(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

ℳ –

(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

ℳ –

(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

ℳ –

Countdown to Halloween: My Favorite Films (1980-1989)

Aaah…my favorite holiday is here. I’ve been listening to Halloween Radio (Stay tuned for some 80’s Blasts, Halloween-style) and the songs they’ve been playing had me reminiscing about chillers, thrillers, magic, and things that go bump in the night…

So, I compiled a list of all the movies I especially like/love that contain elements of occult, fantasy, horror, sci-fi – or any combination thereof. Super-favorites are highlighted in RED and Diego has highlighted those films starring fab Felines.

This run-up to October 31st has me thirsty for something warm, thick, and red…

(Had you going for a minute, didn’t I?)

With glass in hand, today’s list is all about cult films or movies with a cult following.
Eleven of the 27 films here are labeled as such (that’s 41%):  An American Werewolf in London, Fright Night and Fright Night Part Two, Near Dark, Pumpkinhead, Re-Animator, Teen Witch, The Howling, The Hunger, The Return of the Living Dead, and They Live.

Now, without further adieu here are my favorite (Horror) flicks of the 1980’s.

Aliens Diego's pick
Based on characters by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, this action-packed sequel is the second in the Alien franchise. Once again, Sigourney Weaver plays Ellen Ripley – for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress (and won a Saturn Award for the same). Practical Effects Supervisor, John Richardson, won a Special Effects Oscar.
We get a good look at the xenomorphs in this film – and there are a lot of them! This is also the first time a Queen Alien was introduced to us (“Get away from her you bitch.” What a catchphrase). Stan Winston Studios (Predator, Pumpkinhead, The Island of Dr. Moreau) created the life-sized Queen which was operated by 14 puppeteers.
Directed by James Cameron, the cast is rounded-out by Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen (Pumpkinhead, Alien 3), Bill Paxton (Near Dark, Predator 2), and Jenette Goldstein (Near Dark).
An American Werewolf in London Diego's pick
Rick Baker‘s special effects – especially the transformation scene – were ground-breaking at the time. (Up until An American Werewolf in London, transformation scenes were shot frame-by-frame. This was a laborious task that meant the actor had to sit motionless for hours while makeup was being applied for the next frame.) In 1981, Baker won the first-ever Oscar for Best Makeup.
Considered a horror-comedy this movie is both terrifying and quirky, using droll humor and songs with “moon” in the title…
Directed by John Landis and starring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne, Frank Oz, and John Landis in a cameo.
An American Werewolf in London is chiefly appreciated as a milestone in the comedy-horror genre and for its innovative makeup effects.” (Wikipedia)
Michael Jackson was a huge fan of the movie, and based on the strength of their work (in An American Werewolf in London) chose both John Landis (director) and Rick Baker (makeup effects) to work with him on 1983’s Thriller music video. It went on to become one of the most lauded music videos of all time. (Wikipedia)
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Tuned in smack dab in the middle of a very gory, bloody scene – and was hooked. Although considered a “slasher film”, Freddy Krueger (played by Robert Englund) is so much more horrifying than the villians of Friday the 13th and Halloween. He’s a serial killer who’s a ghost (dream demon) inhabiting your dream world where whatever he inflicts upon you happens for real. Including your death. (How messed-up is that?) Krueger has become an iconic figure with his fire-scarred face, slouchy hat, torn red-and-black sweater, and metal-clawed glove.
Written and directed by Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) the film also stars Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, and Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow) in his film debut.
“Critics today praise the film’s ability to transgress ‘the boundaries between the imaginary and real’, toying with audience perceptions” (Wikipedia)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Based on his characters from A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven also penned the screenplay. Along with returning actors Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon, Patricia Arquette, Larry (Lawrence) Fishburne, and Craig Wasson star. Zsa Zsa Gabor has a cameo.
Angelo Badalamenti composed the score, with heavy metal band Dokken writing/performing it’s theme song, “Dream Warriors”.

Up until 1990, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors was banned in Queensland, Australia due to its drug references.

Director Tim Burton (Sleepy Hollow, Batman Returns, Frankenweenie) and composer Danny Elfman (Batman Returns, Sleepy Hollow, Nightbreed, Frankenweenie, 2010s The Wolf Man) team-up for this wild-ride about ghostly spirits, the after-life, and a smarmy “freeland Bio-Exorcist” named Betelgueuse (played to the hilt by Michael Keaton). Burton employed stop motion, replacement animation, prosthetic makeup, puppetry, and blue screen for the special effects. The film won a 1989 Academy Award for Best Makeup.
My favorite scene was the dinner party during which Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song” played. (Hilarious.) Another Belafonte song was used during the closing credits:  “Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora)”.
Starring Keaton (Batman Returns), Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones (Sleepy Hollow, Ravenous, The Devil’s Advocate), Winona Ryder (Alien Resurrection, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Frankenweenie), Alec Balwin, Geena Davis (The Fly), and Sylvia Sidney – with cameos by Robert Goulet and Dick Cavett.
Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town
An all-female motorcycle gang (the Cycle Sluts) ride into a town inhabited by an evil scientist-turned-mortician, who (with the aid of his dwarf assistant) has been killing local townspeople and turning them into zombies to use as “cheap labor” at an underground radioactive mine.

