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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


 

A Pictorial History of Horror Movies by Denis Gifford

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Cover art by Tom Chantrell.

Halloween approaches so here’s a book that suits the season. Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies was published in Great Britain by Hamlyn in 1973. A large-format hardback of just over 200 pages, this was a cheap production for wide distribution, and evidently sold well: my edition from 1980 is the 12th reprint, and the book was still in print in 1983, in a slightly longer edition with a new cover.

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For a generation of British kids Gifford’s book made an indelible impression, not least because of its ubiquity. It was always easy to find—for years I didn’t have a copy of my own because I invariably seemed to know someone who did—and its mostly black-and-white pictures featured a great deal of imagery that was generally forbidden to those of us under the age of 18. This may seem surprising to Americans, or those in more liberated European countries, but Britain has always had an uneasy relationship with the horror genre despite the legacy of Gothic novels and ghost stories, never mind Dracula, Frankenstein and the rest. Literary manifestations command a grudging acceptance if enough years have passed since first publication but Britain’s moralists and censors have fretted over pictorial horror for decades, especially the film and comic-book variety.

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La Belle et la Bête (1946).

Almost all horror films screened in Britain over the past century were for audiences of 18 or over, while horror films on TV were never shown before 10pm. That scene in Halloween (1978) where the kids are watching The Thing From Another World on television in the early evening would have been impossible here. In 1982 we had the start of the “video nasties” panic, a particularly disgraceful episode for those eager to interfere in other people’s entertainment, and an issue that rumbled on for the rest of the decade. As for print media, I still have a leaflet from the late 1980s given to all applicants of UK passports which lists “horror comics” along with weapons, drugs, poisons, etc, among the items forbidden from import into Britain. This climate gave Gifford’s guide an illicit charge it might not have had if published elsewhere: the book delivered a concentrated dose of the forbidden.

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Vincent Price as Doctor Phibes.

Denis Gifford (1927–2000) was, among other things, a comics artist, a comics and film historian, and a collector of comic books and horror ephemera. Most of the material in A Pictorial History of Horror Movies is from his own collection, and an excellent collection it was. More than 300 stills run through the entire history of horror cinema from the earliest Méliès shorts to German Expressionism, Universal horror, Hammer horror, AIP monster movies, Toho monster movies, and on to the garish efforts of the late 1960s; he even manages to get in a still from Carry On Screaming. The accompanying text is concise but authoritative, although I doubt anyone ever used the book as a serious study. Yet for a 12-year-old this was a perfect introduction to the genre, as well as a dizzying intimation of hundreds of films yet to be seen. In place of the films you had pictures implying entire worlds of mystery and terror, many of which are so good they give very unrealistic expectations of the films from which they originate. Some of the most memorable examples for me have been those which are more atmospheric or eerie than horrific, like the sinister child at the window in Mario Bava’s Operazione Paura (1966) aka Curse of the Dead. (See this post for more about the extended life of Gifford’s still.) But there were also plenty of monsters, grotesque makeup effects and even some gore; a female friend of mine was obsessed with the picture of a blonde and bloodied young woman with an axe buried in her head (see below). Looking at the book today I suspect Gifford’s punning captions may have been a nod to Famous Monsters of Filmland, a magazine with a devoted readership but not a title I ever read myself.

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Peter Cushing (The Skull; 1965).

All the pictures here are from an upload of the entire book at the Internet Archive. Gifford isn’t around to complain about this but the book may not remain there for long so enjoy it while you can. A few more pages follow. For an earlier appraisal of the book’s impact on impressionable minds, there’s this piece by Dave Tompkins.

Read the rest of this entry »

 


Weekend links 435

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An illustration by “Lapthorn” for Little Green Apples: the Chronicle of a Fallen Man (1930) by Geoffrey Moss.

Jean-Michel Jarre & Michel Granger: how we made Oxygène. “[It] was initially rejected by record company after record company. They all said: ‘You have no singles, no drummer, no singer, the tracks last 10 minutes and it’s French!’ Even my mother said: ‘Why did you name your album after a gas and put a skull on the cover?’”

