In 1977, Carousel Books published Monsters of the Movies by Denis Gifford, who only four years prior had released A Pictorial History of Horror Movies, one of the most popular, authoritative and influential book ever written on the subject matter.
 


(Carousel Books / Transworld Publishing)

  But whereas the latter was a comprehensive panorama and review of the genre from its very beginnings to the early 1970s, spread out over 218 large format pages, Monsters of the Movies was a small (5x8"/12.5x20cm) booklet comprised of 96 pages which served to present and highlight 46 monsters from specific movies.

"From the Alligator People to the Zombies, here's an A-to-Z of all the memorable monsters that make horror films such a scream! Here are all the great stars, all the great films, and all the great monsters in one jam-packed, thrill-packed, picture-packed book you'll read and read again."

Clearly aimed at early teenage readers, Monsters of the Movies truly kept all of its back cover promises.

 
Each monster was allotted a double-spread of two pages, mostly featuring a full-page still image and an accompanying page with text providing readers with a brief summary of the movie in which the monster in question featured.

Monsters of the Movies was right up the alleyway of my 13-year old self in 1977, and I was so thrilled to find this little gem that I still vividly remember to this day when and where I bought it and how I plopped down my 45p with both determination and delight. I perused my copy of Monsters of the Movies again and again, and it primed me for an even more influential purchase only a week or two later - Denis Gifford's Pictorial History of Horror Movies.

Of course most (if not all) of the films listed by Denis Gifford were completely out of reach in the 1970s, not just for teenagers thrilling to the delightfully eerie pictures featured in Monsters of the Movies, but for horror movie buffs of all ages. Quite often, the only way to view them was through abridged home movie versions on (Super)8mm, and Gifford actually provides a list of what was available in 1973 on that medium in his Pictorial History of Horror Movies (VHS would only be introduced in 1976 by JVC, and "home videos" only started to catch on by the very late 1970s). However, given the costs involved (for both a decent sound projector and then the movies) that was more like theoretical than practical advice.

But by now, 45+ years after the publication of Monsters of the Movies, and with DVDs (since 1996) and Blu-ray discs (since 2006) galore, things are looking a lot better. Here then is Denis Gifford's list of monsters and movies, with some links to additional, spoiler-free information for each movie (marked in light yellow and all work in progress, I hasten to add) or the relevant page on Wikipedia. Quite amazingly, I have by now been able to watch (and own a copy of) almost all of them...

 

 
Monster #1
Movie
  The Alligator People
The Alligator People
(USA, 1959)
     
Monster #2
Movie
  The Ape Man
The Ape Man
(USA, 1943)
     
Monster #3
Movie
  Barnabas Collins
House of Dark Shadows (USA, 1970)
     
Monster #4
Movie
  The Beast
Beauty and the Beast (France, 1946)
     
Monster #5
Movie
  The Blood Beast Terror
The Blood Beast Terror
(UK, 1967)
     
Monster #6
Movie
  The Bride of Frankenstein
The Bride of Frankenstein
(USA, 1935)
     
Monster #7
Movie
  Carmilla
The Vampire Lovers (UK, 1969)
     
Monster #8
Movie
  The Cat
The Cat and the Canary (USA, 1939)
     
Monster #9
Movie
  Count Yorga
Count Yorga, Vampire (USA, 1970)
     
Monster #10
Movie
  Countess Dracula
Countess Dracula
(UK, 1971)
     
Monster #11
Movie
  The Creature
The Creature from the Black Lagoon (USA, 1954)
     
Monster #12
Movie
  The Creeper
The Brute Man
(USA, 1946)
     
Monster #13
Movie
  The Demon
Night of the Demon (UK, 1958)
     
Monster #14
Movie
  Dr Caligari
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari
(Germany, 1919)
     
Monster #15
Movie
  Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (USA, 1931)
     
Monster #16
Movie
  Dr Moreau
The Island of Lost Souls (USA, 1932)
     
Monster #17
Movie
  Dr Phibes
The Abominable Dr Phibes (UK, 1971)
     
Monster #18
Movie
 

Dr X
Doctor X
(USA, 1932)

     
Monster #19
Movie
  Dracula
Dracula
(USA, 1931)
     
Monster #20
Movie
  The Electric Man
Man-Made Monster (USA, 1941)
     
Monster #21
Movie
  The Fly
The Fly (USA, 1958)
     
Monster #22
Movie
  Frankenstein
Frankenstein (USA, 1931)
     
Monster #23
Movie
  Fu Manchu
The Mask of Fu Manchu (USA, 1932)
     
