Monday, June 02, 2008


One of the first horror film books I bought was this seminal classic from film critic and writer Denis Gifford, this book bought many entertaining hours either reading or just staring at the wonderful stills featured inside, this is one of the attractions of this 216 page large hardback book, it has 350 black and white stills with a further 16 in colour, even the index featured stills.

The text is easy to understand and to take in, none of your analyzing and picking apart;this is just a great book telling the history of the horror film, from the very early silents, classics from Universal Studios, Hammer films, A.I.P., and also covering horror films from around the world. Many rare and forgotten films are also mentioned and illustrated throughout the book.

One of the attractions of the book is the fantastic cover art [see pictures above of front and back] by artist Chantrell [anyone know anything about this artist?] Certainly I think one of the best illustrated covers I have seen for a horror film book, I always prefer this sort of cover compared to a photo cover. The Pictorial History of Horror Movies was first published by Hamlyn in 1973 and reprinted a number of times throughout the 70's and an updated softcover version was published too. As well as the index, there is also an Appendix which lists 'H' certificate films, a filmography listing a range of Super 8 films, and a bibliography covering books and magazines.

Every horror film fan should have this on their shelf [preferably with cover showing]. Sorry my review is the bare bones, I'm not very good at reviewing books basically.


Ursa said...

What an awesome book, I just got one simply titled The Pictorial History of Horror which details the origins of the horror 'penny dreadfuls' and very early horror comics. Specifically the lurid covers used to attract buyers.

The one you got reminds me of a book I got when I was very young, "Monsters of the Movies" it had of course the classic image of Karloffs Frankenstein on the front. It was A3 size and filled with colour and black and white stills.

Gave me my first glimpse of Nosferatu, Curse of Frankenstein, Gorgo, Godzilla and lots more.

Good memories.

Karswell said...

I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've purchased this awesome book over the years. It's one of my faves but it always gets detroyed somehow by a friend or my son, or it just disappears somehow somewhere... the cursed book!

Paul said...

Glad you like the look of the book Ursa. The Pictorial history of horror is one that sounds familiar, is this the one by Peter Haining? If it is I believe there was a title change to 'Terror' or could of been a similiar book.
I think I know which book the 'Monsters of the Movies' book is, is it quite a slim book with some really nice large pictures?

I agree Karswell, its certainly one of my faves too. Its a good job that the book is still easy to get hold of.

Ursa said...

Indeed it is a thin book. With awesome pictures, including a poster sized image of old Kong doing his thing with the biplanes. It was a great book.

I meant to check on that authors name last night for the other horror volume, but got lost in housework. Will let you know.

Paul said...

I didn't know there was another volume of this book or are talking about the Pictorial horror movies book?

Anonymous said...

Tom Chantrell painted many of Hammer's best film posters. Good chance he did this I'd think ? This was my bible in the 1970's - if BBC2 was showing it's weekly double bills - I'd be thumbing through Gifford's tome!

Great site.


Paul said...

Thanks for the information about Chantrill, he certainly is a fantastic artist, the film poster artists are certainly underrated. Some of these film posters are masterpieces in my opinion.

Yes the Pictorial history of Horror Films is certainly a valuable reference book and certainly a great source for those Horror double bills shown in the 70's/80's.

Thanks for your comment about the site, glad you like it and hope you continue to.

Anonymous said...


I'm Alan Frank: thanks for the kind comments. Much appreciated.


Paul said...

Thats funny, Alan Frank passed away in 2000, internet is not available from beyond I believe.

Anonymous said...

i have this book along with about 12-13 others i purchased at the time. its a classic but my favourite though is Alan F's 'Horror movies -The movie treasury' one. i also have 'monsters & vampires' as well as alan franks 'Horror Films'book. i cant tell you how much enjoyment these have given me over the years. i got into these films when i watched BBc2's 'Draculae, Frankenstein & friends double bill season in the 70's. what wonderful days. i also have scrapbooks of those seasons i made at the time-full of the listings etc.

many thanks for a great website.

Paul said...

Hi Greg
I really like those other 2 horror film books that Alan Frank wrote too. I am hoping to do posts on these sometime. I too get a lot of enjoyment from these great books and like Pictorial history of Horror films, Alan Franks books on horror films are always well written and beautifuly illustrated.

Would you be willing to share some scans of these cuttings for the horror double bills?

Anonymous said...

paul awesome BLOG, please send me an email

i have a few scans to share with you , all horror

dig your blog, with i had a scan of this WHOLE book

Auriel said...

This book is by Denis Gifford and not Alan Frank! Denis did indeed pass away in 2000, and left behind a huge collection of film and comic book memorabilia.
Alan Frank is alive and well and still working as a critic and author. Not sure how this issue arose as the authors name is on the front of the book!
Great book though-still read my copy regularly.

Paul said...

Hi Auriel
Thank you for pointing this out, it wasn't untill I checked the post again that I realised what a stupid mistake I made. I shall get this changed straight away. I must of been thinking about the Alan Frank books at the time and just ended up writing his name instead. How embarrasing.

Paul said...

Hi Alan Frank
Please except my apologies, as you may of noticed from the comments from Auriel I totaly mixed up yourself and Mr.Gifford.
All the best

Auriel said...

Glad the mix up has been sorted, after I posted I began to think 'was I right'?!! :)
I dug out the books mentioned on here and checked-definately Mr Gifford!
By the way, does anyone remember a horror comic/magazine that came out in the UK in the 80s? I can't remember the title, but it used to give away free gifts like vampire teeth and fake blood attached to the front?
I have scaled the internet but no joy! Thanks guys :)

Paul said...

I'm also pleased the mix up as been sorted now, thanks to your goodself.

The only comics I can think of at the moment which had free spooky gifts were 'Scream' already featured in the Cobwebbed Room. The other one I can think of was called 'Terific' which contained some spooky free gifts, but I think this was early 90's. If i think of any others I'll let you know.
All the best

charles said...

hi, thanks for the gifford horror book review. it was my first book of this type as a child(along with an issue of famous monsters of filmland)back in 73. made me feel surprised and contented that i wasnt the only one into this kind of stuff.

i havent had that book in ages but still remember some of the photos. i remember around the same period the alan frank book and haining book(which school friends had gotten and i read).

i actually just bought giffords book on amazon,waiting for its arrival. a nostalgic christmas gift for myself. again, thanks for your site.

Paul said...

Hi Charles, glad you liked the review, this book was also one of the first horror film books I had too. I love this book as well as the 2 Alan Frank ones. I think every horror film fan should have these on their shelves. So pleased that have bought another copy of the Gifford book, fantastic present to yourself.

Anonymous said...

This book was a big part of my very early 1970s. As a kid growing up to Karloff and Chaney and others, I was inspired to display this book in my room ever since.

I am very sad to learn of the authors passing.

Brian Artillery said...

The Don. A book, which, when I was at school, was prime for confiscation by teachers. My new copy met this fate, but I mounted an after school incursion into the staff room, recovered it, and found it well thumbed, and had acquired a patina of coffee cup rings and a fair sprinkling of biscuit crumbs. The bastards had been reading it. I shall have to get another copy, my fourth, soon, as the binding on my current copy has given up the ghost.(sorry).