Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Graven Images

I've been rereading the book Graven Images by Ronald V. Borst. It's a cool coffee table book that is about the genre of horror and science fiction. I heard about it a long time ago on the Syfy Channel (what used to be the Scifi Channel) in one of their weekly installments of SciFi Buzz. That was a program that was sort of devoted to fandom, and one that I wished they resurrect. At any rate, Graven Images is a fun book, and has a lot of cool movie posters in it from the movies that the writers in the book talk about. The forward by Ronald V. Borst is a neat little window into his life growing up in a very small town, one that didn't even have a theater. So if a horror or scifi movie that he wanted to see happened to be showing, he'd have to get his parents to take him to the next town over to see it, which was about fifteen miles or so away. That sparked his imagination and his interest in genre fiction. He now owns a poster and memorabilia shop in Hollywood, CA., along with his wife.

There's also an introduction by Stephen King, wherein he relates how horror movies and their respective posters are like dreams, and his take on it all. He also gives the reader his top ten horror movies, and top ten movie posters.

Then book is broken up into decades: The Teens and Twenties has an essay by Robert Bloch, The Thirties by Ray Bradbury, The Forties by Harlan Ellison, The Fifties by Peter Straub, The Sixties by Clive Barker, and an Afterward by Forrest J. Ackerman. The essays that make up the chapters are all fun to read and help to appreciate the form all the better, and actually make me want to re-watch some of them, and jot down a few to add to my Netflix queue to watch as I never have seen them before. Plus the color and images of the posters that are included in the book are wonderful to look at.

The posters as one writer relates are what drew an audience into the theater in the first place. In one passage Stephen King relates how studio entrepreneurs, Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson at American International Pictures, were known for their budget "B" pictures. Even so, the studio was a financial success even during difficult times, and one reason for that was the posters. This was also a time for a newly arrived teen audience: 50's rock and roll, hot rods, and teenage trends were starting to turn heads. Arkoff and Nicholson saw an opportunity there and capitalized off of it. Sam Arkoff said that the title and poster always came first for them. If they came up with a title like The Beast with 1,000,000 Eyes, they'd send it around to some distributors and some theater chains and if they got a nibble that there was some enthusiasm for the film, then they'd make a film about the subject. Back then, the shooting schedule was around two weeks and the budget was under $30,000.--sort of unheard of in modern times. But it worked back then, and they were very successful at it. So as Stephen King says in the book--what follows, then, inside the book are dreams of dreams: incoherent, unbelievable, but strangely lovely. It's a neat book.

Graven Images


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