The Essential Geek Library: ‘A Pictorial History of Horror Movies’

As a young science fiction and horror movie fan, I watched every movie I could see, a challenge sometimes in those pre-home video days. So I spent endless hours checking out books about the genre. I’m noting a few of them here in this recurring space.

If Famous Monsters of Filmland was my favorite magazine, Denis Gifford’s “A Pictorial History of Horror Movies” was my standard reference, my bible.

Gifford’s book, published in 1973, was a scholarly but loving look at several decades of horror movies.

Gifford, a British writer of comic books and books about pop culture, apparently amassed what was considered one of the biggest collections of British comic books in existence.

But it’s his love for and knowledge of horror movies that endears him to me.

His book truly lived up to its name. “Pictorial History” is loaded with vintage photos from horror films from the 1920s to the 1970s. Even before I saw some movies, Gifford’s look at them gave me a good visual frame of reference. Some movies, like the silent version of “Frankenstein,” are completely represented in my mind by the pictures included in Gifford’s book.

As a young man who loved to draw, I would study those stills and try my hand at reproducing them with pencil and paper.

And Gifford’s book didn’t discriminate. He included movies from the Universal classics to low-budget movies made here and abroad.

Gifford passed in 2000. I’m hoping he knows what a milestone he left for all of us fans. I’m guessing he knew.

As a side note, by the way, the hardcover cost only a few dollars in 1973. In doing research for this, I found it for sale online as high as $199. I showed that to my son, who said, “You should sell it!” Never.

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