• “When we ignore or demean consensual BDSM erotica, or stories about female sexual submission, we inadvertently contribute to a cultural legacy that routinely pathologizes, demeans, or erases women’s sexual desires.” Hayley Phelan on why we need erotica.

• “More than a literal reconstruction of an imagined collaboration between Eno and Morricone, Ghost Box opens a door onto a world where ambient music and country-western make for natural bedfellows.” Ghost Box (Expanded) by Suss.

Peter Bebergal and Janaka Stucky discuss Bebergal’s new book, Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural. There’s more at the Occulture podcast.

Great Noises That Fill The Air (1988), an album by Bow Gamelan Ensemble, receives its first release on CD next month. Related: the group in 1987 staging one of their pyrotechnic performances.

• Mixes of the week: Bleep Mix #45 by Lawrence English & William Basinski – Casting Voices Mixtape, DJ Food Solid Steel mix by Matt Berry, and The Séance – 13th October 2018.

• “…the social position filled by art and aesthetics is increasingly best understood in terms of magic.” Marina Warner and Eleanor Birne discuss forms of enchantment.

• From 2104: Ten little tales of terror for late of a Halloween night by Levi Stahl.

Words I Heard by Julian Holter

The Cosmodrome Futurists

Urban Gamelan (Pt. 1) (1984) by 23 Skidoo | Chez Les Futuristes Russes (1984) by Aksak Maboul | Oxygen (1997) by Gas

 


The art of Henricus Jansen, 1867–1921

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This week’s post is another by Sander Bink about a neglected artist of the Dutch fin de siècle. Once again, this is an artist whose work was new to me. The Mucha-like style of the later pictures (and the one above from the same series) are especially good. My thanks again to Sander for the post.

* * *

Henricus Jansen (1867–1921) was a Dutch painter, graphic artist and illustrator who used ‘Henricus’ as his artist’s name, ‘Jansen’ being a very common and decidedly unsexy surname. He originated from The Hague where Art Nouveau and symbolism flourished in the 1890s more than any other Dutch city.

In the little that has been written about Henricus he is usually considered not to be avant-garde or progressive enough to be an ‘important artist’ (whatever that may mean). He is, however, mentioned in the standard reference work Symbolism in Dutch Art by Polak from 1955. Extensive studies have never been published about him and my main source of information about his life and work is an unpublished university thesis from 1988 by Louis Baeten of which I happen to have a copy. Baeten had spoken to Henricus’s daughter who was then still alive. According to the thesis Henricus must have made hundreds of drawings and paintings but they seem to be quite rare nowadays and seldom come to auction.

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For example, Henricus visited Tunisia in 1901 where Baeten says he produced more than 67 pastels and drawings of which “only seven survive”. These were exhibited in The Hague in 1901, and Leiden in 1907. One of these is depicted here from a private collection: a charming, somewhat cartoon-like ink drawing of three Tunisian male figures.

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From 1887 till 1892 Henricus lived in Paris where he mingled in the bohemian and artistic circles around Le Chat Noir, and knew people like Rodolphe Salis and Paul Verlaine. The drawings and illustrations he produced from around 1890 are strongly influenced by Parisian graphic artists like Steinlen, Grasset and Willette, uncommon models in Dutch art of the 1890s. Examples like the drawing of a lady in an antique market (above) are to be found in his illustrations for a book by Johan Gram, ‘s-Gravenhage in onzen tijd (The Hague nowadays) from 1893.

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More Symbolist in style, and therefore probably more of interest to { feuilleton } readers, are his illustrations for the popular magazine Elsevier’s. The picture shown here is a lithograph he made for the poem ‘Paulinus van Nola’ by the Flemish poet Pol de Mont, published in 1895.

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But his chef d’oeuvre is a series of lithographs inspired by the medieval folk song Heer Halewijn (Lord Halewijn), published in 1904 and exhibited in The Hague the same year, of which three are depicted here (from the collection Van der Peppel.) The most famous of the series is plate number sixteen in which Lord Halewijn’s head is decapitated by a charming lady. It is obviously inspired by Beardsley’s Salomé but is made with an entirely different technique and in colours. There is also a touch of Puvis de Chavannes and Carlos Schwabe to them. They are among the finest examples of Dutch fin de siècle graphic art.

