STARBURST scribe Jon Towlson’s new book The Turn to Gruesomeness in American Horror Films, 1931-1936, his follow-up to Subversive Horror Cinema, also published by McFarland, is now out in paperback and on Kindle.
Critics have traditionally characterized classic horror by its use of shadow and suggestion. Yet the graphic nature of early 1930s films only came to light in the home video/DVD era. Along with gangster movies and “sex pictures,” horror films drew audiences during the Great Depression with sensational content.
Exploiting a loophole in the Hays Code, which made no provision for on-screen “gruesomeness,” studios produced remarkably explicit films that were recut when the Code was more rigidly enforced from 1934. This led to a modern misperception that classic horror was intended to be safe and reassuring to audiences.
Taking a fresh look at the genre from 1931 through 1936, The Turn to Gruesomeness in American Horror Films examines “happy ending” horror films like Frankenstein (1931), Murders in the Zoo (1933), The Black Cat (1934), Mad Love (1935), The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932), Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), The Most Dangerous Game (1932) and Doctor X (1932) in relation to industry practices and censorship. These and other early works like Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) The Raven (1935) may be more akin to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Hostel (2005) than many people think!
James Gracey, the author of Dario Argento (Kamera Books), called it: "Insightful, scarily well-researched and utterly fascinating."
You can preview Jon’s new book here.
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