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Horror Film Genre @ Pitt

A guide to horror film resources at Pitt

Background to the Guide

This guide looks to introduce many of the horror genre’s most recognized films and the work that has been written in response.  Covering horror films spanning decades (a century, really!) and continents, it aims to broadly but diversely explore some of the genre’s most discussed and studied films. 

Organized by subgenre, this guide also serves as an example of the complex nuances associated with genre studies.  Subjective categorization of films provides an opportunity to explore common themes and tropes, but there is ultimately no perfect way to define and organize films.  One film can certainly exist within multiple subgenres and there are many more subgenres of horror films to consider; this guide is here to get you started with resources that lead you to explore far beyond it.  

Notable Names in Horror

Dario Argento Cannes 2017.jpgDario Argento (born 7 September 1940, Rome, Italy) is an Italian film director, producer, film critic and screenwriter. He is best known for his work in the horror film genre during the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in the subgenre known as giallo; the influence of his work on modern horror films has led him to being referred to as the "Master of the Thrill" and the "Master of Horror".

His most notable films as director are the "Animal Trilogy", consisting of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1969), The Cat o' Nine Tails (1971) and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1972); the "Three Mothers" trilogy, consisting of Suspiria (1977), Inferno (1980) and The Mother of Tears (2007); and the standalone films Deep Red (1975), Tenebrae (1982), Phenomena (1985), and Opera (1987). He also co-wrote the screenplay for Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) and served as George A. Romero's script consultant on Dawn of the Dead (1978), of which he also composed the soundtrack with his long-time collaborators Goblin. – From Wikipedia

JohnCarpenter2010 (Cropped).jpgUS director of horror and science-fiction films (born January 16, 1948, Carthage, New York, U.S.). He showed a great deal of promise from an early age, winning the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Live Action) in 1970 for The Resurrection of Bronco Billy. He then made his mark with Dark Star (1974) and Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), but is still best known for his highly influential horror film Halloween (1978) and his science fiction action film Escape from New York (1981).

Subsequent films, including The Thing (1982), Starman (1984), and They Live (1988), did not achieve box office success but went on to become cult films. He composes his own film scores, adding to the atmosphere of menace that often haunts his movies.

An articulate commentator on film history, Carpenter has frequently appeared on the BBC television show Moving Pictures.

Carpenter followed Halloween with other successful horror films, including The Fog (1979) and Christine (1983; adapted from a Stephen King story), but most of his subsequent films, for example Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992), Escape from LA (1996), and Ghosts of Mars (2001) were critical and commercial disappointments. – From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

William Castle.jpgWilliam Castle, original name William Schloss, (born April 24, 1914, New York City, New York, U.S.—died May 31, 1977, Los Angeles, California), American director who was known for the innovative marketing techniques he used to promote his B-horror movies.

He began his entertainment career as an actor in Off-Broadway productions, and he later directed a well-received stage version of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. During this time he translated his family’s German surname, Schloss, into its English equivalent, Castle, which he took as his professional name. In 1937 he appeared in the first of several films, though he was often uncredited. Three years later he became a dialogue coach at Columbia Pictures. In 1943 Castle directed his first feature films, and the following year he made several movies, including three notable low-budget film noirs: The Whistler and The Mark of the Whistler, which were adapted from a radio program and featured Richard Dix as the suicidal protagonist, and When Strangers Marry, a taut thriller that cast Robert Mitchum as the murderous spouse of Kim Hunter. In 1945 Castle made his last Whistler film, Voice of the Whistler, and that year he took over the Crime Doctor series, which was also based on a popular radio show. Castle directed several installments, including The Crime Doctor’s Warning (1945) and Crime Doctor’s Gamble (1947).

In 1949 Castle moved to Universal, and his first films for the studio were the solid crime dramas Johnny Stool Pigeon, with Shelley Winters and Dan Duryea, and Undertow (both 1949), with Scott Brady. After directing It’s a Small World (1950)—a melodrama centring on a dwarf who undertakes a life of crime—Castle demonstrated his versatility by working in a number of genres. In 1953 he helmed the westerns Fort Ti and Conquest of Cochise; the spectacle Serpent of the Nile, featuring Rhonda Fleming as Cleopatra; and the biblical tale Slaves of Babylon. The following year he released the period-adventure movies Charge of the Lancers and The Iron Glove.

Castle might have continued grinding out such piecework, but in 1958 he decided to produce and direct a series of horror films, overcoming the limitations of casts and budgets by creating a gimmick with which each one could be exploited. The first film to employ this marketing strategy was the intense shocker Macabre (1958), which was advertised with the prominent guarantee “So terrifying we insure you for $1,000 against death by fright!”, House on Haunted Hill (1959), which starred Vincent Price at his most malevolent and was probably the best of Castle’s tongue-in-cheek shockers, featured “Emergo,” a luminescent skeleton that floated over the heads of moviegoers (assuming the exhibitor was cooperating, which rarely happened).

The Tingler (1959), a clever tale about the nature of fear, had “Percepto,” in which electric buzzers were wired under selected patrons’ seats; star Price instructed the audience from the screen that they had to scream if the parasitic Tingler was to be destroyed. For 13 Ghosts (1960), Castle offered “Illusion-O,” a pair of glasses with tinted plastic lenses that made the ghosts visible on-screen when worn. Homicidal (1961) was a knockoff of Psycho (1960), with the added fillip of a “Fright Break,” which offered audiences a refund if they left during the film’s final minutes. In 1961 Castle returned to period movies with Mr. Sardonicus (1961), in which a disfigured, evil count (played by Guy Rolfe) has his fate decided at film’s end by the audience’s vote during a “Punishment Poll.” Such innovative promotional campaigns gave Castle the nickname “King of the Gimmick.” - Excerpt from Encyclopædia Britannica

RogerCormanHWOFOct2012.jpgRoger Corman, in full Roger William Corman,  (born April 5, 1926, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.), American motion picture director, producer, and distributor known for his highly successful low-budget exploitation films and for launching the careers of several prominent directors and actors, notably Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, and Jonathan Demme.

In 1940 Corman’s family moved from Detroit to Beverly Hills, California, near Hollywood—a move that inspired young Roger’s love of motion pictures. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Corman earned an engineering degree from Stanford University. He broke into the film industry in 1948, where he began working as a messenger at Twentieth Century-Fox. He was soon promoted to script reader. After a one-year hiatus during which he studied English literature at the University of Oxford, he coproduced his first film, Highway Dragnet, in 1954.

Corman’s second film, Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954), was made in six days on a budget of $12,000; it was the first of his movies to follow what was to become his standard method of operation: inexpensive productions shot in the minimum amount of time, often in less than one week. That same year he also produced Highway Dragnet for American Releasing Corporation, which later became American International Pictures (AIP), for which Corman produced and directed many of his most noted films. In 1955 he directed his first feature film, Five Guns West, a romantic western. The titles of many of Corman’s films of the 1950s—The Beast with a Million Eyes (1955), It Conquered the World (1956), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), Teenage Cave Man (1958), Night of the Blood Beast (1958), The Brain Eaters (1958), The Cry Baby Killer (1958; the film that marked Nicholson’s screen debut), and A Bucket of Blood (1959)—indicate why he earned the nickname “King of the Drive-in.”

During the 1960s Corman directed eight lavish gothic horror films based on the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, including House of Usher (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Raven (1963), The Haunted Palace (1963), and The Masque of the Red Death (1964). All but one of the Poe films starred Vincent Price, and these films featured such other established actors as Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Ray Milland, and Peter Lorre.

In 1970 Corman left AIP and formed New World Pictures, an independent company that produced and distributed the work of such young artists as John Sayles, Martin Scorsese, Joe Dante, Jonathan Demme, and James Cameron. Its first film, The Student Nurses (1970), was shot in three weeks for $150,000 and grossed more than $1 million. Other New World releases included horror, blaxploitation, and women-in-prison films. Corman sold New World Pictures in 1983 and founded Concorde-New Horizons, a company devoted strictly to movie production.

Corman cowrote (with Jim Jerome) an autobiography, the aptly titled How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime (1971). In 2009 he was given an honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievement. Two years later he was the subject of the documentary Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel.  – Excerpts from Encyclopædia Britannica

Wes Craven 2010.jpgWes Craven, in full Wesley Earl Craven,  (born August 2, 1939, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.—died August 30, 2015, Los Angeles, California), American director and screenwriter who was known for his horror films, several of which were classics of the genre.