Monster #24
Movie
  The Ghoul
The Ghoul
(UK, 1933)
     
Monster #25
Movie
  The Golem
The Golem: How He Came Into The World (Germany, 1920)
     
Monster #26
Movie
  The Gorgon
The Gorgon
(UK, 1964)
     
Monster #27
Movie
  The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (USA, 1923)
     
Monster #28
Movie
  The Invisible Man
The Invisible Man (USA, 1933)
     
Monster #29
Movie
  King Kong
King Kong (USA, 1933)
     
Monster #30
Movie
  The Mad Monster
The Mad Monster (USA, 1941)
     
Monster #31
Movie
  The Manster
The Split (aka The Manster) (USA, 1962)
     
Monster #32
Movie
  The Mummy
The Mummy's Hand
(USA, 1940)
     
Monster #33
Movie
  The Munsters
Munster Go Home! (USA, 1966)
     
Monster #34
Movie
  Nosferatu
Nosferatu (Germany, 1922)
     
Monster #35
Movie
  Orlac
The Hands of Orlac (aka Mad Love) (USA, 1935)
     
Monster #36
Movie
  The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera (USA, 1925)
     
Monster #37
Movie
  The Raven
The Raven (USA, 1935)
     
Monster #38
Movie
  The Reptile
The Reptile (UK, 1966)
     
Monster #39
Movie
  Teenage Werewolf
I Was a Teenage Werewolf (USA, 1957)
     
Monster #40
Movie
  The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead (USA, 1936)
     
Monster #41
Movie
  The Werewolf of London
Werewolf of London (USA, 1934)
     
Monster #42
Movie
  White Zombie
White Zombie (USA, 1932)
     
Monster #43
Movie
  The Wild Woman
Jungle Captive (USA, 1944)
     
Monster #44
Movie
  The Wolf Man
The Wolf Man (USA, 1941)
     
Monster #45
Movie
  Count Zaroff
The Most Dangerous Game (USA, 1932)
     
Monster #46
Movie
  The Zombie
Plague of the Zombies
(UK, 1966)
     
 
 



Denis Gifford
(1927-2000)
from A Pictorial History of Horror Movies (Hamlyn)



(Carousel Books / Transworld Publishing)



(Carousel Books / Transworld Publishing)



(Carousel Books / Transworld Publishing)



(Carousel Books / Transworld Publishing)



(Carousel Books / Transworld Publishing)


In due course, many of us who bought Denis Gifford's Monsters of the Movies would move on to his seminal Pictorial History of Horror Movies, where a happy reunion with all the ghouls, monsters and spooks from Monsters of the Movies (and many more) was waiting.

 
Carousel Books, who published Monsters of the Movies, was an imprint of London-based Transworld Publishing (now a division of Penguin Random House) active in the 1970s and early 1980s. To the best of my knowledge, Monsters of the Movies has never been reprinted.
 
 

DENIS GIFFORD'S LIST - A FEW OBSERVATIONS

 
Compiling a list of just 46 monsters and films spanning almost the entire history of horror movies will, by default, contain both glaring omissions and curious entries - not to mention personal preferences. With that in mind, Denis Gifford's selection for Monsters of the Movies is somewhat akin to the chef's recomendations at a fine dining restaurant - you don't really enter into an argument about it. Nevertheless, a few observations won't do any harm.

When Gifford passed away in 2000, The Guardian in its obituary pointed out what really seems to have been at the core of his work:

"Whether known as "Britain's most eminent comic historian" or the more cheery "Mr Nostalgia", Gifford had an infectious enthusiasm for days gone by, which he spread to a wide audience through books, radio and television." (Holland, 2000)

Gifford's keen nostalgia for the early days of horror movies is not only very tangible in his classic Pictorial History of Horror Movies, it also shows in his selection for Monsters of the Movies. That doesn't mean he left out or ignored more modern films - on the contrary, some of his choices regarding 1960s and 1970s productions are to a degree even surprisingly "modern" (and, to be honest, hardly what would have been considered children and teenager friendly in the mid-1970s), such as The Vampire Lovers or Countess Dracula (which both stem from Hammer's early sexploitation era). His nostalgia does, however, account for the numerous silent movies on his list (no less than five). Arguably, they are all classics.

Gifford's penchant for (obscure) pre-WW2 movies does shine through at times, and some selections do seem slightly odd once you've actually seen the movie - The Ape-Man is a prime example of a film that really shouldn't make it onto any list with a positive spin, and since Gifford already had the Alligator People, it could not have been the need to find a monster/movie that starts with the letter A (the letters Q, X and Y, by the way, are missing in his list, unless you drop titles such as Doctor and Count, which then gives you (Count) Yorga and (Dr.) X).