Former MTV VJ Martha Quinn stars as one of the Cycle Sluts.
Fright Night
Director Tom Holland envisioned a tale fashioned after “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” – or in this case, Who Cried Vampire. The effects/makeup are worth seeing – especially Amanda Bearse‘s transformation into a voluptuous vampire.
Cast:  William Ragsdale as Charley Brewster, Chris Sarandon (The Sentinel) as the vampire Jerry Dandrige, Roddy McDowall as vampire hunter Peter Vincent (who name is an amalgamation of Peter Cushing and Vincent Price), and Bearse as Brewster’s girlfriend, Amy Peterson.
“…in the scene when Amy and Evil Ed go to Peter Vincent’s apartment for help, you can see a white face mask on the wall. This is a life cast of roddy mcdowall’s face which was made/used for the makeup on Planet of the Apes.”  Behind the Scenes of Fright Night
Fright Night Part 2
The sequel to Fright Night, this time with Regine Dandrige (Julie Carmen) taking her brother’s place as a vampiric Femme Fatale. Regine’s joined by a band of vampires eager to do her bidding:  Jon Gries as Louie, Brian Thompson as Bozworth, and the very rock/punk Belle (Russel Clark) who floats around on skates…

William Ragsdale and Roddy McDowall reprise their roles as Charley Brewster and Peter Vincent, respectively.
“The special effects makeups were designed by Greg Cannom and his crew at Cannom Creations. Cannom also worked the The Lost Boys and went on to do Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula.”  Wikia
Based on a story by Lord Byron & Percy Bysshe Shelley, Gothic is a fictionalized account of a summer spent at Byron’s home in Geneva which inspires the group to engage in a horror-story competition. True to Ken Russell‘s style of filmmaking it’s surreal, decadant, and subversive.
Stars Gabriel Byrne as Lord Byron, Julian Sands as Shelley, Natasha Richardson as Mary Shelley, and Timothy Spall (The Bride) as John Polidori.
The theatrical poster is based on a famous painting by Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare – which is also referenced in the movie.
Lord Byron was a poet and leading figure in the Romantic movement and a member of the House of Lords from 1809-1824. His only legitimate child (Ada Lovelace) is regarded as the first computer programmer. Born with a deformed right foot, he advocated exercise and was a vegetarian most of his life. The “Byronic Hero” (literary character) and the vampire archetype were both modeled after him. In the Bride of Frankenstein, Lord Byron (played by Gavin Gordon) is depicted in the prologue.
Percy Shelley was another major Romantic-era poet who was married to Mary Shelley. He was a political radical and peace activist; and, like Byron, converted to vegetarianism.
Mary Shelley penned the classic novel, Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus (1818). The idea for it was conceived during that summer in Geneva. Her father was the political philospher William Godwin and her mother the philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft.
Near Dark
A (modern-day) western-biker vampire tale directed and co-written by Kathryn Bigelow, with music by Tangerine Dream. These vampires are nomadic and vicious predators, but they do have some manners… One scene has Severen (Bill Paxton, Aliens, Predator 2) drinking blood from a beer mug. Joshua John Miller (Teen Witch) is particularly creepy as the pre-pubescent vampire Homer. Lance Henriksen (Aliens, Alien 3, Pumpkinhead) is their leader with Jenette Goldstein (Aliens) and Jenny Wright rounding-out the gang. When they happen upon a naive cowboy (Adrian Pasdar), Mae (Wright) takes a fancy to him and bites him on the neck, forcing him to join their merry little band of undead outlaws.
Speaking of nomads, this one combines punk-rockers-on-bikes with the Inuit legend of the einwetok (pronounced in-oo-wad). According to the legend, einwetok are psychic vampires and tricksters; evil spirits that are unable to be photographed. This is an atmospheric, psychological horror film with an unexpected ending. Starring Lesley-Anne Down, Pierce Brosnan, Adam Ant, Mary Woronov, Josie Cotton (“Johnny Are You Queer?”, “He Could Be the One”), and Frank Doubleday. Directed by John McTiernan (Predator).
Picture a special forces elite military rescue squad in the middle of a central american jungle, who find themselves battling for their lives against an unseen enemy. (If you don’t already know the story I have one question for you: What remote island have you been living on?) Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham, and Kevin Peter Hall (Prophecy) as the Predator.
Outside of the (typical) one-liners uttered by Schwarzenegger, the real delight here is the Predator. This creation is from the amazing mind of Stan Winston (Aliens, Pumpkinhead, The Island of Dr. Moreau).
After seeing Nomads, Schwarzenegger wanted John McTiernan as director on this film.
Alan Silvestri (Predator 2, What Lies Beneath) composed the score.

