Gifford Sighting #2

The book which indecently obsesses me, Denis Gifford’s big green A Pictorial History of Horror Movies, turns up again! I’m always interested in what books movie characters have on their shelves.

I first spotted the movie book in an actual movie when I watched Obayashi’s HAUSU, an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink horror romp in which the book is prominently placed in a train sequence ~

Gifford, bottom left.

Now it rears its big green Glenn Strange head again, in THE DEADLY SPAWN, a prosthetics effects wallow from 1983. I was just admiring the fact that the boy hero has the same KING KONG poster on his wall that I had as a boy, when I found myself thinking, “I bet he has the Gifford book too” — and then I noticed it in the very same frame ~

KONG poster: top left. Gifford book: centre frame, to left of kid’s head.

The preponderance of gleeful gore and rubber creatures makes the amateurish DEADLY SPAWN just about watchable, with the main source of horror being the interior design ~

All those squiggly clashing patterns: it makes THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG look minimalist. This must be what Mary Poppins sees when she rubs her eyes really hard.

Asides from the literary guest star, what HAUSU and SPAWN have in common is a rather Giffordian impetus: they don’t draw inspiration from any one image in the Big Book, rather they seek to make a movie so full of messed-up images that watching it is akin to leafing through the book itself, with each crazy monster/disfiguration following hard on the heels of the last. Obayashi does this with a lot more cinematic invention, needless to say, making his film just about the loopiest thing ever. THE DEADLY SPAWN is basically an amateur movie with a few production values and a lot of enthusiasm — tolerable in itself and no doubt a dream for gorehounds.

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8 Responses to “Gifford Sighting #2”

  1. HAUSU (AKA HOUSE) is going to be playing here at the local art house cinema the end of October, to coincide with Halloween I would guess. I plan on being there, so I’ll look for it. I remember watching DeToth’s PITFALL some time back and there’s a scene where Dick Powell’s son is having a nightmare. His parents go in to comfort him and Dad finds a stack of comic books on his dresser. Of course the comics are to blame, a gift from the grandmother as I recall. But it thrilled me to discern that they weren’t props, but rather the real deal, I recognized a Flash Comics from the late Forties with Hawkman on the cover on the top of the stack. Powell’s not as colorful a character here as he is in MURDER MY SWEET, but Raymond Burr’s suitably menacing. My other favorite Powell noir is CRY DANGER, which has some great writing, funny dialogue and an irreverent tone throughout.

  2. Christopher Says:

    I wonder what other goodies are on that boys shelf there in Spawn..back issues of Blackhawk Bulletins and Castle Of Frankenstein maybe?…
    ok..here it is…your next project boys!
    Denis Gifford’s;A Pictorial History Of Horror Movies-The Musical!

  3. I think some issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland are glimpsed in a later moment of The Deadly Spawn.

    Hausu is the kind of movie that’s so weird one hesitates to recommend it to the non-certified, but if you like the idea of being amazed at levels of craziness not previously thought attainable, then I’d check it out.

  4. That sounds fine by me. Heretofore unattained levels of craziness, when done right, can be immensely satisfying.

    I owned more than a few issues of Famous Monsters in my monster-loving boyhood. Someone told me a few years back that there’s a scene in in a fairly recent film (within the past twenty years maybe) where one can see, inside a young boy’s bedroom, plastic models of the Universal Monsters, manufactured by the Aurora company in the Sixties. God I loved those things, they sold for a dollar apiece (a dollar fifty for King Kong and Godzilla of course), and I owned some of them two or three times over. I believe the film’s The Woman in White, The Lady in White, something like that. And I think Luke Haas plays the boy.

  5. Christopher Says:

    I read Famous Monsters and got all the first editions of those Aurora Models..you’d see little frankenstein head Ads for Aurora resembling something like the Lon Chaney version of the monster all over the place!..Universal Monsters never had it as good as they did in the early 60s.

  6. I was on holiday with my family when we found a shop with a rack of Famous Monsters magazine. I’d never seen it before (and didn’t again until adulthood) so it was like an Aladin’s Cave. I was told I could have two issues (they had about twelve!) so I took forever to choose. I wanted to just camp in the shop and read them all from cover to cover.

    Later, I got a plastic Frankenstein monster with luminous head and hands, which was a great comfort after lights out.

    That Lukas Haas movie must be Lady in White. I think it’s meant to be quite spooky.

  7. Yes, Lady in White. It’s set in 1962, which would be the perfect moment in time for the magazines, the plastic models, and the films being shown on television. The rights were acquired by television to show the old films beginning in the late Fifties here in the States, and I was just the right age to be susceptible to the craze, which is pretty much what it was. The luminous monsters came a little later, I had the glow-in-the-dark Godzilla. I feel compelled to see this film now, which was made in 1988, and stars Katherine Helmond.

  8. Yes, Helmond is a legend. Wonder why her star faded? Although I see at least she got to be a voice in Cars, which probably doubled the total box office take of her oeuvre.

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