Craven earned an undergraduate degree from Wheaton College (Wheaton, Illinois) in 1963 and went on to earn an M.A. in writing and philosophy from Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland) in 1964. He taught at Westminster College (New Wilmington, Pennsylvania) and then at Clarkson College (Potsdam, New York). He also spent a year teaching high school before taking his first film-industry job as a messenger in New York City. Craven eventually worked his way up the ranks, performing sound editing among other jobs before he began directing films.

Craven’s solo directorial debut was the horror film The Last House on the Left (1972), which was considered so gory that it was banned in Britain until 2002. Despite its unrelenting violence, the movie received some critical praise. The Hills Have Eyes (1977), another low-budget slasher film, did well at the box office and developed a cult following. After directing Deadly Blessing (1981), Craven made his first big-budget picture, Swamp Thing (1982), which was based on the DC Comics character. However, it fared poorly at the box office.

In 1984 Craven had his breakout hit with A Nightmare on Elm Street, which he wrote and directed. The film introduced the villain Freddy Krueger, who kills his victims by invading their dreams and is given to incongruously humorous wisecracks. It spun off multiple sequels, television series, and a 2010 remake. New Nightmare (1994), the only spin-off created by Craven, bent the premise, casting Craven and the stars of the first film as themselves in a story in which Krueger attempts to cross from film into the real world.

After A Nightmare on Elm Street, Craven worked steadily in films and television, but he did not repeat that earlier success until Scream (1996). A blockbuster hit, it was known for its dark wit and references to other horror movies as well as for a notable cast that included Drew Barrymore, Courteney Cox, Neve Campbell, and David Arquette. The film was followed by three sequels (1997, 2000, and 2011) that had varying degrees of success at the box office. - From Encyclopædia Britannica

David Cronenberg 2012-03-08.jpgDavid Cronenberg, in full David Paul Cronenberg, (born March 15, 1943, Toronto, Ontario, Canada), Canadian film director, screenwriter, and actor, best known for movies that employed elements of horror and science fiction to vividly explore the disturbing intersections between technology, the human body, and subconscious desire.

Cronenberg graduated from the University of Toronto in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in English. As a student, he became fascinated with filmmaking and between 1966 and 1970 created several short and feature-length experimental films. After working in Canadian television in the early 1970s, Cronenberg wrote and directed his first commercial film, Shivers (1975; also released as They Came from Within), a low-budget horror picture about an artificially engineered parasite that transforms the well-to-do residents of an apartment complex into lustful maniacs. While the lurid nature of the film was interpreted by some viewers as a mere exercise in shock, its focus on the fragile integrity of the human mind and body proved to be an enduring thematic preoccupation for Cronenberg.

Cronenberg developed a cult following with the horror films Rabid (1977), starring adult-movie actress Marilyn Chambers as the victim of a surgery that leaves her with vampiric tendencies, and The Brood (1979), in which a woman’s rage causes the psychosomatic birth of deformed murderous children. During that period he also directed Fast Company (1979), a B movie about drag racing. The sci-fi thriller Scanners (1981), depicting a class of genetic telepaths, provided him with his first commercial success. For his next film, Videodrome (1983), Cronenberg imagined a television channel that transmits content so sexually and violently graphic that it causes hallucinations and even physical mutations in those subjected to it.

Beginning with The Dead Zone (1983), a straightforward adaptation of a horror novel by Stephen King, Cronenberg moved closer to the mainstream. The gory horror remake The Fly (1986), in which a scientist gradually metamorphoses into an enormous grotesque insect, was widely considered superior to the 1958 original and became a box office hit. In the chilling psychological drama Dead Ringers (1988), Jeremy Irons portrayed twin gynecologists whose identities seem to merge as they descend into depravity. The film attracted substantial critical attention and won 10 Genie Awards from the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.

Cronenberg’s three subsequent films were adaptations of transgressive literary or theatrical works. By the 21st century, Cronenberg had largely abandoned his early work’s focus on “body horror,” as it was termed by critics, though he remained interested in psychological and behavioral extremes. – From Encyclopædia Britannica

(August 13 1955 photo of Alfred Hitchcock1899–April 29, 1980) English-American film director, writer, and producer, b. London. Hitchcock began his career as a director in 1925 and became prominent with The 39 Steps (1935) and The Lady Vanishes (1938). In 1940 he began working in the United States. In his suspense thrillers, Hitchcock unsettled audiences through the use of intense set pieces and suggestions that normality as usually defined masks humanity's true and much darker nature and that the veneer of civilization conceals a world of deadly menace.

