Favorite Classic Halloween Movies: Ten Horror Films from 1925-1960

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                Favourite Classic Halloween Movies: Ten
                Horror Films from 1925-1960


                T
                      oday’s movie audiences are used to extreme          Based upon the Gothic short novel by Robert Louis
                      violence, gore, and and special effects. There      Stevenson, this was the second talkie Hollywood
                      is a large reliance upon the green screen ins-      version of this movie. The first talkie was in 1932
                tead of real stunt men and women. Consequently,           and starred Frederic March in the title roles. Both
                there is little that shocks people anymore. The mo-       versions are excellently acted, but this second ver-
                vie business has created a trend whereby today’s          sion has the more realistic make-up. It is unlikely
                Hollywood horror films assume that modern people          that people would mistake the latter March Hyde
                have no imagination, mind, or willingness to sus-         as human compared to Tracy’s make-up.
                pend belief.
                                                                          In this classic tale, Dr. Jeckyll has a respectable fa-
                Classic horror movies made during the studio sys-         mily practice and is a pillar of the community. He
                tem of Hollywood relied on a minimum of money,            has the love of his fiance and a brilliant mind. But
                make-up and special effects. Movie makers applied         he is not satisfied with what he has and is obsessed
                music, shadows, actors’ expressions, suggestion and       with the idea of the struggle of good and evil in
                imagination to scare people out of their wits. The        the soul of the individual man. When his fiance’s
                audience member was an essential component to             father thwarts marriage on the basis of the doctor’s
                the scariness of cinema. What the audience couldn’t       controversial theories, Jeckyll tests his theory with
                see but believed was about to happen was powerful.        himself as the guinea pig-with disastrous results.
                These classic movies stand the test of time because
                the imagination of Hollywood of that era is timeless.                          Dracula (1931)

                In compiling this list I focused on one version only      Stars: Bela Lugosi and Helen Chandler
                of movies that have been remade. Furthermore, as
                several horror actors based most if not their entire      Based upon the Gothic novel by Bram Stoker, this
                career in the horror genre, I have included only          Lugosi film was the crowning glory of his career.
                one movie per horror leading man except where             This is unfortunate as he made the movie so early in
                the actor is a supporting actor in the second film,       his career. It also typecast him and he couldn’t pull
                instead of the lead.                                      away from the genre. This doesn’t detract from the
                                                                          effectiveness of this film at scaring audiences with
                Here are ten favourite classic horror films that are      a strong story. Some of the later horror movies of
                a must see for fans of classic cinema in alphabetical     the 1970s took the names of horror novels but the
                order:                                                    name was the beginning and end of the similarity
                                                                          of the movie to the book.
                        Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)
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                                                                          Dracula is unique in the movie monster community
                Stars: Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner,        as he is the only monster in this studio system era
                and Donald Crisp                                          that is truly a monster through and through accor-
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                                                                          ding to everyone. In several classic horror films,



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                Favourite Classic Halloween Movies: Ten Horror Films from 1925-1960