Countdown to Halloween: My Favorite Films (1990-1999)

Aaah…my favorite holiday is just days away. I’ve been listening to Halloween Radio (Stay tuned for some 80’s Blasts, Halloween-style) and the songs they’ve been playing had me reminiscing about chillers, thrillers, magic, and things that go bump in the night…

So, I compiled a list of all the movies I especially like/love that contain elements of occult, fantasy, horror, sci-fi – or any combination thereof. Super-favorites are highlighted in RED and Diego has highlighted those films starring fab Felines.

Addams Family Values
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (The Addams Family), this sequel to the 1991 movie continues where the original left off and adds some new characters:  Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack), Pubert Addams, and a cameo by Sonnenfeld.
Returning cast includes Raúl Juliá (in his final film), Anjelica Houston, Christopher Lloyd, Christina Ricci (Sleepy Hollow), Carel Struycken (The Witches of Eastwick), and Dana Ivey.
Jonathan Barkan provides a spot-on observation about this quirky family, “…the Addams Family are the most loving, caring, and connected family that has ever graced the silver screen.”

I took a quiz, “Which Addams Family Member Are You?” I am (drum roll)…
Child of woe is wan and delicate…sensitive and on the quiet side, she loves the picnics and outings to the underground caverns…a solemn child, prim in dress and, on the whole, pretty lost…secretive and imaginative, poetic, seems underprivileged and given to occasional tantrums.
Take the Quiz!

Alien 3
The third in the series, this one takes place in a penal colony located on a remote planet. It is somber and contains far less action than did the previous Aliens. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons it disappointed fans and critics alike. I liked it because it was so different from the first two. (Why do the same thing over and over?)
Each movie in the franchise has employed a different director – with David Fincher manning the helm here.
“[David Fincher] wanted the alien to be, ‘more of a puma, or a beast’ as opposed to the upright, humanoid posture of the previous films, so the designer of the original alien, H. R. Giger, was contacted to generate new sketch ideas. His revisions included longer, thinner legs, the removal of ‘pipes’ around the spine, and an idea for a sharp alien ‘tongue’ in place of the secondary jaws.” (Wikipedia)
Creature effects used for the Alien:  CGI, rod puppet, and actor.
Sigourney Weaver reprises her role as Ripley and Lance Henriksen (Pumpkinhead, Near Dark, Aliens) plays dual roles:  Bishop II and the voice of the damaged Bishop android. Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, and Pete Postlethwaite co-star.
Alien Resurrection
Produced by Walter Hill (Alien 3), witten by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, this is the fourth installment in the series. Once again Sigourney Weaver is on-board as Ellen Ripley, only this time she’s been cloned – with Queen Alien DNA mixed in with hers. The Ripley 8 clone is very cat-like. Lean and lithe, with enhanced strength, reflexes, acidic blood, and a “psychic link with the xenomorphs” (Wikipedia).
There are mercenaries (led by Michael Wincott), a synthetic human called an auton (played by Winona Ryder, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Beetlejuice, Frankenweenie), one sadistically sick scientist (Brad Dourif), and an erotic sequence involving Ripley and one of the aliens. Oh, and a “newborn” birthed from the uterus of a hybrid Queen alien. (Seeing Ripley 8 as its real “Mom”, this grotesquerie turns around and kills the Queen alien.) The cinematography is elegant – especially the scene where we see Aliens swimming. Ron Perlman (The Island of Dr. Moreau, Blade II) and Dan Hedaya (The Hunger, The Addams Family) also star.

n. a grotesque figure, object, or action

I know what you’re thinking, but Anaconda is worth seeing for the campy performance by Jon Voight alone! He manages to steal scenes away from the star of the film, Jennifer Lopez (The Cell).

Co-starring Ice Cube, Eric Stoltz, Owen Wilson, Danny Trejo, and one big-ass animatronic snake.

Batman Returns Diego's pick
What more could you want in a movie:
Tim Burton (Frankenweenie, Sleepy Hollow, Beetlejuice)
Denise Di Novi (Practical Magic)
Michael Keaton (Beetlejuice)
Michelle Pfeiffer (What Lies Beneath, The Witches of Eastwick
Score by Danny Elfman (Beetlejuice, Sleepy Hollow, Nightbreed, Frankenweenie, 2010s The Wolf Man)

Add Christopher Walken as Max Shreck (see Shadow of the Vampire) (who just so happens to be a cat lover ) – and a ton of fantastic felines and you have the makings of a movie made in heaven…cat heaven.

