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A New Heritage of Horror: The English Gothic Cinema [Paperback]

David Pirie
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

19 Dec 2007
The first and most quoted book on the British horror movie, David Pirie s acclaimed 'A Heritage of Horror' has long been regarded as a trail-blazing classic, having the force of a revelation , according to one recent study of the subject, inspirational in another. It was the first book to detect and analyse the roots of British horror, identifying it as the only staple cinematic myth which Britain can properly claim as its own and was consequnetly heralded by film-makers like Michael Powell and Martin Scorsese. But though it inspired a revaluation of the form, 'Heritage' has been unavailable for so long that copies have changed hands at very high prices. Now at last, David Pirie updates and revises his original work in 'A New Heritage of Horror', bringing the story right into the new century, examining all that has happened since (including the latest horror boom inaugurated by films like 'The Others') and uncovering fresh documentation from the original files to add more revelations about the history of UK horror and Hammer Films, not least the largely untold story of their desperate battles against censorship. 'A New Heritage of Horror' promises to be one of the key film books of 2008.

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A New Heritage of Horror: The English Gothic Cinema + British Horror Cinema (British Popular Cinema) + Beyond Hammer: British Horror Cinema Since 1970
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: I B Tauris & Co Ltd; Rev Upd edition (19 Dec 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845114825
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845114824
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 263,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'A New Heritage of Horror is the best study of British horror movies and an important contribution to the study of British cinema as a whole.' --Martin Scorsese

David Pirie has at last updated his landmark volume...For horror fans, this will be manna from Heaven, for along with Jonathan Rigby s English Gothic, this remains a cornerstone work, packed with revealing opinion and brow-raising data excavated from the vaults...This highly welcome update will be greeted with open arms by horror devotees who will at last be able to see for themselves what all the fuss has been about Howard Maxford --Film Review

Long been regarded as a trailblazing classic…with A New Heritage of Horror, David Pirie has revised his original work, bringing the story up to date. --Sight & Sound

About the Author

A former Film Editor of 'Time Out', David Pirie turned to screenwriting with a string of successful productions of a gothic or noir flavour from 'Rainy Day Women' via Lars Von Trier's 'Breaking the Waves' to 'The Woman In White' and 'Murder Rooms'. Critic Tise Vahimagi recently noted that while Pirie's film noir-influenced works may be among the most satisfying of that style on TV, it is with his Gothic screenplays that he excels as a genre writer.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
David Pirie's A Heritage of Horror published in 1972 or 1973 was the first attempt to take the British horror film boom of the late 1950's and 1960's seriously. It's a great read and lead to a much overdue critical re-examination of these films. Its unlikely that the work of later authors such as Dennis Mikele or Wayne Kinsey would have happened without Pirie's pioneering piece.

This is an update of his book, written over thirty years later. About 50% of the text has been re-written to take account of (a) what has happened since the original (b) new information which has come to light (c) Pirie re-visiting his opinions.

When Pirie wrote his original BBFC information was a closely guarded secret. Now it is a much more open organisation and there are various addiitonal sections detailing the filmmakers' struggle with the censors. Whilst the section on Hammer is heavily indebted to Wayne Kinsey's book on the Bray studio years, Pirie has done his own research at the BBFC to cover the so-called Sadean horrors and there is new material on the censor and Horrors of the Black Museum, Circus of Horrors and Jack the Ripper that is valuable.

Pirie has also re-evaluated Anthony Hinds' contribution to Hammer and gives him much more credit than he did originally. Basically, each chapter contains amendments and re-writes to reflect new information. What this interestingly reveals is that the original was largely written on spec without much inside knowledge about what really went on at Hammer in the period. For these updates Pirie is indebted especially to Kinsey who is footnoted numerous time.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't judge this book by its index! 5 Feb 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is definitely one of the most engaging and thought-provoking books on horror films I've read. The original edition of this book, published in 1973, has built something of a reputation for being the first serious in-depth study of English horror films - it was reading about this book in Jonathan Rigby's excellent 'English Gothic' which encouraged me to buy this book. And am I glad I did!

First the bad news. It's been poorly proof-read - possibly because of late delivery of the typescript (which would explain a lot of the book's shortcomings): the occasional missing full stop and comma isn't so much a problem, but when you come across a statement like 'Dracula was an invented image of Christ' you have to do a double-take to realise that there must be a typo ('inverted' surely). The index is very far from comprehensive - frustrating when the text refers to 'Selwynism' and there's no entry in the index to help you discover what Pirie means; downright frustrating when there are dozens of films covered in the text which simply don't register in the index. Finally, Pirie is rather light on films pre-dating Hammer's - Jonathan Rigby's book is much more informative in that area.

The good news is the text itself is clearly written by an enthusiast who has thought deeply about both the films and their literary background (Pirie is especially good on comparing the Dracula films with Bram Stoker's original character).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Jane
Some good news on this great book which answers most of the minor criticisms in the other reviews. According to an interview with the author that I saw, the mistakes were largely due to a poor re-retyping of the original book and a minimal index. However, the first print run of the new edition sold out and now the publishers have done the decent thing and given us a revised edition with all those problems gone and a greatly expanded index, making it THE book on Hammer and the English horror film unmarred by errors. The section I like best is the author's astonishoing analysis of the UK horror film's battles with the censor all laid bare here in what is a fascinating and sometimes shocking read. Overall I would wish he'd written a bit more about UK television and horror but that is a minor point. The main fact is now the glitches are sorted out this stands head and shoulders above every other book on this subject.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
As a long time aficionado of old style horror films and English horror films in particular, I have taken an equally long time to getting around to reviewing this seminal work on the genre but better late than never. I find it ironic that this book was first published in 1973, the year that THE EXORCIST first appeared on moviescreens and changed the nature of mainstream horror forever. I not only read it many times but I went out and tried to see as many films that it listed as possible checking them off as I caught up with them. I made the common mistake of loaning it to a friend who after keeping it forever, finally admitted that he had misplaced it and had no idea where it was. It didn't matter as I had most of it (at least the list of films) committed to memory.

35 years, several books, and countless horror films later, Mr Pirie has updated his tome just in time for most of the films he discusses to have made their appearance on DVD so that they are available to be viewed in conjunction with the book. Some of the major titles, WITCHFINDER GENERAL for instance or the infamous "Sadian Trio" (HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM, CIRCUS OF HORRORS, PEEPING TOM), have finally been issued in their original versions on Region 1 so that they can be seen and appreciated here in the U.S. (some like THE BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW or Michael Reeves' THE SORCERERS still haven't made the trip across the pond). While some have already gone out-of-print, they are almost all readily available in used copies or downloadable from outlets like Amazon which is the best way for most people to catch up with them.
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