FROM THE DUST JACKET OF
A QUAINT & CURIOUS VOLUME OF FORGOTTEN LORE
The Mythology & History of Classic Horror Films
A Quaint & Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore delves into what is on the screen and what is just beyond it in classic horror films.
Hollywood of the 1930s & 1940s produced dozens of horror and monster movies. Today, their reputations range from classic to schlock; but to their young audiences, the movies were more than entertainment. For school-age moviegoers of the Great Depression and World War II, and after-school television addicts of the 1950s and 1960s, the movie monsters were figures of modern legend.
The monsters’ sagas involve quests similar to their counterparts in children’s fairytales and classical mythology: The Frankenstein Monster’s search for belonging; The Wolf Man’s search for peace; The Mummy’s search for love. Drs. Frankenstein and Jekyll abandon comfortable lives to pursue forbidden knowledge. King Kong’s untamed aggression falls to Carl Denham’s unbridled ambition. Count Dracula, eternal evil personified, forever corrupts the young; and each new generation must defeat him and all that he represents—if indeed, he represents anything more than a count in a cape sleeping in a coffin.
Behind the myths on the screen is the rich history of the films themselves. Filmmakers took old legends and Victorian novels, and filtered them through the 20th century prisms of global war and depression to serve up movies for mass consumption. In doing so, Hollywood unwittingly produced a mythology that captures age-old and modern themes. From Darwinism vs. Creationism to the 1930s’ rise of fascism—from secular vs. spiritual to class and racial tensions to anxieties over gender and aging—A Quaint & Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore follows how movie horror portrayed the dark side of the world which its young audiences were about to enter.
Even as 1930s audiences flocked to see the movie monsters, outcries arose for tighter censorship. Watchdog groups worked to drive horror off the screen. For a time they succeeded, but they also forced the movies to become less explicit. With their protagonists’ desires often left unstated, and their most terrible crimes unseen, the movies invite speculation of what happens just out of sight. By taming the horrific, the censors helped to create the mythic.
The filmmakers, the monsters, the censors, and the mythology they all created are explored in entertaining detail in A Quaint & Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore.