Fear Itself

Horror on Screen and in Reality During the Depression and World War II


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About the Book

This book demonstrates how horror films of the 1930s and 1940s reflected specific events and personalities of the era, most notably the Great Depression and World War II. Beginning with Dracula and Frankenstein (1931), it relates the many ways that horror films and society intersected: Franklin D. Roosevelt’s skepticism toward conventional wisdom and the public’s distrust of experts was mirrored in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Murders in the Rue Morgue; the freaks in Tod Browning’s 1932 film of the same name revolted against the powerful people of the circus, much like the Bonus Army protested the sufferings of the Depression; King Kong’s rampage on New York personified the anti–New York sentiment in the nation at large; Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolf Man symbolized the experience of his creator, Curt Siodmak, as a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany.

About the Author(s)

Melvin E. Matthews, Jr., is a contributing writer to the Roanoke (Virginia) Star-Sentinel, Roanoke Magazine, Roanoke Times and History News Network.

Bibliographic Details

Melvin E. Matthews, Jr.
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 216
Bibliographic Info: 26 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2009
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4313-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

1. The Horror Cycle Begins: Dracula and Frankenstein (1931)      5

2. Exploiting the Lower Classes (1932–1933)      37

3. The Banking Crisis (King Kong) and the Fascist Alternative (The Invisible Man)      75

4. Fade Out and Revival: From the Depression to the Eve of War (1935–1941)      95

5. The War Years, Part I: The Saga of the Wolf Man (1941–1945)      126

6. The War Years, Part II: Horror Goes to War      150

7. Beyond the Golden Age      178

Chapter Notes      185

Bibliography      197

Index      203

Book Reviews & Awards

“enjoyable read”—VideoScope.