It is not really obvious from the selection of films featured in Monsters of the Movies, but Gifford's nostalgic perspective was also his achilles heel which prevented him from appreciating more modern horror movies - and he was especially hard on Hammer.

"In quantity Hammer films are fast approaching Universal, but in quality they have yet to reach Monogram. Meanwhile they can admire their Queens Award for Industry and scream all the way to the bank." (Gifford, 1973)

One could to a degree accept the jab at Hammer for sniffing out what would make them money (even if Universal did the same thing back in the 1930s), but the quality comparison statement was patently ridiculous.

 

"The problem is that Gifford automatically equates age with quality.  For him, Son of Frankenstein was "The first of the new horror films, the last of the great ones"." (Branaghan, 2019a)

In that respect, Denis Gifford shared a burden also carried by another great British movie encyclopedist - Leslie Halliwell (1929-1989). Author of the famed Filmgoer's Companion since 1965, he actually acknowledged Gifford along with a few others as a predecessor in his introduction to the first edition of his Film Guide in 1977. And like Gifford, Halliwell was accused by some of having an overly nostalgic outlook.

"[Halliwell is] something of a grumpy old English fuddy-duddy [who] rarely has anything good to say about any movie made after 1960." (Emerson, 1990)

In fairness to Gifford, he seems to have written the bulk of A Pictorial History of Horror Movies twenty years prior to its publication, according to his introduction to the book (Gifford, 1973). And maybe he even had a little change of heart when compiling Monsters of the Movies, given that 5 out of the 46 movies portrayed were Hammer films.

 


Paladin, 1977

 
Then again, others were publishing books on horror movies that featured a tone that was more appreciative of the modern films - such as Alan Frank, whose 1974 Horror Movies - Tales of Terror in the Cinema was an oversize tome that I couldn't resist spending my pocket-money on either.
 

WHAT'S WITH KIDS AND HORROR IN THE 1970s?

 
With hindsight, I find it both striking and amazing how horror themes aimed at children or young teenagers were pretty much everywhere in the 1970s.

The fact that you had horror themed ice cream is more of an anecdotal nature (Wall's "Count Dracula" ice cream didn't, at least in my memory, taste that good but it looked too wicked to not get it when you could).

 


Wall's ice cream advertisement from Avengers Weekly #1 (September 1973)

  Far more prominent and commonplace was the spooky element in children's reading material.

I enjoyed Enid Blyton's Secret Seven books (and others she wrote) because they often revolved around seemingly haunted castles and mysterious going-ons.

And with publisher Armada's Ghost Book series, things definitely dipped into (albeit mostly classic) spooky stuff.

Comic books with ghost-themed contents were also available.

 
It seems almost the only thing that wasn't accessible were the movies listed in Denis Gifford's Monsters of the Movies - maybe that's what made it such a fascinating find and read. And as Flood (2019) demonstrates, things that go bump in the night simply were what a lot of kids enjoyed in the 1970s.

"Any self-respecting ten year old would have lapped up [Monsters of the Movies], and many undoubtedly did." (Branaghan, 2019b)

 
In defence of parents and educators, what all of this did was, of course, prep you for the literary source - if you couldn't watch the movies, you could at least read the books and stories that inspired some of the most iconic amongst them.
 
     
 
 

 
SOURCES

BRANAGHAN Sim (2019a) "Monsters Maidens and Mayhem: Horror Film History Books 1965-79 (Part 1)", online at SMGuariento.com

BRANAGHAN Sim (2019b) "Monsters Maidens and Mayhem: Horror Film History Books 1965-79 (Part 3)", online at SMGuariento.com

EMERSON Jim (1990) " Rating 6 recently published guides to movies on video", Chicago Tribune, 2 March 1990

FLOOD Alison (2019) "'Ghosts shaped my life': out-of-print children's classic to be resurrected", The Guardian, June 12th 2019

GIFFORD Denis (1973) A Pictorial History of Horror Movies, Hamlyn

HOLLAND Steve (2000) "Obituary Denis Gifford", The Guardian, 26 May 2000

 
 
 

The illustrations presented here are copyright material.
Their reproduction in this non-commercial review and research context is considered to be fair use
as set out by the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. par. 107
and in accordance with the the Berne Convention
for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.

Page created 11 February 2023
Last updated 12 May 2024

(c) 2023

eXTReMe Tracker