Saturday, 16 October 2010

Documentary: A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss

Mark Gatiss in front of a statue of Boris Karloff as The Monster
Best known for his roles in the dark comedy series 'The League of Gentlemen', English actor, producer and writer Mark Gatiss is host to the 3 part documentary series 'A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss', which is currently being shown on BBC Four (UK).

The series consists of:
  1. Mon 11th Oct - Frankenstein Goes to Hollywood - 1920 - 1950 Hollywood horror, including sections on Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff
  2. Mon 18th Oct - Home Counties Horror - 1950's & 1960's, the influence of British horror and the resurge of interest in the genre, including sections on Hammer, Roger Corman and Mario Bava's 'Black Sunday'
  3. Mon 25th Oct - More information soon
The cast of 'Freaks' (1932)
With clips in abundance, numerous interviews and a look at some wonderful sets and memorabilia, episode one was great for me, because I adore classic horror! The programme chronologically, but entertainingly, covered the world of horror in Hollywood in the first half of the 20th century. Gatiss largely focuses on Universal and RKO and their actors/directors/producers, but as those were the two main horror movie producing studios of the time, there's more than enough material covered. Unfortunately, films such as 'The Wolfman' are only mentioned briefly, and the influence of German Expressionism seems to be altogether ignored, but within the constraints of an hour time slot, I suppose something had to be omitted.

Lon Chaney as The Phantom
Also, although Gatiss' personal take on the films and events surrounding them, as well as his own memories, are strongly evident throughout, this gives the program a unique quality and it is still well-researched and informative in nature. Besides, even when his personal opinions enter into his dialogue, it's quite nice to hear someone being so enthusiastic about and in awe of horror! However, 'A History of Horror' is not simply an hour of fan babble, as Gatiss and those he interviews also critique and acknowledge the flaws of the material covered.

Overall, part one was interesting, insightful, and enjoyable and I cannot wait to see the next two episodes! To watch the first part on BBC iPlayer and read an interview with Gatiss about the show, visit the BBC Four website.

For those of you in the UK, BBC Four are also showing a horror film after each episode, in addition to showing various scary movies recently. 'The Bride of Frankenstein', 'Cat People', 'I Walked with a Zombie' and 'Brides of Dracula' have been/will be shown, as well as 'Gods and Monsters', the fictional biopic of director James Whale. 


  1. Since the advent of the moving picture, America has surely had a fascination with Hollywood and movie stars.

  2. @hollywood

    Yes, I think you're right. It is much the same here in the UK as well. I suppose it seems quite magical to people; creating a fictional reality and becoming someone else.

  3. Gatiss is all over the BBC these days, but his particular brand of adolescent posturing does us no favours:

  4. @Brett Gerry

    Thank you for the link to your review; it was interesting to read your take on it. Whilst I do understand why you did not enjoy the programme, Gatiss did explain at the beginning that it would be his own "personal journey" as a fan of horror, rather than the views of a film critic. I think perhaps that is why he concentrated so much on certain aspects of classic horror and left out other influential aspects. For example, he wrote a book on James Whale, which would explain the large section dedicated to him.

    I am not a fan of Gatiss' other work, but I viewed this as something completely seperate as it is, in my opinion, unrelated. However, I have't seen part two, as I have been quite busy, so I cannot yet make a judgement on the series as a whole so far.


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