As a follow up to my previous post about the Teddy Bear Embroidered Bookmark I made for my Dad, I thought I would do another post to discuss where the inspiration for the words and phrases that I put on the books came from! So, I’ll briefly discuss what each book means, from top to bottom. Most of the images used here are public domain images taken from Wikipedia. If the images are under another license on Wikimedia Commons then an attribution is given in the caption. Some of the book cover images are taken from Amazon, if this is the case then it’s noted below the image and a link to the book on Amazon.co.uk is provided in the text. Let’s begin!
All the inspiration, ever!
As well as being the title of a book by John Hamilton which discusses British Independent horror films, this has a double meaning as many of the early horror films carried a rating of X, which meant they were only to be viewed by those over either 16 or 18 depending on the year. The image shows the graphic used by the BBFC to indicate an X certification from 1951 to 1970.
The iconic book written by Bram Stoker and published in 1897, this masterful gothic work went on to inspire a raft of films from the 1920’s to the present day, with the titular character being played by Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee and Gary Oldman among many others. I like to re-read Dracula every now and then, just to bask in the masterful writing which still evokes an atmosphere of genuine creepiness and dread over 100 years later. One of the earliest films I remember watching was the Universal rendition of Dracula and when I read the novel much later I was more than a little confused!
The title of an upcoming book on Continental horror by noted horror writer Jonathon Rigby. My Dad has a lot of Rigby’s books in his study, along with several by Marcus Hearn, so I thought it would be nice to include at least one of them here.
Another classic book which probably needs little introduction. I had to study this book for GCSE English Literature, especially chapter 5 where the creature is animated and it damn near put me off it for life. Fortunately, I returned to it a few years later and was able to appreciate the wonderful story telling. This book also spawned many films, from Colin Clive to Peter Cushing and most recently James McAvoy. I added this because my Dad has a particular interest in the Dracula and Frankenstein cycles produced by Hammer, so where better to start than right at the beginning!
Tall, Dark and Gruesome
Tall, Dark and Gruesome is the autobiography of Sir Christopher Lee, which was first published in 1977. Lee published Lord of Misrule, another autobiography in 2004 but this earlier work, which can be insanely expensive these days, is still work a look for insight into the actor’s colourful life both on and off screen.
This book is for Terence Fisher, a prominent director in British horror, directed the Hammer imaginings of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein and The Mummy, among many other films. Given his significance in getting “that Hammer look” (as I call it), I thought it would be nice to honour him here as most people remember the actors, not the director – although my Dad will know exactly who I’m talking about!
Well, I couldn’t have a horror bookmark without mentioning Sir Christopher Lee now could I? To me, he IS Dracula, much like David Suchet IS Poirot, Joan Hickson IS Miss Marple and Jeremy Brett IS Holmes (sorry Dad). His imposing frame, intensity on screen and ability to convey precise meaning without saying a word still impress me to this day and I’m still sad that he has now passed on. Due to my Dad’s interest in the Hammer Dracula cycle, Sir Christopher Lee was an obvious choice to include.
Peter Cushing also starred in many Hammer productions, often alongside Lee, who was a personal friend. Whether playing the noble Van Helsing, the depraved Baron Frankenstein or the cruel Grand Moff Tarkin, Cushing always gave his all to his work, sometimes lending his gravitas to a film that didn’t deserve it. Cushing’s success in the role of Frankenstein helped spawn the Hammer cycle of Frankenstein related films and although the law of diminishing return applied to both these and the Dracula cycle, Cushing gave a consummate performance nonetheless. A gentleman off screen, Cushing also wrote two autobiographies – Peter Cushing: An Autobiography and Past Forgetting, which have been collected into Peter Cushing – The Complete Memoirs.
An adaptation of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, I slipped this in because it’s one of my favourites, starring both Lee and Cushing in a typically decedant Amicus production.
In the 1931 Universal production of Frankenstein, Boris Karloff, who played the monster, was credited in the opening credits as ?. As it’s a little piece of film trivia, I thought I’d slip it in to see what reaction I get!
A horror film production company based out of Shepperton Studios in England, Amicus made a lot of horror films, particularly in the portmanteau style. They also produced two Doctor Who films starring Peter Cushing as The Doctor. Dad will know this name well!
It would be churlish of me not to include the main studio that produced films in my Dad’s niche. Producing Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy (as well as many, many sequels) Hammer was active as a horror film company from the late 50’s to the early 70s, when they failed to adapt to changing market tastes. Eventually going defunct in the 1980s, Hammer is now alive and well and producing films again!
Colin Clive played Henry Frankenstein in the 1931 Universal production. Sadly, due in part to alcohol abuse, he died only a few years later in 1937 from tuberculosis. Anyone who has see the 1931 Frankenstein will surely remember his cry of “It’s Alive! It’s Alive” and the brooding, borderline unhinged, quality to the character. His name is often overlooked, so I included it to recognise his contribution.
One of Peter Cushing’s autobiographies covering the Hammer years in particular, it is now available as part of his collected memoirs. For more on Peter Cushing please see above.
This book is for Boris Karloff, who’s legal name was William Pratt, who played the role of Frankenstein’s monster in the 1931 Universal production and went on to reprise the role several times. Karloff went on to have a diverse career in radio, film and television before his death at the age of 81. My favourite Karloff performance is in the AIP film The Raven, where he plays the magnificently evil Dr Scarabus starring opposite Vincent Price and Peter Lorre.
Finally, the last book is for Bela Lugosi. Hungarian born Lugosi attained recognition for his role as the titular Count in the Universal Dracula, reprising the role he had formerly played on stage. Sadly, his career deteriorated from this point, in part due to dependence on painkillers and towards the end of his life his credits were limited to low budget films such as Plan 9 from Outer Space. The film Ed Wood shows Martin Landau delivering a truly heart wrenching performance as the ailing Lugosi and is well worth a watch.
Well, that about wraps everything up for my embroidered bookmark inspiration! There were many, many more things I wanted to feature in the design, including having a book for Vincent Price and even working in some horror company logos, but in the end I had to stop somewhere. I hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes look and please join me next week!