Halloween Special – Sex and Horror
I love Halloween. Ever since I was a kid, Halloween has meant an exploration of my most personal Jungian archetypes wrapped in a gloomy shroud of adventure. All the tropes of gothic horror and Halloween – haunted houses, gothic cemeteries, werewolves, ghosts, vampires – have tapped my subconscious in ways I’ll probably never fully understand.
Of course, I didn’t know that when I was eight. All I knew then was that, on Halloween night, like a superhero, I put on my spookiest costume and went out to “face the monsters.” And the prize for returning home alive was a treasure hoard of chocolate bars, candy apples, and popcorn balls to eat while watching monster movies and It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on TV.
I’m not alone in my love for Halloween. It’s the second largest holiday in the United States in terms of retail sales. Americans go batty over candy, decorations, and costumes every year. And despite having European roots, it’s largely an American tradition today. Enthusiasm for the gothic tropes of Halloween seem to have somewhat faded from the various cultural zeitgeists outside of the United States.
However, that wasn’t always true, particularly in the mid-20th century. Starting in the 1950s, England’s Hammer Film Productions revived European interest with their lurid color interpretations of the black-and-white Universal Monsters movies of the 1930s. On the continent, the Spanish and the Italians followed with their own horror films in the 1960s and 70s — often with more sex and violence than their British counterparts.
Unlike most Americans, whose enthusiasm for Halloween vanishes at sunrise on November 1st, I keep the spirit of the season alive year-round. And I often do it viewing my favorite vintage cult horror films, particularly those with a sensual seductive quality like Daughters of Darkness (Les Lèvres Rouges, 1971) or the “Italian Gothics” of Barbara Steele.
That’s why I was delighted to receive Korero Books second volume in their “Sex and Horror” series —Sex and Horror: The Art of Alessandro Biffignandi— as it captures in illustration what the most sensual of European horror movies do on film. At first glance, I thought Sex and Horror was a book of vintage European movie posters. As it turns out, my instincts weren’t too far off.
Alessandro Biffignandi was born in Rome in 1935. After graduating art school, he apprenticed with famed Italian poster illustrator Averardo Ciriello. From there, he was hired away by the studio of Augusto Favelli, at the time Italy’s biggest producer of movie posters. From 1970 and into the early 80s, Biffignandi produced hundreds of masterful covers for the “sexy fumetti” –adult comics– published by Edifumetto – including Zora La Vampira, Cimiteria, and Biancaneve.
Sex and Horror covers the Edifumetto years. And fans of vintage horror films will be pleased. Since his cover assignments were often made well before a magazine’s interior content was created, Biffignandi had license to create as he saw fit — and he often included horror stars like Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff, and even German Robles in his work. Combined with copious nude images of beautiful women, Biffignandi evokes the erotic supernatural milieu of film directors Jess Franco or Jean Rollin.
Fans of the Warren horror magazines of the 1970s are also in for a treat. At once pulpy and painterly, Biffignandi’s style recalls both the art of pulp paperback artist Robert McGinnis and Vampirella artist José “Pepe” González.
So if the tropes of Halloween reside deep in your psyche, you’ll definitely find them come to life in this book. You’ll certainly want a copy to peruse when the frission of Halloween fades at the first light of November.
Sex and Horror: The Art of Alessandro Biffignandi
Korero Press, Ltd
UK £19.99; US $32.95; CAN $39.95
Also available: Sex and Horror: The Art of Emanuele Taglietti
Above: Sex & Horror — Casino, n. 14: La Bella e La Strega (The Beauty and the Witch); April 1986.
Above: Sex & Horror — Cimiteria, n. 3: Cadavere Senza Nome (The Nameless Corpse); June 1977.
Above: Sex & Horror — Frankenstein, n. 9: La Furia Del Mostro (The Monster’s Fury); October 1976.
Above: Sex & Horror — Zora, n. 46, series 5: Conigli E Vampiri (Vampires and Rabbits); November 1983.
Above: Sex & Horror — Zora, n. 48, series 5: Osceno Incantesimo (The Obscene Spell); January 1984.