Monster Show

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Overview

Illuminating the dark side of the American century, The Monster Show uncovers the surprising links between horror entertainment and the great social crises of our time, as well as horror's function as a pop analogue to surrealism and other artistic movements.

With penetrating analyses and revealing anecdotes, David J. Skal chronicles one of our most popular and pervasive modes of cultural expression. He explores the disguised form in which Hollywood's classic horror movies ...

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Overview

Illuminating the dark side of the American century, The Monster Show uncovers the surprising links between horror entertainment and the great social crises of our time, as well as horror's function as a pop analogue to surrealism and other artistic movements.

With penetrating analyses and revealing anecdotes, David J. Skal chronicles one of our most popular and pervasive modes of cultural expression. He explores the disguised form in which Hollywood's classic horror movies played out the traumas of two world wars and the Depression; the nightmare visions of invasion and mind control catalyzed by the Cold War; the preoccupation with demon children that took hold as thalidomide, birth control, and abortion changed the reproductive landscape; the vogue in visceral, transformative special effects that paralleled the development of the plastic surgery industry; the link between the AIDS epidemic and the current fascination with vampires; and much more. Now with a new Afterword by the author that looks at horror's popular renaissance in the last decade, The Monster Show is a compulsively readable, thought-provoking inquiry into America's obsession with the macabre.

Americans love horror. The evolution of our favorite horror icons mirrors the great social crises of our times. Author David Skal shows how Cold War paranoia, nuclear fears, and now AIDS led to films such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Fly, Dracula and other horror hits.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Fascinating [and] entertaining . . . to understand a culture, you must know what it fears."--Stefan Dziemianowicz, The Washington Post

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This entertaining survey mixes behind-the-scenes Hollywood anecdotes with intriguing social analysis. Skal ( Hollywood Gothic ) considers the archetypes depicted in Dracula , Frankenstein , Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Tod Browning's Freaks as responses to the Great Depression that contained metaphors of class warfare. Scientific sadism in films of the 1940s drew on partial knowledge of the Third Reich, he argues, while movie monsters of the '50s personified Bomb-bred mutants or Cold War brainwashers. Skal links 1960s films' anxiety about sex and reproduction to the introduction of the Pill and Thalidomide, and suggests that horror flicks of the '70s and '80s show signs of the post-traumatic stress syndrome suffered by many Vietnam veterans. Though he analyzes Stephen King's novels, Michael Jackson's ``Thriller'' video and Famous Monsters magazine, his book might have been richer had he delved into more non-Hollywood aspects of pop culture, such as heavy metal music. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Skal, author of a terrific history of the Dracula subgenre, Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of ``Dracula'' from Novel to Stage to Screen ( LJ 9/15/90), offers an incisive analysis of the (mostly) American horror film. He demonstrates how historical, social, and political factors influenced (and were influenced by) Hollywood's production of this changing but almost always popular genre. Skal ventures from Tod Browning's ``mutilation allegories'' of the post-World War I 1920s, to the early archetypes of the 1930s (Dracula, Frankenstein, and the one-of-a-kind movie Freaks ), to the mid-1950s, and on to the AIDS metaphors in today's sex-and-splatter films. Skal also includes fresh production information and trivia. The Monster Show is much better than Walter Kendrick's recent The Thrill of Fear (Grove Pr., 1991), which deals more with literature than film. This sharply written, thoroughly researched, and unflaggingly compelling book is the best ``serious'' nonsurvey of the genre to date. For all cinema collections.-- David Bartholomew, NYPL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780571199969
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber
  • Publication date: 10/15/2001
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 782,531
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

David J. Skal is the author several critically acclaimed books on fantastic literature and genre cinema, including Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen; Screams of Reason; Mad Science and Modern Culture; V Is for Vampire: The A to Z Guide to Everything Undead; and, with Elias Savada, Dark Carnival: The Secret World of Tod Browning. With Nina Auerbach, he is co-editor of the Norton Critical Edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula. His writing has appeared in a variety of publications, ranging from The New York Times to Cinefantastique, and for television, on the A&E series Biography. He has written, produced, and directed a dozen original DVD documentaries, including features on the Universal Studios' classic monster movies, and a behind-the-scenes chronicle of the Academy Award-winning film Gods and Monsters. He currently lives and writes in Los Angeles.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2002

    Horror Psyche

    This comprehensive study of horror in arts and culture manages to touch on subjects that cannot be reached in conventional reference manuals. While the scope of the subject matter is too vast to call any one book complete or inclusive, Monster Show is filled with revelations and interesting observations on all manner of horror, and is especially good at delving into causes of different trends in horror media. While certainly a book for enthusiasts, the curious will find it fascinating as well.

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