This moody ghost story had me glued to my seat. I dared not take my eyes off the screen for a moment. As the title character, Thandie Newton (Interview with the Vampire) was, by turns, sweet and sinister.
In 1987 Ophrah Winfrey (who also stars) purchased the rights to Toni Morrison‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name.
Directed by Academy Award-winning Jonathan Demme, Beloved also features Danny Glover, Jason Robards, and Charles Napier.
The first in the franchise, Blade stars Wesley Snipes as the superhero (Blade’s a ‘Dhampir’ – a human with vampire strengths but not their weaknesses – who takes on the task of protecting humans from vampires) and contains one of the coolest – and bloodiest – opening scenes.. Snipes is supported by Kris Kristofferson (Blade II, Blade: Trinity), Stephen Dorff, Udo Kier (Flesh for Frankenstein, Blood for Dracula, Shadow of the Vampire, BloodRayne), and Traci Lords. Excellent soundtrack.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Great attention was paid to every lushous detail in this version of Stoker’s noval, which at its core is a love story spanning centuries. “[Winona] Ryder initially brought the script…to the attention of Coppola…[who was] attracted to the sensual elements of the screenplay and said that he wanted portions of the picture to resemble an ‘erotic dream’…all of the visual effects seen in the film were achieved without the use of optical or computer generated effects, but were created using on-set and in-camera methods.” (Wikipedia)
It won three Academy Awards, including Best Costume Design (Eiko Ishioka, The Cell). Her creations proved to be some of the most memorable in movie history. As Vlad, the vampire-to-be was clad in an armadillo-inspired suit of armor. “Old” Dracula was clothed in a long, flowing, red satin robe. The collar on Lucy’s wedding dress was styled after the Australian frilled lizard (who displays a neck “frill” when threatened). Renfield’s straight jacket and the coachman’s livery continue in this same vein.

Dracula (Gary Oldman) undergoes eight
transformations throughout the film.

Artistic inspirations included Jean Cocteau (Beauty and the Beast) and the works of Gustav Klimit.
Produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola (Jeepers Creepers), Bram Stoker’s Dracula has an impressive cast:  Gary Oldman (Red Riding Hood), Winona Ryder (Alien Resurrection, Beetlejuice, Frankenweenie), Anthony Hopkins (2010’s The Wolfman), Carey Elwes (Shadow of the Vampire), Monica Belucci (The Brothers Grimm, Brotherhood of the Wolf), Richard E. Grant, Tom Waits, and Keanu Reeves (Constantine, The Devil’s Advocate).
Annie Lennox wrote and performed the theme “Love Song for a Vampire” which plays during the closing credits.

Deep Blue Sea
Although capitalizing on Jaws, Deep Blue Sea takes homicidal sharks to a higher level. Set in an underwater facility, it centers around a team of scientists and two genetically-engineered Mako sharks.

Like Final Destination and Lake Placid, there are some unexpected, scary moments. Not to mention the hunky Thomas Jane. Directed by Renny Harlin.

Fallen Diego's pick

Demonic possession takes center stage in this excellent supernatural thriller. Denzel Washington stars with John Goodman, Donald Sutherland, Embeth Davidtz (Thir13en Ghosts), James Gandolfini, and Elias Koteas (as the fallen angel Azazel).
(I’ll forever equate that song with this movie…)

Full Eclipse
(Some of the most obscure horror movies turn out to be about werewolves.) It seems the Los Angeles police department has a new police force…

Starring Mario Van Peebles, with a script by Richard Matheson (who also co-produced).

Innocent Blood
Anne Parillaud is a beautiful vampire taking on mobsters (played by Robert Loggia and the ever-elegantly-dressed Chazz Palminteri). A tongue-in-cheek (fangs in cheek?) take on the vampire story. (I’m hungry for Italian…food.)

Bonus cast:  scream queen Linnea Quiqley (Return of the Living Dead), Luiz Guzmán, Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead), Sam Raimi, Dario Argento, and Angela Bassett.

Interview with the Vampire
I’ve never been happy with the choice of Tom Cruise to play the iconic Lestat. (Hell, I had a Siamese cat named Lestat that was way cooler than Cruise!) Being a fan of the book(s), I would have preferred Julian Sands, Sting, or even David Lee Roth. With that said, Brad Pitt (Louis) and Kirsten Dunst (Claudia) made-up for it – especially Dunst who was 11 at the time and totally stole the movie from her more-seasoned co-stars.
Screenplay by Anne Rice, who at the time very publicly approved of Cruise as Lestat. Directed by Neil Jordan (The Company of Wolves), it also stars Antonio Banderas (as a gorgeous Armand), Stephen Rea (The Company of Wolves), Christian Slater, and Thandie Newton (Beloved).
Lake Placid

Betty White

‘Nuff said.