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OK run through of 1950s and 1960s independent Brit horror
on 5 September 2013
John Hamilton, author of Beasts in the Cellar (a biography of exploitation producer Tony Tenser) here offers a run through of what he terms 'independent' British horror films from 1951 to 1969. By 'independent' he means nothing by any major studios (eg The Haunting, Village of the Damned both made by MGM) or by Hammer, Amicus, AIP or Compton/Tigom (covered in his Tenser book) although he does include films by Anglo Amalgamated which was a bigger company than either Tigon or Amicus or Hammer.
What's left you might ask? Well, quite a lot actually (mainly because he includes Anglo) and about 75 odd films get a run through here including Peeping Tom, Blood of the Vampire, Devil Doll, Corruption and Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire. The X Cert title is misleading as a number of these films were released without an X certificate (over sixteens only in the time period in question). One obvious missing film is the X rated Where Has Poor Mickey Gone? which was picked up by Compton for release but made independently by a collective.
The book gives about 3-4 pages of narrative covering each film's production background, a critique and snippets about its release and any other stuff. For those of you after more detail about lesser known British horrors the book is fairly good value and in particular there are a number of very interesting stills and posters including, for example, a comparison of the 'clothed' and 'unclothed' takes in the 1959 Jack the Ripper.
where I was disappointed is that I got the impression that, apart from collecting some good and rare photographs, Hamilton had done negligible original research for this tome and just cribbed from already existing sources (especially Jonathan Rigby's English Gothic and Tom Weaver's numerous articles and books on Richard Gordon's films). It was pretty noticable for example that, on Jack the Ripper, he was cribbing from David Pirie's poorly structured and inaccurate censor notes contained in New Heritage of Horror. This means that Hamilton fails to challenge existing authodoxy and just repeats dubious statements that others have made without challenging them. Elsewhere the book suffers from a number of basic factual errors (Lyn Fairhurst, writer of Devils of Darkness, is a man and not a woman for example ) and lazy writing with Hamilton sometimes assigning 'auteur' status for a project to a director hired at the last minute to direct a script that had already gone several rewrites (Theatre of Death for example).
Overall, though, I did find it a usewhile addition to my collection.