Fantastic Films of the Decades – Volume 2: The 30s by Wayne Kinsey .
256 pages. Limited run 500 copies . ORDER NOW Only £32 + p&p
Following is one person’s take on The Good, The Bad and, uh, The Neutral of Fantastic Films of the Decades – Volume 2: The 30s by Wayne Kinsey.
First comes a mainly here-nor-there random observation. Readers of Volume I will feel comfortable with the first portion of Volume II. The early 30s are full of films that redid characters and themes from the silent era. To wit, right off the bat we have Alraune (1930), The Bat Whispers (1930), The Cat Creeps (1930) and The Gorilla (1930) not to mention a couple of Fu Manchu movies, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), Dracula (US and Spanish versions from 1931 and both essentially Nosferatu redone) and, of course, Frankenstein (1931).
Actually, rather than log that item as a neutral, maybe it should be entered slightly to the Credit Side of the Ledger insofar as the reader can pick out trends like this; these volumes are well organized.
That leads us to the rest of the “Good” of Volume II. A genre fan can certainly learn a lot from it. For instance, I’m not sure I’ve ever even heard of the all-but-lost Gorilla film called Ingagi (1931 and one of the few early 30s pictures not redoing material) and read the full page write-up eagerly. A number of pages later is a fine ½ page bio of Gorilla impersonator extraordinaire Charles Gemora (yes, he played in Ingagi) which was equally illuminating. The author has definite a knack for giving appropriate coverage; the more key the topic or individual, the more words are spent. Boredom is minimized.
Some other items among many that rate as personal highlights: the coverage of production starts and stops of The Invisible Man (1933), The “Did you know?” tidbits of The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), the lowdown on changing censor ship guidelines in the United States and the United Kingdom during the 30s, the recycled props of the Flash Gordon serial and on and on.
Another aspect that I enjoyed is that if the film under discussion was an adaption of a book or play or was later done in film and other media, it’s noted.
Like the previous Volume, this one is generously illustrated with some fine color.
Now, on to the “not so good”. When I think of the term “fantastic” in regards to moving pictures, I think of three sub-genres: Horror, Sci Fi and Fantasy. Despite the fact that the 30s experienced a famed cycle of horror films, Volume II seems even more unbalanced in its coverage than Volume I when it comes to the non-horror entries.
As a glaring example, I – as a sci fi geek – was left wondering after reading Volume I whether the well-known futuristic 1929 film High Treason might be covered in Volume II (since it was both a sound and silent film). It was not and even director Maurice Elvey’s Volume II mini-biography compounded the oversight with “Despite his long CV, his genre ﬁlms were few; The Lodger  and The Clairvoyant (1934)”. It seems that if “Gold” is of the “Haunted” variety as in Haunted Gold (1932) coverage is warranted but the well-known dual-language science fiction based Gold (1934) with Genre Queen Brigitte Helm is neglected. A quick glance at a recent Sinister Cinema Catalog in the “Science Fiction and Fantasy” section indicates other obvious omissions: La Fin Du monde / The End of the World (1931), F.P. 1 Doesn’t Answer (1931 in French, German and English), Der Herr der Welt a.k.a. The Master of the World (1934) featuring an enormous electric robot, yet another Maurice Elvey (!) s.f. work called Transatlantic Tunnel (1935) and its earlier German parallel Der Tunnel (1933), Gibel Sensatsii a.k.a. The Robots of Ripley (1935) and Bílá nemoc a.k.a. The White Plague (1937 based on famed a work by S.F. author Karel Capek). That’s quite a lot of heavy hitters to be excluded. Perhaps if the basically superfluous 10 full pages devoted to News Headlines of the Year had been jettisoned, room for these items may have been available.
When someone has a passion and possesses an affinity for a topic, it’s always refreshing. It seems clear that the author possesses same toward the horror genre but it seems equally clear that his interest in the other genres is only in passing. Whether this book is right for you depends on where your interests lie as well.
Fantastic Films of the Decades – Volume 2 is limited to only 500 copies and only available direct from http://www.peverilpublishing.co.uk