Son of Unsung Horrors | Rediscovering the neglected genre films of yesterday has never been so much fun!
Just when you thought your bookshelf was safe comes Son of Unsung Horrors, a brand new exploration of some 200 neglected, overlooked, and seemingly under-appreciated genre films from the silents to the 1970s.
Gorgeously illustrated with vintage photos, lobby cards and posters and boasting a Foreward from John Landis and covetable cover art by Paul Garner, this 400-page tome joins Unsung Horrors and the über-collectable 70s Monster Memories as another must-have from We Belong Dead maestro Eric McNaughton.
Each film has been selected, appraised and held aloft by a host of film fans (from newbie writers to bloggers and published authors) and there are gems galore just waiting for your to rediscover.
Although listed in alphabetical order at the end of the book, Eric and co-editor extraordinaire Darrell Buxton have placed the titles at random. This ends up working to the book’s advantage – as you never know what fantastic find is lurking over the page.
Having seen quite a few of the titles myself, I immediately checked out all of the unfamiliar ones first – and there are some real doozies. There’s the suave Paul Naschy giallo Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll; the spellbinding Book of Stone (remade in 2009 as El Libro de Piedra); and the DH Lawrence-inspired Corruption of Chris Miller, which all hail from Spain.
Over in Italy, meanwhile, there’s the Copenhagen-set film noir Crimes of the Black Cat; the Franco Nero giallo The Fifth Cord, which teases a pulsating Morricone beat; and the Bergmanesque chiller The Long Night of the Veronique; plus there’s some other tasty Euro entries, including the oddball Death Laid an Egg and Jean Rollin’s Normandy-set love letter to expressionism Demoniacs.
Well-researched and written up with passion and style, these entries really got me very excited to seek them out. The same goes with the chapters about Jean Epstein’s 1928 classic La Chute de la Maison Usher and the Tower of the Seven Hunchbacks, a 1940’s comedy thriller with elements of Dali, Buñuel and Fritz Lang (now that I have to see).
Further afield, some Japanese flicks certainly piqued my interest, including the euro guro Horrors of Malformed Men (which I’ve known about – because of a single lurid photo in Denis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies, but never actually seen), the spectral spookfest Ghost Story of Kasane Swamp, and the freakish curiosity Blind Beast, based on a story by mystery writer Taro Hirai (aka Japan’s Edgar Allan Poe, Edogawa Rampo).
A little closer to home, 1928’s Maria Marten maybe impossible to see – but the history behind the true crime makes for fascinating reading. Then there’s the 1940s British suspensers The Ghost of Rashmon Hall and Crimes at the Dark House, the latter featuring Tod Slaughter at his madest, which I shall be checking out soon.
Of course, there are a few titles I won’t be in any rush to see (sorry, I’m not going to vent here), but there are some I’m now tracking down: namely the 1971 man versus insects docu-drama The Hellstrom Chronicle and the formerly-banned British public information film The Finishing Line, which puts a dystopian spin on a school sports day.
But the Unsung Horror that gets my vote as the book’s stand-out gem goes to the 1970 British thriller, I Start Counting, starring Jenny Agutter (in one of her first movie roles) as a 14-year-old girl who develops an unhealthy interest in a series of local sex killings. Boasting a terrific score from Basil Kirchin (I’ve since bought the Johnny Trunk album re-relase), I’ve got this one on the top of my list to seek out (see the link below).
Now, I’ve since gone back to the start of the book to read all those titles that I’m more familar with, and some have reignited my love for some genre classics, including Phase IV, The Power and – yes, Vincent Price’s Madhouse. Oh and talking of Vinnie, I’ve also contributed a chapter on the first cinematic adaptation of a HP Lovecraft story, 1964’s The Haunted Palace.
For your perusual, I have included a list of every film covered in the book below, plus links to the titles currently available to view on YouTube (although I do stress that to see them in all their glory to hunt down their officially licensed home entertainment release).
If you fancy reading my takes on some of these titles, then just click on the READ MORE links.
Island of Terror