Classic Horror Movies
By Sarah "Dixie" Feldman
you've seen scary movies like The Exorcist, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm
Street even Scary Movie itself. But most likely you haven't
seen many of the classic black and white treasures that made us all afraid of
things that go bump in the night in the first place. Why not give yourself a treat
and check out these little-known classic horror films?
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
The tagline went "Put yourself in her
place! The dreaded night when her lover became a madman!" This Pre-Code drama's
special effects and sexual frankness still hold up to today. Frederic March won
an Academy Award for his portrayal of the good doctor and his sadistic, satyric
and pretty darn hairy counterpart.
One of the most unsettling movies of all time, Freaks
was so troubling it was actually banned for decades. Director Todd Browning, best
known as having helmed the first Dracula and most of Lon Chaney's silent
hits, used actual sideshow "freaks" in this tale of carnival retribution.
Freaks warns what can go wrong if you. Aerialist Olga Baclanova disses
the wrong freak, and one stormy night she finds out what happens when misshapen
men get mad. (Boy, does she ever!) The ending, where appendage-challenged assailants
crawl through the mud, remains one of the all-time creepiest sequences in cinema
Black Cat (1934)
Diabolical Boris Karloff squares off with good guy(!) Bela Lugosi.
In this genuinely creepy film, Boris engineers a wartime mass
murder. As if that weren't enough, poor innocent Bela goes to
prison for 15 years, while enterprising Boris marries his wife,
later causes her death, preserves her corpse (under glass, of
course), and then takes her daughter as his mistress. And he
still finds the time to start a devil worshiping cult. Needless
to say, when Bela shows up, they have issues to work through.
Their underplayed cat and mouse game climaxes in one of the
most horrific comeuppances in film history. Stylized sets and
Boris' fascinating haircut also up the creepy ante.
"A Kiss Could Change Her Into a Monstrous Fang-and-Claw
Killer!" Jacques Tourneur directed this classic about a Serbian girl who
gets a little too riled up when sexually aroused. (And you thought old movies
were boring!) Produced by Val Lewton, who innovated many of the atmospheric touches
we associate with horror films and film noir, Cat People is a prime example
of how shadows and suggestion can be just as frightening as all-out gore. The
swimming pool scene remains a classic.
Walked With a Zombie (1943)
"She's alive...yet dead! She's dead...
yet alive!" Jane Eyre meets The Serpent and the Rainbow in
this tale of a nurse, her employer, his annoying servant, and his pesky, somnambulistic
wife. Another Tourneur-Lewton classic, the sequence where Frances Dee walks through
the woods with her 'zombie' patient is still spooky.
of the Cat People (1944)
Though theoretically a sequel to Cat People,
Curse of the Cat People has nothing whatsoever to do with cat persons
and very little to do with a curse, come to think of it. Yet this Lewton-produced
peon to the power of a child's imagination to rescue her from the isolation of
innocence is one of my all-time favorite films. Though an homage to the headless
horseman could keep the movie in the 'scary film' category, this luminous fantasy
is not a horror film at all, but rather a sweet and compelling exploration of
the inner life of lonely little girl.
of the Demon (1957)
Also known as Night of the Demon, Jacques
Tourneur directed this terrifying tale, which actually has both a curse and a
demon woohoo! See if you ever accept a book of matches again.
article originally appeared on www.oxygen.com.
Copyright 2001 Oxygen Media.