With Halloween just around the corner most horror fans will relish the moment to watch their share of Universal and Hammer classics. I will too, but I I thought it would be fun to pick a list of oddballs, following these simple rules:
- Include at least one silent film
- No Universal films
- No Hammer films
- No more than two sub-genre films (e.g. 3 vampire, 3 werewolf, 3 zombie films not allowed)
- Include at least one modern era film (year 2005 to present)
Here are my picks!
Mad Monster Party? (1967). This Rankin-Bass stop-motion gem features the voice talents of Boris Karloff, Allen Swift, Grammy award winner Gale Garnett (We’ll sing in the sunshine) and Phyllis Diller. Dr. Frankenstein decides to have one last bash and invites the crew, including Dracula, the wolf man, the creature, Dr. Jekyll, the invisible man, the mummy, a hunchback, the monster, and a few other surprises show up. Along with A&C Meet Frankenstein (1948), this is the most kid friendly monster film ever made. Horror fans will also enjoy this due to Karloff’s presence, a wacky busty cat-fight (!), and contributions by Forrest J. Ackerman. The puppets were designed by Jack Davis who was the poster artist for the minimalist U.S. one sheet poster of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963).
Brainiac (El Barón Del Terror, 1961). Described as “the most bizarre horror movie ever”. Along with The Ship of Monsters (La Nave de los Monstrous, 1959), which defies description, this film garners my vote for the most entertaining and weird Mexican horror film ever made. What’s not to like about a satanic Baron who seeks modern-day revenge as a grotesque, forked-tongue, pulsating bobble-head who gobbles up human brains? Be sure to track down the OOP CasaNegra DVD with Kirb Pheeler’s off the wall and informative audio commentary.
Dr. X (1932). This early two-strip Technicolor oddity was based on a short-run play from 1928. After its premiere, a New York Times critic described the film as a “production that almost makes ‘Frankenstein’ seem tame and friendly”. Lionell Atwill is at his creative creepiest as the vile Dr. X and Fay Wray screams her head off. What’s really sets this film apart is the bizarre production design and extraordinary makeup by cosmetic giant Max Factor.
After vigintillions of years great Cthulhu was loose again, and ravening for delight…
The Call of Cthulhu (2005). I double dipped on this one! Ha! This one gets my entry for both a silent and modern film, and what a duesie it is. This low-budget production by the HPLHS is bar none the finest film adaptation of Lovecraft ever. Had this film been made in 1929 it would have been hailed one of greatest horror films of all time.
Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972). Amando de Ossorio’s films are not for all tastes. They are clearly exploitative and full of contrivances and plot holes. Some people consider this film slow (try watching Dracula, 1931). However, the scenes with the evil Knight Templars, on horseback are so creepy and unusual it will keep most horror fans delighted. Tombs of the Blind Dead is essential viewing for fans of 1970’s Euro-horror.
I slipped in two Mario Bava films. The first is Hercules in the Haunted World (1961), starring Reg Park as Hercules and a dubbed (Err!) Christopher Lee as the evil King Licos. The sets, production design and cinematography (by Bava) in this film are just sublime. This film looks as good as any color film Bava has ever made. Reg Park is the definitive Hercules and Chris Lee is the prototypical villain. Sir. Christopher will you kindly dub your voice back into this film?
or an even better scene….
I Vampiri (Lust of the Vampire / The Vampires / The Devil’s Commandment, 1957) is widely credited as being the first Italian horror film. For my money it’s one of the best vampire films ever made. Credit Maestro Bava who helmed the camera and worked up the special effects. The sets, lighting, camera work and dream-like atmosphere elevates this film to top notch horror. The film suckers you in as a who done it mystery and leaves you with your jaw on the floor. This is exquisitive horror that looks good today.
The Deadly Spawn (1983). I saw this low-budget gem as a kid and have loved it ever since. It’s an homage to so many sci-fi/horror flicks from the 50’s. Think The Blob meets Audrey Junior (and if you know who Audrey Junior is you are reading the right blog), add lots of blood and a kid weened on FMOF and you have The Deadly Spawn. This is one of the very best horror tribute films to come out of the 1980’s and an effective monster movie to boot.
Eaten Alive (1976 or 1977, depending on source). This low-budget redneck horror flick stars cowboy heavy Neville Brand as a psychotic hick who feeds people who cross him to his pet crocodile. There you have it! This Tobe Hooper film came after Chainsaw Massacre (1974) but before the TVM Salem’s Lot (1979), and features a strong cast with Mel Ferre, Carolyn Jones, Robert Englund, and Stuart Whitman.
Blood Feast (1963). This infamous gore splatter concoction from Herschell Gordon Lewis and David Frieman first came to my attention in the 1980’s by way of the notorious Golden Turkey Awards (which I don’t agree with), where the brothers Medved nominated Lewis the worst director of all time (losing to Edward D. Wood, Jr.). The film is fairly tame by today’s standards and the blood comes across as being red paint, but the film still holds me in a trance and the scene with Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold) yanking a tongue out of a woman’s throat still freaks me out. Don’t pair this with Mad Monster Party as a kiddie double feature!
Here’s the trailer from Something Weird Video: