Frame of Mind: Classic Films

by James Jay Edwards

Somewhere in between the lumbering, grunting zombies of Night of the Living Dead and the athletic, screaming zombies of 28 Days Later, there lies a more frightening zombie.  This scarier zombie is the one that walks among the living, undetected by the untrained eye.  These are the zombies that populate director Gary Sherman's (Poltergeist III) 1981 film Dead & Buried.

by James Jay Edwards

The Killer ShrewsMonster movies are fun.  Whether they play on serious fears, such as films like Jaws and Alligator, or take a more tongue-in-cheek approach, with Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and Slugs: The Movie, monster movies make for great horror films.  The classic science fiction era of the fifties had no shortage of cool monster movies, and filmmakers were tripping over themselves to find the most outlandish and improbable animals that they could mutate into killer beasts.  In 1959, special effects man-turned-director Ray Kellogg (The Green Berets) thought of the cutest animal he could, gave it poisonous teeth, and came away with The Killer Shrews

by James Jay Edwards

The Black SleepAs one of the staple characters of the classic horror film, the mad scientist has been subjected to more than his share of stereotyping.  When one thinks of the mad scientist, the image of Colin Clive in Frankenstein instantly comes to mind, the man screaming “it’s alive” excitedly over and over again while collapsing onto the ground.  As colorful as the picture of Clive’s Henry Frankenstein is, there are many other crazed doctors in the horror world.  In 1956, director Reginald Le Borg (Diary of a Madman, The Mummy’s Ghost) brought his entry to the mad scientist genre to the table with The Black Sleep.

by James Jay Edwards

The Cat And The CanaryThere are few doubts that Universal Studios is one of the biggest influences on the horror movie genre, having had a hand in the production of fright films since the earliest days of the silent era.  The name Universal is synonymous with monster movies, earning their reputation with classic films like Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Wolf Man, but not all of their horror films dealt with mythological creatures and sympathetic beasts.  In 1927, with Hollywood’s silent era quickly coming to a close, Universal made a highly influential haunted house movie called The Cat and the Canary.

by James Jay Edwards

David Cronenberg's VideodromeIn the early nineteen eighties, with the slasher movie craze in full effect, a handful of directors were already trying to break the horror movie mold.  John Carpenter, the man who ushered in the golden age of the slasher movie with Halloween, was remaking Howard Hawks’ The Thing.  Tobe Hooper was trading in serial killers for supernatural terror with Poltergeist.  And then, there was David Cronenberg.  Always a purveyor of an artful mix of both science fiction and horror, Cronenberg followed up his breakthrough film, Scanners, with the equally strange Videodrome in 1983.

by James Jay Edwards

Burnt OfferingsThe horror world lost another legend last week as Hollywood mourned the passing of Karen Black.  Black was well known to fright film fans for her tour-de-force quadruple performance in the seminal television movie "Trilogy of Terror," but the actress was far more than a genre actress, appearing in such influential films as Robert Altman’s Nashville, Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot.  She will be remembered primarily for her work in suspense and horror, however, having worked with everyone from Tobe Hooper in Invaders from Mars to Rob Zombie in House of 1000 Corpses.  As the horror it-girl of the seventies, she found herself starring in the understated yet creepy 1976 haunted house film Burnt Offerings.

by James Jay Edwards

The Witches 1966With a television and film career that spans over seven decades, Joan Fontaine has always been one of the more versatile actresses in Hollywood.  Her big break came in the early forties, when she became one of Alfred Hitchcock’s girls.  For Hitch, she made Rebecca in 1940 (which won the Oscar for best picture as well as earning Fontaine a best actress nomination) and Suspicion in 1941 (for which she won the best actress Oscar).  Since her time with the Master of Suspense, Fontaine has done everything from classic cinema, with roles in films like Ivanhoe and Jane Eyre, to campy science fiction, with a turn in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.  In 1966, Fontaine gave her last big-screen performance as the lead in the Hammer Horror film The Witches.

by James Jay Edwards

OrcaIn 1975, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws opened a lot of doors for the man-versus-nature horror film.  In the years that followed, theaters saw heroes fighting different kinds of fish (Piranha), other aquatic animals (Alligator), and even landlocked beasts (Grizzly), all in imitation of the big shark blockbuster.  In 1977, the film that seemed to be the closest thing to a blatant Jaws rip-off was released when mega-producer Dino De Laurentiis brought Orca to the screen.

by Katherine Springer

Tommy Udo, Kiss Of DeathFilm noir is not all anti-heroes and femme fatales. There is a great tradition of noir villains, the ruthless schemers who populate the dark city streets and make life that much worse for the protagonists. Far from being caricaturish crooks easily brought down by the noble hero, these criminals elude capture time and again, and some never receive punishment for their crimes. Noir villains run the gamut from wealthy aristocrats in three piece suits to insane hit men, or even villainous women orchestrating elaborate intrigues. To show just how dark noir can be, here is a list of ten noir villains that truly terrify.

by James Jay Edwards

Invisible InvadersOne of the biggest challenges in making an alien invasion movie is giving the audience something new and different.  Should the aliens be bobble-headed egg-brains like the campy classics in This Island Earth and Mars Attacks!, or should they be the sleek and swift, genuinely terrifying beings from Alien or Independence Day?  In 1959, screenwriter Sam Newman (The Giant Claw) and director Edward L. Cahn (It! The Terror from Beyond Space) found a way to approach aliens in a way that no one had ever seen...literally...in Invisible Invaders.

by Katherine Springer

Humphrey Bogart in In A Lonely PlaceNo actor is more associated with the genre of film noir or better suited to interpret its tropes than Humphrey Bogart. His filmography covers a wide range from comedy to westerns, but noir was his specialty. Playing shrewd, playful characters with strict moral codes inhabiting a corrupt world, Bogart appeared in more than twenty noir and noirish tales, from The Petrified Forest (1936) to The Harder They Fall (1956). The actor who famed director Howard Hawks once called “the most insolent man on the screen” is undeniably emblematic of film noir.

by James Jay Edwards

Valley of the ZombiesOver the course of film history, zombies have evolved from the reanimated Haitian voodoo corpses in White Zombie to the swarming disease infected victims in World War Z.  They have rambled aimlessly in Night of the Living Dead and sprinted purposefully in 28 Days Later.  In 1946, Republic Pictures showed the world a zombie that had never been seen before and hasn’t been replicated since in their Valley of the Zombies.

by Katherine Springer

Ryan Gosling in DriveAhead of next week’s release of Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest film Only God Forgives, which reunites him with Drive star Ryan Gosling, it is only fitting to explore the deep film noir roots of the intensely stylish, highly acclaimed Drive. It’s not surprising that Refn won the prize for Best Director at Cannes with this film because, even though the subject matter may be familiar –the film has been compared to the likes of The Driver (1978) and the works of Michael Mann – Refn’s direction breaks with Hollywood banality to create a positively captivating film. Drive seamlessly blends minimalism and visually striking style into a film that manages to perfectly situate ‘40s film noir characters in a modern Los Angeles.

by James Jay Edwards

Wolf BloodJust about every modern horror movie archetype has roots that can be traced back to the silent film era.  Nosferatu the vampire chilled audiences a full decade before Bela Lugosi made Dracula into a household word.  Frankenstein hit the silent screens in 1910, twenty years before Boris Karloff’s iconic performance.  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is the blueprint for the modern day slasher film.  And in 1925, fifteen years before Universal’s The Wolf Man, audiences were terrified by the original werewolf movie, a film called Wolf Blood.

by James Jay Edwards

Slaughter HighRevenge has been a theme of slasher movies since before they were actually called slasher movies.  Early revenge horror films such as I Spit on Your Grave and The Last House on the Left were graphic and brutal affairs, but the vengeance motif transitioned well into the tongue-in-cheek campy world of the slasher film when the craze hit its stride in the early eighties.  Films like Prom Night and Terror Train took the time honored desire to get even and injected it with the clever and imaginative killing power of the slasher genre.  In 1986, with the golden age of the slasher at its peak, horror fans were treated to another great story of bloody high school revenge with the release of Slaughter High.

by Katherine Springer

Scarlet StreetFilm noir was born from the evocative shadow play of German Expressionism. As one of the greats of Expressionist cinema, it is only fitting that after fleeing the Nazis Fritz Lang would reinvent himself by making highly stylized noir films in Hollywood. Fritz Lang is best remembered for his classics Metropolis and M, but Lang’s American career peaked with the two noirs The Woman in the Window (1944) and Scarlet Street (1945). Both starring the same central cast of Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea, these films have frequently been characterized as Lang’s pair of middle-class nightmares. Following the misadventures of Robinson’s middle class characters under the influence of Bennett’s femme fatales, Lang’s noirs serve as cautionary tales against lust and temptation.

by James Jay Edwards

The Strange Possession Of Mrs. OliverHollywood lost another icon this week as influential writer Richard Matheson passed away at his home in Calabasas, California at the age of 87.  Even if his name is not immediately recognizable, his stories certainly are.  He wrote the most instantly recognizable episodes of “The Twilight Zone,” including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel.”  His work has been produced by dozens of important directors, including everyone from Roger Corman to Steven Spielberg.  His novel "I Am Legend" was made into at least three different films in three different decades with three different legendary lead actors: Vincent Price (The Last Man on Earth), Charlton Heston (The Omega Man), and Will Smith (I Am Legend).  Matheson could work in any medium, be it short stories, novels, movie scripts, or teleplays, all with the same inspired results.  Illustrating his supernatural side in 1977, he provided the screenplay to one of his more understated works, a T.V. movie called The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver.

by Katherine Springer

Who Framed Roger RabbitFor all the seriousness of film noir, its easily identifiable visual and narrative conventions lend themselves to parody. The genre’s distinctive voice-over narration and recognizable archetypes become humorous caricatures on film, TV, and radio, providing predictable storylines that all viewers are familiar with. These parodies range anywhere from downright silly mockeries of film noir and crime mysteries to great neo-noirs in their own right that merely indulge in slight self-parody. It is even conceivable that many people were first introduced to film noir conventions through such parodies. To show the lighter side of film noir, here is a list of five of the best film noir parodies.

by James Jay Edwards

RodanAmerican studios such as Universal and RKO discovered in the twenties and thirties that monster movies sold tickets, and it didn’t take long for the trend to travel overseas.  While Britain’s Hammer Horror was busy rehashing their own versions of gothic Universal monsters like Frankenstein and Dracula, Japan’s Toho Company found influence in the science fiction monsters of RKO, striking gold with Godzilla in 1954.  Not wanting to rest on their laurels, Toho kept pumping out mutant reptile movies, and they found success again in 1956 with Rodan.

by Katherine Springer

Le SamouraïBorn out of Jean-Pierre Melville’s love of 1930s Hollywood crime dramas, Le Samouraï (1967) is unquestionably one of the best homages to film noir. The film itself is a cross between classic film noir and Japanese yakuza samurai films, melding the principled noir anti-hero and the honor-bound, wandering warrior samurai figure into a rumination on the loneliness of the drifter. Le Samouraï achieves a minimalist noir style and, in embracing the utter fatalism of film noir, gives audiences one of the bleakest depictions of a doomed noir anti-hero. By incorporating these elements of film noir and the narrative conventions of the samurai, Melville’s film is a brilliant depiction of film noir as contemporary tragedy.

by James Jay Edwards

The SentinelPerhaps the oldest good versus evil story is that of God and Satan, and the struggle between the two powers has made for some memorable cinema.  The seventies alone saw the making of two classics of the horror genre, The Exorcist and The Omen, both of which deal with the fight between the Church and the Devil.  In 1977, the year after the release of The Omen, action film director Michael Winner (Death Wish, The Mechanic) tried his hand at the age-old tale when he made The Sentinel.

by James Jay Edwards

Dead RingerAfter a string of highly successful films that started way back in 1931, the legendary Bette Davis made a seamless transition to television in the early fifties.  When she returned to film about a decade later in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, the actress found that she had become a bit of a horror movie icon.  Never one to disappoint her fans, Davis followed up with another spooky film in 1964 when she played a pair of twins in Dead Ringer.

by Katherine Springer

The KillingStanley Kubrick is best known for his films 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Lolita (1962), The Shining (1980) and A Clockwork Orange (1971), but he always considered his first mature feature film to be the elaborate film noir heist The Killing (1956). Clearly overshadowed by his later works, The Killing is generally viewed as a minor work in Kubrick’s oeuvre, but it has served as the blueprint for heist films ever since, greatly influencing contemporary films such as Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992). Kubrick brought a fresh twist to film noir with the film’s non-linear structure overlapping each heist member’s perspective of the robbery. The result is a puzzle of a film, full of suspense and an overwhelming sense of doom. As with most elaborate cons, something, if not everything, will go wrong.

by James Jay Edwards

Night ShadowThe golden age of slasher films saw Hollywood struggling to find new and different horror movie killers. By the time the late eighties rolled around, mad murderer movies had become stale and passé, and studios were willing to do seemingly anything to find a way to refresh the genre. In 1989, the generically titled Night Shadow was released, a film which tried to combine the suspense of the slasher film with the sheer terror of the werewolf movie.

by Katherine Springer

Rosario Dawson as Elizabeth in TranceDanny Boyle is no stranger to stylish thrillers. From Shallow Grave (1994) to 28 Days Later (2002), Boyle is a master of mystery and suspense. His latest film Trance (2013) takes many cues from film noir, incorporating a conflicted anti-hero, Simon, whose principles are rattled all the more by his memory loss. The psychological neo-noir thriller deftly juggles issues of memory, dreams, and the repeated reconstruction of identity. As Simon’s memories are progressively unraveled, one plot twist after another sees the lines between truth and manipulation begin to blur. With so many questions, the biggest unknown in the film is its femme fatale, Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson). Trance is the first time Boyle has put a woman at the heart of one of his films, and here, Elizabeth holds all of the film’s secrets. With every new twist, Elizabeth becomes more and more the classic, vicious femme fatale but with a surprising backstory of emotional damage and victimization.

by James Jay Edwards

The Haunting Of JuliaIn 1968, after a successful run on television’s “Peyton Place,” actress Mia Farrow finally broke through to big-screen audiences in Roman Polanski’s influential horror film Rosemary’s Baby.  Although Farrow would go on to play straight roles in works such as The Great Gatsby and a television production of “Peter Pan,” she never failed to keep her horror fans happy with films like See No Evil and Secret Ceremony.  In 1977, she made her most frightening film since Rosemary’s Baby when she starred in The Haunting of Julia.

by Katherine Springer

The Man Who Wasn't ThereThere is no better film to finish our discussion of the noir loser in the Coen brothers’ films than The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001). With the film’s protagonist, Ed Crane, the Coens take the noir loser archetype to its extreme. Whereas previous Coen losers were anxious, unsure men who let people walk all over them, Ed is effectively a cipher.

by Katherine Springer

William H. Macy as Jerry Lundehaard in FargoThe Coen brother’s films frequently share film noir’s basic philosophical assumptions: power corrupts all, evil is pervasive, and fate cannot be controlled or avoided. Their films illustrate this philosophy through stories of simple people with complex problems. These characters are tempted by greed and corruption and ultimately begin a downward spiral that can only result in disaster in this fate-driven world. The characters most susceptible to this greed are ill-fated noir losers. Continuing the discussion of the noir loser archetype in the Coens’ films, Fargo’s Jerry Lundegaard is the best example of a man utterly incapable of stopping the onslaught of destruction resulting from his own corrupt decisions. 

by Tom von Logue Newth

Try And Get MeFritz Lang’s Fury is based on the same small-town California news story, but this is the real deal. Instead of an innocent man threatened by a lynch mob, Try and Get Me has returning GI (never saw combat) Frank Lovejoy struggling to make ends meet for his wife and child, falling in with startling sociopath Lloyd Bridges, and them going to jail for the callous murder of a local rich boy. The lynch mob still gathers, but infinitely more frightening than Lang’s, storming the jail in an unstoppable onslaught, rather than burning it down, captured with occasionally startlingly verité camerawork by Guy Roe.

by James Jay Edwards

Wait Until DarkAs strange as it may seem, horror movies and stage plays have enjoyed an incestuous relationship over the years.  Starting as far back as the musical adaptation of the Roger Corman classic The Little Shop of Horrors, iconic horror films such as Evil Dead, Carrie, Night of the Living Dead, and The Brain that Wouldn’t Die have all been turned into theatrical productions.  The big screen/small stage connection is a two-way street, however, with dozens of movies having been adapted from stage plays as well.  One of the most frightening films of the sixties was born out of this trend when director Terance Young reworked playwright Frederick’s Knott’s Wait Until Dark.

by James Jay Edwards

It Came From Beneath The SeaThis week, the motion picture industry lost one of its most influential figures.  Special effects artist Ray Harryhausen passed away in London at the age of 92.  Harryhausen’s stop-motion animation techniques are the stuff of legends, from the ape in Mighty Joe Young (which won an Oscar for best visual effects) to the medusa in Clash of the Titans.  Although he is mainly known for his contributions to adventure films like Jason and the Argonauts and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, his creations lent themselves equally well to science fiction and monster movies, and 1955’s It Came from Beneath the Sea is a classic example of his unmistakable work.

by Tom von Logue Newth

ScarecrowScarecrow would have been a very different film had it starred, as originally intended, Bill Cosby and Jack Lemmon. As it is, it allowed up and coming Al Pacino and Gene Hackman to give two of the best performances of their careers, and it remains a mystery why the film has remained so long under the radar (the answer is partly that, despite winning the Palme d’Or, it was cold-shouldered by Warner’s a week into its theatrical release, in favor of pushing The Exorcist). Perhaps too, because it is about a pair of bums, with no real story aside from the picaresque of meanderings and passing encounters; but it also charts the growth of a male friendship, in a fashion extremely well-judged and genuinely moving.

by Tom von Logue Newth

The SwimmerThe films of husband-and-wife team Frank and Eleanor Perry are amongst the most undervalued of the wave of semi-independent American films of the 70s. In titles like Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970) and Play It As It Lays (1972) they tackled a specifically contemporary sense of malaise and neurosis, on both coasts, in a way comparable really only to some of Woody Allen, with a slightly gauche self-seriousness in place of the comedy.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Beloved in France but little known elsewhere, La traversée de Paris holds the distinction of being the one film by Claude Autant-Lara deemed acceptable by the young François Truffaut, in his campaign against the prevailing cinèma du qualité in 1950s France.

by Tom von Logue Newth

The Narrow MarginCheap, tough, and drenched in shadows, The Narrow Margin was the sort of thing that the RKO technicians could knock out in a couple of weeks with no trouble at all, but is raised by particularly tight direction from Richard Fleischer, including terrific use of confined spaces, windows, and yes, lots of shadows (but also, some nice harsh sunlight); and by lived-in performances from never-quite-made-it players, Charles McGraw and Marie Windsor.

by Katherine Springer

Barton FinkThe films of the Coen brothers present strangely familiar yet bizarre and inexplicable characters. Just as their films subvert conventions, their protagonists are average people driven to extremes, and frequently exaggerated and surreal extremes. Although the Coens’ films typically defy genre, this characterization is clearly influenced by the classic noir loser – an ordinary man who sees an opportunity to advance his life, often immorally, only to find himself the victim of fate. The noir loser is, fundamentally, the common man out of his element, losing control. This common man loser may be seen in Coen characters Barton Fink, Jerry Lundegaard, Ed Crane, H.I. McDunnough, and more; the difference in these characters being how they handle their escalating, unfamiliar situations.

by James Jay Edwards

Attack Of The Puppet PeopleSamuel Z. Arkoff’s American International Pictures made a habit of capitalizing on the successes of Universal Pictures movies in the 1950s.  The production and distribution company pumped out modernizations of the classic monster films, including I Was a Teenage Werewolf and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein.  In 1958, hot on the heels of Universal’s The Incredible Shrinking Man, AIP rushed a film with the working title of I Was a Teenage Doll into production, a film that would be quickly released as Attack of the Puppet People.

by James Jay Edwards

The Town That Dreaded SundownMasked killers are always scary, but the words “based on a true story” seem to magnify the effect.  From The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to The Strangers, the claim that a horror movie is based on actual events gives it an air of authenticity that can be terrifying.  In 1976, during the infancy of the true crime horror phase, the gimmick was exploited by a classic film called The Town that Dreaded Sundown.

by Katherine Springer

DetourMovie budgets of the 1940s pale in comparison to those of today. It’s the question of maybe a few million versus an average $40 million, but just as independent films are produced today, there were independent films with minuscule budgets released in the ‘40s. Most of these low budget films were genre B movies produced by the so called “poverty row” studios. One such film to receive critical praise was Edgar G. Ulmer’s film noir Detour (1945), produced by the lower tier PRC studio. Ulmer made a reputation for himself as the master of the “stylish cheapie,” able to expertly disguise his threadbare production values, and Detour is no exception. Considered by some as the grandfather of the independent film, Detour is a stunningly impressive feat of technical creativity over budgetary limitations.

