on 24 September 2006
I read a review for this book but could never see it in the shops, but my mum ordered it for me and I was very impressed.
It covers every British horror movie in the 70s - many in great detail and while a large number of the movies are rare and perhaps only of interest to die hard fans, there are also lots of movies to keep the average reader entertained (The Omen, Alien, Straw Dogs, Dont Look Now, The Wicker Man, The Devils etc.)
The whole package is beautiful, the glossy paper, the many full page pictures and the level of research that has gone into it.
I often go back to it for reference, altough some of the films I decided I wanted to see are unavailable in the UK!
Other Fab press titles I have bought since never quite live up to this so can be somewhat dissapointing.
So basically I recommend this book very highly, but I think it will only interest those who enjoy horror movies and their history.
on 24 June 2001
This book will take your breath away - it is HUGE. It has over 700 pictures, lashings in colour and is amazingly designed and presented. It's the writing, however, that makes this a very special book. As well as editors David Flint and Harvey Fenton, the book contains many entries written by the world's leading horror film journalists - people like Kim Newman, Jonathan Sothcott and Tim Greaves. These guys know their stuff and their concise, articulate prose is a breath of fresh air after years of analytical rubbish. This book makes stuff like English Gothic and Fragments of Fear irrelevant. Buy it now - if you're a horror fan, your life isn't complete without it!
Not so much a celebration of British horror films as a dismissal of genre traditions prior to 1970, "Ten Years of Terror: British Horror Films of the 1970s" (2001) is a compilation of reviews written by a generation of writers for whom THE EXORCIST and THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE clearly provide the touchstones of modern horror. Raised on a diet of hip, cynical, and often defiantly American films stretching from THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT to FRIDAY THE 13th and modern revisionist slasher movies (SCREAM, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, etc.) by way of Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento and the European splatter subgenre, "Ten Years..." displays little patience with the Hammer 'formula' of yesteryear and pours scorn on many of the so-called 'traditional' horror films which continued to flourish throughout the 1970's (SCARS OF DRACULA, LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF, etc.). Some of the criticisms are valid, of course: Writer-producer Milton Subotsky is rebuked for his professional shortcomings (resulting in a string of unproduced features and bland, shoddy items such as THE UNCANNY and THE MONSTER CLUB), and the Tyburn company is derided both for ignoring contemporary trends and for hiring a director (Freddie Francis) who claimed no affinity with the horror genre and treated his material with contempt. But to dismiss the likes of Terence Fisher as 'little more than a hack' (despite ending his 1960's output with FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, a masterpiece by any standard) and to belittle the Gothic trappings which had sustained the genre for more than a decade is to deny the true foundations of modern horror. Had THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) and DRACULA (1958) not pushed the envelope in terms of theme and treatment, leading to a worldwide resurgence of interest in horror movies, the genre might have petered out altogether toward the end of the 1950's, thanks to a series of increasingly lacklustre sci-fi hybrids which Roger Corman had been peddling in a desperate attempt to woo the 'teenage' market established by A-list productions such as REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and BLACKBOARD JUNGLE. Hammer's output may seem quaint and old-fashioned today, but they tested the boundaries of international censorship and paved the way for a new breed of talent that would emerge in the 1970's, eager to take advantage of these hard-won freedoms by expanding the genre into all-new directions, far removed from the formulas of old.
Compiled by Harvey Fenton (editor of the much-missed 'Flesh & Blood' magazine) and celebrated porn historian David Flint, "Ten Years of Terror" provides a writing platform for enthusiastic amateurs and seasoned professionals alike, and is prefaced by director Norman J. Warren (TERROR, SATAN'S SLAVE, etc.) who correctly identifies the 70's as a 'golden age' of independent cinema. But while the book seeks to inform and entertain, readers may be disconcerted by some of the cruel jibes which pass for 'criticism' (the string of comments directed at Mike Raven, star of CRUCIBLE OF TERROR, are especially unpleasant), while others may be irritated by the variable writing quality from one review to another. Kim ('I've-seen-everything') Newman has been chronicling the genre for years and seems less enthusiastic about it with every passing month, though his reviews (THE CORPSE, INCENSE FOR THE DAMNED, NEITHER THE SEA NOR THE SAND, etc.) are typically more detailed than most, and he even manages to nail the modern political relevance of Kubrick's alleged 'masterpiece' A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Elsewhere, Jonathan Sothcott demonstrates a genuine affection for FRANKENSTEIN THE TRUE STORY with a comprehensive overview of the film's production history, while Stephen Thrower offers a lengthy thematic deconstruction of DON'T LOOK NOW which seeks to reaffirm the film's status as a genre 'classic'. This assumption of greatness is a particular source of irritation, especially to those of us who believe that this movie (along with the likes of ROSEMARY'S BABY, ALIEN, THE SHINING, and the collected works of Lynch, Cronenberg, et al) is overrated drivel, and unworthy of such prolonged analysis.
The genre's sloppy flirtation with sexual extremes, kept in check for the most part by an ever-vigilant BBFC, is nevertheless used as the pretext for a juvenile emphasis on bosoms and bloodshed, which the editors claim is a homage to 70's publications such as 'Continental Film Review' and 'Cinema X', but which seems more like an excuse for for slobbering descriptions of female pulchritude. Though intended as a bit of innocent fun, this preoccupation with naked starlets often signifies a lack of critical judgement: There is a tendency - peculiar to a certain breed of UK genre writer - for cheesecake to dictate the evaluation of any given film. Young male actors (not considered sexy by straight male reviewers) are constantly dismissed as non-entities, rergardless of ability or experience, while even the most talentless actress will be praised for little more than a flash of her cleavage. In a review of THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES, for instance, Robin Stewart (a perfectly adequate performer) is rubbished because he lacks macho prowess, while Julie Ege 'comes closest to achieving a performance'. This is nonsense - Ege may have been easy on the eye, but she never gave a good performance in her life! Predictably, movies with a lesbian theme are held in high regard (TWINS OF EVIL, VAMPYRES, etc.), and even the most fleeting female nudity is detailed with gusto, which makes one wonder why the book's remit wasn't expanded to include British sex films of the period.
Beautifully designed as a large coffee-table book and sporting hundreds of illustrations, including an eye-popping selection of colour photos and ad-mats, the book works best as a tribute to the unsung heroes of British commercial cinema (including the likes of Pete Walker and Antony Balch). But the text is a disappointment, veering wildly from detailed analysis to superficial 'opinion', and undermined by a leering approach to sex which says more about some of the writers than it does about the films they're supposed to be reviewing...