                mankind is the true evil out to destroy even life that                The House on Haunted Hill (1959)
                ignored people until they were threatened (such as
                in the original version of The Thing From Another             Stars: Vincent Price and Carole Ohmart with Elisha
                World which I find a terrible tragedy). Few people,           Cook, Jr.
                if any, sympathize with Dracula. With all the recent
                vampires films that make vampires look sexy, some             Based upon a screenplay by Robb White, this original
                people have forgotten that vampires are actually              movie was later remade not as well. There was no
                frightening and characters of the horror genre-not            Vincent Price in the remake and the original film did
                the romance genre.                                            not have to compete with a modern audience who
                                                                              is not easily shocked and is used to goriness. While
                                 Frankenstein (1931)                          there is make-up used to make the servants look
                                                                              ghostly enough to freak one of the female guests,
                Stars: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, and Mae Clark              this is the most obvious the movie gets at showing
                                                                              the audience that they should be scared rather than
                Based upon the Gothic novel by Mary Shelly writ-              uses the imagination. When Price’s wife is found
                ten after having a nightmare, this film made a su-            hanging from a ceiling, all we see is the sheet.
                perstar of Karloff who nearly steals the show from
                everyone else. It is important to remember that the           The story focuses upon a businessman who decides
                title of this horror story is Frankenstein and not            to invite strangers to spend a night locked in his
                Frankenstein’s Monster. Who is the real monster?              haunted home. Anyone who agrees and survives the
                It was Dr. Frankenstein-mankind-who created the               night is to receive money. This isn’t a unique story
                monster: Frankenstein brought life back from the              and the audience can probably guess at certain plot
                dead. Frankenstein’s «monster» didn’t ask to be born          developments such as some people will die, others
                and the doctor takes no responsibility for his actions        will survive, and everyone will bitterly regret their
                once his creation begins to cause havoc on society.           decision once the house has been locked up from
                                                                              the outside. The genius in the film is the way it was
                Frankenstein’s Monster is a strong example of the             filmed-the acting, cinematography, music, lack of
                type of creature discussed in in the segment on Dra-          visual tricks, and the faith in the audience’s ability
                cula about how man is the evil in the early horror            to use their imagination.
                films instead of the monster. Yes, the Monster is cau-
                sing destruction, fright, and violence-but remember                            The Innocents (1961)
                the blind man who doesn’t see that the monster is
                scary looking. He is not afraid and doesn’t realize           Stars: Deborah Kerr, Peter Wyngarde and Megs Jen-
                he is supposed to feel afraid. Isn’t the human in this        kins with Michael Regdrave, Martin Stephens, and
                story guilty of the stereotyped bias that says that all       Pamela Franklin
                that is ugly is evil and all that is beautiful is virtuous?
                Perhaps if people had reacted with curiosity rather           Based upon the novel Turn of the Screw by Henry
                than fear, Frankenstein’s Monster would have been             James, this terrifying story involves a governess hi-
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                harmless.                                                     red to take care of and protect a businessman’s two
                                                                              children. The home appears to be haunted and his
                                                                              girl and the boy become increasingly haunted them-
                                                                              selves. Meanwhile, no one believes the governess,
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                                                                              and she is accused of everything including being



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                Favourite Classic Halloween Movies: Ten Horror Films from 1925-1960


                immoral and repressed. Will she be able to convince         always return to the theatre when his contract ended
                people before it is too late to save the children? Will     if he was unsatisfied, he had better options than
                she even be able to save herself?                           Lugosi or Chaney, Jr.

                Unlike later films such as The Exorcist, this tale of                The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
                possession involves no make-up or special effects to
                tell the audience when the children are possessed.          Stars: Lon Chaney, Sr., Mary Philbin, and Norman
                They aren’t needed either as the story is strong            Kerry
                enough to stand on its own. If you don’t believe
                you can be scared without special effects or gore,          Based upon the novel by Gaston Leroux, this story
                watch this movie. You will find yourself unable to          has been filmed and staged several times. It is doubt-
                fall asleep that night.                                     ful that there is anyone not familiar with this story
                                                                            as it has been portrayed in the musical, even among
                             The Invisible Man (1933)                       people who have never seen it. However, the nature
                                                                            of the title character has evolved into a character
                Stars: Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan,       that is not even remotely scary. Beginning with the
                and Una O’Connor                                            Claude Rains version, which is wonderful, the title
                                                                            character started to take on a romantic aspect that
                Based upon the novel by H.G. Wells,Rains stars as           wasn’t intended in the novel. This is likely a tribute
                the title character who can only be seen when when          to the subtlety of Rains’s acting. This silent version
                wearing bandages around his face. This is not to be         is the closest version of the original story in that
                confused with a classic Father Brown short story by         the leading lady is supposed to be terrified of the
                G.K. Chesterton that is recommended even today to           Phantom after the mask is removed.
                Scotland Yard detectives to study regarding inter-
                rogating witnesses. This is a science fiction horror        Lon Chaney, Sr. was the Man of a Thousand faces.
                story akin to Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. In this tale, the   He never appeared in a movie as his own face, and
                title character is a scientist who decides to meddle        few people outside of Hollywood have any idea what
                with nature in his experiments and causes his own           he looked like without make-up. He preferred it that
                downfall. He eventually becomes a criminal that             way. As a result, even though ethnic groups object
                needs to be destroyed. In this story, man is the evil       to white people playing ethnic roles that should go
                both as the cause and the result of his actions. The        to ethnic actors, no one ever complained when Cha-
                monster and his creator is the same person.                 ney, Sr. played other races. It was his trademark.

