Book reviews by Steve Earles: horror cinema

Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1957-1969

By Roberto Curti

Published by McFarland

Foreword by Ernesto Gastaldi

Without Italian gothic horror films Black Sabbath would not be called Black Sabbath so we owe them a debt of gratitude.

Roberto Curti writes with great passion on the subject, showing great knowledge in such a way as to be accessible to the reader.

McFarland have done a fine job in producing the book, which features many excellent photos of the stars and reproductions of the film posters. It’s always grand to see photos of horror greats like Christopher Lee and Barbara Steele.

Two highlights of the book are in its superb coverage of the aforementioned Black Sabbath (1963), featuring the legendary Boris Karloff, and Black Sunday (1960), which stars Barbara Steele and is easily one of the great gothic horrors.

A fine achievement.

Vampire Films of the 1970s: Dracula to Blacula and Every Fang Between

By Gary A. Smith

Published by McFarland

Gary A Smith is a fine writer, as is proved by his informative and entertaining introduction.

It’s interesting to note just how many worthy vampire films were made in the 1970s – from Hammer’s Twins of Evil to Blacula, it was a most creative time for the vampire genre.

There is a whole chapter on films inspired by Elisabeth Bathory which is excellent, the highlight being Hammer’s Countess Dracula, starring the late Ingrid Pitt, an admirable lady who in real life had survived a Nazi concentration camp and later escaped the Iron Curtain, a true survivor and much missed.

Hammer’s Karnstein films deservedly get their own chapter.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, still to be filmed properly, the 60s Vincent Price version The Last Man On Earth still being the most faithful. I imagine if it ever is done properly it will be on television rather than film. I do have a lot of affection for The Omega Man, a film I enjoyed in my youth, and a forerunner to the post-apocalyptic action movies we loved today. (Heston did three interesting dystopian films, The Omega Man, Planet of the Apes and Soylent Green – I once met the author of the source for Soylent Green, a book entitled Make Room, Make Room by Harrison; by coincidence I also met Charlton Heston around the same time).

Hammer made some of their most interesting vampire films in the 70s, including Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (from The Avengers team of Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell), The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Hammer meets Kung-Fu, and I feel it was an influence on John Carpenter’s classic Big Trouble In Little China), Vampire Circus, The Satanic Rites of Dracula, Dracula A.D 1972, Scars of Dracula and a great favourite of mine, Taste the Blood of Dracula.

Finally I have to praise the author’s excellent research. He writes about a version of Dracula scripted by Ken Russell that was never made (though the script is now officially available). Potentially starring Peter O’Toole and Oliver Reed, that truly is a mind-boggling prospect; maybe someone will someday film the script.

To conclude, the book is well-written, entertaining, and featuring some fine black-and-white illustrations. This would appeal to anyone with an interest in the vampire film genre.

Steve Earles is author and co-author of numerous projects, including To End All Wars: The WWI Graphic Anthology, available summer 2014 (