Recovering 1940s Horror Cinema: Traces of a Lost Decade
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The 1940s is a lost decade in horror cinema, undervalued and written out of most horror scholarship. This collection revises, reframes, and deconstructs persistent critical binaries that have been put in place by scholarly discourse to label 1940s horror as somehow inferior to a “classical” period or “canonical” mode of horror in the 1930s, especially as represented by the monster films of Universal Studios. The book's four sections re-evaluate the historical, political, economic, and cultural factors informing 1940s horror cinema to introduce new theoretical frameworks and to open up space for scholarly discussion of 1940s horror genre hybridity, periodization, and aesthetics. Chapters focused on Gothic and Grand Guignol traditions operating in forties horror cinema, 1940s proto-slasher films, the independent horrors of the Poverty Row studios, and critical reevaluations of neglected hybrid films such as The Vampire’s Ghost (1945) and “slippery” auteurs such as Robert Siodmak and Sam Neufield, work to recover a decade of horror that has been framed as having fallen victim to repetition, exhaustion, and decline.
during wartime, even to the point of anticipating the exigencies around the problems of documentary representation, and knowing through feeling, that will be taken up by later twentieth-century filmmakers such as James Marsh (Wisconsin Death Trip, 1999) and Jessica Yu (In the Realms of the Unreal, 2004), and theorists such as Bill Nichols (1995, 1992) and Elizabeth Cowie (2011, 1999). Forties Realism: “Suspended on the Brink of Meaning” Forties genre cinema is frequently discussed as gradually
1949. Universal City, CA: Universal Home Video, 1994. DVD. The Amazing Mr. X [aka The Spiritualist]. Directed by Bernard Vorhaus. Eagle-Lion 1948. Chatsworth, CA: Image Entertainment, 2006. DVD. The Ape Man. Directed by William Beaudine. Monogram, 1943. Narbeth, PA: Alpha Video, 2002. DVD. The Beast with Five Fingers. Directed by Robert Florey. Warner Bros., 1946. Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video, 2013. DVD. Bedlam. Directed by Mark Robson. RKO, 1946. Burbank, CA: Turner Entertainment/Warner
Its marginal status within an already undervalued period in the history of the horror genre has made it extremely difficult for The Monster and the Girl to find the audience it deserves. Conclusion: The 1950s and Beyond By the late 1940s and into the early 1950s, the horror genre in its most straightforward form was largely relegated to Abbott & Costello comedies: Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948); Abbott & Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949); Abbott & Costello Meet the
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Breakers (George Marshall, 1940), and, not surprisingly, Universal’s own The Black Cat and Mystery of Marie Roget. These productions were mostly B films, part of a Hollywood factory system that depended on tried-and-true formulas that could be made quickly and cheaply. Having a relatively modest stable of stars, Universal’s success hinged more on popular genres than on star power. The Frankenstein monster, for example, was played by three different actors during the 1940s (Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney