Horror in Silent Films: A Filmography, 1896-1929

Horror has always been one of the most popular genres in film of any era. However, it was not officially recognized as such until the release of Frankenstein (Universal, 1931). How can this be? Where does this leave the master of macabre, Lon Chaney Sr.? Or the vivid films from Germany, like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Decla-Bioscop, 1919) and Faust (UFA, 1926) (according to this terrific text there are no less than 12 silent films with the title Faust!), that cause us to wake up in night sweats? Roy Kinnard answers these questions and more. He puts silent horror films in their rightful place – the direct and undeniable inspiration for the style of horror classics in the golden age of sound.

Horror in Silent Films covers films from the U.S. and Europe. Many of the movies represented are such well-known films as Metropolis (UFA, 1926) (34k jpeg), The Man Who Laughs (Universal, 1928), The Phantom of the Opera (Universal, 1925) and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Paramount/Artcraft, 1920) (61k jpeg). Yet of the lesser-known films, there are at least 10 Jekyll and Hyde versions listed in this book, as well as the earliest version of Frankenstein (Edison, 1910). Many entries have longer notes in the form of critiques on the stars, the production, snippets of comtemporary reviews and photos. Also noted is whether the films are lost, like Chaney’s London After Midnight (M-G-M, 1927). Other films are listed with basic production information, such as title, year, country of origin and length.

The book’s title says “filmography,” but it is more than that. Horror in Silent Films is a history book of horror classics. It is not dry commentary, but a compelling adventure through the evolution of the horror genre. Kinnard covers 1130 “horror related” films chronologically, each film listed in alphabetical order. “Horror related” can mean an overlapping of subjects: fantasy, preatomic age science fiction and traditional fairy tales – especially those with a “Grimm” edge. The elements required for a film to be listed is that it contain one or more of the traits considered stock-in-trade for a horror movie: haunted houses, ghosts, witches, monsters, the occult, hypnotism et al.

The forward to Horror in Silent Films prepares the reader for a fantastic voyage. There is a great collection of rare photos generously sprinkled throughout the text and a very helpful bibliography that will give horror buffs more roads to travel. As an added bonus, there are two indexes, one for titles and one for personal names. Happy digging!

Madison Morrison