A History of Horror, a personal journey of horror films with Mark Gatiss
January 28, 2014 3:07 PM   Subscribe

"The cinema was made for horror movies. No other kind of film offers that same mysterious anticipation as you head into a dark auditorium. No other makes such powerful use of sound and image. The cinema is where we come to share a collective dream and horror films are the most dreamlike of all, perhaps because they engage with our nightmares." And so Mark Gatiss opens his three-part series, A History of Horror. "One of the great virtues of this series is that it is thoroughly subjective. Gatiss does not feel any particular obligation to give us an A to Z of horror, but instead lingers lovingly over his own favourites," taking the viewer with him from the Golden Age of Hollywood horror through the American horror movies of the 1960s and 1970s.

For your viewing terror, the episodes are available on YouTube.

Episode 1: Frankenstein Goes To Hollywood
In the first episode, Gatiss explores the Golden Age of Hollywood horror, or the Universal era, the 1920s to 1940s. He looks at the silent film The Phantom of the Opera (1925), starring Lon Chaney, the first great horror talkie Dracula (1931), starring Béla Lugosi, and the later release of James Whale's Frankenstein (1931), featuring Boris Karloff. He focuses in particular on Son of Frankenstein (1939), a personal favourite which he feels has been neglected.

The episode includes interviews with John Carpenter, Sara Karloff, Gloria Stuart, Carla Laemmle, Donnie Dunagan, and Sheila Wynn (Lugosi's co-star in a 1951 Dracula tour).
Episode 2: Home Counties Horror
The second episode focuses on the British Hammer Films of the 1950s and 1960s, which inspired Gatiss' childhood passion for horror. He meets key figures from Hammer to discuss the series of Frankenstein and Dracula films which made stars of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, both of whom Gatiss argues are underrated talents. He also identifies a short-lived sub-genre of British "folk horror", drawing on paganism and folklore, including Witchfinder General (1968), his personal favourite Blood on Satan's Claw (1970), and The Wicker Man (1973).

This episode includes interviews with writer-producer Anthony Hinds, writer-director Jimmy Sangster, director Roy Ward Baker, Barbara Steele, star of Black Sunday (1960), director-producer Roger Corman, director Piers Haggard, John Carpenter again, and actors Barbara Shelley and David Warner. Also included are archive interviews with Peter Cushing and Vincent Price.
Episode 3: The American Scream
In the third and final episode, Gatiss looks at American horror movies of the late 1960s and 1970s, including Night Of The Living Dead (1968) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). As well as the emergence of slasher films, Gatiss examines the other great horror film trend of the era, the theme of Satanism and demonic possession in films such as Rosemary's Baby (1968), The Exorcist (1973) and The Omen (1976).

This episode includes interviews with writer David Seltzer and directors Tobe Hooper and George A. Romero, who also made Martin (1978), another personal favourite which Gatiss considers neglected. Gatiss meets David Warner, Barbara Steele and John Carpenter again, accompanying Carpenter on a tour of the set locations for Halloween (1978). He also visits the Bates Motel, the set location for Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960).
To round out the series, a related special was produced in 2012, called Horror Europa
This 90-minute exploration of European horror reunited Gatiss with director John Das and consultant Jonathan Rigby.

Gatiss' interviewees included Harry Kümel, Annette Chaton (daughter of Thomas Narcejac), Edith Scob, Fabrizio Bava (grandson of Mario Bava), Dario Argento, Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, Jorge Grau and Guillermo del Toro. Among films covered were Daughters of Darkness, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Nosferatu, The Hands of Orlac, Les Diaboliques, Eyes Without a Face, Black Sabbath, Blood and Black Lace, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Suspiria, La residencia, Who Can Kill a Child?, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth.
See also: Horror Europa Q&A
posted by filthy light thief (17 comments total) 87 users marked this as a favorite
That's a good selection of films.
posted by doctornemo at 3:27 PM on January 28, 2014

I always wondered why his Lucifer Box series was never optioned for anything ...gay Edwardian James Bond saves the world!

Anyway, this is relevant to my interests.
posted by The Whelk at 3:39 PM on January 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Mark Gatiss is just cool.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:53 PM on January 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

I wish he hadn't limited it to films, but I suppose otherwise it would have gone on for ages.
posted by orrnyereg at 4:22 PM on January 28, 2014

These are quite good and have been taken down before so watch while you can.
posted by oneear at 5:06 PM on January 28, 2014

This will be watched. Oh yes.
posted by lumpenprole at 8:05 PM on January 28, 2014

how does this even exist. i swear if i didn't smoke so much pot i could have already written a dissertation on all the horror references in League of Gentlemen xmas special as seen through the lens of Psychoville. thanks flt (again).
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 9:28 PM on January 28, 2014

This is very good, yes. Yes, it is.
posted by Mezentian at 9:51 PM on January 28, 2014

I patiently await a remake of The Stone Tape from Mr Gatiss. He is possibly the only person that could pull it off without descending into Hollywood bullshit jump scares.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 3:15 AM on January 29, 2014

That third link (Episode 3: The American Scream) is wrong, isn't it?
posted by pracowity at 3:29 AM on January 29, 2014

Mod note: Swapped this link in for ep 3, thanks pracowity.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 3:53 AM on January 29, 2014

Thanks for catching that, and for the fix!
posted by filthy light thief at 5:43 AM on January 29, 2014

Mark Gatiss was previously mentioned in the return of Sherlock to BBC in 2010, and more directly on topic in an open letter to Gatiss, and personal reaction to A History of Horror. He was also mentioned in a post on BBC Christmas ghost story dramatizations from years past.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:06 AM on January 29, 2014

We had a post about A History of Horror when it came out in 2010, but you won't see me complaining about another. I also hadn't seen that BFI Q&A before, and it's a delight. Thanks!
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 6:17 AM on January 29, 2014

goooooood this is goooooood

Also, why am I JUST NOW realizing that the X-Files episode Small Potatoes is a riff on Romero's Martin?
posted by The Whelk at 7:28 AM on January 29, 2014

in The League Of Gentlemen, he played a tall woman, and he walked exactly how a tall woman i knew did. But i never expected him to turn into the exceptional and prolific writer etc he is! heart
posted by maiamaia at 1:46 PM on January 29, 2014

Thoroughly enjoyed this, not least for reminding me to listen to more Amon Tobin (background music is episode 2).
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 7:15 PM on January 30, 2014

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