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100 Years Of Horror

    C.D. Workman
    Senior Member

  • 100 Years Of Horror

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Release date: February 6, 2018
    Directed by: Ted Newsom
    Cast: Christopher Lee, Roger Corman, Hugh Hefner, Fred Olen Ray, Richard Denning, Bela Lugosi Jr., Hazel Court, Donald F. Glut, Mark Thomas McGee
    Year: 1996
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Series:

    Hosted by Christopher Lee, 100 Years of Horror traces the history of the horror film from the late 1890s to the mid-1990s, covering everything from George Mélií¨s shorts to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994). Co-written and directed by film historian Ted Newsom (of Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror fame), the series features 26 episodes, each one covering a different aspect or subgenre of the horror genre. The episodes include:

    Dracula and His Disciples
    Blood-Drinking Beings
    Frankenstein and Friends
    Baron Frankenstein
    Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
    Bela Lugosi
    Boris Karloff
    The Evil Unseeable
    Scream Queens
    Girl Ghouls
    Gory Gimmicks
    Mad Doctors
    Man-Made Monsters

    Each episode presents its subject in easily digestible soundbites, mostly through narration provided by horror great Christopher Lee or the words of the directors, actors, and writers themselves, along with the occasional crew member or film historian. Some interview snippets, particularly of people deceased before the program was made, come from archival sources, but many were conducted specifically for the series. As a result, the information presented comes mostly through primary, not secondary, sources and make great resources for further research. These interviews include
    • directors Roger Corman, Fred Olen Ray, Robert Wise, John Carpenter, Michael Carreras, Richard E. Cunha, Gordon Hessler, Roy Ward Baker, Freddie Francis, Michael Curtis, Jack Hill, Edward Bernds, Kenneth Branagh, Joe Dante, David DeCoteau, Val Guest, Don Medford, and Herschell Gordon Lewis
    • actors Richard Denning, Hazel Court, Turhan Bey, Beverly Garland, Gloria Talbott, Dick Talbott, Caroline Munro, Lori Nelson, John Agar, Ralph Bellamy, Robert Cornthwaite, William Schallert, Martine Beswick, Carroll Borland, Nina Foch, Pamela Franklin, Francis Lederer, Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens, Dana Andrews, Veronica Carlson, Peggy Moran, D.P. Smith, Raquel Welch, Robert De Niro, Jonathan Haze, Ferdy Mayne, Sheldon Leonard, Lon Chaney Jr., Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, and Boris Karloff
    • writers Donald F. Glut, Mark Thomas McGee, Michael F. Blake, Richard Matheson, Jimmy Sangster, Ray Bradbury, Ira Lawson, Peter Atkins, Michael Gavin, Bernard Gordon, and David J. Skal
    • composer James Bernard
    • makeup artist John Goodwin
    • special effects technician Ray Harryhausen
    • producer William Alland, Harlene Stein, Mark Gilman Jr., Anthony Hinds;
    • publisher Hugh Hefner.

    Also interviewed are the children or grandchildren of some of the genre's biggest stars: Bela Lugosi Jr. (son of Bela Lugosi), Sara Karloff (daughter of Boris Karloff), Jessica Rains (daughter of Claude Rains), and Gary Chaney (grandson of Lon Chaney, Jr.).

    The film footage comes mostly from trailers, public domain presentations, and press materials. All are used to great effect, and each episode flies by. It's easy to get lost in the series, moving from one episode to the next with atypical rapidity. There are innumerable anecdotes—which we don't want to spoil here—about and told by the participants themselves. There are a few minor errors (it does seem strange that the “Dinosaurs” episode should cover fictional animals such as the Rhedosaurus of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, 1953, for example; it isn't even a fictional dinosaur, no matter what anyone says, thanks to the fact that dinosaurs have two specific stances based on the structure of their hips, neither of which the Rhedosaurus has), but these are far between.

    Honestly, it's impossible to go wrong with the series. Instead, lovers of horror cinema should just sit back, relax, and enjoy the subjects, the stars, and the film snippets for what they are.


    100 Years of Horror comes to DVD courtesy of Mill Creek Entertainment, who have spread the episodes across three DVDs. For those who might complain that Mill Creek didn't release the series on Blu, it should be noted that it was shot on low-grade VHS in the mid-90s, just before the appearance of DVD technology, a full decade before the appearance of high-definition Blu-ray, and two decades before Ultra Hi-Def. The interview snippets are a mixture of archival and shot directly for the program; the film clips are mostly taken from trailers of various ages, except for those few that come from movies in the public domain at the time of filming. This footage also appears in both black and white and color, naturally. The result is that the picture quality ranges from pretty poor to not quite as poor. It generally lacks detail and contains occasional scratches or obvious generational defects and issues. There are also some compression issues, particularly when there's a lot of movement on the screen. None of that ultimately matters; short of redoing the entire series with new hi-def inserts of the trailer snippets or scanning any past interview snippets that happened to be shot on film and for which original elements still exist (which would be an expensive and illogical undertaking given the expected return on investment), the image is never going to look much better than it does here. And the fact is, it doesn't matter. Viewers are here for the information the series contains, and it contains plenty of that.

    As with the video, the sound is far from perfect, but that doesn't mean it's terrible. There are times when the viewer will have to hold the remote in hand. Depending on the elements, some portions of the program are louder or quieter than other portions. Unfortunately, there are no optional subtitles (in English or any other language), so one will have to pay careful attention to the dialogue, hence the necessity of holding the remote (or having a really strong sound system, though that can only do so much).

    There are no extras, but Mill Creek does offer a digital download with each purchase. And while the series has been released on DVD in the past, never has it been offered as cheaply as it is now.

    The Final Word:

    100 Years of Horror is an entertaining and informative program worthy of a purchase on DVD, particularly at the low price point at which it's being offered all over the Net. You can't beat 26 episodes at 25 minutes each. Forget the fact that the quality is strictly VHS era. That's hours of entertainment for pennies on the dollar!

    Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Horror Films of the Silent Era and Horror Films of the 1930s are currently available, with Horror Films of the 1940s due out in 2019.

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