Review: Relishing a new set of horrors and then some
FORGOTTEN HORRORS, VOL. 10: THE MISSING YEARS, by Michael H. Price with Van Cliburn and George E. Turner. Lower Klopstokia: Cremo Studios, 2016, 359 pages. $30.
The FORGOTTEN HORRORS franchise launched by George E. Turner and Michael H. Price with a single volume at the end of the 1970s heralded an appreciation of not only horror and science fiction films produced in Hollywood since the beginning of talking movies, but motion pictures whose creators included bizarre themes in what were intended as mainstream, non-genrified pictures. Many of these "forgotten horrors" had fallen into obscurity because thery were the product of B movie studios and independent producers, with some viewers finding their unknown status entirely justified. Not so for a growing legion of movie fans who encountered such films either on TV or home video and hungered for well-researched information and knowledgeable criticism, either good or bad.
The original FORGOTTEN HORRORS volume, revised and redesigned, appeared in 1999 about the same time of co-author Turner's passing. Yet with the wealth of data, interviews and research Turner and Price accumulated over the years, the franchise has now extended its study into the 1960s. FORGOTTEN HORRORS, VOL. 10: THE MISSING YEARS, with Turner and piano virtuoso Van Cliburn sharing co-author credit with Price, is a delightful variation on the format established by the previous FH books. The current volume goes beyond movies into the realm of fine art, classical music, the sound of little-known country and western artists, comic book and graphic novel content then and now, and accounts of the creative process. The commentary and coverage flows from Price's archives compiled during decades of experience as a journalist, illustrator, musician and scholar.
Some of the material, especially with the movies, is familiar to diehard FH fans but includes extended essays and notes Price authored for various festivals and exhibitions in his part of Texas; he speaks with a native understanding of the bigger-budgeted western and applies equal savvy to discussions of Hollywood extravaganzas focusing on the piano, an offshoot of the annual competition once hosted by native Texan Cliburn and explaining his posthumous participation in THE MISSING YEARS. An opening and lengthy look into the motivation and creative force behind Val Lewton's psychological thrillers for RKO in the 1940s stands strong with more voluminous studies of the producer's influence on the horror film.
An examination of the movie career of Kay Kyser offers a nicely observed look at one of the leading lights of the Big Band era of the 1930s and '40s, and another piece supplies food for thought on regional folk tales serving as the basis for many a modern-day horror story. As an example, PSYCHO author Robert Bloch revealed to Price that dire stories about Ed Gein, the real-life basis for Norman Bates, had circulated in the area of rural Wisconsin where Gein lived for some time before his misdeeds were discovered in the late '50s. Also illuminating is a mini-biography of a former co-worker, editorial cartoonist Etta Hulme, whose creations for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram were syndicated by Newspaper Enterprise Association and appreciated by individuals such as myself who worked on smaller NEA-affiliated publications.
The variety of cultural expression found in FH 10: THE MISSING YEARS is both fascinating and impressive, indicative of what Price says about his own diverse interests when he quotes a mentor in his first adult job working in a shoe store: "Ya gotta be a juggler to woik in dis racket." Such an act of physical and mental agility applies so well to FH 10: THE MISSING YEARS and leads to the inevitable question: When does this guy sleep? No matter -- while this work is different in tone from what the FH series is, it's a terrific diversion and an eye-opener to other forms of the creative experience. And therefore, well worth the time it takes to savor. -- Kevin Kelly.