Evil Has Its Charms

Article excerpt

Evil Has Its Charms Wheeler Winston Dixon, The Charm of Evil: The Life and Films of Terence Fisher (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series, 26) intro. by John Carpenter, 591 pp. photos, 1991 ISBN 0-8108-2375-6 $59.50, and Wheeler Winston Dixon, The Films of Freddie Francis (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series, 24), 318 pp. photos, 1991, ISBN 0-8108-2358-6, $37.50.

These two British directors both worked fast and cheap for Hammer Films, and made a reputation for horror movies. Fisher was happy in that genre, but Francis felt trapped. No wonder, for his career is studded with awards as director of photography that go back to the gritty black and white of Sons and Lovers (1960) and come forward to Glory (1989). For both of these, he earned Academy Awards. John Huston liked him so much for his efforts on Moby Dick, he knew he would have to leave in order to grow. However, when he shifted to directing. Hammer's exploitation mill was all that was available. He was imprisoned there until he came back as a cinematographer on David Lynch's The Elephant Man (1980). According to some fascinating, long interviews, which form the basis of Wheeler Dixon's book, Francis still hopes to direct more personal projects, something more like his ill-fated production of Dylan Thomas's moldering script for The Doctor and The Devils (1985), a screenplay based on nineteenth century "resurrectionists" (grave robbers) who actually killed to provide fresh corpses for a doctor.

The Films of Freddie Francis is the shorter of Dixon's latest studies for Scarecrow Press's Filmmakers Series. Francis comes through as a lively man who needed to work and whose opus can be brilliant-the look he provided for Jack Clayton's adaptation of James's The Turn of The Screw, The Innocents (1961)-or awful as was his Trog (1970), Joan Crawford's last film. Francis is very active for a man in his seventies, but is still best known for his past shock films such as Paranoiac (1962), starring the young Oliver Reed. Of these films and the cult following which adores them, Francis seems genuinely embarrassed. They merely want shock, or so Francis perceives, based on his meetings with fans at various horror film festivals. …