Archive for category Frightening Films

You’re up late! Let’s watch Nosferatu (1922), full movie

NosferatuShadowThis strange and dream-like German silent movie is an adaption of Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, (1897), with several changes incorporated. For example, the vampire character is called “Count Orlock.”

According to Wikipedia, Nosferatu is an example of the artistic movement German Expressionism, as is another famous silent film, The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. German Expressionist directors and artists employed dreamlike, moody effects, fantastical settings and purposely distorted, unrealistic portrayals. The rhythmic pacing was intentional: the director used a metronome during filming.

My personal favorite parts of the film are the eerie use of shadows and the unintentionally comic scenes of the vampire carrying his own coffin through the village, like a suitcase.

In the original script, Harker’s wife, Ellen, sacrifices herself to Count Orlock to ensure his doom, as she read it was in her power to do. The 1979 German remake of Nosferatu the Vampyre makes this sacrifice more explicit.

The producers neglected to seek permission from the Stoker estate to create the film and they were sued. Although the film was ordered to be destroyed, some reels survived. The 1922 movie was banned in Sweden — for being too scary! — until 1972. This version has been restored and features the adapted Hans Erdmann score.

The original, black-and-white version of Nosferatu is in the public domain.

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Horror Movie Week! Let’s watch Werewolf of London (1935)

“The Werewolf of London” wasn’t the first werewolf movie ever made (that was the silent film, “The Werewolf,” in 1913) but it predated the more famous “The Wolf Man” by 6 years.

It is worth a view for its interesting story line, elegant leading lady, some very humorous scenes and its more spooky elements.

Both movies — “The Werewolf of London” and “The Wolf Man” — were produced by Universal Studios, but the latter became more well known.

You can rent it on YouTube. Here’s the preview that links to the full version.

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Horror Movie Week! Let’s watch Brides of Dracula (1960)


Campy, creepy, over-the-top Hammer horror films. Gotta love ’em.

The lush colors of the sets! The amazing costumes! The technicolor red blood! The impressive decolletages! The hard-to-place accents! The cheekbones of Peter Cushing!

Yvonne Monlaur is so fetching in this movie. She really was French, a model and a ballet dancer. You can see the ballet in her the way she moves. It’s like she’s a veela from Beaux-Batons.

We watched these movies as kids and they scared the pants off us.

Halloween is about scary movies. You can rent this one on YouTube for less money than a pumpkin spice latte. Here’s the trailer. Turn out the lights and enjoy!


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Horror Movie Week! Let’s watch The Wolf Man (1941)

Starring Lon Chaney, Jr.,  Claude Rains and the inimitable Maria Ouspenskaya, this Universal film was a great favorite of mine when I was young.

Maybe another actor could have portrayed the Wolf Man. Or his father. But there is only one Maria Ouspenskaya, who played the role of the gypsy, Maleva, and the tiny actress RULED this film!

I liked the blessing Maleva pronounced over her son.

The way you walked was thorny
Through no fault of your own.
But as the rain enters the soil,
The river enters the sea,
So tears run to a predestined end.
Your suffering is over, Bela, my son.
Now you will find peace.

Bela Lugosi played “Bela” by the way. What are the odds? And this one…

Even a man who is pure in heart
And says his prayers by night
May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
And the autumn moon is bright.

Spooky! You can rent this one on YouTube. Make some popcorn and enjoy!


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Horror Movie Week! Let’s watch Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1931)


If you have lots of patience, you can watch the silent movie version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous story (in the public domain), but the visual quality of the film is poor.

I wouldn’t bother watching the 1941 version with Spencer Tracey and Ingrid Bergman. Ms. Bergman was horribly miscast and Tracey did not do the role justice.

But the 1931 version directed by Rouben Mamoulian and featuring Frederic March and Miriam Hopkins…THIS is the one to watch. It was a box-office hit that received critical praise from The New York Times, among others, on its release.

It’s a Halloween must-see! And you can rent it on YouTube!

The movie is an interesting commentary on the duality of human nature and our struggle between our morals and our impulses. There’s some discourse on that.

The transformation scenes are horrific, even by modern standards.

Frederic March is very good in his two roles as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde…he won an Oscar for his performance.

There are notable performances by the supporting actors who play the doctor’s best friend, his butler and his fiancée.

But Miriam Hopkins is outstanding in the role of Ivy, her breakthrough role. If you get a chance to see her other movies, do.

The scene where she attempts to seduce Dr. Jekyll is famous. This was pre-Code stuff. It’s rather overtly sexual and was later censored, then restored for the DVD versions. Thank goodness, because it’s amazing!

Mamoulian, an experienced stage director, went on to direct “The Mark of Zorro” and “Blood and Sand” and several other Hollywood films. He has a star on the Walk of Fame.

