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American Silent Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Feature Films,… (edition 2012)

by John T. Soister

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1611615,960 (4.67)2
Member:Thomas64
Title:American Silent Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Feature Films, 1913-1929
Authors:John T. Soister
Info:McFarland (2012), Paperback, 2 volumes.
Collections:Print Library, Fantasy, Horror, Criticism, Books About Movies, Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:American movies, silent film, horror movies, film history, movies, criticism

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American Silent Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Feature Films, 1913-1929 by John T. Soister

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This two-volume set of books is very impressive. It is well researched and well organized with a large table of contents (listing both volumes in each book), appendix, bibliography and index. This is a film researcher’s dream come true. The books have a handful of images (I would have liked to have seen more photos but was happy that they included some images) from these early films. Each entry lists the film’s title, film company name, year released, number of reels and length of film in feet, and other information (I was sadly surprised at how many of these films are lost). Each entry has a detailed description of the film, actors, plot and setting. This is a great research tool and I recommend it to any student of early feature films. ( )
  Chris177 | Jan 4, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A detailed overview of silent-era horror, fantasy, and sci-fi movies which covers classic silent films as well as turkeys. The coverage also includes a wide variety of lost films. The authors also take some unexpected positions, arguing, for example, that the long-lost Lon Chaney/Tod Browning film London After Midnight probably wasn't very good. This book gives lots of interesting background information on American silent movies that I am familiar with, and has inspired me to take a look (or second look) at these films. The discussions of the movies include plot summaries, background information, a summary of contemporary critical opinion, and, where possible, an assessment of the merits of the films by the authors.

People who are interested in film history, silent cinema, or fantastic film will find this book to be a valuable resource. ( )
  Thomas64 | Nov 2, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A 9x11" 810 page two volume set, the authors clearly set out to write the definitive work on American horror and fantasy films in the silent era and have admirably suceeded. Each film profiled in the book receives approximately two pages with a full credits list, synopsis, a critique if the film still exists and can be screened, quotes from vintage reviews, and information on the people who made the film. The landmark films receive even more detail: six pages for THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, six for THE LOST WORLD, five pages for THE CAT AND THE CANARY, etc. Many of the films are also illustrated with a photo or vintage poster reproduction. The authors are clearly horror/science fiction buffs so they know what they are talking about, although there is a regrettable touch of snarkiness in some of the commentary and photo captions which might have been ok in a mainstream book but seems out of place in a major reference work. The authors set a wide net for what can fall under the horror/science fiction/fantasy label (although they did rule out fairy tales ala SNOW WHITE) and a result you will find a number of silent stars with films in here you might think had never worked in the genre. Considering the newest film in the book is well over 80 years old the level of research done here is amazing and this two volume set belongs in every library that aspires to have all the major references works on either science fiction movies or silent films. ( )
  mrsfiskeandco | Oct 29, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Silent Era of films is not noted as a hotbed of horror. Most of the silent horror films most often cited and recalled are foreign imports such as Nosferatu (1922), The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) or The Golem (1920). American films, cognizant of the fact they were competing with vaudeville and melodrama, tended to stay with the current mainstream topics. American Silent Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Feature Films, 1913-1929 looks at the few exceptions to that status quo.

For every The Phantom of the Opera (1925) and London After Midnight (1927), there are dozens of obscure and forgotten films (some justifiably so) that dabble in supernatural threats, evil mesmerists and mad scientists.

This is a two-volume encyclopedia of the genreas interpreted by a past era. Many of the movies are lost, but the authors were able to build solid synopses and assessments of these lost films from contemporary sources, and the reader will be hard pressed to tell them from extant films without notes from the authors.

I wish the authors had started earlier than 1913 and included shorter films. Such a suggestion, based on the authors’ notes, would put all five of the contributors on suicide watch. I understand their reasoning but still…

My only complaint per se about the book is the excessive amount of flippant remarks that I assume are supposed to be clever, but merely detract from the in-depth scholarly appeal of the text. That aside, this is a vital addition to the collection of any early film historian or enthusiast. ( )
  goudsward | Oct 25, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
There are two things that clued me in to the massive amount of work put into this two-volume set. First, forgetting this was 'American' silent movies, I went pouring through looking for 'Cabinet of Dr. Caligari', 'Der Golem' and a few others, and only came up with a few mentions in critiques of other works, before I realized these were foreign films. Second, the authors set the guidelines for inclusion into this collection in their introductions, and besides limiting it to the years 1913-1929, they also insisted on the movies being clearly associated with the horror, science fiction or fantasy genres. To be able to pack a two-volume set with silent movies, made in America, meeting these guidelines, was incredibly impressive. There are photographs, but not an overwhelming amount. This is because, as the authors point out, not all the movies had any pictures, posters or even footage left, to help represent them in the book. I won't go through the movies included here, if they were created during these years, and they fall in any of these three genres, they are here. If you are a fanatic of horror movies, as I am, you need this set as a reference source. You will probably not read page by page, I did not, but you will constantly find yourself going back to these as a source of information to what is out there, you were never aware of. ( )
  bukwurm2 | Oct 23, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 078643581X, Paperback)

During the Silent Era, when most films dealt with dramatic or comedic takes on the "boy meets girl, boy loses girl" theme, other motion pictures dared to tackle such topics as rejuvenation, revivication, mesmerism, the supernatural and the grotesque. A Daughter of the Gods (1916), The Phantom of the Opera (1925), The Magician (1926) and Seven Footprints to Satan (1929) were among the unusual and startling films containing story elements that went far beyond the realm of "highly unlikely." Using surviving documentation and their combined expertise, the authors catalog and discuss these departures from the norm in this encyclopedic guide to American horror, science fiction and fantasy in the years from 1913 through 1929.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:56 -0400)

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