by James Jay Edwards

Bloody BirthdayOne sure way for a horror movie to shock the public is to make the main villain a child, or a group of children.  Some of the more frightening movies in horror history have employed this technique, ranging from a single kid in The Bad Seed and The Good Son to entire tribes in Children of the Damned and Children of the Corn.  In 1981, a trio of horrible kids wreaked havoc on their hometown in Bloody Birthday.

by Katherine Springer

Guy Pierce and Carrie Anne Moss in Christopher Nolan's MementoContinuing last week’s exploration of Christopher Nolan’s neo-noir Following (1998), it is only appropriate to venture into a discussion of his more widely known noir throwback, Memento (2000). As in Following, Memento builds upon the sinister, paranoid tone of noir by employing a non-chronological timeline. The film goes one step further, however, by incorporating two alternating timelines: a black and white timeline told in chronological order and a color timeline told in reverse. This structure certainly makes Memento a unique and fascinatingly confusing neo-noir, yet the most interesting aspect of Nolan’s screenplay is its portrayal of the femme fatale, Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss). Arguably the most complex character in Memento, Natalie is at once the quintessentially coercive femme fatale and the character most sympathetic to anti-hero Leonard’s condition and vendetta.

by James Jay Edwards

Silent Scream 1980With the dawn of the eighties, slasher movies saturated the horror genre; spawned by the 1978 success of John Carpenter’s Halloween, scores of imitators made their way into theaters during what would become known as the Golden Age of the slasher film.  Some of these films, like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, became timeless classics.  Others toiled away in obscurity, only seen and remembered by hardcore fans of the subgenre.  Released in 1980, Silent Scream is one of the underappreciated.

by Katherine Springer

Christopher Nolan's Neo-Noir 'Following'Fans of director Christopher Nolan will note his eight feature films prevailing noir tones. From Memento (2000) to the The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception (2010), Nolan is constantly imbibing his films with sheer mystery and suspense. As Nolan continues to cleverly deceive audiences, his ardent fans return to his first features and the start of his career to see the vision of a fledgling director who would become one of the most commercially successful filmmakers of his generation. It is these fans along with a small cult of admirers who would be familiar with Nolan’s debut feature Following (1998). The film has many trademark Nolan elements: a less than reliable narrator, an unstable sense of identity, and a non-linear chronology. Following, however, is an ingenious neo-noir worthy of more notoriety, a stunning throwback to the low to no-budget film noirs of the 1940s and 1950s.

by James Jay Edwards

The Black RoomBy the middle of the thirties, Boris Karloff had already played the monster in Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein as well as the title role in The Mummy, all for Universal.  Taking a vacation from monster roles, Karloff turned to Columbia Pictures for a chance to show off his acting chops, and the film that they gave him was a tour-de-force for the thespian: The Black Room.

by James Jay Edwards

A Bucket Of BloodAs one of the pioneers of low-budget, can-do filmmaking, Roger Corman has a reputation as one of the most prolific producers and directors of all time.  His films usually revolve around some campy gimmick, whether it is the rubber suited monster in Creature from the Haunted Sea or the killer plant in The Little Shop of Horrors.  In 1959, Corman was approached by American International Pictures to make a movie for less than $50,000, and the resulting film was the cult classic A Bucket of Blood, a picture without any monsters except for an emotionally damaged artist.

by Katherine Springer

Rian Johnson's BrickThe classical film noir period may only have stretched from the early 1940s to the late 1950s, but the tone, themes, and style of film noir continue to inspire a host of modern films, or neo-noirs. One of the most stylistically successful neo-noirs of the past decade is Rian Johnson’s Brick (2005). Unlike contemporary neo-noirs such as Chinatown (1974) or L.A. Confidential (1997), which lovingly recreate the 1930s-1950s, Brick applies the style and even the dialogue of classic film noir to a modern-day high school setting. A modern high school is a self-contained world teeming with moral strife and a perfect stand-in for the seedy underground of the classical noir city. This melding of noir and adolescence intuitively recognizes the pervasive sense of gravity shared by both and makes Johnson’s effort unique among neo-noirs.

by James Jay Edwards

Cathy's CurseOh, Canada.  The relatively low production costs coupled with extremely film-friendly government tax incentives see many horror films heading north of the border to the land of hockey, mounted police and Bryan Adams to shoot.  Sometimes, these films end up as classics of the genre, as is the case with Prom Night and Terror Train.  Other times, they end up like 1977’s Cathy’s Curse.

by Katherine Springer

Orson Welles in Touch of EvilContinuing the exploration of the outer limits of film noir I will now discuss one of the last examples of the genre with Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958). In the seventeen year period between 1941 and 1958, film noir had come to dominate Hollywood. Loosely based on the novel "Badge of Evil" by Whit Masterson, Touch of Evil offers an intriguing new take on the noir detective hero and the femme fatale and a much darker world view than that expressed even in The Maltese Falcon.

by James Jay Edwards

TerrorVisionOne of the biggest and most important advances in entertainment technology to come out of the 1980s is the advent of cable television and satellite reception.  No longer were people limited to movies at a theater and a mere thirteen channels of programming.  As with any new technology, however, there was a learning curve, and the features ended up confusing and frightening some customers.  Someone was bound to make a movie about it and, in 1986, B-movie producers Albert and Charles Band did.  That movie, equally hysterical and horrifying, was called TerrorVision.

by Katherine Springer

The Maltese FalconThere are two films most often cited as the bookends, the outer limits of film noir: The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Touch of Evil (1958). By near consensus, John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon marks the beginning of the genre, and it will be the topic of Part I of this look at the boundaries of noir. Part II will cover Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil and the end of film noir. Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon introduced the elements that would become the hallmarks of the genre – the amoral private detective, the femme fatale, and the dark city surrounding them. Huston’s directorial debut truly put a new spin on the traditional detective film. The film’s most important contribution to the film noir genre is its depiction of the flawed private eye as a noir hero, characterized by his unscrupulous behavior.

by James Jay Edwards

Tentacles 1977When Jaws ushered in the modern monster movie era in 1975, moviegoers everywhere became terrified to go into the water.  Jaws was so effective that it spawned a bevy of aquatic imitators, each more strange that the last.  For several years after Jaws, audiences were treated to thinly veiled rip-offs like Orca in 1977, Piranha in 1978, and Alligator in 1980.  Perhaps the most far-fetched, and therefore the most fun, of these water-logged creature-features is the Samuel Z. Arkoff 1977 killer octopus presentation known as Tentacles.

by Katherine Springer

Double IndemnityFilm noir is a term coined by French critics writing in the Cahiers du cinéma to describe the distinctly dark films coming out of America during World War II; they noticed decidedly different shifts in tone from American Studio films of the 1930’s. Film noirs were characterized by their pessimistic and cynical portrayal of people and society and their sombre style. Unlike the usual happy endings in American movies, these noirs often ended in defeat, with ordinary protagonists drawn astray by temptation and violence.

As an introduction to film noir, here is a list of five must-see films emblematic of the genre.

by James Jay Edwards

WaxworksBecause the horror genre has always embraced short film, the horror anthology has always been hugely popular.  Whether it’s a simple excuse to stick a bunch of shorts together into a feature length film or a purely organic set of episodic storylines, horror anthologies provide frightening entertainment for the attention-deficit crowd.  Although it hit its peak in the seventies with Tales from the Crypt, Asylum, and The Vault of Horror, the fad is actually much older; it dates back to the silent movie era with 1924’s Waxworks.

by James Jay Edwards

The BurningJust like any successful horror film, the first Friday the 13th brought about a slew of imitators.  Not only did the film spawn more than a half dozen sequels in the years that followed, but the early eighties also saw films like Sleepaway Camp and Madman hop on the bandwagon and provide their own spin to the summer camp killer motif.  The first of these films, releasing just a week after Friday the 13th Part 2 in 1981, was a bloody thriller that was destined to become a classic called The Burning.

by James Jay Edwards

SssssssBy the nineteen seventies, every filmmaker in the horror world was looking for something new to scare audiences, and the scurry led to some very original films.  For every influential blockbuster frightfest like The Exorcist, Jaws, or Halloween, there were several lesser known but just as creative movies.  One of these films that slipped through the cracks was the 1973 low budget monster thriller Sssssss.

by James Jay Edwards

The Soul of a MonsterAs frightening as male characters can be, the role of the villain in horror movies has not always belonged strictly to guys; women can be every bit as terrifying, if not more so.  Whether she comes in the form of an unstable woman, like Annie Wilkes in Misery, or a supernatural banshee, like the title character in Mama, a lady is just as adept at inducing fear in an audience as a man.  Although the trend has seen a boost since the seventies, the female horror antagonist is hardly a new concept; audiences were treated to it as early as 1944 in The Soul of a Monster.

by James Jay Edwards

The Crater Lake MonsterEver since the original King Kong amazed audiences with its cutting edge animation, stop-motion photography has been a viable alternative to costumed creatures in horror and science fiction movies.  The nineteen seventies saw a nice little resurgence in stop-motion/live action monster movies, with the technique being used seemingly everywhere from Roger Corman’s Piranha to the Star Wars movies.  At the forefront of the stop-motion movement was visual animator David Allen, and his work on 1977’s The Crater Lake Monster serves as a textbook example of the trend.

by James Jay Edwards

Near DarkMany of the most successful and admired Hollywood directors cut their teeth making horror films.  The legendary Steven Spielberg’s early career includes the classic fright films Duel and JawsThe Godfather’s Francis Ford Coppola got his humble start working on the Roger Corman productions The Terror and Dementia 13.  Peter Jackson could never have brought The Lord of the Rings trilogy to life if he hadn’t made his directorial debut with Bad Taste and Dead Alive.  The recent critical darling Kathryn Bigelow is no exception; in 1987, years before The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, she made the revisionist vampire classic Near Dark.

by James Jay Edwards

The Brotherhood of SatanIn the world of horror movies, witches and the devil seem to go hand in hand; it’s always the Dark Lord himself that is behind the witchery.  When children get dragged into the fold, things start getting really scary.  A film made in 1971, right between Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen, called The Brotherhood of Satan effectively pulls off the horror trifecta of creepy kids, a witch’s coven, and Satan himself.

by James Jay Edwards

The She-CreatureAs frequently misunderstood concepts, reincarnation and hypnotism are pretty good subjects around which to base a horror movie.  While one would think that a movie about past lives and mind control would lend itself to be a psychological thriller, 1956’s The She-Creature takes the concepts in another direction and becomes a full-fledged monster movie.

by James Jay Edwards

Fay Wray In the 1930s, Fay Wray was as close to a female horror icon as Hollywood had; after carving out her niche in 1932’s Doctor X and The Most Dangerous Game, the actress found herself in the movie that would make her a career monster victim, 1933’s King Kong.  Taking advantage of a studio system that shared resources like sets and crews, she appeared in an astonishing 21 films between 1933 and 1934.  In between classics like The Vampire Bat and The Countess of Monte Cristo, Wray found time to star in a creepy little film in 1934 about voodoo called Black Moon.

by James Jay Edwards

Terror TrainBy the time the golden age of the slasher movie was in full swing, Jamie Lee Curtis was already a bona-fide scream queen.  Her role as the archetypical final girl, Laurie Strode, in 1978’s Halloween put her on the map, and she had parts in no fewer than three horror classics released in 1980.  Given that she made the box office successes The Fog and Prom Night in the same year, it’s no surprise that her other 1980 slasher film, a Canadian schlockfest about a group of med-school students on a train for a New Year’s Eve party called Terror Train, has flown under the radar.

by James Jay Edwards

Father's DayHere they are, the top ten horror movies of 2012 as compiled by FilmFracture's own horror aficionado, James Jay Edwards.

by James Jay Edwards

Don't Open Till ChristmasIn 1984, the movie world was up in arms about Silent Night, Deadly Night and the fact that its central figure was a serial killer who dressed as Santa Claus.  Although killer Santas were nothing new, the controversy surrounding Silent Night, Deadly Night took publicity away from another 1984 Christmas slasher film, one in which the men in Santa suits were the victims, called Don’t Open Till Christmas.

by James Jay Edwards

How To Make A MonsterOnce a horror franchise gains momentum and finds an audience, it’s only a matter of time before sequels are no longer enough to satisfy its audience – the next step is a crossover.  From Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and King Kong vs. Godzilla to Freddy vs. Jason and Alien vs. Predator, monster crossovers have a proven track record at the box office, attracting fans from both original franchise camps as well as new viewers who are curious to the trend.  In 1958, American International Pictures took advantage of the teenage monster film craze and released a different kind of crossover film called How to Make a Monster.

by James Jay Edwards

OctamanMonster movies are some of the oldest, most beloved horror movies.  As such, monster movies have also used every sort of cinematic technology to bring their beasts to life.  The mother of all monster movies itself, King Kong, has been made and remade three times in three different ways: in 1933 with stop-motion animation, in 1976 using the simple but classic man-in-a-gorilla suit, and in 2005 utilizing the latest in green-screen CG technology.  Horror and sci-fi fans are especially fond of the second method, the rubber suit monster, due to the varying degrees of camp and quality and because of the sheer fun of the creature feature.  In 1971, Octaman was released, updating the classic creature feature for the nineteen seventies.

by James Jay Edwards

The Black Cat, starring Boris Karloff and Bela LugosiBela Lugosi and Boris Karloff both had successful and prolific acting careers before the 1930s, but the pair became horror icons when they were cast in their signature roles, Lugosi as the title role in Dracula and Karloff as the monster in Frankenstein, by Universal Pictures.  As two of the crown jewels in Universal’s horror stable, Lugosi and Karloff were bound to be teamed up, and the first film in which the two actors took the screen together was 1934’s The Black Cat.

by James Jay Edwards

Blood FreakThe horrors of drug abuse have had the pleasure of being documented on film for nearly a hundred years.  While most of these films are thinly veiled social commentary, others mask their message in a true artistic expression of cinema.  Somewhere in between Reefer Madness and Requiem for a Dream sits a weird little horror film from 1972 called Blood Freak which tries to do both – yet accomplishes neither.

by James Jay Edwards

The Brain EatersAs long as there have been actors, there have been actors wanting to be directors.  Whether they would handle it all from the beginning of their careers, like Orson Welles or Woody Allen, or transitioned into directing after years of acting, like George Clooney or Ben Affleck, the desire to move from in front of the camera to behind it is a common one in Hollywood.  This “I-can-do-that” mentality has even hit the low budget horror world and, in 1958, famed B-movie character actor Bruno VeSota (Attack of the Giant Leeches) tried his hand at directing in American International Pictures’ sci-fi horror gem The Brain Eaters.

by James Jay Edwards

Death WeekendWith its origins in the early seventies, the revenge film has consistently been one of the most controversial genres in the horror world.  Not only do these films feature extreme graphic violence, but they often include misogynistic scenes of rape and dismemberment that are not intended for the faint of heart.  Revenge films are frightening in a different way than typical horror films; they don’t include supernatural creatures or mythical monsters, instead opting to use human antagonists that are every bit as evil, but bring a sense of realism to the story.  In 1976, Ivan Reitman (yes, that Ivan Reitman, the man who also brought the world Ghostbusters and Animal House) produced a nasty little Canadian film called Death Weekend that remains one of the forgotten gems of the revenge film subgenre.

by James Jay Edwards

Trick ot TreatsOf all the holidays that have had horror movies made in their honor over the years, there is still only one undisputed champion of the genre: the spookiest holiday of them all, Halloween.  In 1978, John Carpenter’s genre defining classic Halloween paved the way for several imitators, the most obvious being a film made by adult film director Gary Graver a few short years later in 1982 called Trick or Treats.

by James Jay Edwards

Jack The RipperAs frightening as fictional serial killers can be, they are no match for the real-life bad guys.  Movies have been made about the most famous of mass murderers, including both exploitation films like Ted Bundy and big Hollywood productions such as Zodiac.  Back in 1959, the earliest of the household name serial killers also got the first movie of the bunch when Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman unleashed Jack the Ripper.

by James Jay Edwards

The New KidsEver since the resurgence of the slasher film in the early eighties, teenagers have been the staple victims in horror movies.  Whether it’s a lone babysitter trapped in a dark house or a group of camp counselors stranded in the woods, the relative innocence and inexperience of adolescents make them ripe for the picking.  In 1985, Friday the 13th director Sean S. Cunningham went one better by making kids both the heroes and the villains, an effort that resulted in the teenage horror film The New Kids.

by James Jay Edwards

Hatchet For The HoneymoonSerial Killer as anti-hero has been a popular motif in slasher films for as long as there have been slasher films.  From the seminal Peeping Tom through the influential Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer to the over-the-top American Psycho, cold blooded murderers have always made a fun and different type of protagonist, one that can be rooted for as well as against.  In 1970, legendary Italian giallo director Mario Bava (Twitch of the Death Nerve, Black Sunday) introduced the world to his own psycho killer John Harrington in an under-the-radar film called Hatchet for the Honeymoon.

by James Jay Edwards

Don't Look NowThree things that have always made good fodder for horror films are ghosts, psychics and serial killers.  In 1973, director Nicolas Roeg (The Witches) combined these elements in his film Don’t Look Now and, in the process, created one of the most frightening British films ever made.

by James Jay Edwards

Boris Karloff in The GhoulAlthough Boris Karloff had been making movies for years before he became the monster in Frankenstein, this signature roll opened the gates to offers for more monster roles and cemented his legacy as an icon in the horror genre.  Tucked neatly within Karloff’s filmography between The Mummy and The Black Cat is a lost little classic from 1933 called The Ghoul which ranks as one of his creepiest films.

by James Jay Edwards

The Video DeadThere are two kinds of bad movies.  There are bad movies that are just unwatchable, and then there are bad movies that strike a chord with certain audiences and are sought out and viewed because of the very fact that they are bad.  In 1987, The Video Dead was made, becoming an instant cult classic and inspiring horror fans for decades.

by James Jay Edwards

The Legend of Hell HouseLegendary writer Richard Matheson has had his hand in dozens of Hollywood productions, whether it has been as the imagination behind many of the more memorable episodes of “The Twilight Zone” or as the creator of screenplays for movies like I Am Legend or Duel.  In 1973, Matheson’s most frightening book was brought to the big screen, and The Legend of Hell House turned the haunted house genre on its ear.

by James Jay Edwards

Blood and RosesVampires have always been the most sexy and loved movie monsters.  Starting with Dracula himself, following through The Lost Boys and continuing into Twilight, bloodsuckers have gained a reputation as the hip, romantic undead beings.  It’s not just the male vampires that can be fashionable, either, as director Roger Vadim (Barbarella) showed the world in his 1960 film Blood and Roses.

by James Jay Edwards

The Little Girl Who Lives Down The LaneNineteen Seventy-six was a banner year for Jodie Foster.  Already a bona-fide television child star, the fourteen-year-old made the jump to the silver screen in a big way, with not only her Oscar-nominated turn in Taxi Driver, but with starring roles in the family films Bugsy Malone and Freaky Friday.  Those projects alone probably made her the hardest working kid in Hollywood, but she also showed off her versatility in a creepy little horror mystery called The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.

by James Jay Edwards

The Mole PeopleScience fiction films, particularly those creature features from the 1950s, usually dealt with aliens from another world traveling through space in an attempt to invade or colonize Earth.  But what about the beings who have always been here, hiding just out of sight?  Prolific television Western director Virgil W. Vogel (“Wagon Train” and “The Big Valley”) asked that same question in 1956 when he made The Mole People, creating one of the most unique sci-fi monster movies ever made.

by James Jay Edwards

Eaten Alive (Tobe Hooper 1977)In 1974, director Tobe Hooper put himself on the horror map with his seminal fright flick The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.  So, how does the next big thing in horror follow up one of the most influential films in the history of cinema?  By making a movie about a serial killer who feeds his victims to his pet crocodile, which is exactly what Hooper did in 1977 with Eaten Alive.

by James Jay Edwards

Pharaoh's CurseMummies are some of the more unsung movie monsters, not getting as much attention as vampires or werewolves despite being a consistent fixture of horror cinema.  Legendary studios like Universal and Hammer have always cranked out their numerous mummy movies and sequels, and in 1957 United Artists got into the picture when they distributed a different kind of mummy movie, a film called Pharaoh’s Curse.

by James Jay Edwards

DeathdreamW.W. Jacobs’ short story about wishes-gone-bad, “The Monkey’s Paw,” has been adapted into several effective films, but most of them stop when the story ends, when the mother has wished her dead son back to life and he knocks on the door. Although it draws inspiration from the same place, director Bob Clark’s 1974 film Deathdream starts at the end of the classic story, showing what would happen if the door was opened.

by James Jay Edwards

TraumaWhen a film has a bit of success, it’s inevitable that other films will try to ride the coattails and cash in on the windfall.  The best example is John Carpenter’s Halloween and its ushering in of the golden age of the slasher film.  Years before, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho inspired scores of filmmakers to pump out quick and cheap movies in an attempt to exploit the new psychopathic killer fad.  One of the more interesting of these films is Robert M. Young’s 1962 horror mystery Trauma.

