(Post) Countdown to Halloween: My Favorite Films (1950-1959)

Saturday afternoon creature features and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup…

A reminder that my super-favorites are highlighted in RED. Diego’s put his pawprint on the ones that star fab Felines.

Bell, Book, and Candle Diego's pick
Film adaptation of the 1950 play, Diego and I never get tired of watching Bell, Book, and Candle. A sultry and seductive Witch, Gillian Holroyd (Kim Novak) and her Siamese familiar (Pyewacket), Warlock brother (Jack Lemmon), meddling Aunt (Elsa Lanchester, Bride of Frankenstein), and handsome neighbor Shep Henderson (James Stewart) brew up a cauldron of romance in 1958 Greenwich Village. Ernie Kovacs, Hermione Gingold, and Janice Rule co-star.

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Growing-up, Gillian was one of my Archetypes.
After the film’s release, there was an upsurge in the popularity of Siamese cats.

“The segments featuring the Brothers Candoli, who appear in the film playing at the Zodiac Club, were recorded in Hollywood at Columbia; on these tracks, John Williams (The Witches of Eastwick) can be heard on piano.”  (Wikipedia)
The November 25, 1958 issue of Life featured Novak and Pyewacket on the cover. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to acquire a copy.

Caltiki – The Immortal Monster
I was way into “monster movies” when I was a kid. (I still am.) The only things that scared the bejesus out of me were skeletons and there was one scene showing a man being reduced to bones by Caltiki. I always covered my eyes during that part. LOL. Cinematography by Mario Bava (Black Sunday).

