The impact of DVDs is most likely going to be lost on the generation growing up in the 2000s onward. The ability to store as much as you can on a DVD is rather incredible, especially considering how cumbersome it was back in the video days to have a sizeable collection. Quality purists dislike the many bargain DVD releases, but I embrace them for the availability of so much product and the economic pricing. One company that really impressed me was Millcreek Entertainment and they're line of 50 movie collections. The quality wasn't great, but the quantity and diversity was incredible and not surprisingly, I went crazy for the 50 movie pack that was among the initial releases.
As a kid, I remember going crazy when I got this public domain cheap ten tape set of horror "classics." All were of substandard quality and the set ran for over thirty dollars. This set dosen't alter the quality much, but at under twenty dollars and offering an additional forty titles, i'd say this was a hell of a leap!
This set is an absolute howl for the horror fan, particularly for the young or uninitiated who are still getting acquainted with the genre. All one would have to do is couple with some Universals, a few Hammers, a dash of Val Lewton and some modern classics(1968-up) and you have a truly wonderful inroduction to the genre and it's vast diversity and eccentricities.
The set isn't perfect and there are a few public domain films that are glaring omissions, but overall this is a fun set to own. Below all the films that are featured on the set are reviewed and dissected for those curious about what's inside.
1. Carnival Of Souls(1962)
One of the true essentials on this set is this highly influential psychological horror film derived from the German expressionist classics and with nods to Carl Dreyer's Vampyr(1932), about a young woman(Candace Hilligoss) who survives an auto wreck that kills all her friends and believes to be seeing strange ghostly people stalking her. The director, Herk Harvey, portrays the pale faced man who keeps stalking the heroine and he is creepy as he is unforgettable.Few films capture the sense of a nightmare as perfectly as this film does. A wonderful use of a soft focus lense and simple camera effects create a dreamlike haze that is hard to shake. Highly reccomended.
2.Atom Age Vampire(1960)
Silly spanish horror movie with a great title is your standard mad doctor fare, about a medico who transforms into a hideous vampiric monster as he secures fresh glands to help restore the beauty to an injured exotic dancer. The doctor character has none of the passion to make the part work like a Karloff or Lugosi would have and his romantic attraction to the stripper is made bizarre, considering his devoted and equally mad(and fairly attractive) assistant is practically pawing and clawing him! What an idiot.The monster makeup is ludicrous, but some of the gothic sets are effective, but the characters are flat and it's not as much fun as it should be.
3.Creature From The Haunted Sea(1961)
One of my first horror movies that I saw as a kid and I still remember the disapointment! The video cover depicted a beautiful woman in a bathing suit being pulled under water by a huge scaly hand! Nothing so dramatic happens in the course of the film, rather it's a plot that spoofs the heist film, with a gangster that plans to dupe some refugees into seeking refuge with him, where he plans to murder them, steal they're fortune and blame it on a mythical sea monster. Luckily, the real(hilarious) monster shows up in the final few minutes in all his seaweed and ping pong ball eyed glory to clear things up. A real mess of a movie, though notable for being shot by cult director Roger Corman around the same time he did The Little Shop of Horrors(1961), listen to the music score for similarities. If anything, the monster costume is the quintessential low budget rubber suit. The jury is still out if the design was intentional or merely economical.
This is an effective Italian gothic starring the queen of the genre, Barbera Steele, who specialized in many lurid shockers throughout the decade directed by the likes of genre heavies like Mario Bava. The plot revolves around a sadistic Count(Paul Muller) who finds his unfaithful wife(Steele) sleeping with another man. In revenge, he chains them up in his dungeon(!) and proceeds to torture and murder them, removing their hearts in retribution. Several years later, he remarries a beautiful young woman(played by Steele again) and both are haunted by the ghosts of the past lovers bent on vengeance. Gothic and sensual, courtesy of the both wicked and alluring Steele in one of her best roles, this is a very creepy and an essential part of the developing Italian giallo film.
One of horror's finest actors in one of his lousiest films. Bela Lugosi was in poverty row by the time the 40s came around and starred in nine films for bottom of the barrel Monogram pictures. A few were entertaining(Invisible Ghost, Voodoo Man), while most were rather dreadful. However, Lugosi always delivered a fine performance, despite the script and budgetary limitations. In all fairness, the plot to this one isn't so bad, about Lugosi as a surgeon working with the axis to give anglo features to Japanese agents, but a slow pace and lack of action sink the flick faster than most of the other Monograms. There is a funny plot point, where the Japanese government plans to execute Lugosi after he performs his surgeries on the agents, and Lugosi manages to escape by trading places with an inmate who is his exact double! It's also nice to see Lugosi given some mild flirtatious scenes with Joan Barclay, but it's brief and fleeting. The only other standout is Lugosi's ultimate revenge on one agent, whose face he disfigures. The agent cries out that he is a hideous monster, to which Lugosi replies, "And you must go on living." This was the first clip that I saw of the film and hoped the rest would contain such perverse delights, but alas.
6.The Invisible Ghost(1941)
The first and best of Lugosi's Monogram features. Lugosi portrays Charles Kessler, a seemingly normal man who is overcome by insanity when he dwells on the tragic fate of his, supposedly, late wife. He murders time and time again, causing his daughter's fiance(John Mcguire) to go to the electric chair. In a ludicrous plot turn, the twin brother(!) of the deceased brother arrives from South America(!) to clear his brother's name. Bizarre plot aside, Lugosi is in fine form here and it's a relief to see him playing somebody sympathetic rather than another by the numbers mad scientist. The cast all work adequately and special credit must be given to African-American actor, Clarence Muse who portrays the take charge butler in this film. Muse brings dignity, sympathy and intelligence to his role of the butler, that was often lacking in Hollywood films at the time and is a welcome addition.