We should consider ourselves lucky to have this film to watch today. MGM did a terrible thing when they released the 1941 version (which, as I said, was just awful). They bought the rights to the 1920 silent version and the 1931 Mamoulian pic. Then they destroyed every reel they could find, ostensibly to remove comparison to their film. Fortunately, some reels survived.

You can rent this on YouTube and I highly recommend it!


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It’s Horror Movie Week! Let’s Watch Dracula (1931)

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The mother of all vampire movies and my very favorite. Not the first, not the last, but certainly the best. Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

You can rent this on YouTube, if you don’t already own it. If you haven’t seen it, please do!

It has such a delicate, different pace. When it was released, it was not even called a horror film, as the genre had not really developed. It was called a “mystery” film. The New York Times gave it an excellent review.

The actors were experienced stage actors. Many of the actors had also appeared on the silver screen in silent movies. In fact, this movie was shown as a silent movie in theaters that had not yet been updated to sound. So, there is a bit of that “silent movie” quality — with the dramatic pauses and pronounced movements.

The Hungarian actor, Bela Lugosi, who plays Dracula, had played this role with great success on the stage and managed to convince the producers to hire him by accepting a low rate of pay. He appeared as Dracula in several subsequent films. Every vampire costume, vampire accent, hair — that came from Lugosi in this film. He defined what most people think of when they think of vampire…at least until Twilight and all the vampire TV shows came out.

If you have the opportunity, check out the Spanish language version, which was filmed each night on the same sets, with entirely different casts, and some different approaches.

Aside from Lugosi’s amazing performance, the Spanish language version definitely has high points.

The two Draculas are distinct. In the Spanish language version, Dracula has more ferocity and intensity. He is more beastly, perhaps.

In the English language version, Dracula is definitely a sadistic, serial killer type, alternating between refined artistocrat and mocking, plotting murderer. Although I prefer Lugosi, the Spanish speaking actor did a fine job.

Renfield must be a difficult part to play but both actors handle it expertly. It’s impossible to forget their portrayals of madness. They haunted me. I used to have to skip over that part because it was too intense for me! I can’t say which is better — they are both wonderful in their own way.

The part of Eva is played differently, as well. It’s so interesting to watch both versions. Director Tod Browning sticks with subtlety, while Merton doesn’t hold back. In the English language version, we guess, but do not see what Eva is about to do to her fiancé. Her eyes are really cruel but she plays her part rather coolly. In the Spanish language version, Eva’s intention is more overt. Lupita Tovor is a splendid actress who is delightful to watch, especially in the moonlight scene. You can just sense she is being taken over by the vampirism in her. We see her open her mouth and sink her teeth into her fiancé. The best part — and it is only a second — is this little moment when she recoils then prepares for a second attempt. She looks absolutely animalistic in that moment, like a feral cat getting ready to spring. It’s almost obscured by the next cast members rushing into the scene but it’s priceless. You see it here midway through this clip…

The final line of this film was a mystery to me until I saw the Spanish language version, in which Van Helsing explains that he will remain behind (ostensibly, to administer the final cure to Renfield, to save his soul and prevent him from becoming a vampire, as he promised Renfield he would do, if necessary). In the English version, Van Helsing hurries Mina and Dr. Harker along with a delicate promise to follow “presently.” And… for decades, I really wondered about it! It is such an odd, abrupt ending. But there is real closure in the Spanish language version, with a beautiful closing shot.

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Horror Movie Week begins with The Black Cat (1934)

Come back every day this week for a discussion of a classic scary movie during Horror Film Week.

In the 1930s, Universal knew how to produce eerie, memorable films.

The Black Cat stars both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi as two old friends and rivals who meet again on a fateful night.

It is a strange film that unfolds like a nightmare, not always linear or complete, but cohesive in its way and seeming to mean something greater, although the meaning is elusive.

Maybe there is symbolism you may recognize. I won’t give away any further spoilers. The futuristic, angular sets and occult references, to me, are evocative of the German Expressionist films of the 1920s and 1930s, as is the odd but compelling pacing. According to this author, the aesthetic is Bauhaus.

The character played by Karloff was based on a real person, a notorious occultist, Aleister Crowley, a figure that fascinated the movie’s director. Crowley was known to be a chess player. I won’t say more, for fear of spoiling the surprises of the this film. I warn there are some disturbing scenes and that this is not a film for children to view.

Not everyone will like this film, although it was a box office success in its time. I accept its imperfections, mystery and originality. I own this and have watched it several times.

Maybe this is just my opinion, but I believe The Rocky Horror Picture Show was influenced by the early plot line of this movie, which they turned to camp and humor. Let me know what you think of that idea — if you see the references!

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