Wednesday, November 2, 2011

HORROR HARVEST: Part Eight: Other Scare Shops, 1955-1974

Robert Mitchum in "The Night of the Hunter" -- the ultimate bogeyman.
A number of remarkable horror films were produced outside the streams of sci-fi terror and the stylish series that issued from Hammer, and Corman’s “Poe” cycle.

There are some small thematic and productions streams to be found here. The “Sadean” trilogy, produced by Britain’s Anglo-Amalgamated; the seven Amicus horror anthologies, early Polanski, even the odd pair of “two-headed” movies from the early 1970s are all a treat.
"Horrors of the Black Museum": Spring-loaded spikes in the binoculars -- very unpleasant.
 What crops up again and again in this miscellany is a movement toward exploring abnormal psychological states. At the same time that many films are becoming more visually transgressive, many of the best of this era are visually restrained but audacious in their themes and implications. We have evil children (“The Bad Seed,” “Village of the Damned,” “The Innocents”); sexual dysfunction (“Psycho,” “Peeping Tom,” “Repulsion,” “Daughters of Darkness,” “The Mephisto Waltz”) and masterful dissertations of unease (“Seconds,” “Carnival of Souls,” “The Haunting,” “Eye of the Devil”).

Whether they were big-budget efforts from major studios or ludicrous cheapies, they hit the right buttons, and in some cases reach the sublime.


The Night of the Hunter
Charles Laughton
1955

Some think of it as a thriller, or a fable, but this is one of the scariest movies ever made. It was actor Laughton’s only film direction credit, and it makes you wonder what else he might have made. Agee’s script, one of only four he wrote, is masterful.



 The Bad Seed
Mervyn LeRoy
1956

How could that cute little girl be a serial killer? Watch. Without your kids around.

Night of the Demon
Jacques Tourneur
1957

Director Tourneur, who came up under the guidance of Val Lewton, perfects the “unseen monster” subgenre with the aid of master screenwriter Charles Bennett. Unfortunately, producer Hal E. Chester made the executive decision to SHOW the monster at the beginning and end of the film, utilizing the talents of model-maker/animator Ray Harryhausen. Skip over opening and closing mentally – you’ll have a much more interesting time.

Corridors of Blood
Robert Day
1958

I Bury the Living
Albert Band
1958



Horrors of the Black Museum
Arthur Crabtree
1959

The first in the “Sadean” trilogy, featuring the perfectly wicked Michael Gough.



Peeping Tom
Michael Powell
1960

The second in the “Sadean” trilogy. So horrific and despised that it ended Michael Powell’s career, it is now rightly regarded as a classic about voyeurism, manipulation and the very meaning of movie-making.



The Flesh and the Fiends aka Mania
John Gilling
1960

This criminally overlooked film would make a great double feature with “The Body Snatcher,” and deals with substantially the same material. Peter Cushing is the “mad doctor”; it also features the inimitable Donald Pleasence, George Rose and Billie Whitelaw. Gilling would later make three Hammer horror entries – “The Plague of the Zombies,” “The Reptile” and “The Mummy’s Shroud.”



Circus of Horrors
Sidney Hayers
1960

The third film in the “Sadean” trilogy. It features Anton Diffring, everyone’s favorite film Nazi, as a rogue plastic surgeon who takes refuge in a circus (natch). Bonus: you get to see Donald Pleasence eaten by a bear. Good times!



Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock
1960

The quintessential transgressive film. It mixed sax, madness and violence so effectively that it became Hitchcock’s most successful film. As the studios had refused to produce it, Hitchcock did – and became a multimillionaire as a result. The floodgates were opened. Three years later, Herschell Gordon Lewis made “Blood Feast,” and the gore, splatter and exploitation film market exploded.



Village of the Damned
Wolf Rilla
1960



The Innocents
Jack Clayton
1961

Based on Henry James’ novella “The Turn of the Screw,” an incredibly disturbing film in which nothing “happens” – except insanity and death.



Mr. Sardonicus
William Castle
1961



The Brain that Wouldn’t Die
Joseph Green
1962



Carnival of Souls
Herk Harvey
1962

Like “The Honeymoon Killers,” a one-shot wonder.



Night of the Eagle aka Burn, Witch, Burn!
Sidney Hayers
1962

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Robert Aldrich
1963



Children of the Damned
Anton M. Leader
1963

The Birds
Alfred Hitchcock
1963

Hitchcock does it gain, and spawns a subgenre – the “eco-terror” horror film, which will later include “Frogs,” “Piranha,” “Willard,” “The Swarm,” “Night of the Lepus” – and, ultimately, “Jaws.”



The Haunting
Robert Wise
1963



Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors
Freddie Francis
1965

The first of the Amicus compilation films, complete with framing story and episodes featuring current and future stars – in this case, Lee, Gough, and Donald Sutherland. This project was originally a television concept that never got off the ground – late American enterprises such as “The Twilight Zone,” “The Outer Limits” and “One Step Beyond” would achieve completion first.



Repulsion
Roman Polanski
1965



Seconds
John Frankenheimer
1966

 

Eye of the Devil
J. Lee Thompson
1967



The Fearless Vampire Killers
Roman Polanski
1967



Torture Garden
Freddie Francis
1967


Rosemary’s Baby
Roman Polanski
1968



Equinox
Denis Murren, Jack Woods
1970

One of the few trailers to paraphrase Shakespeare . . . 




The House That Dripped Blood
Peter Duffell
1971

The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant
Anthony M. Lanza
1971

Co-starring Druce Dern and . . . Casey Kasem? 




The Mephisto Waltz
Paul Wendkos
1971



Willard
Daniel Mann
1971

Daughters of Darkness
Harry Kumel
1971



Asylum
Roy Ward Baker
1972

Blacula
William Crain
1972



Tales from the Crypt
Freddie Francis
1972

The Thing with Two Heads
Lee Frost
1972



From Beyond the Grave
Kevin Connor
1974