One of the finest horror films to emerge from the golden age of the genre, is this landmark classic that features one of Bela Lugosi's all time greatest roles. Lugosi stars as Murder Legendre, a plantation owner in Haiti who aids a man(Robert Frazer) in transforming his spurned lover(Madge Bellamy) into one of the walking dead. This was the first zombie movie ever made and has the look and feel of the Universal horror classics, which was no small coincidence, considering the presence of both Lugosi and sets borrowed from Dracula and Frankenstein. Ace make-up man, Jack Pierce, also contributed to the zombie designs, which are simple but ghastly. The film appears stilted at times, as most of the cast is decidely amateurish, but the direction of Victor Halperin lends a fairy tale like quality that was only compareable at the time to Murnau's Nosferatu, the only other film that already seemed ancient upon initial release. Bela Lugosi looks terrific, looking a bit like a mustachioed Mephistopheles, adding humor and dimension to the role that rivals even his fine work in Dracula.His lines are among the best in Horror, notably his explanation as to what his zombies are to a would be hero; "For you my friend, they are the angels of death!"
A popular public domain release, this is an absolute essential to any horror fan's collection and it was an obvious choice for this set.
9.Attack of the Giant Leeches(1959)
With a title like that...wouldn't you think it would be more fun? A real snooze with a few laughs, as a swamp infested with giant leeches( men in suits resembling giant Glad bags with suckers) are terrorizing a small Louisiana town. Some fun is had when rotond Bruno VeSota chases his wife(Yvette Vickers) and her lover into the swamp with a shotgun and the scenes in the underwater cave where the leeches keep their prey, are genuinely disturbing, as the helpless actors await as the leeches descend upon them. It's here that the film reaches some genuine nightmare territory, but is unfortunately, too silly to make the premise work. Eventually dynamite is used to seal up the cave and any chances at a truly exciting climax. Some laughs and some eeriness, but overall a dissapointing film.
10.The Screaming Skull(1958)
Mediocre, strange, but at times, frightening chiller, about a man(John Hudson) who is trying to drive his neurotic millionairess wife into madness by filling the house with skulls. The acting is nothing to rave about, but the effects of the skulls appearing can be sort of eerie at times and especially towards the end as the film wisley takes a turn towards the supernatural, which would have been the safe place to stay the entire running time, but oh well. Originally this was released with a death certificate for anyone who, "died of fright while seeing The Screaming Skull!"
Don't worry about that, though.
11.The Beast of Yucca Flats(1961)
One of the legendary bad movies is this 1961 "gem" from the prolific Coleman Francis and starring non other than that magnificent thespian, Tor Johnson! The plot? Some girl takes a shower and dries off and is strangled for her troubles in the first minute of the picture. I guess this was an excuse to show some T&A and is quite surprising for the period. There's a few random shots of busty women inserted throughout for no apparent reason other than titilation. You can already tell this will be loads of fun! The story(?) begins as we learn about Joseph Javorsky, a noted scientist, who is escaping from behind the iron curtain with "secret data of the russian moon shot." He is ambushed by a couple of thugs with revolvers that results in a poorly edited high speed chase and before you can say, "flag on the moon, how did it get there?", Javorsky finds himself stranded and lost in Yucca Flats, where an atom bomb lands on him turning him into...THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS! Tor isn't much of a monster. He's a very overweight man who carries a big stick, wears a ripped shirt and carries a walking stick(!), while wearing what appears to be oatmeal on his face. Some kids get lost in Yucca Flats and the world's most inept highway patrol men have to rescue them which includes shooting at random people and climbing mountains for no apparent reason. To add insult to injury, there is no dialouge(like The Creeping Terror(1962) and it's full of pseudo-philosophic babble that is really quite, something. For example: "Joseph Javorsky. Noted scientist. Now a fiend. Prowling the wastelands! A prehistoric beast in the nuclear age! Kill, kill, killing! Just to be killing." And there's a bizarre fascination with the word progress, which is not where your mental state will develop if you engage in watching this film. Mystery Science Theater couldn't even touch this puppy. Truly a surreal experience.
A rather ambiguous title for a rather ambiguous film. The Terror was a result of Roger Corman having two days left on Boris Karloff's contract after making The Raven(1963), and the use of sets from that film. Without even a script or even a director, Corman fashioned together the film from whatever he could including stock footage and the use of directors including Francis Ford Coppola, Monte Helman and Jack Hill. The result is a confusing, fascinating mess that is saved by some occasionly fine directorial touches( from whoever was behind the camera), a truly disturbing shock ending and of course, Boris Karloff. Jack Nicholson, in his first starring role, portrays a lost Napoleonic officer who finds himself at the home of Boris Karloff and a very convoluted plot that involves ghosts, witches, imposters and eventually cataclysmic destruction. Karloff has nothing to work with, but uses his brand of menace particularly well, seeming to give every piece of strength that he could muster for the part. Nicholson is merely adequate, which is understandable, while the ever reliable Dick Miller steals a few scenes as Karloff's butler. Sandra Knight is lovely and eerie and the then Miss Nicholson, also delivers the film's biggest scare. Not a good film by any stretch, but worth seeing for a glimpse into the efficiency of Roger Corman and the genre's greatest star, Boris Karloff.
13.Revolt of the Zombies(1936)
The 1930s were known as the golden age of horror for a reason. The sheer amount of creative and genre defining films released within that decade was astounding. Virtually everything produced was worth watching and had something that placed it within the realms of being a classic. Here's the exception. Despite a pretty cool plot revolving around a zombie master who plans to command an army of zombies, this follow-up to White Zombie(1932), made by the same people, is a complete failure. Dean Jagger portrays the zombie master hammily and is no match for the malevolence of Lugosi in the earlier film(though Lugosi's eyes are superimposed throughout the film) and is not particularly memorable. The zombie makeups are virtually nonexistant, being used on filipino extras, who frankly have far less expression than the ghouls created by Jack Pierce in the previous picture. Add a glacial pace, inappropiate music score(the scene where the Priest gets stabbed is unintentionally hilarious) and virtually no action and you have the recipe for a stinker. Only the beginning with a scene of souless zombie soldiers marching towards a german trench as a soldier fires his Luger into them to no effect, does the film have any sort of excitement.
