Saturday, October 22, 2011

Favorite horror movies

     I recently criticized another post's list of the worst scary movies. Without making a definitive claim for worth, here are a few of my favorite horror movies:

Poster from Wikipedia

     ~  The Black Cat (1934), directed by Edgar Ulmer and starring (for the first time!) Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Not long after they made a splash in Dracula and Frankenstein, Universal paired its two horror titans in what was purported to be an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat." You shouldn't be too surprised to learn that although a black cat does appear in the film, its relationship to the story is slight and not at all similar to its role in Poe's classic tale. However it is a demented yet enjoyable film, with stilted but quotable dialogue, art deco architecture and design, Satanism and imagery out of silent German expressionist film. And, a rarity, Lugosi is actually the good guy, or at least less bad than Karloff. Unfortunately, the film doesn't seem to be scheduled on TCM this Halloween season, and it's only available on DVD in a multi-disc collection of Lugosi, of which it's the best item.

     ~ Quatermass and the Pit (1968), AKA Five Million Years to Earth. Strictly speaking, this is science fiction, but it uses science to explain demons, possession, psychic powers and other supernatural phenomenon. A previous version was made for British television, the third in a popular series about scientist Bernard Quatermass, but, since U.S. television never broadcast those miniseries, the big-screen remake was given a different, bewildering title (the fact that there was an American science fiction horror film called "20,000 Miles to Earth" might have been an influence as well). This is also fairly hard to find on DVD and, although TCM has shown it a couple of times in the past year, I don't see it on its schedule at the moment.

     ~ The Wicker Man, (1974) starring Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee. Not, I repeat NOT, the recent version starring Nicolas Cage. A devout police officer investigates a missing child report on an insular island where paganism is still practiced. This isn't jump-out-at-you scary, but increasingly disquieting and disturbing. I don't see this scheduled either, but it's worth looking for.

     And here are a few you CAN find on TV this season:

     ~ The Legend of Hell House (1973), starring Roddy McDowall, Pamela Franklin and Clive Revill.  A rich old man is dying and hires three psychic investigators to prove or disprove life after death by visiting the titular mansion that has previously repelled all investigators. One is a scientist who believes it's all explained by electromagnetic radiation, a spiritual medium and a physical medium who is the only survivor of the previous attempts.  It will be on at 10 p.m. Oct. 22, 2 a.m. Oct. 23, and 9:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. Oct. 31 on Fox Movie Channel.

     ~ The Masque Of the Red Death (1964), 3:15 a.m. Oct. 24 on TCM
directed by Roger Corman and starring Vincent Price. Loosely based on the title story and another Poe story, "Hop-Frog" (although the character is called "Hop-Toad" in the film). Directed by Roger Corman (with cinematography by future director Nicolas Roeg), it's the most enjoyable of his Poe series.

     ~ The Devil's Bride (1968) 5 a.m. Oct. 24 on TCM, starring Christopher Lee as a good guy. Based on occult author Dennis Wheatley's The Devil Rides Out, Lee opposes the Aleister Crowley-based evil magician Mocata. One of the classier of Hammer Films' many horror films.
     ~ The Black Room (1935) 10 p.m. Oct. 28 on TCM, starring Boris Karloff and Boris Karloff. That is, Karloff plays twin brothers, identical except that one ~ the good one ~ has a paralyzed right arm. According to family legend, one is destined to kill the other, and ~ surprise! ~  the good one is supposed to do the killing.


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