Caltiki is a fictional Mayan goddess.
Curse of the Demon Diego's pick
Alternatively titled Night of the Demon, Jacques Tourneur‘s foray into the supernatural is a tour de force. The conjuring-up of the demon itself was exceptional, materializing while charging toward its intended target. Directed by a Frenchman, filmed in the UK, and starring an American actor (Dana Andrews).
Forbidden Planet Diego's pick
From Wikipedia:  “The characters and isolated setting have been compared to those in William Shakespeare‘s The Tempest, and the plot contains certain analogues to the play.”
Considered groundbreaking in several aspects of the genre, its effects team was nominated that year for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects that year. Anne Francis (Honey West) stars along with Walter Pidgeon, Leslie Nielsen, Earl Holliman, James Drury, Robby the Robot, and a beautiful tiger.
Terence Fisher (The Curse of the Werewolf) and Sir Christopher Lee team-up in Hammer Films‘ answer to the 1931 film by Universal Pictures. To avoid confusion with the original, it was released in the US as Horror of Dracula. This Dracula stars Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough (Batman Returns), and Valerie Gaunt (!) as “Vampire Woman”. ≋;>
Bela Lugosi is the quintessential Dracula, but Lee and Gary Oldman (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) run close seconds.
House on Haunted Hill
(As much as I absolutely loved Dark Castle‘s 13 Ghosts, I hated their remake of this film.)
Here we have another black-and-white goodie produced and directed by William Castle (The Tingler, Mr. Sardonicus, Rosemary’s Baby) – and who could resist the suave Vincent Price (The Tingler)? What a voice. Some eerie visual effects (Including a skeleton. YIKES!)
Additional cast:  Carol Ohmart, Elisha Cook (Rosemary’s Baby), and Richard Long.
House of Wax
Although I’ve only seen the movie on TV, it was apparently filmed in 3-D. No matter what dimension it’s viewed in, House of Wax is a well-acted thriller. Vincent Price (House on Haunted Hill, The Tinger) plays a disfigured sculptor intent on repopulating his burned-down wax museum. Also stars “Morticia Addams” herself (Carolyn Jones) and Charles Bronson (credited as Charles Buchinsky).
It’s a remake of the 1933 film Mystery of the Wax Museum.
“The film included an intermission, which was necessary to change the film’s reels, because each projector of the theater’s two projectors was dedicated to one of the stereoscopic images.”  (Wikipedia)
Invasion of the Saucer Men
A Saturday afternoon “creature feature” memorable for the little green men who had retractable alcohol-filled needles in their fingertips and eyeballs on the backs of their hands. Typical for its day, the plot centers around teenagers trying to convince the adults-in-charge that there are deadly aliens running amok.
Frank Gorshin (Riddler on the Batman TV show) is cast as a “drunken opportunist”.
Queen of Outer Space
Zsa Zsa Gabor (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) stars as a glamorous courtier residing on Venus (!) which is run by women. Into this paradise (even then, I was a feminist at heart) crashes a rocket filled with MEN.
It’s easy to guess what happens next…Sure, it’s B-movie material but I loved it. Gabor’s hunky co-stars include Eric Fleming and Paul Birch.
The production team recycled props and costumes from Forbidden Planet.
Marilyn Buferd (Odeena) received the 1946 Miss America crown.
The She-Creature
Let’s keep the creature features going… Marla English as an absolutely beautiful woman who’s alter-ego is a murderous prehistoric creature. Directed by Edward L. Cahn (Invasion of the Saucer Men). The monster costume – complete with breasts – is a magnificent piece crafted by Paul Blaisdell.
The She-Creature was inspired by a best-selling book concerning hypnotism (The Search for Bridey Murphy).
The Thing from Another World
Although John Carpenter‘s 1982 version was a decent remake, the special effects were too ambitious for my taste. Although the humanoid alien here (played by James Arness) is plant-based, it’s as murderously hostile as they come. This thing is no shrinking violet! Shot in black-and-white, the claustrophic terror is enhanced by low light and close-quarters – the interior sets were built in an ice storage plant. “…considered one of the great science fiction films of the 1950s”  (Wikipedia)
Based on a novella by John Campbell (Who Goes There?).
The Tingler
The Tingler is a parasitic creature which attaches itself to the human backbone, coming to life when its host is frightened – with deathly results. Screaming is the only way to weaken it.
Here the “king of gimmicks”, William Castle (House on Haunted Hill, Mr. Sardonicus, Rosemary’s Baby), is at it again:
“…filmed in ‘Percepto’…Castle purchased military surplus airplane wing de-icers (consisting of vibrating motors) and had a crew travel from theatre to theatre, attaching them to the underside of some of the seats…In the finale, one of the creatures supposedly gets loose in the movie theater itself. The buzzers were activated as the film’s star, Vincent Price, warned the audience to “scream – scream for your lives!”  (Wikipedia)
Starring Vincent Price (House on Haunted Hill), The Tingler is another cult classic.
The “Bloody Bathtub” scene:  Although The Tingler was filmed in black-and-white, a short color sequence was spliced into the film. (That Castle sure was a showman!)
The Wasp Woman Diego's pick
This last entry is another black-and-white B movie and is directed by Roger Corman (The Howling). Susan Cabot stars as the aging founder of a large cosmetics company who begins injecting royal jelly from the queen wasp as a way to recapture her youth – and her market base – with unexpected results. Corman has an uncredited bit part.
From Wikipedia:  “The Wasp Woman has the head and hands of a wasp but the body of a woman – exactly the opposite of the creature shown on the film’s theatrical release poster…”
Fred Katz‘ score was used in several films, including The Little Shop of Horrors (1960).

My favorite (Halloween) films from 1950-1959
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1960-1969
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1970-1979
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1980-1989
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1990-1999
My favorite (Halloween) films from 2000-2009
My favorite (Halloween) films from 2010-2017

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(Post) Countdown to Halloween: My Favorite Films (1960-1969)

It’s the 1960’s – a time of great social and political change (civil rights, Vietnam war, assassinations of JFK & MLK, Apollo 11, Woodstock, and “flower power”). It also marks the appearance of such movie classics as Rosemary’s Baby and Night of the Living Dead and the continued release of gothic horror offerings by British-based Hammer Films (Curse of the Werewolf, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, The Reptile).

