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English Gothic by Jonathan Rigby – Book Review

English Gothic by Jonathan Rigby

I have now managed to obtain the second book in Jonathan Rigby’s Gothic trilogy. And a very fine book it is too.  English Gothic: Classic Horror Cinema 1897-2015 is every bit as engrossing, entertaining and fascinating as his American Gothic book was.

English Gothic really is the best book on the whole history of British horror cinema I have ever read (and believe me, I have read MANY other such books in all my years as an ardent horror movie fan). Putting it simply, this book is undoubtedly the most comprehensive and detailed history of British horror films you could possibly find. The scope that this masterpiece of a work covers is just so jaw-droppingly impressive. And the beauty and value of the book is that not only can you read it from cover to cover, but you can also dip into it at leisure, as you would a coffee table reference book, if you wish to check a specific fact on any subject of British Gothic cinema and so on. This is exactly the kind of film book I like, and English Gothic certainly delivers on that score in bucketloads.

This new edition of English Gothic has been updated to cover the mini renaissance of British horror cinema in the new millennium. The author has divided the book into seven main chapters, focusing each one in year segments (e.g. chapter 1 1897-1953 right up to chapter 7 2000-2015). Most of the book concentrates on what Rigby describes as the “peak years” for British horror cinema: the 60’s and 70’s. And of course, there were MANY great British horror movies made during those two decades, especially the Hammer and Amicus productions starring such iconic actors as Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Michael Ripper.

Aside from all the cinematic goodies contained within these pages, the book also comes with a foreword by genre actress Barbara Shelley (whom I especially loved in Dracula, Prince of Darkness), along with an awesome photo of Hammer stalwart Christopher Lee on the cover, all dressed up in his Dracula garb – the absolute icing on the cake. Wow, what more could a passionate horror fan possibly ask for?

In addition to well-presented chapters on the whole history of British Gothic cinema – which are interspersed, quite nicely, by a plethora of photos, both colour and black-and-white – the book is rounded off perfectly by not only a chapter on TV horror, but also by an Appendix with the subtitle, “The Also Rans”, which basically covers what Mr Rigby describes as “borderline” British horrors not covered in previous editions (e.g. Bunny Lake Is Missing and The Possession of Joel Delaney).

To sum up, English Gothic: Classic Horror Cinema 1897-2015 is THE book to get if you have as big an interest in the whole history of this genre as I do. It’s an utterly fantastic, bumper read of a book that is well worth the buy. An absolute mine of information for the horror fan, it is a volume that will certainly go down in literary history as one of the best – if not THE best – books on British Gothic cinema ever written.  So go on, treat yourself to a copy now. I assure you, you will be very glad that you did.

Buy English Gothic: Classic Horror Cinema 1897-2015

Alan Toner