Friday, March 6, 2009

To Hell It Can Go!

Forrest J. Ackerman, "an inspiration to us all", is acknowledged in the first pages of this book.

It's not surprising.

Ed Naha's Horrors From Screen To Scream reads like a cross between Famous Monsters and Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide; it's short, sometimes witty, but not terribly prophetic.

When, at thirteen years of age, I caught the train on the first day of my September school holidays into the city, my destination was the usual -- Space Age Bookshop.

With close to $20 in my pocket, earned in a month long flurry of beer bottle collecting and trading, I was giddy with pulp purchase excitement.

The beautiful cover art (uncredited, altho it feels like Gogos) grabbed my attention, and the short, pithy reviews sealed the deal.

This one always makes me smile:

You just know Mr. Naha enjoyed coming up with the first line of that.

And this:

Short, but not too sweet enough for me.

As I read through the book at Melbourne's Flinders St. train station and missed half a dozen trains, I found myself wanting more than the author was serving up, and I did feel that the review of The Slime People was somewhat disrespectful.

The film was a pre-teen favorite of mine with its fog-shrouded Los Angeles setting and hulking monsters.

The "laughable terror" Naha had experienced was not shared by me.

At ten, it had scared the crap out of me sideways.

It Happened Here was a film I didn't see until two decades after reading this review.

Naha wasn't off base about its "uncomfortable realism".

Now it reads like heresy, but the author's review of Toho's Matango (aka Attack of the Mushroom People) made me laugh at the time. "Let us spray"?

But with the advent of the Japanese release of the film on DVD, I found myself introduced to a masterwork of fantasy that has become one of my favorite films of all time. "Let us spray"? now sounds like a joke made to crib a laugh while insulting a loyal subject.

I am convinced that Gilligan's Island ('64) took its inspiration (and character mix) from Matango ('63).

I've been wrong before and will be wrong several times again, but I'm not letting this one go.

A dedicated Matango rant is coming very soon.

Tender moment from The Evil of Frankenstein ('64)

In the pre-video age, books like Horrors From Screen To Scream (with their terrific black and white still selections) were essential fuel for our fantasy-starved hearts.

The cinema was more mysterious then because its treasures were less accessible.

Much of the magic was still in the mind.

The rules of scarcity prevailed.

The Baron, looking amazing, from Bava's Baron Blood ('72)

In the author's lengthy introduction, he explains: "What you have here is a book of monsters. It's not a work to be studied or dissected. (Its) one fan's way of saying thanks to the legions of monsters and equally admirable monster makers..."

Your sentiments are shared, Ed.


  1. 'Let us spray' is what separates a great reviewer from merely good. That was perfect.

    What fascinates me is that we have a generation who not only will have video at their fingertips, but also the ability to Google any title. Those kids will never know the thrill of flipping through a book like this where one paragraph descriptions can be better than the movie itself.

  2. Many thanks for your fond recollection regarding "Horrors." This was actually the first book I'd ever written and it was sort of done on a dare. I was complaining about the fact that most people ignore horror films and never catalogued them. Someone got tired of me complaining and said, why don't you shaddup and write a book?

    Since I was one of those geeky kids who actually collected newspaper reviews of horror and science fiction films (not much to do in New Jersey) as well as taking notes and writing longhand reviews of my own, I had a lot of research. Back in those days, there was no way to Google or saunter over to IMDB to check running times and such, so it was pretty much a fanboy affair.

    Again, thanks for the enjoyable read.


    Ed Naha

  3. Ed, it's a pleasant surprise to hear from you, so thank you for writing.

    It is true that so few films were catalogued in that era. I'm glad you took up the dare.

    Your book will always own a place in my heart.

    Perhaps it is time for an update?

    I'd love to read pithy Naha reviews of the last two decades of international horror.

    Perhaps "Screen to Scream Again"?