                Claude Rains had a wide, varied career. However, he                               Psycho (1960)
                appeared in three classic horror films. This movie,
                the title character in a version of The Phantom of the      Stars: Anthony Perkins,Janet Leigh and Vera Miles
                Opera , and the father of the title character in The        with John Gavin, Martin Balsam,and Patricia Hitch-
                Wolf Man (discussed below). He is a classic example         cock
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                of how -with the right scripts and the willingness
                of the producers to give you the chance-an actor            Based upon the novel by Robert Bloch, this film chan-
                can be a great success in one genre and yet not be          ged movie attendance and movie making forever.
                pigeon-holed in that genre forever. Perhaps because         Before this, movies didn’t kill off the leading lady
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                Rains was a talented stage actor who knew he could          until the end of the film, if at all. You didn’t have to



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                Favourite Classic Halloween Movies: Ten Horror Films from 1925-1960


                see the whole film if you wanted to see any of the         This movie was not based on a novel, but was an
                film at all on the big screen. You were not asked to       original screenplay by Curt Siodmak. It includes a
                keep the plot secret. Suddenly, you couldn’t be sure       who’s who of the studio system horror genre. Besides
                of anything anymore and you made sure that you             Lon Chaney Jr., the movie contains several actors
                were in your seats before the opening credits rolled.      who have appeared in at least one other famous
                                                                           horror film, if not an entire career of horror films:
                Despite the fact that there have been several sequels      Bela Lugosi, Claude Rains, and Evelyn Ankers. The
                and a direct remake, the terror of this original ver-      screenwriter wrote several other horror films as
                sion continues to live. Even knowing the secrets           well.
                before you see the movie for the first time is not
                enough to quell its effect on your nerves. As always,      The Wolf Man is a creature to be sympathised. He
                it is best to see this on the big screen. However, with    knows how dangerous he is when there is a full
                technology of today, a dark room, and a large screen       moon and he isn’t locked up. He knows the diffe-
                TV, you can be frightened in your own home.                rence between good and evil and wants society to
                                                                           be safe. Unfortunately, even when the person who
                              The Uninvited (1944)                         becomes a monster understands and tries to thwart
                                                                           the danger, evil intervenes. Perhaps more than any
                Stars: Ray Milland, Ruth Hussy, and Donald Crisp           of the other movie monsters who were originally
                                                                           normal human beings, his story is the most ironic.
                Based upon the novel Uneasy Freehold by Dorothy
                Macardle, this ghost story relies on the imagina-
                tion and willing suspension of belief upon the part
                of the audience-which can be more effective than
                showing the audience the ghostly aspiration. Quite
                often our own imagination can frighten ourselves
                more effectively than Hollywood makeup or the
                green screen.

                In the movies, more so than in real life, people
                should always be suspicious with being able to
                purchase a home for less than it should be worth.
                Does it need expensive repairs? Is the location bad?
                Is it in a dangerous neighbourhood? In a movie,
                another reason is that the house is haunted due to
                tragedy. Yet brother and sister do not realize this
                until after the papers are signed. To make the desire
                to solve the haunting that more urgent, Milland is
                love with the former owner’s daughter who insists
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                on staying silent.

                               The Wolf Man (1941)
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                Stars: Lon Chaney, Jr., Claude Rains, and Warren
                William with Ralph Bellamy and Bela Lugosi


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DOCUMENT INFO
Description: Halloween movies have always been a popular genre of cinema. These are favourite Halloween movies from the classic era of Hollywood.