Posted on September 8, 2022

Special Issue #6: Classic Horror

Dawn Keetley/ Elizabeth Erwin/ Special Issue #6

2022 is the 90th anniversary of the many amazing classic horror films that were released in 1932, among them Freaks, Island of Lost Souls, The Most Dangerous Game, The Old Dark House, The Mummy, and White Zombie. To mark this anniversary, Horror Homeroom’s sixth special issue takes up classic horror, which we’re defining as any film released prior to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film, Psycho – the film that saw the birth of ‘modern’ horror. 

We have an array of fabulous essays that explore witchcraft and rise of documentary horror in Benjamin Christensen’s Swedish silent film Häxan (1922); the difference of James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) – as well as the later Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Son of Frankenstein (1939) – from Mary Shelley’s novel; Frankenstein as a film about autism; imperialism and the continuing struggle over artifacts in The Mummy (1932); the resonances of Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932) in American Horror Story: Freak Show; representations of mental illness in Bedlam (1946); the 3-D film craze that took off in the 1950s; nuclear holocaust and vaccination fallout in The Werewolf (1956); and representations of colonialism in Hammer’s Dracula (1958).

Our authors are: Erin Harrington, Alissa Burger, Margaret Yankovich, Jessica Parant (of Spinsters of Horror), Aíne Norris, Josh Grant-Young, Katherine Cottle, Zack Kruse, Justin Wigard, and Joseph Hsin-shun Chang. Our cover illustration is by Andrew Foley.

We want to thank them for their brilliant and thoughtful work.

Here is the link, where you can read this issue online (or download the pdf) or as a flip book:

Special Issue #6

Horror homeroom has featured many other articles on classic horror; here’s a sampling:

Tod Browning’s Dracula and the origins of body horror

Coded queerness in Dracula’s Daughter

Thirteen Women as proto-slasher

Cat People and lesbian coding

6 essential pre-code horror films

The environment and race in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY aka Interesting Reads on Classic Horror

Backer, Ron. Classic Horror Films and the Literature That Inspired Them. McFarland, 2015.

Benshoff, Harry M. Monsters in the Closet: Homosexuality and the Horror film. Manchester University Press, 1997.

Berenstein, Rhona J. Attack of the Leading Ladies: Gender, Sexuality, and Spectatorship in Classic Horror Cinema. Columbia University Press, 1995.

Berenstein, Rhona J. “It Will Thrill You, It May Shock You, It Might Even Horrify You”: Gender, Reception, and Classic Horror Cinema.” The Dread of Difference, 2nd ed.. University of Texas Press, 2021. 145-170.

Clark, Stephanie Brown. “Frankenflicks: Medical Monsters in Classic Horror Films.” Cultural Sutures. Duke University Press, 2004. 129-148.

Davis, Blair. “Banquet and the Beast: The Civilizing Role of Food in 1930s Horror Films.” Reel Food. Routledge, 2012. 278-293.

Giesen, Rolf. The Nosferatu Story: The Seminal Horror Film, Its Predecessors and Its Enduring Legacy. McFarland, 2019.

Jancovich, Mark. Rational Fears: American Horror in the 1950s. Manchester University Press, 1996. 

Keetley, Dawn, and Gwen Hofmann. “Thirteen women (1932): An Unacknowledged Horror Classic.” Journal of Film and Video, vol. 68, no. 1, 2016, pp. 31-47. 

Konow, David. Reel Terror: The Scary, Bloody, Gory, Hundred-year History of Classic Horror Films. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012.

Mank, Gregory William. The Very Witching Time of Night: Dark Alleys of Classic Horror Cinema. McFarland, 2014.

Martens, Emiel. “The 1930s Horror Adventure Film on Location in Jamaica: ‘Jungle Gods’, ‘Voodoo Drums’ and ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ in the ‘Secret Places of Paradise Island’.” Humanities, vol. 10, no. 2, 2021, p. 62.

Means Coleman, Robin. Horror Noire: Black in American Horror Films from the 1890s to Present. Routledge, 2011. 

Peirse, Alison Louise. The Destruction of the Male Body in Classic Horror Film. Diss. University of Lancaster, 2007.

Poole, W. Scott. Wasteland: The Great War and the Origins of Modern Horror. Counterpoint, 2018. 

Rasmussen, Randy. Children of the Night: The Six Archetypal Characters of Classic Horror Films. McFarland, 2006.

Reichardt Ellis, Sarah, and Michael Lee. “Monsters, Meaning, and the Music of Chopin in American Horror Cinema of the 1930s and ’40s.” Journal of Musicological Research, vol. 39, no. 1, 2020, pp. 24-41.

Skal, David J. The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror. Macmillan, 2001.

Slee, Ellie. “Femininity and Costume in 1930s Horror.” Film, Fashion & Consumption , vol. 3, no. 1, 2014, pp. 31-45.

Smith, Angela. Hideous Progeny: Disability, Eugenics, and Classic Horror Cinema. Columbia University Press, 2012.

Spadoni, Robert. Uncanny Bodies: The Coming of Sound Film and the Origins of the Horror Genre. University of California Press, 2007. 

Towlson, Jon. Subversive Horror Cinema: Countercultural Messages of Films from Frankenstein to the Present. McFarland, 2014.

Tudor, Andrew. Monsters and Mad Scientists: A Cultural History of the Horror Movie. Basil Blackwell, 1989.

Weaver, Tom, David Schecter, and Robert J. Kiss. Universal Terrors, 1951-1955: Eight Classic Horror and Science Fiction Films. McFarland, 2017.

Wierzbicki, James. “Wedding Bells for The Bride of Frankenstein: Symbols and Signifiers in the Music for a Classic Horror Film.” Film and Philosophy, vol. 4, no. 1, 2001, pp. 103-116.

Worland, Rick. “OWI meets the Monsters: Hollywood Horror Films and War Propaganda, 1942 to 1945.” Cinema Journal, 1997, pp. 47-65.

Young, Elizabeth. Black Frankenstein: The Making of an American Metaphor. New York University Press, 2008. 

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