Terror Down Under

A History of Horror Film in Australia, 1897–1973


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About the Book

In 1948, the Australian government banned the production, importation and exhibition of horror films in a move to appease religious communities and entertainment watchdogs. Drawing upon previously unseen government documents, private letters and contemporary newspaper accounts, this book is the first to extensively cover the history of censorship and the early production of horror movies in Australia. Beginning its examination in the late 19th century, the book documents the earliest horror films like Georges Méliès’ The Haunted Castle (1896), and how Australians enjoyed such films before the ban.
The book then explains how certain imports, like 1954’s Creature from the Black Lagoon, were able to circumvent the ban while others were not. It also reveals how Australian television, though similarly impacted by government censorship, was occasionally able to broadcast films technically banned from cinematic release. The work concludes with a look at the first Australian horror films produced after the ban was formally lifted in 1969, like Terry Bourke’s Night of Fear (1973).

About the Author(s)

Daniel Best is an Adelaide, South Australia, based author, researcher and historian who specializes in film, stage and comic books with a focus on the obscure and unknown in Australia’s history. He has written eleven books and contributed as writer and/or editor to several others, and has written hundreds of articles, both in print and online. His horror history in Australia work has seen him gain four consecutive Rondo Award nominations.

Bibliographic Details

Daniel Best
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 309
Bibliographic Info: 24 photos, filmography, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8841-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4831-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Introduction 1
1. Early Cinema: 1894–1900 3
2. The Silent Era: 1909–1929 13
3. The Golden Age: 1930–1948 53
Intermission: The Fall of the Cinema, the Rise of the ­Drive-In 105
4. The Ban Years: 1949–1969 108
5. Television: 1956–1973 136
6. Rebirth: The ’70s and Beyond 147
Epilogue 165
Filmography, 1897–1973 169
Chapter Notes 287
Bibliography 297
Index 299

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Best explores Australian cinema through the lens of horror, a genre targeted by government censors in 1948 to appease religious groups and entertainment watchdogs. As a result, horror was ultimately banned for 20 years. The author spotlights what happened during and after the 1948 horror embargo. … This title ably conveys the fickle nature of censorship and skillfully details the history and significance of horror films in Australia.”—Library Journal