Picks and Pans Review: Mr. Monster's Movie Gold
When they write the cultural history of the 20th century, America's fascination with fictional monsters will no doubt occupy a prominent chapter. It is a phenomenon that defies most conventions of enjoyment or entertainment: Why would anyone want to be scared out of his or her wits, or made to laugh by a ludicrous excuse for a fearsome creature? None of these books explores the psychosocial aspects of the situation, but they're all amusing in their way. Mank, a sometime actor and writer, has devoted his book (A.S. Barnes & Company, $12.95) to the cinematic and stage portrayals of Mary Shelley's antihero, Frankenstein's monster. It chronicles the history of the tragic semihuman figure from the 1910 silent film starring Charles Ogle through the 1981 Broadway production starring Keith Jochim. In between, Mank discusses such memorable Frankenstein creatures as Boris Karloff, Beta Lugosi (who turned down the role in the 1931 Universal classic before Karloff accepted it), Lon Chaney Jr. and Glenn Strange. The book includes interviews with such survivors as the late Lugosi's fourth wife, Lillian, and screenwriter Curt Siodmak and is enough to satisfy even the most devoted Frankensteinophile. Frank's volume (Barnes & Noble, $24.95) is a straightforward catalog of the horror film genre. It omits such classics as the 1951 film The Thing while including the less esteemed The Boy Who Cried Werewolf and Welcome to Arrow Beach/ Tender Flesh. Carlos Clarens' An Illustrated History of the Horror Film, published in 1973, might be a better overall guide. Ackerman's book (The Donning Company, $12.95) is full of still photographs from his 300,000-piece collection of horror movie memorabilia. He is featured in many of the pictures, posing hammily with horror film stars. The captions for some others indicate that Ackerman has no idea where they came from. As a reference, the book leaves almost everything to be desired, but it has a certain curiosity value for devout fans.