14.The Giant Gila Monster(1957)
Pure nonsense as only the 1950s could deliver. A giant gila monster is terrorizing a small town for whatever reason and it's up to a high school hero with his cool car and French girlfriend to stop it! Not much really goes on besides the standard town sheriff musing over the usual, "what could have done this sort of thing?" schtick and a little hanky panky. The key moment is when the Gila Monster interupts a school dance by pushing his big head through a wall! (In the trailer he was described as a "Kong-like monster!" Don't believe it.) Kinda fun in a very dumb way, but the monster is nothing more than a real gila monster(notice how he shares no scenes with any actor) and that takes away some of the fun. Another winner of a title, though.
15.The Fatal Hour(1940)
This non-Horror movie is only in this set because Boris Karloff stars in it. The film is one of the Mr. Wong films that Karloff made for Monogram and is a barely passable mystery. The character was based off of the novels by Hugh Wiley and were very popular back then, as were many of it's ilk like Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto. This is one of the better entries in this admittebly mediocre series, the plot revolving around Wong trying to solve the murder of a police officer. No great shakes really, but Karloff lends the film, and it's series, what meager distinction they have and that's the only real reason to sit through any of them.
16.Dead Men Walk(1943)
Interesting poverty row quickie with one of cinema's great mad doctors, George Zucco, in a dual role as a benevolent twin doctor and his evil twin brother, who is a vampire! Dwight Frye even gets a chance to play the evil brother's assistant in a role that seems a combination of his Renfield character from Dracula(1931) and his hunchback from Frankenstein(1931). However, not much happens and a potentially fun idea is all but wasted due to poor direction and photography and a hard to follow plot. Still, with two of the genre's greatest actors at the forefront, this is an awfully tough film to dislike, despite it's mediocrity.
17.The Mad Monster(1942)
Rip-off of The Wolf Man(1941), with George Zucco as a crazed scientist(what other kind?) who decides to make wolf men for the armed forces! His guinea pig is his mentally retarded handyman played by future Frankenstein Monster and Western veteran, Glenn Strange, who has the distinct privledge of being able to make a mockery of both of Lon Chaney Jr.'s best roles, those being the Wolf Man and Lenny from Of Mice and Men! It's pretty funny stuff as Strange's wolf man resembles western actor Gabby Hayes more than the Wolf Man! George Zucco chews the scenery quite well, his scene where he gives an imaginary lecture being a highlight, but it is one of the only positive aspects of a pretty poor movie. One shocking moment is provided by an unexpectedly dark moment when the monster goes out for a prowl and actually murders a child, which is far more disturbing than the innocence found in the controversial Frankenstein of ten years previous. A good mad doctor role, some disturbing content and unintentional hilarity are the main reasons for viewing The Mad Monster. If you dare take the film any bit seriously, be prepared to end up in the same sorry disposition as the title of the picture.
Wow. This is one wild film! Designed as an exploitation film by sleaze merchant, Dwain Esper, this was re-edited by him as a documentary like opus about various forms of madness, with some of the most ridiculous title cards ever written! Sporadically throughout the film, title cards appear that try to educate us on mental illness, as if this was a serious film on the subject! They include such priceless gems like "There are three phases to the manic-depressive psychoses, the manic phase, the depressed phase, and the mixed phase" and the truly memorable: "It is because of the disastrous results of fear thought not only on the individual but on the nation, that it becomes the duty of every sane man and woman to establish a quarantine against fear...Fear thought is most dangerous when it parades as forethought. Combat fear by replacing it with faith. Resist worry with confidence."
And than there's the plot or what there is of one. A scientist decides to re-animate life, but his assistant gets jealous and kills him and impersonates him. That's about it, besides a subplot about a rapist who thinks he's an ape(!) and some female nudity(this is 1934!) and a cat-fight with syringes. The film has some of the best bad acting imaginable, especially Bill Woods as the daffy Doc's assistant who is one crazy mother as he plucks out a cat's eye and eats it and has hallucinations from Haxen(1922)! A truly one of a kind movie and a must for the bad cinema masochist.
A film that is a true contender for the greatest science fiction movie of all time and certainly the apex of the German expressionism movement. Directed by the true visionary that was Fritz Lang, the film tells the story of class issues in a seemingly utopian society. In this futuristic metropolis of the future, the rish live with little care and all the luxuries money can buy, while below, operating the city are the poor. They are factory workers, dehumanized by the conditions they live in, almost mechanical as they operate the big city. However, they have a leader, Maria(Brigitte Helm) who wishes to unify the two class systems and bring religion and hope to the people. The leader of metropolis, Frederlen(Albert Able) enlists the aid of a mad scientist, Rotwang(Rudolf Kleinn-Rogge, in one of the greatest mad scientist performances of all time) and creates an android replicant of Maria, who is designed to destroy the workers and create a series of events that will lead to the city's destruction. However, the leader's son(Gustav Frohlich) who is in love with Maria, plans to change the plans and save the city from certain death.The performances are very good, with Helm bringing a particularly erotic edge to the role that makes it both creepy and sensual. The direction is top notch and was the pinnacle of Lang's career, which was saying alot considering he had a career of mainly pinnacle moments!
Brilliantly executed with dazzling sets that would set the standard for many a sci-fi epic to follow and a dramatic flourish that has yet to be equalled, Metropolis is first rate entertainment and perhaps the most impressive of all silent films. The print on this box set is subpar, and while I am pleased to see it here, for it is an essential, the best way to see this particular movie is the beautiful Kino DVD that offers the most complete print of this epic classic.