Sander Bink

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Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of Antoon van Welie, 1866–1956
The art of Simon Moulijn, 1866–1948
René Gockinga revisited
Gockinga’s Bacchanal and an unknown portrait of Fritz Klein
More from the Decadent Dutch

 


Weekend links 434

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Group X, No. 1, Altarpiece (1915) by Hilma af Klint.

“Like Kandinsky, and other pioneers of abstract art, af Klint was deeply immersed in theosophy and anthroposophy. But she seems to have taken that interest much further than her male counterparts, participating in (and later leading) séances with a group of women friends. Whatever the spirits said, af Klint did.” Nana Asfour on pioneering abstract painter, Hilma af Klint.

• Four electronic artists reflect on the influence of composer Laurie Spiegel. Spiegel’s The Expanding Universe (1980) is reissued by Unseen Worlds next month. Related: Laurie Spiegel in 1977 playing the Bell Labs Digital Synthesizer.

• At Expanding Mind: Gurdjieffean writer and DuVersity director Anthony Blake talks with Erik Davis about dialogue, synergy, mind between brains, the trouble with teachers, and the gymnasium of beliefs in higher intelligence.

• Mixes of the week: Flashing Noise Mix by Tim Gane, Secret Thirteen Mix 268 by Bérangère Maximin, and Samhain Séance Seven: A Very Dark Place – Prologue by The Ephemeral Man.

Geeta Dayal on Broken Music (1989), a book about sound art edited by Ursula Block and Michael Glasmeier which is now available in a new edition from Primary Information.

• The Sainsbury Archive showcases the graphic design of several decades of the supermarket chain’s products.

• More of the usual suspects: Michael Moorcock and Alan Moore in 2006 discussing Moorcock’s career.

• “Karloff the Uncanny”: Joe Dante talks to Stephanie Sporn about the attraction of old film posters.

Mexico City, another preview (and a psychedelic one) of Randall Dunn’s forthcoming solo album.

• At Haute Macabre: Timeless Phantom Interludes: The Photography of Jason Blake.

Mark Valentine on the current state of Britain’s secondhand book shops.

• At I Love Typography: Unicorns, Frogs and the Sausage Supper Affair.

• “I never wanted to be a cult film-maker,” says John Waters.

• Artist Arik Roper chooses some favourite album covers.

Broken Head (1978) by Eno, Moebius, Roedelius | Broken Horse (1984) by Rain Parade | Broken Aura (2000) by Coil

 


The Cardinal and the Corpse

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Appearing at last on YouTube (although I think it may have been there once before) is the curious TV film that Iain Sinclair (writer & “freak wrangler”) and Chris Petit (director) made for Channel 4′s Without Walls series in 1992. This is a must for enthusiasts of Sinclair’s early novels since it features the real-life models for several of his characters—guitarist/bookdealer Martin Stone, artist/author Brian Catling, crazed bookdealer Driffield—plus Sinclair’s friends Michael Moorcock and Alan Moore. The latter is seen searching for a copy of Francis Barrett’s grimoire, The Magus (1801), a year before he attached the magus label to himself; I still don’t know whether this quest was Alan’s suggestion or Sinclair’s.

Elsewhere there are fleeting portraits of crime writer Robin Cook (aka Derek Raymond), and Kray gang member Tony Lambrianou. Other notable appearances include poet Aaron Williamson, artist John Latham and David Seabrook, a writer whose Jack of Jumps book I designed a cover for in 2006. The narrative, such as it is, is a series of quests and meetings, threaded together with anecdotes about the various personalities who are the real subject of the film. It’s all very hermetic, and what sense it makes to the uninitiated I can’t say, but it holds the attention for 40 minutes. These obscurities have a way of vanishing, so if you’re interested watch it now or download it for later.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Terror and Magnificence
Mister Jarman, Mister Moore and Doctor Dee
Compass Road by Iain Sinclair

 


 



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Penda's Fen by David Rudkin