Saturday, June 11, 2011

THE GHOULS - Stories Behind Classic Horror Films

The Stories Behind the Classic Horror Films

The Devil In A Nunnery by Francis Oscar Mann
The System Of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether by Edgar Allan Poe
Feathertop by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

The Magician by Somerset Maugham

Spurs by Tod Robbins

The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell

Dracula’s Guest by Bram Stoker

The Devil And Daniel Webster by Steven Vincent Benet

Novels that inspire horror movies are easy to find, but short stories might need more detective work. They might only be found in old anthologies or even magazines. So when I saw these two paperbacks, I pounced on them! The Ghouls: Books One and Two were edited by Peter Haining, with nine short stories in each, every one used as source material for a horror film.

I bought these paperbacks just after they were published in 1974 (previously available as a single hardback). All I know is that they were sold in the UK and US, and reprinted in the UK in 1994. Such a brilliant theme for a collection, I'm surprised that there haven't been many more.

As a tribute to a great idea, here's an over-ambitiously long article that took months to put together - I've read all the stories again and watched as many of the movies they inspired as was possible. While I'd disagree that all the films are 'horror classics', I've been led to some great films that I'd not seen before.

Haining's introduction, as well as the foreword and afterword from genre giants, Vincent Price and Christopher Lee respectively, contain insightful notes on the genre.

So here's a look at the films and stories of Book One, a second article on Book Two will follow...

Foreword by Peter Haining

Haining makes a case for a place in the world for horror films and novels, at a time when gory or scary films were still widely being dismissed by critics and scholars alike. He originally chose these tales to illustrate how fiction has inspired horror films through the years, from the very first decade of cinema.

His introductions to each story reminded me of the state of the genre back then. For instance he remarks that Freaks "was the most horrific film ever made" and that The Magician was a "missing" film. Thankfully, far more horrific films have been made since 1974, and The Magician is no longer lost. In fact, it's just hit DVD.

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