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100 Years of Horror (1996)

Video  -  Documentary | Horror
7.1
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 215 users  
Reviews: 7 user | 1 critic

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Title: 100 Years of Horror (Video 1996)

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A multi-volume documentary on the history of horror movies. Hosted by veteran horror star Christopher Lee, this video series brings together footage from many notable (and some less notable) films from the silent era up to the 90's. Also included are interviews with many of the leading horror actors and filmmakers, in which they share their stories, opinions, and techniques on how to make the world scream. Written by Jean-Marc Rocher <rocher@fiberbit.net>

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Great overview of the horror film to 1996 (though mostly focused on pre-1970 films) will entertain and inform anyone who makes the effort to see it
24 November 2006 | by (Glen Cove, New York) – See all my reviews

A few years ago I picked up a bargain DVD called the 100 Years of Horror. It was a 2 hour documentary about the history of horror films. It was hosted by Christopher Lee and consisted of clips and trailers from classic films, public domain films, interviews (both new and old) to tell the 100 year history of horror films. I liked it a great deal but always thought it was missing something.

It was, it was missing the rest of the 26 part series. Now Passport Video has put it all out and boy is it a treat.

This is a 26 part series that is a really good over view of horror films from the silent days until now. Its very informative, even for those who already know a great deal. One of the strengths of the series is that it puts many things with in a real context historical so you see the evolution of characters and the genre. The series does this not only through the narration but also by allowing the people who were there to speak. Christopher Lee's narration not only informs but also entertains with personal anecdotes since he has had a close association to many of the topic covered. And lets not forget that it reveals great little tidbits such as Bela Lugosi signing to be a TV horror host just weeks before his death.

No, its not perfect, the films covered tend to be those that they have footage from either because they are in public domain or because they have trailers (which are used because they are also in the public domain). Its a clever dodge and may annoy some people but at the same time it allows a good number of films from a good many studios to be covered. The interviews are for the most part very good, with some relating to the Hammer films come from the excellent Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror, which is also by the same director. Additionally we get clips from various TV shows, Climax, Thriller, Route 66, This is Your Life. Its an amazing collection of material that in a better funded documentary would probably have been left out for time constraints if nothing else.

Thats one of the real joys here-the staggering amount of material, this is 10 or so hours of reasonably in depth discussion. Certainly there is repetition, as subjects repeat in episodes we get repeated footage and bits of interviews, but at the same time the makers of this series always give you a bit of new material to chew on. For example in the episode on Bela Lugosi his son tells how Bela and Boris never really had a bad word to say about each other. In the Boris Karloff episode part of the same clip is used, but this time with addition information. Its amazing what you find in this series, I mean where else would you get an old TV appearance with Boris Karloff singing? Best of all this is a series that builds understanding the more episodes you see. Since the series is so long you really get a feeling for how the genre has grown over the years. As you watch it things that may make little sense in one episode will have a greater resonance the more episodes you watch. Comments about Karloff being in a great mood during the filming of Son of Frankenstein in one of the Frankenstein episodes because his daughter had just been born resonates at the end of the episode entirely devoted to the man when we see him playing joyfully with his little girl. Its a nice touch that would be lost had I just seen one of the episodes alone. You also get a real sense of how the tastes changed for example take the story of say Lugosi's desire to do a color version of Dracula was crushed by the studios only to have Christopher Lee rise to prominence two years after his death in a color version of the story. Its a small little bit related by Lee at the end of the Lugosi episode, but which makes much more sense if you've seen the Dracula and vampire episodes that start the series.

This is a wonderful overview of horror films to date, or at least when it was made circa 1996. Certainly the series concentrates on the years prior to 1970, but there is enough information to keep it feeling current.

Highly recommended.


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