REVIEW: MONSTER MADNESS – THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE HORROR FILM / DIRECTOR: JEFF HERBERGER / SCREENPLAY: A. SUSAN SVEHLA / STARRING: TOM PROVEAUX, CARLA LAEMMLE, BELA LUGOSI JR., ROBERT CLARKE, SARA KARLOFF, PEGGY MORAN, ROBERT WISE, TERRY MOORE, ELENA VERDUGO, JANE ADAMS, / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 12TH (R1 ONLY)
So you want to know about the Golden Age of horror movies? Well, a good start might be going and watching them. Ah, you don’t know where to begin? Fair enough, there’s a lot of them. You could go and get some books on the subject or do some Googling. You haven’t got time? You want a good all-round knowledge and you want it in 90 minutes? OK then, in that case you either purchase a documentary DVD like this one, or you take this writer down the pub and buy him beer all night.
Monster Madness: The Golden Age of the Horror Film is 79 minutes (oh, they’ve included the trailer extras in that 90 minutes; cheeky) of low rent but informative clips and chat on the horror movies of the '20s, '30s and '40s. Actually the Golden Age was probably over by the '40s but hey-ho. It’s pretty extensive: they don’t just give you a bit of Drac, Frankie and Wolfie and be done with it; we get quite a few of the lesser known ones here too, including early Karloff flick The Bells (1926). But, of course, you always get that sneaking suspicion that the availability of the footage has decided the content; there are some odd omissions and quite how they got sci-fi musical Just Imagine (1930) in there is anyone’s guess. Rather too many old movie trailers are employed and the quality of the prints varies tremendously; some look OK but a lot of these classics are not being shown in their best light. But there are plenty of interviews with survivors of the era, even if they all seem to be filmed at some horror convention with the subjects addressing the hall. It looks a bit amateurish but it’s no less interesting for that. It’d be fascinating to know when these were filmed because most of the interviewees look younger than they should and, in at least two cases, more alive than they currently are. But there’s some good talking head experts on parade and it’s nice to see them expressing some genuine opinions about the movies rather than allowing the whole thing to turn into a “wasn’t it great?” nostalgia-fest as these things often do.
So all in all, it does what it says on the tin. The constraints of the budget show (by God, we’ve typed that a lot lately) and it does have the habit of lurching all over the place in terms of narrative (always a danger when you try to cover everything) but it’s got considerably more meat than anything you’ll ever see on Channel 5. Now, who’s up for a beer?
Extras: Trailers for some interesting looking low-budget movies and some terrible looking “UFOs are all around us” documentaries.