Review: American Silent Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Feature Films, 1913-1929


American Silent Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Feature Films, 1913-1929

John T. Soister, Henry Nicolella,  Steve Joyce, William F. Chase, Harry Long
McFarland & Company
Reviewed for LibraryThing

The Silent Era of films is not noted as a hotbed of horror. Most of the silent horror films most often cited and recalled are foreign imports such as Nosferatu (1922), The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) or The Golem (1920). American films, cognizant of the fact they were competing with vaudeville and melodrama, tended to stay with the current mainstream topics. American Silent Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Feature Films, 1913-1929 looks at the few exceptions to that status quo.

For every The Phantom of the Opera (1925) and London After Midnight (1927), there are dozens of obscure and forgotten films (some justifiably so) that dabble in supernatural threats, evil mesmerists and mad scientists.

This is a two-volume encyclopedia of the genreas interpreted by a past era. Many of the movies are lost, but the authors were able to build solid synopses and assessments of these lost films from contemporary sources, and the reader will be hard pressed to tell them from extant films without notes from the authors.

I wish the authors had started earlier than 1913 and included shorter films. Such a suggestion, based on the authors’ notes, would put all five of the contributors on suicide watch. I understand their reasoning but still…

My only complaint per se about the book is the excessive amount of flippant remarks that I assume are supposed to be clever, but merely detract from the in-depth scholarly appeal of the text. That aside, this is a vital addition to the collection of any early film historian or enthusiast.

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About goudsward

Writer of stuff not easily categorized. (Trust me, I got the royalty checks to prove it)
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