Fry, editors, The House of Horror: The Story of Hammer Films
- Gifford, Denis, Karloff: The Man, the Monster, the Movies
- —–, A Pictorial History of Horror Movies
- Glut, Donald F., The Dracula Book
- Johnson, William, editor, Focus on the Science Fiction Film
- Lee, Walt, Reference Guide to Fantastic Films: Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror (3 volumes)
- Lentz, Harris M. III, Science Fiction, Horror & Fantasy Film and Television Credits (2 volumes)
- Meyers, Richard, S-F 2: A Pictorial History of Science Fiction Films From “Rollerball” to “Return of the Jedi”
- Naha, Ed, The Films of Roger Corman: Brilliance on a Budget
- Pirie, David, The Vampire Cinema
- Weldon, Michael, The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film
- Willis, Donald C., Horror and Science Fiction Films II
The Horror People probably had the greatest impact on me, because it’s the first time I remember seeing the creators of these films—including a guy named Matheson—actually interviewed, which led indirectly to my own attempts to get them down in their own words. Baxter’s book is oft-mentioned on the Outer-Limits-a-day blog We Are Controlling Transmission (about which more tomorrow) as one of the first to treat genre television with some of the same respect as SF cinema. Despite being little more than a glorified checklist, Lee’s was a landmark work of scholarship, and Lentz’s was a godsend to a guy who had been frantically dictating movie credits into his tape recorder for transcription on 3” x 5” index cards.
I remember drawing heavily on Beck’s books when the future Madame BOF and I were pining for each other at separate colleges (if memory serves me correctly, her very strict parents allowed us a grand total of one visit in each direction during the whole four years) and, just for fun, I sent her a “correspondence course” in certain aspects of genre history. Weldon’s was a late addition but revelatory for the more, yes, “psychotronic” entries. A final recollection: when Horror[s] of Malformed Men gained some notoriety on its DVD release a few years ago, I remember with pride that I was the only one in my little circle who had ever heard of it, thanks to the single still reproduced in Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies.
Addendum: Here’s the nice VideoScope review of RMOS in its entirety.