A reminder that my super-favorites are highlighted in RED. Diego’s put his pawprint on the ones that star fantastic Felines.

Black Sunday
Filmmaker Mario Bava (Caltiki – the Immortal Monster) directed this Italian piece of gothic horror. A darling of the horror genre, Barbara Steele stars as a witch seeking revenge on her descendants. At the time, the movie was considered unusually violent (such as a face being pierced by an iron maiden). Banned in England, AIP cut some of the more gruesome parts before its theatrical release in the US. “In 2004, one of its sequences was voted number 40 among the ‘100 Scariest Movie Moments’ by the Bravo TV network.” (Wikipedia)
Black Sunday was loosely based on Gogol’s horror novella Viy and co-stars John Richardson.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula “recreates several scenes from Black Sunday nearly exactly as they were filmed…” (Wikipedia)
Tim Burton cited being inspired by its imagery during the making of Sleepy Hollow.
Burn, Witch, Burn Diego's pick
Originally titled “Night of the Eagle”, this supernatural thriller is based on a 1943 novel by Fritz Leiber, Conjure Wife.

Richard Matheson co-wrote the screenplay. Starring Peter Wyngarde as a psychology professor and Janet Blair as his magic-conjuring wife.
Carnival of Souls
Ghosts? Zombies? Ghouls? Whichever you choose, this independent horror film is a hauntingly eerie bit of terror. Filmed in black-and-white and set to an original organ score, Carnival of Souls was shot in three weeks in a style called guerilla filmmaking.

Starring Candace Hilligoss (in a role that gained her fame) and directed by Herk Harvey (above, in a cameo), it remains a cult classic, influencing such modern-day filmmakers as George Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead) and David Lynch.
The Curse of the Werewolf
Hammer Films’ The Curse of the Werewolf was based on a novel by Guy Endore (“The Werewolf of Paris”) and features Oliver Reed (as Leon) in his first starring role. The storyline here is a bit different from traditional lycanthrope films in that it does not require the victim to have been bitten by a werewolf in order to become one himself. Additionally, Leon’s werewolf persona is very elegantly crafted.

According to Wikipedia: “Benjamin Frankel‘s score is notable for its use of twelve-tone serialism, rare in film music.”
Dracula: Prince of Darkness
This is the second entry in Hammer Films‘ Dracula series to star Sir Christopher Lee (Horror of Dracula, Sleepy Hollow). The innate sensuality of Lee is matched by heaving bosoms, plenty of SEX (this is the 60’s), and loads of Technicolor(ed) blood.

Directed by Terence Fisher (Dracula) and co-starring Barbara Shelley (“The First Leading Lady of British Horror”) – with an uncredited Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing.
I shed tears over this film which “focuses on Gorgo, a young sea monster brought back to London for exploitation, and Ogra, his even larger mother, who rampages across London to search for him.” (Wikipedia)

It has a happy ending…
Mr. Sardonicus
A good old-fashioned black-and-white horror flim by William Castle (Rosemary’s Baby, House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler). The visage of Baron Sardonicus is terrifying to behold – even today – and took five separate facial application fittings to achieve. (Actor Guy Rolfe could only wear the application for an hour at a time.)
“Castle, with his reputation as the “king of gimmicks” to market his films, built the marketing for the film around the idea of the two possible endings.” (Wikipedia)
In his memoir, Castle stated Mr. Sardonicus was one of his favorites to produce.
Night of the Living Dead
Can you believe this movie is 50 years old? Not only does it stand the test of time, it set the standard for all zombie movies that followed. Dubbed the “Father of the Zombie Film”, this was the first movie by George Romero (Dawn of the Dead). He not only directed but photographed, edited, and co-wrote the screenplay.