20.The Vampire Bat(1933)
Forgotten golden age curio with a stellar cast and a bizarre mad doctor plot reminiscent of both Frankenstein and Dracula. Lionel Atwill is typically excellent as a murderous medico who is working on the secret of life(shouldn't these guys get a union or something?) and is killing off people in a small village. Melvyn Douglas adds alot of sympathy and character to the male lead role, as the town constable out to find the killer and it's clear from this and his work in James Whale's The Old Dark House(1932), that he should have done more work within the genre.Fay Wray is lovely as the female lead asnothing more than a wallflower character, but she gives the character charm and warmth and she has sufficent chemistry with Douglas to make it work. Dwight Frye also shines in the role of the village idiot, adding his own brand of menace and peculiarity that always made him so memorable and this is one of his best roles. Atwill is in top form, as he always was, being one of Hollywood's most truly inspired mad doctors. His dialouge isn't always so clever, but it was always a delight to watch Atwill at his most vilest and treacherous.
Many others in the cast can be recognizeable from the Universal horror classics, as are the sets, which include both Frankenstein and The Old Dark House. This is an entertaining and agreeable horror film, but is marred by a very disappointing and abrupt conclusion, coupled with a truly stupid monster. Hell, i'm even going to give it away, because someone must protect the unwary. It's a sponge in a jar. Lionel Atwill is keeping alive a blood drinking sponge. All that build up with mystery and intrique is because of a protoplasmic sponge in a jar. Give this one a glance, but be prepared for that conclusion. A real shame, considering how close this one was to be being an unqualified classic of the genre.
When the horror genre struck gold in 1939, Monogram decided to abandon it's modertaely profitable Mr Wong films and put Karloff in a standard horror movie. In this one, Karloff plays a mad doctor similar in ways to his characters that he played at Columbia concurrently. It's a decent role and Karloff brings his usual sympathy as a small town doctor who is trying to cure polia and experimenting on helping a girl to walk again. To further his experiments he needs spinal fluid, which he obtains by donning an ape pelt from an escaped circus gorilla that he had slain! It can be somewhat difficult to sympathize at times, as Karloff goes around killing people off in an ape suit, but at least there is a somewhat noble cause behind it, I guess. It's a pretty silly story, and seems to have been borrowed a bit for the later and even sillier, The Ape Man(1942) with Bela Lugosi. What saves this film is Boris Karloff, who keeps the film grounded, delivering a good performance and offering a surprisingly poignant ending. The script was by future Donovan's Brain and The Wolf Man screenwriter, Curt Siodmak.
22.The Monster Maker(1944)
A pretty twisted PRC(Producers Releasing Corporation) opus with shades of the Karloff/Lugosi vehicle, The Raven(1935). A doctor(J. Carrol Naish) lusts after the daughter(Wanda Mckay) of a respected concert pianist(Ralph Morgan). When the father forbids the doctor from seeing his daughter, he is injected with a serum that gives him acromegaly,a disease which distorts the facial features and extends the bones. It's a real sick plot, not helped by the fact that acromegaly is a real disease and was the same debilitating sickness that made a "star" out of Rondo Hatton at Universal. Naish is a real bastard in this and seems to relish the role as another sicko medico and it's a good one. While, Morgan under heavy makeup, performs with sympathy and restraint, even better than he did in the superior, Night Monster(1942) and certainly the lamentable, Condemned To Live(1935). The makeup is effective and appropiately creepy, a real triumph of ingenuity for the little studio and it's also a kick to see Glenn Strange as Naish's henchman/assistant. A fun low budget effort.
23.The Killer Shrews(1959)
Alternately hilarious and surprisingly effective, this low budget drive-in classic is pleasant surprise for either party savoring a decent horror flick or a chance to heckle and laugh. The plot is a strange one: a doctor experiments on enlarging animals and, whoops, makes some giant shrews which are carnivorous and grow to the size of German shepherds and go running around eating and killing everything. Meanwhile, a supply boat arrives and a siege situation occurs that pits the scientists and boat captain against the shrews. The makeup for the shrews is clearly just long hair placed on some dogs, but the direction is efficient and suspenseful, with some genuinely tense moments, and a siege reminiscent in some ways of later horror classics like Night of the living Dead(1968). The biggest surprise was the lead performance of James Best as the captain who is actually quite a likeable hero, emoting when his friend is found dead and appearing comfortable in his romance scenes with Swedish babe, Ingrid Goude. Best really brings a level of credibility to the project that keeps it afloat. Funny moments do occur, like when Best's friend is killed in a tree, as he fires and slowly shouts, "help" as the tree begins to break and fall. Hilarious. Then there is the ending, where the survivors tie a couple of trash cans together and crawel around in them to make it to the boat! This scene really has to be seen to be believed, but than again, so does this entire movie.
24.The Brain That Wouldn't Die(1960)
Hilarious bad movie that has one of the most ludicrous plots ever assembled: a doctor accidently decapitates his fiance in an auto accident, saves the head, keeping her alive in a dish in his lab(!) and searches for the perfect body by scouring the local strip joints and modelling contests! He eventually finds this bombshell in a bikini, who has a scarred face, and says he'll fix her up, which of course really means that he'll hack her head off and give her smoking body to his fiance. Did I mention the slightly feminist undertones? Well, the fiance dosen't like the idea and hates being kept alive on a table, so she uses her telepathic power(!) to communicate with some mutant from a failed experiment that the good doctor keeps in a closet! If it sounds confusing, it is and man, is this one truly insane movie. The climax has to be one of the sickest made up to that time, with the hideous mutant escaping(he looks like a deformed conehead) and the doctor getting his throat torn out and spit out by the mutant(!) as the severed head laughs maniacally and the mutant carries away the model as the film just ends! This film just seems to ahve it all, from horrendous dialouge exchanges, sleazy bits of 60s cheesecake, including a catfight with two busty strippers(!) and gore galore in the final few minutes. An obvious inspiration for the later splatter classics like Re-Animator(1985), this is an essential for any aspiring bad movie fan. See it.
