INFOGOTHIC: An Unauthorized Graphic Guide to Hammer Horror

A review by Aaron AuBuchon

Alistair Hughes

Telos Publishing Ltd.

2018

“I’ve already read some books on Hammer horror films,” I can hear you thinking.  (That’s right, I can hear you thinking.)  “This book is like 96 pages long and costs 27 bucks. No way I’m learning anything new with that.”

Oh, internet stranger, how wrong you would be.  Because every other book on Hammer is written like a book, relying on a traditional narrative built out of words.  Infogothic, on the other hand, is a book made up of Hammer-specific infographics. 

There are approximately two responses to that:

  1. Huh, that sounds interesting.  Tell me more.
  2. WTF is “infographics?”

Let’s deal with the second one first.  An infographic, simply, is a way to display data visually.  So, let’s say that you have read a lot about Hammer’s celebrated Frankenstein cycle, maybe even having read Bruce G. Hallenbeck’s excellent The Hammer Frankenstein– and if you haven’t read that one, you should.  But I will agree with the suggestion that I just made up for you, that you are well read on the subject of Hammer Studios, having ingested a lot of data about these films.  But the infographics inside Infogothic allow you to contextualize that data, seeing relationships that help explain chronology, thematics, and story concepts in ways that you really haven’t encountered or considered before.  Take this page, called The Chronology of Creation:

Here, we see the author’s ideas of how various story arcs play out over the actual chronology of the Hammer Frankenstein films themselves.  You can explain something like this over the course of pages and pages of text, but there is something about being able to visualize this that makes it click over in a part of your brain that is usually reserved for art museums and not being run over by cars.  Put simply, you process information differently when you process it semantically vs. when you process it visually.  And infographics allow you to process that information in both ways, but place the primary focus on the visual portion of the equation. 

For those that are intrigued, man, jump on in.  There is so much to chew on in this book, and author Alistair Hughes clearly loves Hammer and loves to think about relationships between things in the Hammer universe and how that universe connects to the other fictional universes that are within the same genre.  Hammer’s most celebrated works were re-imaginings of horror works made famous by Universal Studios in the 1930’s and 40’s, and those same works would go on to be re-imagined by others.  Infogothic is certainly aware of those branches on the gothic horror tree and follows them to interesting conclusions.  Want to see all the filmed versions of Dracula in similar bubbles sized by importance and ringed by colors that tell you if the actor played the Count in a franchise, TV show, or big budget adaptation?  Page 14.  Want to see various wolfmen given their own taxonomies like ‘Lupus Chaneyus’ or ‘Lupus Reedus’ and categorized accordingly?  Page 42.  How about a four-quadrant chart that shows the resurrection causes for zombies that features really awesome art from Plague of the Zombies (1966)?  Page 68.  And on and on and on. 

It’s interesting to see Hughes’ introducing ideas into the Hammer mythology without much explanation, but just offering the ideas up.  For example, the aforementioned ‘Lupus Reedus’ designation of course refers to Oliver Reed’s portrayal of the werewolf in Curse of the Werewolf (1961), but under that taxonomy also includes Legend of the Werewolf (1975) a film not produced by Hammer but a film that starred and was made lots of Hammer regulars including Peter Cushing, Freddie Francis (director), and Tony Hinds (writer).  He doesn’t defend this inclusion, he just includes it along with lots of other data and leaves you to go off and chew on how you feel about its being there.  This book is just full of things like that.  It’s a heady info stew, and should be on the shelf of not only every Hammer fan, but every film fan, as it really introduces you to a whole new way of seeing (and thinking and talking about) a subject you love.  Highly recommended.

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