Hitchcock's style is so distinctive that any filmmaker working in the suspense genre invariably risks comparison to him. His best films include Strangers on a Train (1951), in which a tennis player is invited by a fellow rail passenger to trade murders; Rear Window (1954), a thriller about voyeurism; Vertigo (1958), an obsessive romance in which a woman uncannily resembles the dead beloved; North by Northwest (1959), in which an advertising executive is chased across the United States by foreign agents as a result of a mistaken identity; and Psycho (1960), a terrifying work that has had enormous influence on film and cultural history in which a mother-obsessed transvestite murders a beautiful thief.

His other films include Rebecca (1940), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Notorious (1946), The Birds (1963), Frenzy (1972), and Family Plot (1977). Hitchcock also had two successful television series (1955–62 and 1963–65). One of the best known directors of his time, he often made humorous cameo appearances in his own films. He was knighted in 1980. - From The Columbia Encyclopedia

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a9/F._W._Murnau_circa_1920-1930.jpgF.W. Murnau, pseudonym of Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe, (born December 28, 1889, Bielefeld, Germany—died March 11, 1931, Hollywood, California, U.S.), German motion-picture director who revolutionized the art of cinematic expression by using the camera subjectively to interpret the emotional state of a character.

Murnau studied philosophy, art history, and literature at the Universities of Heidelberg and Berlin. In 1908 he joined the company of renowned stage director Max Reinhardt, acting in several plays and serving as Reinhardt’s assistant for the groundbreaking production of the wordless, ritualistic The Miracle (1911). After serving in the German army and air force during World War I, Murnau worked in Switzerland, where he directed short propaganda films for the German embassy. He directed his first feature film, Der Knabe in Blau (The Boy in Blue) in 1919. For the next few years Murnau made films that were Expressionistic or supernatural in nature, such as Der Januskopf (1920; Janus-Faced), a highly praised variation of the Jekyll-and-Hyde story that starred Bela Lugosi and Conrad Veidt. Unfortunately, this and most of Murnau’s early films are lost or exist only in fragmentary form.

Complete prints survive of Murnau’s first major work, Nosferatu (1922), which is regarded by many as the most effective screen adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Eschewing psychological overtones, Murnau treated the subject as pure fantasy and, with the aid of noted cinematographer Fritz Arno Wagner, produced appropriately macabre visual effects, such as negative images of white trees against a black sky. Also memorable was the ghastly, cadaverous appearance of actor Max Schreck (whose name is German for “maximum terror”) in the role of the vampire. Though a cinematic landmark, Nosferatu was to be one of Murnau’s final films in the supernatural genre.- Excerpt from Encyclopædia Britannica

Sam Raimi by Gage Skidmore 2.jpgSam Raimi, in full Samuel Marshall Raimi,  (born October 23, 1959, Royal Oak, Michigan, U.S.), American film and television director, producer, and screenwriter whose inventive camera techniques and wry humour breathed life into the horror genre.

Raimi began experimenting with filmmaking at a very early age. By his teen years, he was already an active member of a circle of amateur actors and directors in the Detroit area. Among this group were his brother Ted and aspiring actor Bruce Campbell, both of whom became staples in Raimi productions. In 1977 Raimi enrolled at Michigan State University, where he produced the 8-mm films The Happy Valley Kid (1977) and It’s Murder (1977). These modest efforts provided valuable experience for Raimi and his associates, and their next project, the short film Within the Woods (1978), served as the test reel for what is arguably Raimi’s most famous work, The Evil Dead (1981). Although its low-budget origins were apparent and its level of gore bordered on the cartoonish, The Evil Dead became one of the most influential horror films of all time, and Raimi’s use of “shaky cam”—a handheld camera technique that was intended to replicate the point-of-view of a given character or object—was widely emulated. Although his next film, Crimewave (1985), was hobbled when studio executives fundamentally altered the story with editorial cuts, it was written by Joel and Ethan Coen and began an association between Raimi and the brothers that proved to be mutually beneficial.