by James Jay Edwards

Patrick PosterAs a horror movie device, the power of telekinesis has always been popular.  Brian De Palma made two films about it, Carrie and The Fury, before he even grew out of his Hitchcock phase.  As overused as it is, the ability to move things with one’s mind is still an understated and misunderstood skill, and that combination opens doors to frightening situations.  In 1978 (The same year that De Palma released The Fury), Australian director Richard Franklin (Psycho II) put an interesting spin on the subject by having his psychokinetic antagonist be a comatose young man named Patrick.

by James Jay Edwards

Saturday the 14thIn the late nineties, Wes Craven’s Scream franchise had become so popular that it inspired its own comic horror send-up, the aptly title Scary Movie, that has spawned just as many sequels as its muse (so far, three).  While no one will ever be able to accuse Scary Movie of being overly original, even the idea of a horror movie spoof was done twenty years earlier when Julie Corman (Roger Corman’s wife and B-movie producer extraordinaire) brought Saturday the 14th to the table.

by James Jay Edwards

Uncle SamHoliday themed films have been all the rage, beginning back in the late seventies with Halloween and continuing through the modern era with Valentine.  When it comes to the Fourth of July, the choices slim out a little bit; of course, Jaws takes place on the holiday, and there’s the obviously named Independence Day.  But those are big budget no-brainers.  If one really wants to see an under-the-radar July 4th movie, the real American Hero is Uncle Sam.

by James Jay Edwards

Visiting HoursThe setting in which a horror movie takes place is integral to the effectiveness of the scares; haunted houses, insane asylums and dark forests are much more threatening than bright, sunny suburban neighborhoods.  Yet, when an innocent place becomes the scene of terror, it can be doubly frightening.  In 1982, a Canadian film from the golden age of slashers showed that not even a hospital, a place of healing and curing, is exempt from evil in Visiting Hours.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Phase IVAce title designer Saul Bass (and ace designer of all sorts of other things) directed only one feature, Phase IV (1974). Notoriously hard to see, it was tracked down by the TCM Classic Film Festival in a rare, original release print, scratched and kind of pink, but a real oddball treasure.

by James Jay Edwards

The Dunwich HorrorAside from Edgar Allan Poe (and possibly Richard Matheson), no writer has had their short stories adapted into horror films more often than H.P. Lovecraft.  Lovecraft has been so influential to the genre that even films which are not direct retellings of his stories, like Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead series, are based around one of his inventions, the Necronomicon, or the Book of the Dead.  One of the first appearances of the Necronomicon on the big screen was director Daniel Haller’s 1970 creep-fest The Dunwich Horror.

by James Jay Edwards

Larry Cohen's The StuffIn the world of horror movies, death can come from many places.  Danger is all around, whether it comes from the axe of a masked serial killer, the claws of a rabid monster or the mouth of a mysterious alien.  But what happens when the harm comes from something as seemingly innocent as desert?  That was the question posed in 1985 by the horror/comedy film The Stuff.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Veronika VossWhat a pleasure it has been to wallow in the 16-film Fassbinder retrospective this past two weeks. For various reasons it’s not been easy to see his films in the theater, but now that distributers Janus hold this selection of (very nice) subtitled prints, one can hope that they’ll resurface more frequently.

by James Jay Edwards

The Beast of Yucca FlatsAlthough no one doubts their physical prowess, it’s no secret that today’s professional wrestlers are as much actors as they are athletes.  When a movie needs a certain type of personality, the filmmaker can usually turn to a grappler who wants to make a name for himself in Hollywood, whether as a hero, like Roddy Piper in John Carpenter’s They Live, or as a villain, such as Tyler Mane in Rob Zombie’s Halloween.  Starting in the 1930’s, 400 pound Swedish sensation Tor Johnson blazed the acting wrestler trail, becoming one of B-movie legend Ed Wood’s favorite oddities in the process.  He had recurring roles in Wood films like Bride of the Monster and the classic Plan 9 from Outer Space, but it was a film that wasn’t directed by Wood, 1961’s The Beast of Yucca Flats, which would go down as Johnson’s last credited film.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Rainer Werner Fassbinder We’re halfway through the American Cinematheque’s wonderful Fassbinder retrospective, and if it’s demonstrated one thing, it’s that a Fassbinder double bill is a hell of a lot of cinema. His work rate was so prolific that one would assume a film here and there to have been merely tossed off. Some of them were, but his remarkable sense of how drama plays, and what can be done with the camera to enhance that drama, repeatedly finding variations on obsessive themes – the self-perpetuating hierarchy of power and control, in socio-economic or love-relationship terms, and the impossibility of freedom – is so sure that every single one is an immersive viewing experience, rich in text and subtext. It is as though Fassbinder had an innate, instinctive film-making ability, which works even when it shouldn’t: asked by Peter Chatel, his envoy to present Despair (1977) at Cannes, why there’s lots of Nazis at the start but almost none later on, Fassbinder confessed he’d forgotten to film them. Chatel protested that he couldn’t tell that to people; of course not, replied Fassbinder, just tell them that in 1933 the Nazis were a new thing, but that later on people had become insidiously inured to them. It works.

by James Jay Edwards

The Fury, Brian De Palma 1978In 1976, Stephen King’s first novel, a memorable tale about a high school girl with telekinetic powers, was turned into the terrifying and successful movie Carrie by director Brian De Palma.  Less than two short years later, apparently not finished with the extrasensory perception motif, De Palma’s next movie dealt with a pair of young people with psychic gifts when he made The Fury in 1978.

by James Jay Edwards

The Monolith MonstersOnce the vampire and werewolf movies of the 1930s had run their courses, Hollywood producers turned to science fiction to get their monsters into theaters, pumping out alien invasion and radioactive creature movies by the dozens in the 1950s.  In 1957, the studio whose name is synonymous with monster movies, Universal, made a film called The Monolith Monsters that turned seemingly ordinary rocks into world-threatening invaders.

by James Jay Edwards

Something Wicked This Way ComesAlthough it may seem that making horror movies geared towards children is a waste of time, it has been proven time and again that a film does not need to rely on blood and violence to be frightening.  A tight thriller that can invoke fear in an audience without resorting to cheap standby methods of shock can be even more effective than any gory slasher, causing a young viewer to remember their fright well into adulthood.  In 1983, Walt Disney Studios took a stab at children’s horror with Something Wicked This Way Comes and, in the process, made kids everywhere afraid to go to carnivals.

by James Jay Edwards

The Face of MarbleProlific Hollywood director William Beaudine is known mostly for his work on family-oriented television shows like “Lassie,” “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” and “The Mickey Mouse Club.”  However, he made scores of films, many of them crazy mash-ups of characters, such as Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, Billy the Kid vs. Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter.  In 1946 he made another mix-up film, combining mad scientists, ghosts and voodoo witchcraft in a creepy ode to Frankenstein called The Face of Marble.

by James Jay Edwards

The CarThe modern world can be such an impersonal place.  Take, for example, automobiles.  People tend to forget that there are other people in them so that, instead of living, breathing organisms with thoughts and emotions, they are considered just faceless metal objects standing between a driver and their intended destination.  But what happens when the object in the way is a bloodthirsty killing machine that doesn’t want to yield?  In 1977, a movie was released that let the world know what evil drives: The Car.

by James Jay Edwards

Bloody Pit Of HorrorThe Marquis de Sade’s writings are violent, sadistic and blasphemous.  It only makes sense that someone would make a horror movie based on them.  In 1965, Italian director Massimo Pupillo (under the name of Max Hunter) gave it his best shot on Bloody Pit of Horror.

by Tom von Logue Newth

The TCM Festival does a great job of getting old stars out to be fêted along with their classic films. Rhonda Fleming, Marsha Hunt and others turned up this year, but the highlight was undoubtedly the appearance by Peggy Cummins, wonderful star of Gun Crazy (1950).

Ms Cummins’s conversation with noir expert Eddie Mueller can be watched in almost its entirety here. Very unstarry, a discreetly composed and charming lady, she described a little of her journey to Hollywood, and of the production of this film.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Cry DangerOne of the more unlikely career moves of old Hollywood was Dick Powell’s evolution from nice-guy hoofer to tough-guy lowlife. Between Murder, My Sweet (1944) and Cry Danger (1951), both his image and his position within the industry were transformed. The TCM Classic Film Festival had expert Eddie Mueller to introduce each of their noir screenings, and he filled us in on how Powell struck out on his own, found investment in the mid-west, and set up Olympia Productions, whose only picture was Cry Danger.

by Tom von Logue Newth

La Grande IllusionOne of the big draws of the TCM Classic Film Festival is the presence of all kinds of luminaries, both of the silver screen and of the channel itself (swoon, Ben Mankiewicz). Another draw is the presentation of freshly restored old classics, and this year the festival hosted the US premiere of a brand new 4K scrubbing-up of Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion (1937). This was introduced by Le Mank in conversation with veteran actor Norman Lloyd, not especially well known himself, despite being an original member of Welles’s Mercury Theater, and turning up in Limelight, Dead Poets Society, Losey’s M and Saboteur and Spellbound for Hitchcock. More to the point, he played support in Renoir’s The Southerner (1945), and he and his wife became very close friends with Jean and Dido during their stay in Hollywood.

by James Jay Edwards

Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-RamaThe best thing for an aspiring motion picture director to do to hone his skills is to study at the heels of a master of the craft.  Low budget movie mogul David DeCoteau has had the fortune to work with two such mentors; In 1980, he got his start in the movie business from the legendary Roger Corman (Little Shop of Horrors, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School), and in 1986 he went to work for the inimitable Charles Band (Puppet Master, Re-Animator).  After working with these two B-movie giants, it’s no surprise that, in 1988, DeCoteau would make a movie with the over-the top, memorable name Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Rosemary's BabyThe modern strand in this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival was a celebration of Robert Evans’ tenure at Paramount, and part of the ongoing 100th birthday celebrations of the studio. The too-late punters for the first Raw Deal screening couldn’t be tempted by the empty seats in Love Story, but it doesn’t take much persuading to get a film buff to sit through Chinatown or Rosemary’s Baby again. Except that after a gap of many years from my first viewing, it’d take quite a lot for me to sit through the latter a third time.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Clara Bow in Call Her SavageOne of my favorite screenings at last year’s TCM Classic Film Festival was Clara Bow in Hoop-La (1933), restored by MOMA at the urging of Bow biographer David Stenn. Stenn was on hand again this year to present Bow in Call Her Savage (1932), and to explain a bit about its background. The irrepressible Bow had fled Hollywood in disgrace a year before; the year before that she had been the No.1 box office star. She still had some clout, and decided she’d show ’em, with the sort of antics that had luminaries calling for a Production Code. Apparently her vigorous wrestling with a Great Dane (taller than she is) was a direct thumb of the nose to a published rumor that she’d enjoyed carnal relations with her own beloved dog.