25.King of the Zombies(1940)
Originally to star Bela Lugosi as a zombie master who is planning on making zombies to aid the Third Reich, instead we get Henry Victor from Freaks(1932) who dosen't make for a very memorable heavy and a cast drenched in mediocrity. The real reason to endure this one is for the comic performance of Mantan Moreland, a black actor who was most famous as Charlie Chan's chauffeur and the star of several race comedies throughout the 30s and 40s. He easily steals the film, adding some genuinely humorous bits that actually makes the film seem like a comedy at times. The part where he believes he has become a zombie is easily the best scene in the movie. Some may consider his performance as being demeaning, but Moreland creates a multi-dimensional character and really saves the picture from total obscurity. No great shakes, but Moreland's performance and the intriguing plot should appeal to the curious b-film fan.
26.Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde(1920)
Several silent film adaptions have been made prior to this one, but this was the best silent version of the Rovert Louis Stevenson story and the most influential. Screen legend John Barrymore delivers one of his best performances as the good doctor who unleashes his evil alter ego upun the world. Barrymore really seems to relish the role bringing an athleticism and unhealthy quality that makes him perversely fascinating. He's like a human spider, gliding through the London streets spreading a web of crime and terror in his wake. To further illustrate this point, there's a great nightmare segment where Barrymore is resting as Jekyll and Hyde crawls into his bed as a spider turning him into his evil alter-ego! Plus, his makeup is superbly creepy, even though it's Barrymore's own acting ability during the trasnformation scenes and not the use of special effects. Not as complex as the definitive 1931 adaption by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Frederic March, but still one of the better adaptions and one of the best silent horror films.
This is probably PRC's best horror movie, if one does not count the wonderfully atmospheric, Strangler of the Swamp(1946). It's a classy and sophisticated b-horror film resembling something from the Val Lewton factory of horrors rather than the blood and thunder so often associated with poverty row. This is due in large part to the expert direction of the best of the b-movie directors, Edgar G. Ulmer, who had previously helmed one of the greatest horror films of all time, the Karloff and Lugosi masterpiece, The Black Cat(1934). His moody and shadowy direction and good use of existing sets, however minimal, add believability to the proceedings in the story of a puppeteer who preys on beautiful women who remind him of a lover who betrayed him in the past. John Carradine gives his greatest horror movie performance as the tortured puppeteer, Gaston, who tries to subdue his murderous impulses as he falls for a lovely dress maker, Lucille, played by Jean Parker. Carradine's character is one of the most complex horror characters of the 1940s, being both sympathetic and terrifying. Easily, one of the ten best horror films of the decade and certainly one of the true essentials on this set. This classic deserves a much wider audience.
28.The Corpse Vanishes(1942)
Lugosi is at it again in another Monogram quickie, where he stars as a mad doctor(again) who uses a serum harvested from young virgin brides(!) to retain the beauty of his aging wife. He also sleeps in a coffin and has dwarf, Angelo Rossito from Freaks(1932) as an assistant, along with Minerva Urecal. It's all harmless hokum, but a real sad waste of Bela's talents, who seems embarassed at times to be appearing in such drivel that was clearly beneath him. Still, it's an entertaining enough romp and is fairly fast paced and not such a bad way to waste an hour.
29.Night Of The Living Dead(1968)
The film that signalled the end of the original run of Hollywood horror, was this independent from Pittsburgh that forever altered the public's view on zombies and the horror genre. Released during one of the most turbulent times in the country's history, Night of the Living Dead is a cynical and frightening film that details an apocalyptic vision of the dead rising from their graves and slowly taking over the world. The film is shot in black and white and appears at time to be like a documentary with a grainy look and realistic characters far removed from the Hollywood system. The main plot about a group of people being stuck in a farmhouse fighting for survival against the living dead is incredibly tense and powerful, aided immeasurably by a fine lead performance by African American actor Duane Jones as Ben, which was revolutionary for the time, as were the twists and plot points the film made. The young couple who usually survive to the end of these things, are the first to get killed, while the heroine remains in a catatonic state throughout. There is virtually no love interest or romance and everyone is dead by the film's conclusion, one of the most unforgettable endings of any picture ever made.This was considered the goriest film around when it was first released, and while it may seem tame now, scenes of the dead munching on intestines and getting shot in the head are still visceral as they are powerful.
The zombies are radically different than those of the past. They are no longer under the will of a master, like Bela Lugosi, but rather act independently, moving en masse towards the next source of food, for they are also now carnivorous. They also are afraid of fire and can only be stopped by destroying the brain, which have now become part of zombie lore. One of the most imitated films of all time and a truly defining film of the decade, Night of the Living Dead still retains it's power to shock and horrify and ranks among the top ten in the genre's history. Followed by the superb Dawn of the Dead(1979) and several other sequels and rip-offs of various quality in the ensuing decades.
30.Doomed To Die(1940)
Another Monogram Mr. Wong entry with Karloff that has no business being on this set other than it stars the king of horror and I suppose, being that there aren't many of his films in the public domain, maybe it does make some sense seeing it here. The title certainly sounds like a horror film, dosen't it? Well, this was Karloff's last fling as the oriental detective and it's easily one of the weakest. A fire kills several people and a shipping tycoon who owned the property is found killed. It's another who done it and not very interesting with too many cliches including dumb cops, a romantic subplot and Karloff in asian makeup that is far from his Fu Manchu of the early 30s. Purely passable, of not for the presence of Boris in the lead role.
31.The Phantom of the Opera(1925)
The best adaption of the Gaston Leroux classic novel and for many, the finest horror film of the 1920s. Lon Chaney Sr. reveals the most terrifying of his 1000 faces as Eric the Phantom of the Opera, a disfigured madman who resides under the Paris Opera house and performs several heinous acts while trying to win the love of a beautiful young soprano(Mary Philbin). Highly evocative sets and wonderful direction(even though the original director, Rupert Julian left halfway through production to be replaced by Buster Keaton collaborator, Edward Sedgwick), this film contains several unforgettable scenes including the technicolor masked ball with Chaney dressed as the Red Death, the falling chandelier and Chaney's final flight from the mob at the film's conclusion. Of course, it's most famous scene is also possibly the most remembered in all of horror films and that is Chaney's unmasking. The makeup of the Phantom has never been equalled, nor has Chaney's performance, which besides Karloff's Frankenstein's Monster, is the finest in the history of the genre. Every movement and every gesture convey so much with so little. This film set the standard for the Universal horror film with it's German influenced design and European construction, along with the main plot points of a sympathetic monster and the beauty and the beast theme, which would prove immortal with many more classics in it's wake.Like Metropolis and many of the other classics in this boxset, there are many better prints to be seen out there, but we all have to start somewhere and this is a classic film in any form.
32.The Indestructible Man(1956)
One of Lon Chaney Jr.'s later horror movies, plays at times like a precursor to films like The Terminator(1984), as Chaney portrays an executed convict who returns from the grave as a super-powerful killer with the aid of a couple of scientists, who he promptly murders, before seeking vengeance on those who sent him up the river. Really lame narration mars an otherwise gritty and effective little thriller that has some tense moments, including a memorable climax atop a nuclear reactor! Also, dig that scene where Chaney picks up some crippled gangster and tosses him off a building!Chaney is largely mute in this, and dosen't have much to do, but this is probably one of his better later films. This would make for an interesting remake, if the filmmakers didn't rely on fast editing and too much cgi, but that's a pipe dream in today's Hollywood. Interesting how well these second rate features stand up today even with so little to hold them together.
33.The Hunchback of Notre Dame(1923)
One of Lon Chaney Sr.'s finest hours, nearly on par with his brilliant portrayal as The Phantom of the Opera(1925). This was one of the most epic undertakings of the silent era with sets made to scale, several which dominated the Universal Studios backlot for decades and a cast of thousands. The plot centers around Quasimodo(Lon Chaney) the bellringer of Notre Dame, who lusts after the beautiful gypsy girl, Esmerelda(Patsy Ruth Miller), while revolution is in the air, as the King of Thieves(Ernest Torrance) decalres war on Paris. It was a deservedly huge hit and is fairly faithful to the depress-fest that was the Victor Hugo novel, though wisely, alternating the ending. Chaney's makeup is typically brilliant, more in spirit to Hugo's description in the novel and his athleticism is simply superb to behold, even though this is one of the only films where the versatile actor actually had to use a stuntman, that being veteran strong man, Joe Bonomo. For some, Chaney's Quasimodo may seem too harsh and fierce, especially in comparsion to the Charles Laughton portrayal in the superior 1939 remake, but it is still a performance that is able to elict sympathy and emotional response from the audience. Chaney's death knoll at the end is a brilliantly realized scene and one of his finest screen moments, as the moment where Esmerelda gives him water after he has been lashed and whipped in public. A beautifully rendered cinematic treasure. Lon Chaney Sr. was a genius.
The first vampire film and also the best one, Nosferatu is a truly unique cinematic experience that ranks among the dozen or so greats of the genre, and one of the finest achievments of the silent film era. The plot is essentially Bram Stoker's Dracula, which this was an unauthorized adaption of, before the Stoker estate sued. The filmmakers merely changed the names and locales and created their horror classic. A young real estate agent(Gustav Van Wagenheim) sells a house to a Count(Max Schreck) who turns out to be a vampire and intends to spread plague and wipe out the population of the agent's small village, before his wife(Greta Schroder) sacrifices herself to the vampire, keeping him at bay long enough for the sun to destroy him. The images presented within this film are the most nightmarish of the vampire depicted on the screen and worlds apart from the later day Draculas and sexier incarnations of the character. The vampire here is a corpse-like fiend with rat like features and a long talons, making for one of the msot horrifying of all movie monsters. Schreck's performance as the Count is unforgettable and really does inspire the terror that his last name suggests! Director F.W. Murnau adds much to the mythology of the vampire, including destruction by sunlight and several scenes are truly unforgettable including the coach ride to the castle, Nosferatu's nightime stalking of the real estate agent, the vampire picking off the crew of a ship(including his switchblade like appearance out of a coffin!) and that poetic final shot of him disentegrating into dust. Originally, all copies were ordered destroyed of this film, but lucky for cineastes the world over, the order was never fully carried out and we have this classic to enjoy forever.
Definitely not a horror film and a very odd choice for the set. Perhaps, the title evokes images of some race of mud creatures and that's why it's here, but really it's just a mediocre crime picture about a couple of escaped female felons who plan to make off with some valuable jewels and make their way through a swamp, while fighting for the affections of hostage, Touch Connors. It's all pretty dopey, with Carole Matthems portraying an undercover police woman who falls for Connors and protects him from the likes of Marie Windsor, Jill Jarmyn, Susan Cummings and a hilariously psychotic, Beverly Garland. There's some 50s style cheesecake in store(whoopee!) and it's all shot in appalling technicolor. Worth a look if you don't mind frying a few brain cells while doing so.
