Actor Doug Bradley, who portrays Pinhead in Clive Barker's
Hellraiser films, gives his own guide to cinema monsters
and the men who portray them, including legends Lon Chaney
and Boris Karloff, and unforgettable creatures like The Wolf
Man, Frankenstein's Monster, The Phantom of the Opera and
The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He also examines the many roles
the mask has played throughout time, and the physical rigours
that actors who play monsters must endure...
The Mask Of The Horror Actor is a slightly updated version
of a book first published back in 1996 under the full title,
Sacred Monsters: Behind The Mask Of The Horror Actor.
Writer Doug Bradley, the actor behind the Pinhead character
in the eleventy-eight or so Hellraiser movies, essentially
splits the book into five sections. The early chapters trace
the origins of masks from Palaeolithic cave art, through shamanism
and into drama, giving the roots as power or another identity,
thereby implying that another appearance breeds an alternative
persona. This is all very informative, but it's not what the
main essence of the book is about. This section is not helped
by the writing style of Bradley, whose inexperience in the
field of penmanship shows by being stilted and formal rather
than flowing to maintain interest.
two covers the silent era of cinema, incorporating Lon Chaney,
and part three follows the golden age of early horror films
and actors such as Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton and Lon
Chaney Jnr., all in relation to masks or heavy make-up. Section
four concentrates on Vincent Price (and in particular his
Dr. Phibes contributions) and Christopher Lee in his many
It's fortunate I managed to stay awake this long, because
the saving grace of this book is the last section, The
Sons of Ten Thousand Maniacs. Some of these chapters are
split neatly in two; on one hand explaining which slasher
movie was making an impact at the time (along with snippets
of interviews with directors and more significantly the experiences
of the man behind the relevant mask), and on the other following
the progress of Bradley at the same moments in time. For example,
whilst Gunnar Hansen was getting to grips with Leatherface
in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Bradley was contemplating
going to university. He had met horror fiction writer Clive
Barker at senior school and become part of his theatre group.
the time John Carpenter's Halloween went into production
and Nick Castle was donning the immortal mask of Michael Myers,
Doug Bradley was hitting the theatres with the same group,
walking the boards under many aliases while Clive Barker's
prolific pen never dried up.
There are also chapters on Robert Englund's portrayal of Freddy
Krueger from the A Nightmare On Elm Street films, and
Kane Hodder's experiences playing the hockey mask-wearing
Jason Vorhees of some of the Friday The Thirteenth
gets his point across. Horror actors (and indeed people in
general) in masks or heavy make-up are not only perceived
differently by others, but also see the world differently
themselves. They essentially become the character they are
portraying. So it's not hard to imagine how powerful a totem
a mask would have been to a tribal leader or shaman.
book could have been so much better (Titan Books' record is
pretty good), but three things make it average rather than
is the aforementioned Bradley's boring writing style. I found
myself much more interested in the exploits of other actors
than Bradley himself, because the others wrote or spoke their
experiences in anecdotes which is as it should be. I'm sorry,
but "I went here and I did this..." for example, wouldn't
excite a molecule.
second thing is the pictures. The black and white photos are
very dark and badly reproduced, and even the handful of colour
photos in the centre of the book are not that good.
Finally, while certain sections appear to have been updated
from the original publication, there are blaring omissions
from others. Text simply halts at the speculation of movies
which have been and gone years before. Even a footnote to
say "Since then this, this and this has happened.." would
have been something.
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