The Turn to Gruesomeness in American Horror Films, 1931-1936 by Jon Towlson

By Jon Towlson

Is the thirties horror movie extra comparable to photo smooth horror than is usually thought?
Critics have characteristically characterised vintage horror via its use of shadow and recommendation. but the image nature of early Nineteen Thirties movies simply got here to gentle in the house video/DVD period. besides gangster videos and "sex pictures," horror movies drew audiences throughout the nice melancholy with sensational display content material. Exploiting a loophole within the Hays Code, which made no provision for on-screen "gruesomeness," studios produced remarkably particular motion pictures that have been recut whilst the Code was once extra rigidly enforced from 1934. This resulted in a latest misperception that vintage horror was once meant to be secure and reassuring to audiences.

Taking a clean examine the style from 1931 via 1936, this severe examine examines "happy finishing" horror when it comes to practices and censorship. Early works like Murders within the Rue Morgue (1932) and The Raven (1935) might be extra equivalent to The Texas Chain observed Massacre (2003) and Saw (2004) than many critics think.

'This may be the ebook on 'classic horror' to overcome this year"- Tim Lucas, VIDEO WATCHDOG

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John L. Balderston sounded envious when he wrote in a memo to Universal that Cecil B. DeMille had a monopoly on the “great box office values of torture and cruelty”; he wanted to include in his script of Dracula’s Daughter such scenes as a baby in a sack being presented to one of Dracula’s ravenous vampire brides. ” Crucially, though, unlike Everson, Weaver—in advocating the Hays Code for preventing “what’s happened to horror movies in the last 30 or 40 years” from “getting a good running headstart back in the mid-thirties”35—makes the tacit connection between classic and modern horror in terms of its visual explicitness.

They argued that, in times of general gloom, the public wants the kind of entertainment that will bring out smiles. It sounded very plausible. So the producers immediately responded that they would make this a “laugh” year. And what has been the result? Feature comedies, including some very good ones, have had an uphill fight all season, whereas the horror, shock and thrills dramas have done the big business. ”8 Moreover, the early thirties horror film arguably gave vent, as The Film Daily editorial implies, to widespread discontent in the midst of economic collapse.

There are, however, several reasons why a distinction should be made between films produced in the classic period and those produced in the war period. Firstly, the majority of films of the classic period were made before the stricter enforcement of the Production Code from July 1934, which subjected filmmakers to more rigid restrictions on the content and treatment of subject matter in their films. Although prior to 1934, the studios had exercised an element of self-regulation under the Studio Relations Committee, the tightening of the Production Code under Joseph Breen’s administration reflected a renewed moral conservatism that gradually changed Hollywood filmmaking in the lead up to the Second World War.

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