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Immoral Tales: European Sex & Horror Movies 1956-1984 (1994) - Cathal Tohill, Pete Tombs

Related: non-fiction - 1994 - Immoral Tales - European cinema - Euro trash

Immoral Tales (1994) does for European cinema what Incredibly Strange Films (1986) does for American cinema.

Immoral Tales: Sex And Horror Cinema In Europe 1956-1984 (1994) - Cathal Tohill & Pete Tombs [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Originally self-published by Cathal Tohill and Pete Tombs through Primitive Press in 1994, this new Titan edition is roughly A4 size and again offers a rare opportunity to investigate the clandestine world of European sex and horror films - but not, I suspect, in your local mainstream bookshop. There are just too many photos and illustrations likely to cause 'offence' or moral panic in the mind of the general browsing bookworm. Yes, this is controversial subject matter, but the authors write level-headedly, adopting a thoughtful combination of historical, biographical, technical and synoptic approaches. Early chapters rightly suggest the primary influence of 18th/19th century Gothic literature, Byron, Swinburne (incidentally, some of his pseudonymous lewd stories are now available) and, of course, de Sade. Seminal European silent directors like Feuillade and the German expressionists Wiene, Lang and Murnau are also cited; Franju's Eyes Without A Face (1959) is regarded as the beginning of the later European erotic-horror genre here known as the fantastique where "the pictorial, the excessive and the irrational are privileged factors the repressed takes centre stage." Chapters outlining the growth, censorship and ultimate ghettoisation of the fantastique as it speedily splinters into crass profit-seeking S&M and hardcore porn in the Italian, German, French and Spanish film industries, are well researched. The bulk of the book is then profiles of key directors: Jess Franco, Jean Rollin, José Larraz, José Bénazéraf, Walerian Borowczyk and Alain Robbe-Grillet. -- Rubberneck, 1995 [1]


Traces the roots of European sex and horror cinema to:

Further notes:
Edgar Wallace
Jean Ray Jim Haynes
Peter Van Weigen, author of Flemish Tales, upon which Mill of the Stone Women is based.
Melmoth the Wanderer (Gothic novel)
The Head/Die Nackte und Der Satan (1959) - Victor Trivias,


The central problem with Immoral Tales lies in its authorial tone. Level-headed and unsensationalist yes, but outrageous sadism and misogyny (e.g. lesbians = satanic possession) which appear to have been defining characteristics of the fantastique, are either forgiven or side-stepped when 'artistic merit' is perceived in a film's pictorial composition or idiosyncratic editing style. Complex images and ideas are described not discussed. Sadly, the authors appear unwilling to take on any of the contentious moral issues around 'erotica', 'pornography' and 'sadomasochism' and their relationship to 'cinematic art', that are all inextricably linked to the films of the fantastique. It's not surprising that few are seen outside specialist film clubs (like London's NFT which ran a mini-season in January 1994 to promote the original publication of Immoral Tales; Redemption is the principal video outlet in the UK for this material) and even then often in mutilated versions. The book's lack of moral discussion is possibly a concession to the cult horror movie fan who may well be the prime consumer target, and who is not normally known for his discursive capabilities; if so, then it's rather disappointing given the laudable attention to detail that exists elsewhere in the text. Still, Tohill and Tombs have done a superb job in bringing to light the work of some extraordinary, yet neglected film-makers: the next step is to fuel the critical debate that should be taking place around their films. (Chris Blackford)

This review was first published in Rubberneck 20, December 1995 http://www.btinternet.com/~rubberneck/immoral.html

Easily one of the most entertaining books I have read on the sex/horror movie subject(although most don't concentrate solely on sex/horror). The problem is that it's so well written that I ripped through it in no time at all. I suppose when you look at it it really isn't such a small book, it just felt like it. You can't really criticize something that makes you want keep reading, but I just wish there was more. [It also dedicates nearly 60 pages to Rollin's career while reserving its highest praise for Rollin's films and describing him as "a weaver of dreams."] --Sean McCabe for amazon.com

"I urge you: learn how to look at 'bad' films, they are so often sublime." This remark by Ado Kyrou heads up the introduction to Immoral Tales, from which horror and exploitation film fans, especially Americans, can learn much indeed. Not so much a movie guide as an insightful critical overview of European sex/horror films (there is much overlap between the two genres), this book is elegantly organized into a sequence of essays proceeding from general themes (the history of horrific art, the surgical metaphor), to regional styles (Italian, German, French, Spanish), to individual directors (Jesus Franco, Jean Rollin, José Larraz, José Bénazéraf, Walerian Borowczyk, Alain Robbe-Grillet). The writing is intelligent, engaging, and packed with fascinating historical and technical details. The book includes plenty of photos and poster art (including many in color), a useful appendix covering miscellaneous actors and directors, an index, and a bibliography. Immoral Tales was a finalist for the 1995 Bram Stoker Award in Nonfiction.

From Library Journal
Sex and violence have been staples of the film industry since the beginning. Invoking this tradition, Tohill and Tombs do an admirable job of defining that particular genre of film that occupies a realm somewhere between pornography and horror and is inhabited by European independent filmmakers and mavericks. The usual topics are broached: economics, censorship, and the validity of artistic expression. Throughout, the authors employ a jaunty, informal tone, and their enthusiasm for the subject...

Book Description
European cinema has always excelled when it comes to "bad" movies. When continental moviemakers combined horror with sex, they unleashed a tidal wave of celluloid strangeness that lasted nearly thirty years. From sexy thrillers to pulp surrealism, from decadent erotica to blood-soaked vampire epics, nothing could go too far. Immoral Tales tells the fascinating story of this unique period, peeking into the kaleidoscope of visceral horror, maverick directors, and erotic invention.

Bram Stoker Award for Best Non-Fiction

Immoral Tales: European Sex & Horro Movies 1956-1984 by Cathal Tohill & Pete Tombs

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