Shot in black-and-white, it’s still a gory shocker. It’s a cult classic that begat several sequels and other related works.
Planet of the Apes
Loosely constructed from La Planète des singes by French author Pierre Boulle, it tells the story of an alternate universe where apes rule humans. (But you already knew that, didn’t you?) The film was “groundbreaking for its prosthetic makeup techniques” (Wikipedia) and inspired a film franchise, as well as a 2001 remake.
Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall (Fright Night, Fright Night Part 2), Maurice Evans (Rosemary’s Baby), Kim Hunter, James Whitmore, James Daly, and the gorgeous Linda Harrison star.
Rosemary’s Baby
Horror films rarely elevate themselves to the point that they transcend the genre to become a stylish and sophisticated cinematic success. Although Rosemary’s Baby is about the Antichrist, the horror is more psychological. It’s a sobering look at how society reacts to female intuition.
Rosemary (Mia Farrow) knows something’s not right from the beginning and when she becomes pregnant her maternal instincts kick in with a vengeance, only to be placated and ultimately derailed. Farrow received a well-deserved Academy Award nomination for her performance.
Director Roman Polanski (Blood for Dracula) also wrote the screenplay, which closely followed Ira Levin‘s book. His adaptation earned him an Oscar nomination and Ruth Gordon won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
Rounding-out the stellar cast:  John Cassavetes, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans (Planet of the Apes), Ralph Bellamy, Charles Grodin (his film debut), Elisha Cook, and the voice of Tony Curtis.
Produced by William Castle (Mr. Sardonicus, House on Haunted Hill, The Tinger).
As the film was rated R, my Dad had to take me to see it. ≋;>
The Haunting
Another classic – this time a ghost story. Adapted from Shirley Jackson‘s novel (The Haunting of Hill House), it stars Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, and Russ Tamblyn. The fact that The Haunting was filmed in black-and-white only adds another layer to the mounting suspense. Don’t bother seeing the 1999 remake, the original kicks its ass.
“Director Martin Scorsese has placed The Haunting first on his list of the 11 scariest horror films of all time.” (Wikipedia)
Mod fashion designer Mary Quant designed the clothes worn by Bloom’s character (Theo).
The Lost World
Yeah, I know the special effects are dated but what do you want? It’s 1960! (At least it was shot in De Luxe Color.) This is the second movie based on Arthur Conan Doyle‘s novel. Here the explorers face cannibals, dinosaurs, carnivorous plants (!!!), and giant spiders. My favorite character was the “Native Girl” (played by Vitina Marcus). Michael Rennie, the curvaceous Jill St. John, David Hedison, Claude Rains, and Fernando Lamas co-star.
Director Irwin Allen (“Master of Disaster”) used stock footage from The Lost World for various TV shows.
The Reptile
Another horrific offering by Hammer Films which incorporates snake cults, shapeshifting, and mysterious deaths in a small British village.
(I loved the fact that the “monster” is female.)

Scottish actor John Laurie has a small part as Mad Peter.

My favorite (Halloween) films from 1950-1959
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1960-1969
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1970-1979
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1980-1989
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1990-1999
My favorite (Halloween) films from 2000-2009
My favorite (Halloween) films from 2010-2017

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(Post) Countdown to Halloween: My Favorite Films (1970-1979)

Though past Halloween, I’m still thinking about chillers, thrillers, magic, and things that go bump in the night… Continuing with a list of movies I love that contain elements of occult, fantasy, horror, sci-fi (or any combination thereof), here’s my compilation from the 1970’s.

Remember, super-favorites are highlighted in RED with Diego noting those starring fab Felines.