by Tom von Logue Newth

KirikiThe jewel of Sunday morning’s program was the recently restored, original hand-colored version of Méliès’s Le Voyage dans la lune (1902). The colored version had long been presumed lost; it turned up in 1993, but fused into basically a solid disc in the canister. A certain amount was done to try and rescue it chemically, but Bromberg had to wait until 2010 for the digital technology to evolve that would allow for an actual restoration. 95% of the original coloring was saved, the rest seamlessly filled in (13,375 frames in total), and a splendid accompaniment commissioned from Air. Even in black and white, it is a film that never ceases to astonish; the pristine, vivid colors take it to a whole new level.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Mae West in I'm No AngelMae West...the feisty screen siren who defied the dictated societal norms placed upon women and was brash, to-the-point, and oh-so sexualized in every movie she made.  Teaming up with Cary Grant for the second time, Mae wrote the screenplay for I'm No Angel, a movie about a woman working in the circus who has a non-stop parade of boyfriends who keep her in nice things that are far above her social status.  With one-liners to die for rolling off Mae's lips and a story that is sweet if not audacious in its execution of sexual innuendos, I'm No Angel is a romantic comedy featuring the undeniably sexy West and enough men to keep her occupied.  The movie is hilarious, sweet natured, and evokes many a temptation in the viewer.  To call I'm No Angel sinful is the greatest of compliments.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Georges Méliès The Infernal CauldronHead honcho of Lobster Films, Serge Bromberg is an avid collector and preserver of film, and happily for the rest of us, he is also an enthusiastic exhibitor. He came to the TCM Classic Film Festival this year with a fascinating program of short experiments and showcases for various stereoscopic filming techniques, dating all the way back to some fantastic 10-second snippets made on paper strips in 1900. Bromberg excused their slightly naughty nature by explaining that they were French; he himself is charmingly so.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Cover GirlThe TCM Classic Film Festival presentation of Cover Girl (1944) was special because, as festival godhead Robert Osborne declared in his typically informed and engaging introduction, it was the one screening for which he had allowed time in his busy schedule to watch in its entirety (it was some pressing matter, no doubt, that demanded his departure three quarters of the way through).

As Osborne reminded us, Cover Girl is special for a number of other reasons: the package put together by talent producer Arthur Schwartz included the first teaming of Jerome Kern and Ira Gershwin; Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly producing choreography that would convince MGM to give them a freer rein; and a fantastic costume team headed by Travis Banton. Rudolph Maté handles the cinematography with the expected elegance, and presumably not making much of an impact on the finished product, but a tidbit for the geek, assistant direction was provided by one Oscar (“Budd”) Boetticher.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Raw DealThe popularity of Raw Deal is down to its status as the pinnacle of Anthony Mann and John Alton’s über-noir collaboration. T-Men the year before was a stone triumph of drenching B-budget sets and actors in shadows both evocative and eerily abstracting, and banging out a cops-and-robbers procedural that doesn’t let up for a moment across its taut 92-minute running time. For Raw Deal, Mann and Alton push the abstraction yet further.

by Kathryn Schroeder

The Macomber AffairThe collected works of Ernest Hemingway are popular for cinematic adaptation.  One of the lesser known, and only adapted once for the screen, is Hemingway's novel "The Short Happy Life Of Francis Macomber".  In 1947, Director Zoltan Korda, of the famous Korda family, brought The Macomber Affair to the big screen with the legendary Gregory Peck, Joan Bennett, and the soon-to-be star of Broadway Robert Preston.  The story revolves around the Macomber's (Bennett and Preston) vacationing in Africa where they hire a hunting guide (Peck) to take them on a hunting exhibition. Things go terribly awry and Mr. Macomber ends us being shot in the back while on the hunt.  The event is considered an accident but the truth over what really happened is shrouded in secrets until the pieces are slowly revealed in flashback.

by James Jay Edwards

The Slumber Party MassacreSlasher filmmakers were poking fun at the sub-genre way before Wes Craven did it with Scream.  Even in its infant stage, filmmakers who saw the familiarity in the gratuitous sex and violence would exploit it, usually without apology.  After the success of killer-stalking-kids films like Halloween and Friday the 13th, any location with a group of young women gathered together was considered a ripe scenario for a horror film.  In 1982, producer/director Amy Jones sent a killer into a dream hunting ground - a teenage girl’s sleepover - in The Slumber Party Massacre.

by James Jay Edwards

The Screaming SkullOne of the earliest tricks that filmmakers would use to forecast fear into their audience is the use of a “warning,” a bit of fourth-wall breaking narration in the movie that would let the viewer know that they were in for some pure terror.  From Edward van Sloan’s “it will thrill you, it may shock you” speech at the beginning of Frankenstein to William Castle’s offering of patrons’ money back if they were too scared to stay until the end of Homicidal, these warnings were great fun, but rarely taken seriously.  In 1958, director Alex Nicol went above and beyond with his introduction to The Screaming Skull; he offered to pay for the burial costs of anyone who died of fright during his movie.

by James Jay Edwards

Terrified One-SheetFear can be a powerful motivator.  It’s common knowledge that it can save a person’s life when their fight-or-flight response kicks in, but can fear ever take a person’s life?  Can someone ever be so scared that their body just shuts down, involuntarily, and they die?  This is the concept that was explored in 1963 in director Lew Landers' (The Raven) last film, the generically titled Terrified.

by James Jay Edwards

The Changeling PosterFor all the monsters and murderers that populate horror films, nothing is quite as scary as a good haunted house movie.  The best ghost stories usually double as mysteries, with the victimized person having to research and solve the problem of the spirits’ unrest.  Of all of the ghostly haunt films, few come even close to being as scary as the 1980 Canadian spook-fest The Changeling.

by James Jay Edwards

DerangedIn all the annals of the horror movie archives, perhaps no real person has inspired more films than the serial killer Ed Gein.  Gein’s life has provided the basis for such legendary villains as Norman Bates in Psycho, Leatherface in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs.  Not nearly as iconic as any of those films, but following Gein’s case much more closely, is another forgotten Canadian splatter film from 1974 called Deranged.

by James Jay Edwards

Mr. Sardonicus PosterWhile William Castle may not be a household name outside of the horror genre, his films most certainly are.  The director has been behind some of the most gimmicky and fun horror movies ever made, including House on Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts and The Tingler.  Castle has often said that his personal favorite film of his own was the ghoulish 1961 tale Mr. Sardonicus, about a man with a strange affliction and the doctor who tries to help him.

by James Jay Edwards

In the fifties and sixties, The United States of America was not the only country to delve into making low budget sci-fi horror movies.  In 1960, with the world still reeling from the use of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an Italian producer named Mario Fava (who may or may not be an alter-ego of the Italian master of macabre himself Mario Bava) made a quick and easy fright film called Seddok, l’erede di Satana, released in America three years later as Atom Age Vampire.

by James Jay Edwards

Nightmares One-SheetAfter the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween, scores of slasher movies flooded theaters with hopes of being the next big scare.  It was only a matter of time before the Australian low-budget “Ozploitation” filmmakers would get on board.  In 1980, director John D. Lamond (Felicity) made his only horror film, a psychological thriller called Nightmares that had all of the elements of its American counterparts.

by James Jay Edwards

One of the more sensationalistic aspects of horror and science fiction films over the years has been the phenomena of 3-D.  Long before James Cameron’s Avatar reintroduced the world to the fad that enjoyed a resurgence in the horror world in the 80’s, when it seemed that every franchise’s third film was in 3-D (Friday the 13th Part 3D, Jaws 3D, Amityville 3D), the kids of the fifties enjoyed the golden age of 3-D movies.  In 1953, hidden between Vincent Price’s House of Wax and Universal’s It Came from Outer Space sat a neat little thriller called The Maze that has been all but forgotten among its contemporaries.

by James Jay Edwards

The Legacy PosterA good horror movie needs a frightening antagonist to keep the action coming.  Whether it’s a faceless killer or a wild animal, a good villain is the driving force behind any film, not just horror films.  Sometimes, however, an unseen force is a much scarier foe, a phenomenon that has been dealt with over and over again like in the Final Destination series.  Producer David Foster’s The Legacy has one of these deadly entities, and is one of the freakiest movies of the seventies.

by James Jay Edwards

Monster Dog One SheetIn the late 60’s, the Alice Cooper band invented the musical genre of “shock-rock,” with their in-your-face music and horror-themed stage antics.  It seemed like a logical progression that, once his musical career cooled off, Cooper would go into acting, and the natural place for him was in a horror film.  In 1984, after a string of unsuccessful experimental albums, Alice found himself cast as the lead in a cool little werewolf movie called Monster Dog.

by James Jay Edwards

There are few events more horrific than war.  Of course, when something is fear-inducing, there will always be filmmakers ready to make a movie out of it, and horror films have been effectively using the backdrop of war for years, from the classic Isle of the Dead to the more recent Dead Snow.  Master British director Henry Cass (Blood of the Vampire, Last Holiday) made a film about a group of World War II soldiers in 1960 called The Hand that explored the physical and psychological scars of battle while scaring the heck out of its audience.

by James Jay Edwards

For the past five years or so, the horror genre has been saturated with a new subset of films that critics have dubbed “torture porn,” meaning that the films pay more attention to sickening gore than a cohesive plot.  While films like Saw and Hostel seem fresh and new, one only needs to look back about twenty years to find the prototype for today’s torture porn, 1986’s Crawlspace.

by Anthony Geehan

Disney is a company synonymous with the art of American animation. From their Golden Age fairy-tale adaptations such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Peter Pan to their innovative computer animated hits such as Toy Story and The Incredibles, it seems impossible to think of Disney as anything but a giant in the industry. There was however a time when Disney’s dominant standing was in question. Throughout most of the 80s, a series of unsuccessful feature length films along with the competition of independent animators such as Don Bluth caused Disney to fall on rocky times. In 1989 however, Disney reclaimed their title as the top animation company with their groundbreaking work The Little Mermaid. This would lead into Disney’s Silver Age, cementing the companies place as the dominant force of 90's American animation. Now, more than a decade later since these films were released, Disney has made plans to re-release their Silver Age classics in theaters, remastered and in 3D. Their second offering of this series is the 1991 classic Beauty and the Beast, the first animated movie in history to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best picture and the second classic of the Silver Age.

