Sept. & Oct. at The Movie Morlocks


It’s that time again. Time to collect & share links to the writing I’ve published on TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog in the past few months. In September I spent a lot of time obsessing over TCM Star of the Month Susan Hayward. I reference her in at least three of the pieces I wrote that month and I refer to her again in my first October post about the neglected Gothic thriller, THE LOST MOMENT (1947). As usual, I spent the rest of “Shocktober” focusing on darker fare including horror films and morbid mysteries. Follow the links to read more.

Susan Hayward in Her Own Words
“I didn’t know much about TCM’s current Star of the Month so I decided to delve into her past recently and was somewhat surprised by the way Susan Hayward had been portrayed (and ignored) by the media since her death in 1975. Nicknamed the “Divine Bitch” following the release of a similarly titled biography, the four-time Academy Award nominated actress didn’t make a lot of friends in Hollywood and is rarely described in flattering terms by studio executives and costars so the general picture we have of her seems somewhat skewed. I’m a firm believer that there are usually two-sides to every story so I decided to explore newspaper and movie magazine archives in an effort to learn more about the redheaded screen siren in her own words without the opinions of her biographers and colleagues getting in the way. In the process I discovered a complex woman whose turbulent real life was often more sensational than the fictional lives of the characters she portrayed.”

Alberto Vargas in Hollywood
“If you love vintage pin-up art as much as I do you’ll probably recognize Alberto Vargas’s name. Between 1920 and 1975 the Peruvian artist created some of the most celebrated and recognizable pin-up art in America while working for the Ziegfeld Follies as well as Esquire magazine and Playboy . . . What classic movie fans might not know is that Alberto Vargas also had a brief but lucrative career in Hollywood painting celebrity portraits, working for film industry magazines and creating movie posters. I enjoy playing detective so I decided to dig through various archives and books in search of Vargas’s film related work and what I found surprised me. The Latin artist made a much bigger impact on Hollywood than I’d previously been led to believe.”

Every Dog Must Have His Day
“The film is weighted with biting social commentary as well as religious and political allegory but at its heart, WHITE GOD is a rather simple and profoundly sad story about a helpless dog that learns he must rely on himself and rebel against authority if he wants to survive in a dog-eat-dog world. It also doubles as a sensitive coming-of-age story about the young dog owner who learns a similar lesson although the perils and circumstances she faces are much more privileged and forgiving . . . While watching WHITE GOD I was reminded of a few other films I admire that center around dogs like Hagen who were forced to take similar journeys while suffering the consequences of man’s inhumanity to man and animal alike”

The Power of the Pantsuit
“The entire scene, between the time Hayward enters the bathroom and leaves it, only lasts about 2 minutes but she and her paisley pantsuit completely own it. It’s a spectacular exit and although plenty of people like to point out the campy elements in VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, Hayward’s sincerity is undeniable in that moment. She was living in Helen Lawson’s skin and it’s evident that she deeply related to the character’s desperation and disappointments as well as her success. And that dazzling suit she wears represents her achievements.”


Nameless Fear: The Lost Moment (1947)
“The film is wrapped in a shimmery fog and lit mostly by candles that dance off dusty walls. And the house at the center of all the drama, with its spectacular canal-side setting, long twisting hallways, dark balconies, spiraling stairs and decomposing garden, evokes plenty of ghosts. It may not be a typical horror film but this Gothic romance about conflicted characters, doomed romance and ever-shifting identities will haunt you . . . It’s a terrible shame that The Lost Moment was neglected for so long. If critics had been kinder and audiences more receptive, there’s a high probability that director Martin Gabel would have continued making movies and he might have been remembered alongside some of the more interesting filmmakers who were working at Universal in the late forties and fifties. But when he died at age 73 in 1986 after suffering a massive heart attack the New York Times didn’t bother to mention his singular directing credit in their obituary.”

Fatal Charm: Cast a Dark Shadow (1955)
“The picture opens with a striking scene shot inside a funhouse ride at a carnival. Dirk Bogarde’s character is sharing his seat with his wife and future murder victim (Mona Washbourne) when the camera focuses in on his face hidden by shadows while his pupils appear to light-up. It’s a startling effect that makes Bogarde look like a hungry demon with hellfire in his eyes. In this clever title sequence, director Lewis Gilbert and cinematographer Jack Asher signal to film audiences that their male protagonist is a monster before he ever opens his mouth.”

10 Trailblazing Horror Films Directed by Women
“All month long TCM has been airing films made by women on Tuesday and Thursday night as part of their groundbreaking Trailblazing Women series hosted by Illeana Douglas. According to Charles Tabesh, senior vice president of programming for TCM, the goal of Trailblazing Women is to “Highlight the impact of female filmmakers throughout history and encourage future female filmmakers.” The response has been overwhelmingly positive and it’s heartening to see TCM’s resources used to educate, inform and inspire viewers . . . I’ve been enjoying a lot of the Trailblazing Women programming myself but since we’re in the middle of Schocktober, I thought I’d set aside some time to highlight some of my favorite horror films and thrillers directed by women who have left their macabre mark on a genre that many mistakenly assume is not very female friendly.”