Alien Diego's pick
What can I say here that hasn’t already been said, or that people don’t already know…
I remember a morning news show where they were commenting how the imagery in Alien was like nothing ever seen before – that mix of biological and mechanical that would become H. R. Giger‘s tradmark “biomechanics”. It raised sci-fi horror to an unprecidented level and won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Alien is considered one of the greatest films of all time and its influence on the genre can still be seen today.
Sigourney Weaver continued to reprise her role as Ellen Ripley in the subsequent three sequels.
I was personally mesmerized by the xenomorph itself – so much so that I crafted an Alien head from styrofoam and wore it for Halloween that year.
Blood for Dracula
Also known as Andy Warhol’s Dracula, this is a campy renditon that paints Count Dracula (Udo Kier) as a sick and dying vampire who can only survive on the blood of virgins and travels to Italy in the hopes of finding suitable prey (Italy being predominantly Catholic). Directed by Paul Morrissey (Flesh for Frankenstein) and produced by Carlo Ponti (husband of Sophia Loren), the original release was rated X.
Along with Kier (Shadow of the Vampire, Blade, BloodRayne, Flesh for Frankenstein), Blood for Dracula stars Morrissey-regular Joe Dallesandro (Flesh for Frankenstein), Vittorio de Sica, and an uncredited Roman Polański (Rosemary’s Baby).
Directed by Brian De Palma, this is a coming-of-age bit of horror that ties telekinesis with the onset of menstruation, Carrie was the first film adaptation of a Stephen King novel. (One of the first movies I can remember that shows extreme cruelty among high school girls. Payback’s a bitch, too.) Sissy Spacek shines as the ugly-duckling-turned-prom-queen.
Co-stars Piper Laurie, Army Irving, William Katt, Betty Buckley, Nancy Allen, John Travolta, 1980s-movie-regular P. J. Soles, Priscilla Pointer, and Edie McClurg.
Trivia Time:
Nancy Allen went on to become Mrs. De Palma.
Dawn of the Dead
George A. Romero‘s sequel to Night of the Living Dead (which he also directed). A great bit of social satire and a commentary on consumerism, as it takes place in a large shopping mall:
“They don’t know why, they just remember. Remember that they want to be in here.”  link
My favorite in the series, Dawn of the Dead was written by Romero and Dario Argento – who, along with The Goblins, also composed the score. Tom Savini (Innocent Blood) has a bit part. Or is that a “bite” part…
Frank Langella plays the Count with a decidedly romantic flourish. The cast includes some stellar actors besides Langella:  Laurence Olivier and Donald Pleasence.

John Badham directed. Score composed by the inimitable John Williams (The Witches of Eastwick).
Flesh for Frankenstein
Paul Morrissey‘s complement to Blood for Dracula, this film was also given an X rating due to explicit sexuality and violence (disembowelment). One uncomfortable, over-the-top scene involves “sexual exploits” with a female creation. Shocking when it was released, it’s tame by today’s standards but still a hoot. Also known as Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, it’s loosely-based on Mary Shelley‘s novel and stars Joe Dallesandro (Blood for Dracula), Udo Kier (Shadow of the Vampire, Blade, BloodRayne, Blood for Dracula), and Monique van Vooren.
It’s Alive! Diego's pick
This one still messes me up… A monstrously mutant baby runs amok killing everyone in sight. John P. Ryan, Sharon Farrell, Guy Stockwell, and Michael Ansara star. Oscar-winning Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, Wolf, 2010s The Wolfman, Maleficent) did the makeup and puppet effects.
“…expound on the dangers of various prescription drugs administered to expectant mothers during the 1950s and early 1960s (i.e. Thalidomide), the use of fertility drugs, and the indirect use of pesticides on people.” (Wikipedia)
Love at First Bite Diego's pick
In this romantic comedy, Count Dracula (George Hamilton) is suave, debonair, and tanned (!). Accompanied by his servant, Renfield (Arte Johnson), the vampire decides to take a bite out of the Big Apple. While taking in the sights (blood banks, nightclubs, etc.) he pursues Cindy Sondheim (Susan Saint James), a high-fashion model who’s the spitting image of the Count’s long-lost true love. Meanwhile, Ms. Sondheim’s psychiatrist/boyfriend, Jeffrey Rosenberg (Richard Benjamin), has discovered the Count’s true identity. Being the grandson of the famous vampire hunter, van Helsing, Rosenberg (!) pursues Dracula with maniacal fervor. Nice cameos by Dick Shawn, Isabel Sanford, and Sherman Hemsley.
On the DVD the song used during the disco scene (“I Love the Nightlife”) was replaced – for unknown reasons – by a really, really lame-ass song. (Having recorded Love at First Bite directly from cable, I am fortunate to possess the original version.)
The Mephisto Waltz
Shot along the Pacific coast of California, it stars Alan Alda, Jacqueline Bisset, Barbara Parkins, Bradford Dillman, William Windom, and Curd Jurgens.