by James Jay Edwards

The psycho killer has long been one of the obvious staples of the horror genre.  What could be more frightening than an unstoppable madman preying on innocent and unsuspecting victims?  How about an unstoppable madman who has mastered the art of invisibility?  In 1976, television director John Florea (who directed episodes of both “CHiPs” and “Sea Hunt”) asked the question in a feature-length sci-fi cop show called The Astral Factor.

by James Jay Edwards

Of all of the mythical beasts that have been immortalized over the centuries, the lycanthrope, or werewolf, has arguably made the smoothest transition into motion pictures.  Aside from the vampire, no other creature has been done and redone over the years, from Lon Chaney’s definitive performance in 1941’s The Wolf Man to the Team Jacob shirtless heartthrobs in the Twilight films.  In 1956, the incomparable sci-fi producer Sam Katzman (Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, It Came From Beneath the Sea) took a shot at revising the werewolf mythos with the appropriately titled The Werewolf, and set forth some new theories and ideas about lycanthropy.

by James Jay Edwards

Tucked in amidst all of the action hero and martial arts films made by Menahem Golan and Yoran Globus (the producers who brought the world the American Ninja series, the Delta Force films and the Death Wish sequels, among many others) can be found a neat little horror film called New Year’s Evil.  Made in 1980, during the golden age of the slasher film, it is more than just an entry into the holiday-themed horror craze that ran rampant during the early eighties; it is an inventive twist on the serial killer movie.

by James Jay Edwards

Christmas horror movies are usually thinly-veiled slasher flicks where the killer is some maladjusted grownup who was scared into insanity by a freaky Santa when he was a kid.  In 1996, screenwriter Michael Cooney (Identity) flipped the script with Jack Frost, an original story about a murderous snowman, and the Christmas horror movie genre hasn’t been the same since.

by James Jay Edwards

When a movie script calls for a set of twins but only one lead actor is available, what does the director do? Ask the lead actor or actress to play both parts, that’s what. Brian De Palma had Margot Kidder do it in Sisters, just like David Cronenberg asked Jeremy Irons to double dip in Dead Ringers. In 1943, B-movie legend Sam Newfield (The Terror of Tiny Town) got horror character actor George Zucco (The Black Raven, Scared to Death) to give the playing of twins a try, resulting in the creepy vampire/witchcraft film Dead Men Walk.

by James Jay Edwards

Legend has it that in the early eighties, respected horror director Larry Cohen (It’s Alive) looked up at the Chrysler Building in New York City and said “that would be the coolest place for a nest.”  The legend goes on to say that Cohen, fired from the directing job on another film and not wanting his New York stay to go to waste, quickly wrote, cast and shot Q, one of the greatest monster movies of the decade.

by James Jay Edwards

Whether they’re on film or in real life, cults are scary things.  A group of people brainwashed to worship a deity and commit heinous acts in its name is a frightening thing, whether it’s the devil worshipping coven in Rosemary’s Baby or the murderous teenagers who pay tribute to He Who Walks Behind the Rows in Children of the Corn.  In 1962, television director William J. Hole, Jr. (who worked on both “The Bionic Woman” and “Peyton Place”) teamed up with screenwriter Jo Heims (Play Misty for Me) and legendary B-movie producer Rex Carlton (Nightmare in Wax, Blood of Dracula’s Castle) to unleash The Devil's Hand on an unsuspecting world, and subsequently gave another meaning to the term “cult movie.”

by James Jay Edwards

There seems to be a slasher film about every holiday imaginable – Halloween, Christmas, Birthdays, even April Fools’ Day, they all have their own movies.  The holiday of Thanksgiving is ruefully underrepresented in the catalog of horror.  In 1981, director Nettie Peña tried to exploit the thus-far unexploited with Home Sweet Home, and the resulting film is the best kind of bad.

by James Jay Edwards

In the world of the modern horror movie, audiences get bored quickly with standard slice-and-dice killings and filmmakers are constantly trying to think of new ways to dispatch their characters.  There seems to have always been a competition to come up with the most creative and inspired deaths, from the early slashers like Friday the 13th and Happy Birthday to Me to the modern Final Destination and Saw series of films.  Imaginative murders combined with ingenious special effects have helped filmmakers recycle the same plot over and over again, yet still turn out interesting and entertaining movies.  In 1978, a British film called Terror introduced audiences to several new ways to die on celluloid, and horror movies have been trying to keep up the pace ever since.

by James Jay Edwards

There is such a thing as a perfect storm in filmmaking.  When legendary directors, writers and actors all put their talents towards a common goal, the results are usually cinematic classics.  Such is the case with 1982’s Pieces, a schlock-gorefest that brought together some of the most creative yet understated minds of low budget filmmaking, and it should be considered essential viewing for any horror fan.

by James Jay Edwards

Roger Corman is the undisputed champion of the creature-feature, but few people know about his older brother, Gene, who got into the film business before Roger and also made some memorable monster movies.  In 1959, Gene used many of Roger’s core team members and pumped out Beast from Haunted Cave, a quickly produced but cleverly written gangster film-cum-monster movie set in the beautiful snowy mountains of South Dakota.

by James Jay Edwards

Before either of them were famous reality T.V. stars, Gene Simmons from Kiss and Ozzy Osbourne from Black Sabbath were serious musicians.  In 1986, both rockers lent their names and talents to a heavy metal horror film called Trick or Treat, foreshadowing the career path they would follow in the decades to come.  While Simmons’ and Osbourne’s names are on the front of the DVD cover, their roles are basically cameos in this hard rock shock fest that makes light of one of the most ridiculous political witch hunts in recent memory. 

by James Jay Edwards

The fifties and sixties were a fertile time for B-movies, and everyone with a half-decent story idea and a little money could make a film that, little did they know, would be kept alive by cult followers and public domain archives.  Written by producer Rex Carlton and director Joseph Green, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is one of these films, a movie so bad that it’s amazing, and, much like the brain in the title, just won’t die.

by James Jay Edwards

The early eighties is regarded by most fans as the Golden Age of the slasher movie, an era ushered in by John Carpenter’s Halloween and kept in business by scores of cheaply produced yet well-received films full of gore, nudity and dying kids.  In 1981, a bloody little film called The Prowler flew in under the radar and became a seldom seen but never forgotten piece of horror history. 

by James Jay Edwards

After the success of Godzilla in 1954, Japanese filmmakers were tripping over each other to produce monster movies that would make money and entertain the masses.  In 1959, United Artists of Japan teamed up with American production company Shaw-Breakston Enterprises to close out the decade with a different kind of monster movie, an American influenced B-movie classic called The Manster.

by James Jay Edwards

There’s little argument that George Romero is the king of the zombie film.  His Night of the Living Dead and its sequels have completely revolutionized the horror genre while creating a whole sub-genre.  His name is so synonymous with the zombie flick, that it’s easy to forget that he made other kinds of horror movies.  Having more convention breaking ideas in his head, in 1977 he attempted to update the vampire movie with Martin.

by James Jay Edwards

When RKO Pictures began production on King Kong in 1932, the always economical studio decided to double dip, using the same skull island set, much of the same crew and two of the lead actors to simultaneously shoot a smaller budget film based on a short story by Richard Connell called “The Most Dangerous Game.”  Costing less than $250,000 to make, The Most Dangerous Game not only ended up having a bigger profit-to-cost percentage than King Kong, but it also wound up being a horror classic, inspiring everything from an episode of “Gilligan’s Island” to the upcoming film The Hunger Games and influencing both the sport of paintball and the Zodiac Killer.

by James Jay Edwards

In the early- to mid-seventies, frightening and unexplained “real” creatures were all the rage, fed in part by sensationalistic television shows like “In Search Of…” and “That’s Incredible!”  The public seemingly couldn’t get enough of mysterious monsters like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, and filmmaker Charles B. Pierce decided to exploit the craze further by concocting a faux-documentary called The Legend of Boggy Creek.  At the time, he didn’t know that the film he would make would not only influence dozens of future filmmakers, but it would scare the hell out of thousands of impressionable kids.

by James Jay Edwards

In the 1940’s, RKO Pictures enlisted B-movie producer Val Lewton to bulk up the studio’s output with low-cost, high quality thrillers that would more than make back their budgets at the box office.  At the same time, tired of the typecast monster films that he was making for Universal, Boris Karloff signed a three picture deal with RKO and was assigned to Lewton’s unit.  This synchronicity began an all too brief but amazing partnership between Lewton and Karloff that would produce three classic films, the first of which was 1945’s Isle of the Dead.

by James Jay Edwards

In the world of horror movies, there are few potential victims that are more vulnerable than that of the lone babysitter.  Always female, and usually little more than a child herself, the babysitter is left alone with the children in an empty house, and a mysterious stranger inevitably shows up.  In 1971, years before the situation was explored and exploited in When a Stranger Calls and Halloween, British director Peter Collinson (who directed the original The Italian Job) made Fright, simultaneously inventing a horror sub-genre and scaring the hell out of young girls for generations to come.

by James Jay Edwards

The Snorkel One-SheetGreat Britain’s Hammer Film Productions is famous for its gothic horror movies and its re-imaginings of the classic Universal monster films, but between the 1950’s and 1970’s Hammer also produced several psychological thrillers, films which they lovingly called “mini-Hitchcocks.”  Often overshadowed by the monster movies, these suspenseful tales were every bit as well done.  One of these lesser-known films from the Hammer canon, 1958’s The Snorkel, is a prime example of how Hammer made a human being more frightening than any monster.

by James Jay Edwards

Xtro, One-Sheet (1)During the early eighties science fiction boon, there were two ways for filmmakers to approach the alien movie - they could make the visitors peaceful, like in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, or they could make them murderous, like in The Thing.  In 1983, British director Harry Bromley Davenport tried to take the best elements of both schools, and he unwittingly made a movie that would be placed on the United Kingdom’s Video Nasty list of films that censors deemed unfit for public presentation.  The film he made was the gory slime fest known as Xtro, and it asked the question; “what if E.T. was more like Alien?”

by James Jay Edwards

If George Romero can be considered the father of the zombie movie, then the Halperin brothers are the grandfathers.  More than 30 years before Romero made Night of the Living Dead, producer Edward Halperin and director Victor Halperin introduced the film world to zombies with White Zombie.  Four years later, in 1936, the Halperins followed it up with Revolt of the Zombies, and although it didn’t fare as well as White Zombie, it helped to invent a new genre of horror film.