The cult success of The Evil Dead led producer Dino De Laurentiis to fund a sequel, and Evil Dead II (1987), with Campbell returning in the lead role, added a camp, slapstick twist to the original film’s formula. Raimi experimented with the superhero genre in Darkman (1990) before completing the Evil Dead trilogy with Army of Darkness (1992). He cowrote the Coen brothers’ comedy The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) and created the television series M.A.N.T.I.S. (1994–97) before returning to the director’s chair for the western The Quick and the Dead (1995). Raimi’s next projects, the crime drama A Simple Plan (1998) and the baseball romance For the Love of the Game (1999), were stylistic departures, but the former was a critical hit, and it earned a pair of Academy Award nominations.

Raimi experienced his greatest box-office success with a trio of films that marked a new wave of Hollywood interest in comic-book adaptations. Spider-Man (2002), the story of a wall-crawling crimefighter who derived his superheroic powers from a radioactive spider bite, was a critical and commercial smash. It spawned a pair of sequels, Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007), and the trilogy grossed roughly $2.5 billion worldwide. Raimi revisited the horror genre for Drag Me to Hell (2009) and directed the big-budget family adventure film Oz the Great and Powerful (2013). Although a critical disappointment, Raimi’s take on L. Frank Baum’s mythos was a hit with audiences. That same year, Raimi produced Evil Dead, a remake that replaced the original film’s absurd gore with the brutally rendered violence more typical of 21st-century horror offerings.  - From Encyclopædia Britannica

George Romero, 66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra).jpgGeorge A. Romero, in full George Andrew Romero, (born February 4, 1940, New York, New York, U.S.—died July 16, 2017, Toronto, Ontario, Canada), American film director, writer, and producer best known for his contributions to the horror movie genre.

After graduating in 1961 from the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, Romero filmed short segments for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, a popular children’s television series produced in Pittsburgh. In 1968 Romero and several friends pooled their money to finance Romero’s first feature, the low-budget zombie film Night of the Living Dead. The movie was not a commercial success at the time of its release, but it was eventually recognized as a horror masterpiece, and it served as the foundation for a unique mythos. The Romero zombie was unrelated to the Vodou zombie that had influenced most zombie lore until that point. Instead, it was a shambling corpse that fed upon the living, and it became a mainstay in film and fiction.

Romero cowrote (with John Russo) the screenplay for Night of the Living Dead, and he went on to write and direct several related films, including Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (2005), and Survival of the Dead (2009). The Dead series was rife with social commentary, with allusions to the Cold War, consumerism, and class conflict. In addition to zombies, Romero’s films have explored other horror movie staples, including witchcraft in Hungry Wives (1972; rereleased as Season of the Witch), vampires in Martin (1977), and animals wreaking havoc in Monkey Shines (1988), a film about a homicidal helper monkey.

In 1981 Romero began a long-term collaboration with noted American horror novelist Stephen King, with King making a brief onscreen appearance in Romero’s film Knightriders. The following year Romero directed King’s screenplay for Creepshow (1982). They worked together again on Creepshow 2 (1987), Romero writing the screenplay based on King’s stories. Romero was executive producer of the television series Tales from the Darkside (1984–88), and King rejoined him on the movie of the same name, released in 1990. The two continued their professional relationship when Romero directed the film adaptation of King’s novel The Dark Half (1993). – From Encyclopædia Britannica

M. Night Shyamalan by Gage Skidmore.jpgIndian-born US screenwriter, director, and producer (born August 6, 1970, Mahé, Puducherry, India). He is known for his supernatural thrillers and broke through to an international audience with his critically and commercially successful film The Sixth Sense (1999). He followed with Unbreakable (2000), Signs (2002), and The Village (2004).

The Sixth Sense, starring Bruce Willis and featuring a young boy who was able to communicate with the dead, earned seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Later films, which failed to achieve the same commercial and critical success, include The Village (2004), Lady in the Water (2006), The Happening (2008), and The Last Airbender (2010).

Shyamalan was born in Madras (later Chennai), India, but grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He developed an early interest in filmmaking, shooting footage on his Super-8 camera at the age of eight, and had made nearly 50 short films by the end of his teens. He studied film at the Tisch School of the Arts, and upon graduation wrote, directed, produced, and starred in Praying with Anger (1992), based on a visit back to India. His first feature film, Wide Awake (1998), was partially shot in his Catholic high school and portrayed a student trying to come to terms with the death of his grandfather. The following year he wrote the screenplay for the successful children's film Stuart Little. He has had cameo roles in most of his subsequent films. - From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Guillermo del Toro in 2017.jpgGuillermo del Toro, (born October 9, 1964, Guadalajara, Mexico), Mexican director, screenwriter, and producer who was known for imbuing horror and fantasy films with emotional and thematic complexity.

