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By B. Forshaw
Barry Forshaw celebrates with enthusiasm the British horror movie and its fascination for macabre cinema. A definitive research of the style, British Gothic Cinema discusses the flowering of the sector, with each key movie mentioned from its beginnings within the Forties via to the twenty first century.
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But none of this is to suggest that Slaughter’s canon is not worth investigating, simply that the correct, indulgent attitude of mind will be necessary. As historical artefacts, they have their use, but the actor’s way with his monsters was to seem particularly antediluvian when compared to the infinitely superior playing of villainous roles that was to become the norm from the Hammer studios a decade later. Since Victorian times, when the attentions of the censorious decisively moved Thomas Hardy away from such forthright novels as Jude the Undermining British Cinema: Gothic Horror in the 1930s and 1940s 31 Obscure into less controversial poetry, art (particularly of the popular variety) had always been seen as somewhat subversive, and through the 1930s and 1940s, close attention was paid to the burgeoning phenomenon of popular art and the horror film, with both magazines and censors keen to strip both American and home-grown material of its dangerous, unsettling effects.
In defining fashion, Eros became inextricably linked to Thanatos (ironically, this was to become a particularly useful strategy for British film studios in their dances with the censor – had the films been more straightforwardly about sex, the already over-active application of the censor’s scissors would have gone into overdrive). 33 34 British Gothic Cinema The product of Hammer Films and co. was clarion evidence that the Gothic impulse (tied so ineluctably to an imperishable erotic impulse) was capable of almost continual re-invention (both creatively and in lacklustre fashion), much as it had been through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Parallels might be drawn with the cinema’s customary preoccupation with the high-achieving but ultimately doomed gangster whose rise and fall we watched with fascination. The difference from such figures, though, is that Frankenstein may appear to die at the end of several of his films, but we know that (like his supernatural confrère Dracula) he will be back again in another film, doing his bloody work. The strategy for sequels has frequently become calcified into a fairly tight rendering of the perceived elements that made the first film successful, but Terence Fisher’s second Frankenstein film is a particularly surprising piece of work, not conforming to this pattern, showing that Bloody Revolution: The Worldwide Impact of Hammer’s Cottage Industry 43 both the director and the writer (Sangster again) were clearly prepared to try something more audacious, eschewing certain components of the first film which probably contributed to its success (such as a straightforwardly repulsive monster, which the second film does not (quite) possess, a risky tinkering with the formula before, in fact, it had become a formula).