by James Jay Edwards

When most people think about modern horror movies, the vision that comes to mind is one of scared kids running away from crazed axe-wielding psychopaths through the woods screaming their heads off.  While this image is due mostly to the Friday the 13th franchise, additional scared camper films like Sleepaway Camp and The Burning also contributed to this stereotype.  In 1982, just two short years after the first Friday the 13th movie, director Joe Giannone and producer Gary Sales unleashed their offering to the genre, a slasher called Madman, upon the horror world.  The institution of summer camp would never again be looked at in the same way.

by James Jay Edwards

One of the oldest and most cherished archetypes in the horror movie genre is the mad scientist.  From the crazed genius of Dr. Frankenstein to the calm brilliance of Dr. Jekyll, the mad scientist has always had his place in classic monster movies.  In 1944, legendary B-movie director Sam Newfield (known primarily for quick-made westerns such as The Terror of Tiny Town) introduced the world to Dr. Igor Markoff in The Monster Maker.  Often overshadowed by more popular movie madmen, Dr. Markoff is every bit as diabolical and devious as his contemporaries.  And he keeps a gorilla as a pet.

by James Jay Edwards

As soon as Steven Spielberg struck gold in 1975 with his blockbuster hit Jaws, seemingly every tiny studio in Hollywood scrambled to make a man vs. beast movie in an attempt to capitalize on the “animal horror” trend.  First up to the plate, in 1976, was Grizzly, a film that (like the name suggests) features a killer bear in the antagonist role.  Grizzly was quickly directed by William Girdler (who would go on to make Day of the Animals and The Manitou) on a shoestring budget, and it became an instant cult classic.

by James Jay Edwards

At the height of his bout with alcoholism, acclaimed director John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidateicon, Roninicon) turned from his usual suspense-thrillers to direct a pure horror film called Prophecy.  Written by David Seltzer (who also wrote The Omen), Prophecy kept with Frankenheimer’s theme of making socially and philosophically relevant movies.  In Prophecy, he just used more monsters.

by James Jay Edwards

For a time in the late seventies, movie theaters were filled with science fiction films while television was packed with cop shows.  Every film studio wanted a Star Wars just like every broadcast network wanted a "The Streets of San Francisco."  In 1979, prolific television writer Stanford Whitmore had the idea to marry the space opera with the hard-boiled crime drama by creating a serial killer who was an alien werewolf.  The resulting film was called The Dark

by James Jay Edwards

There are two ways that a filmmaker can approach a horror film.  The first is to make a truly frightening and realistic film that will scare the audience long after they’ve finished watching the film.  The second way is to make the film so over the top ridiculous that shocks and screams are mixed with laughs.  Horror legend Wes Craven achieved the first type of film with his 1984 masterpiece A Nightmare On Elm Streeticon.  Two years later, he tried his hand at the other type when he made Deadly Friend.

by James Jay Edwards

There is something inherently creepy about twins.  There’s something about not being able to tell the difference between two beings, especially if one is good and one is evil, that is frightening, and horror writers have picked up on this fact.  From the separated conjoined sisters in Brian Depalma’s Sisters to the woman-sharing brothers in David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers, twins have been a staple of scary movies.  In 1972, Robert Mulligan (who directed To Kill a Mockingbird) brought Thomas Tryon’s The Other to the big screen, and brought the Perry twins into everyone’s nightmares.

by James Jay Edwards

Director Bert I. Gordon (nicknamed Mr. B.I.G.) was at the helm of some of the most creative and innovative sci-fi and horror films of the last century.  Gordon wrote and directed such great B-movies as The Food of the Gods, Empire of the Ants and The Amazing Colossal Man.  In 1960, Gordon made Tormented, his take on a simple ghost story.  While not as well known as his other films, Tormented is still a big feather in Gordon’s cap.

by James Jay Edwards

Great directors are not born, they’re made.  They hone their craft through years of putting all of their blood, sweat and tears onto a thin strip of celluloid, often with embarrassing results.  It’s no surprise that a director of Oliver Stone’s caliber would have a debut like SeizureSeizure was written (along with acclaimed horror writer Edward Mann) and directed by Stone in 1974, long before he made Platoon and JFK.  While his promise as a director shines through, so does his lack of experience.

by James Jay Edwards

Three short years after bursting onto the horror scene with his directorial debut Hellraiser, Clive Barker adapted his novel “Cabal” into the big screen monster movie Nightbreed.  Like Hellraiser, Barker both wrote and directed Nightbreed and, although not a commercial success, the movie has found a cult audience that is rabidly faithful.    Nightbreed is a movie about monsters, but it is not a typical monster movie.  It is part fairy tale, part mythology and part straight-up horror.

by James Jay Edwards

I Bury the Living is a very misleading film.  Judging from the title, it would seem to be an eerie Edgar Allan Poe adaptation.  Looking at the movie poster, one would think that it is a zombie splatter flick.  It is neither.  Directed by Albert Band (Ghoulies II) in 1958, I Bury the Living is a suspenseful supernatural tale that comes off as more of a 76 minute episode of “The Twilight Zone” than a heart-pounding horror film.

by James Jay Edwards

In 1978, director Richard Attenborough and writer William Goldman teamed up to parlay the success they had with their war film A Bridge Too Far into a psychological thriller.  The movie they ended up making was Magic, featuring a crazy looking ventriloquist dummy that is so terrifying, it still haunts the nightmares of anyone who was a child when they saw the film for the first time.

by James Jay Edwards

Before he made The Fly, The Dead Zone, Videodrome and Scanners in the 80’s, David Cronenberg wrote and directed The Brood in 1979.  Although not his directorial debut, The Brood was his first commercially successful film.  While by no means as popular as the films he would make in the decade after its release, The Brood would pave the way for the iconic mix of science fiction and horror that would become the director’s trademark.

by James Jay Edwards

Comparisons to Psycho are inevitable with Peeping Tom.  Both were made in 1960.  Both are suspenseful, scary and unlike anything the movie going public had ever seen.  Both films imply violence more than they actually show it, and both deal with the underlying theme of voyeurism and vulnerability.  The main characters have similar traits, too, both being socially awkward loners with psychotic tendencies brought about by parental issues.  But where Psycho is a more straightforward crazy-killer movie, Peeping Tom is a complex character study of a disturbed murderer.

by James Jay Edwards

Nineteen Eighty-Two saw the release of the third Friday the 13th movie (in 3D!), which was the first film in the franchise in which Jason donned his famous hockey mask.  That mask transformed Jason from a simple camp killer to an Iconic Movie Villain.  However, most people are unaware that another movie murderer also picked up a hockey mask that same year and has been all but forgotten.  Maybe it’s because The Bleeder from Alone in the Dark had to share his psychotic load with three other madmen, or maybe it’s because he only wore the mask for one scene, but Jason has gone down in history and The Bleeder is just a footnote in horror movie archives.

Movie News | Trailers | Events | Goodies: Classic Films

by Kathryn Schroeder

The Princess BrideThe Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ has always presented classic movies on the big screen and hosted the cast and crew.  They are going one step further with a new screening series that will feature live commentary.  The first film to get the live commentary treatment, a la Mystery Science Theatre 3000, is the romantic comedy classic The Princess Bride, hosted by Jason Reitman.  Joining Reitman will be director Rob Reiner and actor Cary Elwes.  

by Kathryn Schroeder

Chet (left, voiced by Paul Giamatti) is the older brother - and voice of reason - to Turbo (Ryan Reynolds), an underdog snail whose dreams suddenly kick into overdrive.On July 4th, Dreamworks' Turbo Taco Truck will be making a special appearance at the San Diego County Fair offering free tacos and family-friendly activities.  Plus, the chance to win Turbo-themed toys and free movie passes.

by Tom von Logue Newth

TCM Classic Film Festival LogoThe TCM Classic Film Festival, gearing up for its fourth installment and now officially an annual event, gets bigger and better every year. The channel and its hosts, inspire even greater devotion than one would imagine, until you see the queues of people eagerly lined up to touch the hem of Robert Osborne’s garment. For four days at the end of April (25-28) the strip of Hollywood between the Roosevelt Hotel and the Egyptian will be filled with film enthusiasts from all over the country, and all over the world, gathered simply to celebrate the classic movies we love.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Peter Fonda in Easy RiderThe American Film Institute began the 'AFI Night At The Movies' program in 2007; it returns this year with sponsors Target and MAGNUM Ice Cream Bar to showcase classic films at the Arclight Cinemas Hollywood for one-night only April 24, 2013.  What sets 'AFI Night At The Movies' apart from other classic film nights is the inclusion of top stars and filmmakers in attendance to introduce and discuss the films being shown.

by Kathryn Schroeder

IGN Evil Dead ContestAre you the utimate Evil Dead fan?  Prove it, with IGN's ultimate Evil Dead fan contest, happening on their Facebook page.  All you have to do to enter is explain why you are the ultimate fan.  Prizes include:  a Sony TV and Blu-Ray DVD player, a poster, and a chance to have an exclusive premiere viewing of the new red band trailer WITH BRUCE CAMPBELL!! -- Not too shabby.

To enter go to IGN.com Evil Dead Contest.

Good luck Evil Dead fans!

by James Jay Edwards

William CastleFor those who just can’t wait until Halloween to get their horror movie fix, Turner Classic Movies will get the scares started early this weekend, October 26-28, starting at 12:15 am PST Friday night (or early Saturday, depending on how you see it) with Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story, a documentary tribute to the king of b-movie gimmicks himself.  The Castle documentary is immediately followed by two days of classic late-night horror films, including Cinema Fearité Alums I Bury the Living (1958) and Tormented (1960).

by James Jay Edwards

John Carpenter's HalloweenThe first horror movies I ever saw in a theatre were Alien and The Amityville Horror, both in 1979; I was eight (yes, my parents took me to horror movies when I was eight - things were different then).  Knowing that John Carpenter’s Halloween was released in 1978, it’s easy to deduce that I have never seen Halloween, one of the most influential horror films (if not THE most influential) of our time, on the big screen.  All that will change this year, as Halloween is being revived in theaters for a limited run.

by Tom von Logue Newth

The Marriage of Maria BraunThat is a fantastic headline to be able to write. For one reason or another, since LACMA’s series ten years or so ago, fans of German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder have had few chances to see much of his work on the big screen. Now, to mark the thirtieth anniversary of his death (June 10), the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles is celebrating this most individual of film-makers in suitably expansive style, with a series of 16 first-rate titles, between May 31 and June 14, 2012.