Del Toro developed an interest in both film and horror stories as a child. He began making short films while in high school and later studied filmmaking at the University of Guadalajara. He subsequently learned the art of movie makeup from legendary film makeup artist Dick Smith. Del Toro spent much of the 1980s working as a special-effects makeup artist, and he cofounded Necropia, a special-effects company.

Del Toro wrote and directed several episodes of a 1988–90 television horror series Hora marcada before creating and helming his debut feature film, Cronos (1993). The movie, about the effects of a device that confers immortality, won nine Ariel Awards from the Mexican Academy of Film—including best picture, best director, best screenplay, and best original story—and also received the critics’ week grand prize at the Cannes film festival. His next movie was an American Miramax production, Mimic (1997), starring Mira Sorvino. He followed it up with a ghost story set at the end of the Spanish Civil War, El espinazo del diablo (2001; The Devil’s Backbone). Del Toro won more widespread notice with his comic-book adaptations Blade II (2002), starring Wesley Snipes, and Hellboy (2004), which del Toro also had a hand in writing.

The visually dazzling and thematically intricate fantasy El laberinto del fauno (2006; Pan’s Labyrinth), which del Toro both wrote and directed, won Academy Awards for makeup, art direction, and cinematography. He then cowrote and directed Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) and the sci-fi action film Pacific Rim (2013), which proved to be more popular worldwide than in the United States. The gothic horror film Crimson Peak (2015) met with mixed reviews. However, the bewitching fantasy romance The Shape of Water (2017), for which del Toro wrote the story and cowrote the screenplay, was nominated for 13 Academy Awards and won 4, including for best picture. In addition, del Toro garnered the Oscar, the Golden Globe Award, and the BAFTA for best director.– From Encyclopædia Britannica

Whalemonster.jpgJames Whale, (born July 22, 1889, Dudley, Worcestershire, England—died May 29, 1957, Los Angeles, California, U.S.), British-born American filmmaker whose stylish horror films marked him as one of the most distinctive filmmakers of the early 1930s.

Born into a poor family in an English coal-mining town, Whale was eager to join the army when World War I broke out. Captured by the Germans, he began acting and directing while in a prisoner-of-war camp. After he was released, Whale continued acting onstage, eventually becoming a set designer and, later, a director. His direction of R.C. Sherriff’s acclaimed play about the war, Journey’s End (1928), first in London and then in New York, was his calling card to Hollywood, where he was invited in 1930 to direct the film version.

Howard Hughes then asked Whale to assist on a big-budget drama about pilots in World War I, Hell’s Angels (1930). Whale was next hired by Universal to direct Waterloo Bridge (1931), an adaptation of a Robert E. Sherwood melodrama about a London streetwalker (played by Mae Clarke) who nobly gives up her soldier lover (Douglass Montgomery) so that he will not be disgraced.

Frankenstein (1931) was scheduled to be directed by Robert Florey, but when Bela Lugosi decided that he did not want to be typecast after starring in Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931), Whale was assigned to the picture; it was he who cast little-known British actor Boris Karloff to play the monster. An enormous popular success, Frankenstein launched Whale as the preeminent director of the horror film.

Whale’s next picture was The Impatient Maiden (1932), a formulaic romance in which a surgeon (Lew Ayres) wins the love of a secretary (Clarke). He was then assigned to The Old Dark House (1932), an enjoyable chiller about travelers escaping a storm in the spooky title mansion; it starred Karloff, Gloria Stuart, Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, and Ernest Thesiger. The Kiss Before the Mirror (1933) was an unusual courtroom drama about a lawyer (Frank Morgan) defending a client (Paul Lukas) who murdered his wife (Stuart) for infidelity but who then suspects his own wife (Nancy Carroll) of being unfaithful in turn.

The Invisible Man (1933), an adaptation of H.G. Wells’s science-fiction novel, returned Whale to the realm of the macabre. Since the main character, the mad scientist Griffin, would be either invisible or under bandages for most of the film, Whale chose then-unknown English stage actor Claude Rains for his charismatic voice. The innovative special effects and Rains’s compelling vocal performance have made The Invisible Man a classic horror film. - From Encyclopædia Britannica

Pitt Faculty: Selected Published Works on Horror