36.The World Gone Mad(1933)
A great title that suggests an end of the world scenario that alas, this film fails to deliver. Instead, like the previous entry its' another film that must have ended up on here because of the title. It's actually about the stock market crash of 1929, which was like the end of the world I suppose, but not the kind horror fans want to see. Anyway, a D.A. is murdered and a reporter played by Pat O Brien tries to uncover the plot. It's fairly entertaining and luckily has a sense of humor, pre-code style. Nothing great and enjoyable as a crime vehicle, but not fitting to this set by any stretch.
37.The Little Shop Of Horrors(1960)
Filmed in just a few days with virtually no money, this black comedy is one of the finest films that Roger Corman ever made. Johnathan Haze portrays a real nerd named Seymour who works at a flower shop run by a guy named Mushnik(Mel Welles) and discovers a strange plant that attracts alot of attention to the shop. It turns out that it can speak and it feeds on blood, which the hapless Seymour has to bring. A truly hilarious black comedy with many great comic moments that include the notorious dentist scene with a young Jack Nicholson, hilarious as a masochist wanting his teeth drilled! Very memorable and fun all the way through and leagues ahead of the overblown 1986 musical remake and it's Broadway counterpart. Accept no substitutes.
Entertaining host movie about a man named Tom Stewart, played by 50s Sci-fi hero, Richard Carlson, who gives a good performance as a man haunted(literally) by a past flame who he failed to rescue when she took a fall from a watchtower after a spat over Tom's affair with another woman. She then comes back as a ghost and is played to comical perfection by Juli Reding, and when I mean comical, that's of the unintentional variety. Scenes of her disembodied head yelling in monotone, "Tom Stewart killed me!" over and over are good for many a laugh. This film tries very hard to work as a serious ghost story, but dosen't quite come off even though there are some nice psychological touches and a typically good performance by Carlson. Worth seeing for Reding as well, who really makes a lovely ghost. Too bad we don't see more of her, though.
39.The Monster Walks(1932)
Made to cash in on the Universal horror films of the early 30s, The Monster Walks is a dated old dark house mystery where not much goes on, even though all the ingredients seem to be there for a decent horror show. It's one of those girl arrives to collect inheritance from her dead father, but greedy relatives and servants conspire against her. Sheldon Lewis is her sinister uncle and Mischa Auer wears a costume like Karloff's in Frankenstein(1931). It's discovered that her father died of unnatural causes and she is trageted for the same fate by the uncle who enlists the aid of Auer and a homicidal, six foot tall chimpanzee locked in a cage! A real museum piece and quite bizarre with unwelcome, racist comedy relief by Willie Best and a slow pace. Interesting for students of the genre, interested in the mood and era, but there are better examples of it available.
40.Monster From a Prehistoric Planet(1967)
Being a Japanese production about a dinosaur on the loose, many will assume this is a Godzilla rip-off, but they would be wrong. It's actually a rip-off of the British made Gorgo(1961), an excellent giant monster movie with virtually the same plot. And what is the plot? Scientists discover a tribe that worships a God named Gappa. They also find an egg and take it back home with them. It hatches and it's some kind of dinosaur. The parents find out and go to Tokyo to get they're kid back and destroy most of the city in the process. The only differnence here is that Gorgo was a single parent and Gappa is a nuclear family. Giant monster fans will probably enjoy themselves, as it's rather easy going. Not a great giant monster movie, but worth seeing for a few laughs. Just check out those monsters!
This was a remake of 1927 film that was itself a stage play in the 20s. It's a typical old dark house mystery, which i'm actually quite fond of, though I can't say i'm a devotee of the Ritz brothers. One of the more forgettable comedy teams, they are an acquired taste at best and are the measure to how much you may enjoy this. Murders take place in an old mansion on a dark and stormy night and the Ritz brothers play detectives that investigate. Luckily, Bela Lugosi is on board as a butler, but sadly, he's much underused, as is Lionel Atwill as the head of the house. There's that fun gorilla costume that appeared throughout the 1940s, most likely with Ray Crash Corrigan inside and it's a moderately good time all around for classic mystery fans, though we've been here before.
42.A Shriek In The Night(1934)
A decent mystery that works as a follow-up to the previous year's The Thirteenth Guest, which also starred Ginger Rogers and Lyle Talbot. They make a very likeable couple and keep the proceedings moving along, even when there isn't much action. Frankly, it's tough to open the ambitious opening scene as a millionaire takes a fall from a skyscraper! The rest of the film is carried by the two leads and they're banter between each other, though there are a few scare moments to heighten the kood a bit.Not really a horror film per se, but an entertaining enough yarn that weaves a decent mystery that should appeal more than some others that have appeared on this set.
Grisly rio-off of The Most Dangerous Game with low production values, hardly any suspense and a dull villain, Wilton Graff, who can't hold a candle to the sublime villainy of Leslie Banks in the original movie. The familiar plot of ship wrecked survivors getting hunted by a millionaire on a deserted island has been done many times and this is just...one of those times. It's sort of fun to see the future Mr. Brady of the The Brady Bunch, Robert Reed, as one of the survivors, but overall, this is one of the weakest films on the set and one of the lamer adaptions of the story. By the way, the original The Most Dangerous Game(1932) is widely available in the public domain, and is always considered the best version of the story filmed, which has to make you wonder why that wasn't on here instead?
44.The Amazing Mr. X(1948)
Another non-horror movie that was made at the height of the noir movement. The film starts out as a supernatural film, with Turhan Bay as a mystic who claims he can talk to the dead. He's actually a fraud, but then it actually appears that he can communicate with the dead. Or maybe not. There's so many twists in this strange little movie that it's hard to tell. The plot is about Bay being able to communicate with the recently deceased husband of the heroine, played by Lynn Bari, who comes across as snobby and vain. PLus, her husband turns out to be alive anyway, just in hiding for two years! The seance scenes are well made, but not alot of sympathy is afforded many of the characters, even though Bay delivers what may be his best performance. Bay had been a Universal contract player in the 40s, appearing in many sword and sandal movies, along with a few horror films like The Mummy's Tomb(1942), The Mad Ghoul(1943) and The Climax(1944). It would have been alot better had the supernatural elements been played straight and with more sincerity. It was probably never going to be like The Uninvited(1944), but it could have been a marginally better ghost flick than what emerged.
