10 Underrated Horror Films
About this time every year I go on a horror film binge (actually I do that all year long). Here are 10 films worth seeing!
Drums of Jeopardy (1931, Dir. George B. Seitz). Any movie starring Warner Oland as a character named Dr. Boris Karlov is bound to be fun. This is an early sound, mad doctor on the revenge tale. This film is slow, but effective. Oland plays a terrific villain who finds nefarious ways to kill victims. Look also for Misha Auer, one of Frank Capra’s stock players and an inimitable character actor in over 170 films.
The Devil Bat (1940, Dir. Jean Yarbrough). This is perhaps my favorite ultra-low budget Bela Lugosi film. He stars as looney Dr. Paul Carruthers who develops an cologne that attracts trained bats to kill anyone wearing the lotion. Try and find the DVD authorized by the Estate of Bela Lugosi. This film was remade as “The Flying Serpent” (1946), which is also a ton of fun with George Zucco playing the heavy. Nobody does it better than Bela.
Cry of the Werewolf (1944, Dir. Henry Levin). This low-budget Columbia quickie film is hard to find. I only have an old VHS copy from “Golden Oldies”. Star Nina Foch allegedly hated the film and it doesn’t fair well with critics (see Article #91 by Dave Sindelar, “Fantastic Movie Musing and Ramblings”). I like the twist on the werewolf mythos and think it’s a gem.
Moon of the Wolf (1972, Dir. Daniel Petrie). This TV made film played quite a bit on television in the 1970’s, and it has a terrific cast with David Janssen, Barbara Rush, Bradford Dillman, Royal Dano and other familiar faces. It plays a bit like one of the detective films from the 70’s. Set in the bayou country, it also reminds me of a Dan Curtis production. No classic, but terribly under-rated too.
Strangler of the Swamp (1946, Dir. Frank Wisbar). This film appears in “Classics of The Horror Film” by William K. Everson. Like “The Devil Bat” this is a PRC Production and very low-budget. It’s an eerie little gem and the foggy sets help. The movie works a bit like “Carnival of Souls” -stylzed and not for all tastes.
Horror Express (1972, Dir. Eugenio Martin). I see this film on several lists. It’s a terrific film starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, who commented in an interview that “It was a lot of fun”. I love the creepy soundtrack and claustrophobia established on a runaway train with an ancient terror loose. In Mark Miller’s filmography “Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and Horror Cinema: Their 22 Collaborations” (McFarland, 437 pg.), director Jone Dante included it on a best horror video list in 1984.
The Deadly Spawn (1983, Douglas McKeown). Synapse Films finally released this film in 2004. I saw it one time in the 1980’s and loved it. The Deady Spawn is an homage to several 50’s sci-fi films, but the gore is all horror. Check it out.
Q, The Winged Serpent (1982, Dir. Larry Cohen). A Samuel Arkoff Production. Critics liked Michael Moriarity’s deadpan performance. I love the stop-motion animation by David Allen. Who would’ve thought a giant Aztec deity nests in the Chrysler Building? Check out the Blue Underground DVD.
Shock Waves (1976, Dir. Ken Wiederhorn). The best Nazi-Zombie movie ever. I saw this back in the day at a Drive-In in Hammond, Indiana. Personal favorite.
Murders in the Zoo (1933, Dir. A. Edward Sutherland). Now available through TCM’s Vault Collection. Lionel Atwill plays a wacked-out jealous big-game hunter who finds unique ways to dispense with competition. This pre-Code thriller contains grisly material: a man’s mouth is sewed shut in the opening scene! A great horror oddity.