I wrote an article on The Mephisto Waltz earlier this year.

Trivia Time:
The title is taken from the piano work by Franz Liszt:  Mephisto Waltzes.

Mutations due to environmental pollution from a paper mill, specifically mercury which is used in logging as a fungicide. Throw-in Native American activists, an agent from the EPA, his pregnant wife, and rampaging deformed animals. The effects are quite dated, but at the time they were effectively scary. Prophecy was directed by John Frankenheimer (The Island of Dr. Moreau) and stars Robert Foxworth, Talia Shire, Armand Assante, and Kevin Peter Hall (Predator, Predator 2).
Directed by David Cronenberg (Nightbreed, The Fly). It’s a vampire film Cronenberg-style starring the infamous Marilyn Chambers. Although Rabid was released prior to the 80’s AIDS epidemic, the reference to sexually-transmitted diseases is apparent.
“Chambers plays a woman who, after being injured in a motorcycle accident and undergoing a surgical operation, develops an orifice under one of her armpits. The orifice hides a phallic stinger that she uses to feed on people’s blood. Soon, those she feeds upon become infected, whose bite spreads the disease and soon causes massive chaos starting with Quebec and ending up in Montreal.” (Wikipedia)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show

It’s just a jump to the left…

This cult classic is based on the 1973 stage show whose music, lyrics, and story were written by Richard O’Brien. The film’s screenplay was also penned by O’Brien (who plays Riff Raff). The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to pre-1970’s horror and sci-fi B movies. It’s a wildly fun ride that still boasts midnight showings around the country and has a global following. (Wikipedia)
Tim Curry (as a lusciously-seductive transvestite) is supported by an equally-great cast:  Susan Sarandon (The Hunger), Barry Bostwick, O’Brien, and Charles Gray. Plus a cameo by Meat Loaf:

Trivia Time:
In addition to O’Brien and Curry, Little Nell (Columbia), and Patricia Quinn (Magenta) were also in the original stage production.
The first time I saw Rocky Horror was on a blind date. Not knowing anything about the film, we went totally unprepared for the active participation of everyone in the theater. I thought it was some sort of dress rehearsal… After seeing Tim Curry (Dr. Frank N. Furter) I was hooked for life and even attended several late-night screenings.
The movie and audience participation were featured in Fame (1980).

The Sentinel Diego's pick
What the critics hate, I often love. This little slice of horror centers around a Brooklyn apartment building that’s really a gateway to Hell. There are some parts that’ll make you uncomfortable (the masterbation scene) and others that are disturbingly comical (“Black and white cat, black and white cake.”).

The Sentinel stars Chris Sarandon (Fright Night), Cristina Raines, Martin Balsam, John Carradine (Bride of Frankenstein, House of Frankenstein), José Ferrer, Sylvia Miles, Beverly D’Angelo, Ava Gardner, Eli Wallach, Christopher Walken (Batman Returns, Sleepy Hollow), Jerry Orbach, Tom Berenger, Jeff Goldblum (The Fly), a wickedly impish Burgess Meredith, and a cast of real-life “freaks” playing Hell’s demon spawn.

My favorite (Halloween) films from 1950-1959
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1960-1969
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1970-1979
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1980-1989
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1990-1999
My favorite (Halloween) films from 2000-2009
My favorite (Halloween) films from 2010-2017

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