45.Last Woman On Earth(1960)
Not a horror film and not nearly as much fun as it sounds, or the lurid poster art will have you believe. It's just another Roger Corman cheapie about two guys who survive the end of the world, which was caused by temporary oxygen depletion(!)and have to fight over the one guy's mediocre blonde wife, as she might be, THE LAST WOMAN ON EARTH!
It's all really stupid, if you couldn't tell and was probably added to the set in hopes that it would form a companion piece with the Vincent Price vehicle, The Last Man on Earth(1964). This is definitely for the bad movie crowd, so heckle away and warn the rest around you that are still looking for something decent to watch.
A remake of the twice filmed old dark house mystery, the others amde in 1926 and 1930, this one isn't as visually appealing or interesting, but it does contain Vincent Price as a suspect and enough mood and atmosphere to whet the appetite of many genre aficionados. The plot is about a mystery writer whose secluded mansion holds a fortune in securities that is being fought over by various suspects, including a criminal known only as "The Bat." The cast is good, including Agnes Moorehead, Gavin Gordon, Darla Hood(Our Gang!) and Price and they liven up the proceedings fairly well and keep it entertaining. Not one of the best old dark house films, but enjoyable nonetheless, though they should have added the 1926 original to this set as well. (It will later appear on another Millcreek 50 pack, a sequel to this, called Tales Of Terror)
47.The House On Haunted Hill(1958)
One of the very best haunted house movies of all time and the highlight of shock-mesiter, William Castle's career. Vincent Price stars as a millionaire who offers a group of disparate people 10,000 dollars if they spend the night in a haunted mansion, where several strange murders ahve taken place over the years. For their safety, he gives away party favors in the form of 45. automatics in little caskets! It's all alot of fun and contains enough thrills and chills to warrant repeat viewings. The cast is alot of fun, especially Price who is having a ball as Frederic Laurence, the millionaire who dosen't scare easily and has a few tricks up his sleeve. Many memorable vignettes are imbued in one's memory like the old lady that suddenly appears in the corridor, a scene that has to be one of the scariest pre-Psycho terror scenes and that great climaz involving an acid vat and a walking skeleton! (Originally, a gimmick was used in the theaters, where a skeleton was flown over the audience. It failed to scare anyone, as the kids in the audience would often shoot it down with bb guns and sling shots! It was called "Emergo") Yes, there are skeletons, creepy old ladies, acid vats, severed heads, hairy hands, dripping blood, eerie wails and the prince of horror, Vincent Price, presiding over it all. What more could you want?
48.The Last Man on Earth(1964)
Adaption of Richard Matheson's 1954 masterpiece, I Am Legend, is the best version of the oft-filmed novel ever made. It's an Italian production, shot on a low budget and starring Vincent Price as the last man on earth after everyone has been wiped out by a disease that has turned everyone into vampires! Price must battle both his sanity and the undead as he spends his days hunting and killing them and holding them off by night, besieged in his home, in scenes that clearly inspired Night of the Living Dead(1968). The scenes of Price staking the vampires and walking through barren streets with nothing but the sound of wind and rustling papers to accompany him, are genuinely unnerving, as are the flashbacks to how the entire plague got spread and the actions used to try to contain it.
Matheson hated this film, but it's really not that bad and while Price may seem miscast, he delivers a credible performance and this makes for a truly creepy vision of the apocalypse that none of the later versions were able to capture, including the comic book-like, The Omega Man(1972) and the awful I Am Legend(2007) with Will Smith.
Francis Ford Coppola's first film is this creepy thriller shot in Ireland and produced by Roger Corman. It involves a woman(Ethne Dunn) who tortures herself over the drowning death of her daughter seven years before, visiting her grave on a daily basis. Everyone ine her family lives in misery and dread in an old dark castle where an axe murderer lurks and some surprisingly brutal death scenes for the time emerge in this competent and mildly disturbing horror film. A popular title on the public domain sets, notably for the director, this is one of the key pre-slasher films, besides Psycho(1960), which was hugely inspired by and the Herschell Gordon Lewis splatter fests that were being made at the time.
50.Phantom From 10,000 Leagues(1956)
Super cheesy monster movie that owes alot to The Creature from the Black Lagoon(1954) about a monster created by radiation on the ocean floor who is killing people off the coast. The government sends and agent and a scientist to investigate and all suspicions point to a marine biologist who may or may not have something to do with it. Not as exciting as it sounds, this surprisingly slow monster movie contains not nearly enough monster action to satisfy the buffs and not enough bad dialouge to indulge the other. Though, the monster design is wonderfully inept, to the point of being cute. See it for that alone.
This set contains several classics and many that are not so much. A few films on here have no business being on a Horror classics set, other than a cool name that might suggest a tie to the genre. Still, this is a nice overview of the b-movies from the past and it's nice to see some essentials, particularly the silent films, that make this set a must for the collector. If I could make any suggestions for titles that could have been added on here, than say a few undesireables, I would have included The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari(1919), which is the most glaring omission, considering it's importance and popularity. The Golem(1920), The Student of Prauge(1926) and The Cat and the Canary(1927) would also have been nice, along with another Lon Chaney. The Devil Bat(1941) would have been a better Lugosi choice than some that ended up on here and a Tod Slaughter opus from the 30s would have been very welcome, as his brand of villainy is sorely missed on such a set. Overall, though this is a delightful set and one that is both nostalgic and genuinely fun for fans both young and old and well worth the investment.