Double Your Pleasure with a Dracula Double Feature
“Tod Browning’s DRACULA is rightly hailed as a horror classic while the Spanish version directed by George Melford was assumed lost and went largely unseen by modern audiences following its initial release until it was restored and distributed on home video in 1992. Both films were shot at the same time using the same sets but with different casts, which was a typical practice by studios in the early 1930s. Their goal was to appeal to international audiences eager to see new-fangled sound films in their own language. The idea quickly went out of favor due to the high cost of producing multiple movies but the Spanish language version of DRACULA is one of best examples we have of this popular practice.”

Wine & Wolves: The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
“This unique Gothic horror from Hammer is part love story, part social allegory and part monster movie. John Elder aka Anthony Hinds’s script was loosely based on a book by Guy Endor (The Werewolf of Paris) and it takes a grim but very modern view of life by stressing that the werewolf is a product of his environment and circumstance instead of just a supernatural beast. The impressive sets, which were borrowed from previous Hammer productions, still look fresh and are accentuated by Terrence Fisher’s direction. This is somewhat of a staid film for Fisher and lacks the abundant style that the director brought to The Brides of Dracula (1961) made the same year. Instead, the film becomes a creative showcase for Oliver Reed’s performance and he’s spectacular as well as deeply moving as the cursed werewolf. The film also provides a nice backdrop for some of the studio’s best make-up effects designed by Roy Ashton. Reed’s transformation from a handsome young man (he was just 21-years-old at the time) into a ferocious wolf is particularly startling but it’s matched by the makeup used to age and disfigure the beggar and the Marquis. The two men are not typical monsters but as their souls seemingly wither and die; their decaying faces illustrate the ravages of time and the darkness that has suffocated their hearts.”

June & July at the Movie Morlocks

I haven’t been online much the last few months for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I’ve been having some medical problems with my left eye and spending lots of time on my computer reading, watching vids and writing can often be problematic. My eyes get easily irritated and I’m prone to headaches, etc. The other reason is simple net fatigue, particularly on social media sites such as Facebook & Twitter where petty bickering, herd-like behavior and one-upmanship among film fans, critics and journalists can become unbearably tiresome. With that out of the way, I want to apologize to anyone you visits Cinebeats often hoping for new updates (excuses I know… but I seem to be suffering from an extreme case of weltschmerz this year) but you can still find me regularly posting on TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog and I occasionally write articles for TCM’s website. Here are some links to things I’ve written in the last few months:

They Wore It Well: Actors & Mustaches: “Mustaches of all shapes, sizes, widths and weights have long been part our movie history so it’s easy to take them for granted. But a good mustache can have power and presence in the movies and many actors have made great use of their facial hair to seduce costars, entice laughter and menace their enemies.”

Hammer Noir: Terence Fisher’s STOLEN FACE (1952): “While a few of the Fisher’s earlier films, such as SO LONG AT THE FAIR (1950), hinted at his penchant for gothic fantasy and costume drama, STOLEN FACE gave the director the opportunity to begin exploring (and exploiting) his apparent fascination with science, philosophy, psychology and medicine that would later permeate his full-color horror films made for Hammer. Amid the noir elements and abundant melodrama that can be found in STOLEN FACE, Fisher spends a noticeable amount of time lingering on strange medical devices while focusing on the doctor’s interactions with patents and colleagues. The doctor also makes a noteworthy trip to a pub where he mingles with some inquisitive locals. This seemingly innocuous event became a staple in Fisher’s horror films…”

Summer Reading Suggestions: “Like many people, I tend to do a lot of reading when the weather warms up and with summer officially about to start on June 21st I thought it would be a good time to share some of the books I’ve been enjoying with my fellow film buffs. My own tastes tend to be somewhat eclectic but I hope readers of all types and stripes will find something that piques their interest when pursuing my list of Summer Reading Suggestions.”


“I wonder if my brother remembers his brother?” – Remembering Eli Wallach 1915-2014: “Leone famously liked to shoot his actors in extreme close-up or in sweeping wide shots where they were barely visible. But Wallach instinctively knew how to make the most of his screen time and easily navigates between these two very different modes of filmmaking. His eyes speak volumes when Leone’s camera zooms in for a signature close-up but when the director’s camera is out of sight Wallach skillfully used his body language to define his character from a distance. Many actors would get lost in the vast deserts, dilapidated cemeteries and shabby old towns that make up Leone’s film but Wallach seamlessly becomes part of the landscape. We know he’s there even when we can’t see him.”

When Fact Mirrors Fiction: AGATHA (1979): “Redgrave and Hoffman make an unlikely pair and some critics apparently found their height difference distracting but I think the two actors have an incredible chemistry on screen. Redgrave seems to be channeling Garbo while Hoffman displays the kind of arrogant charm that made William Powell so likable. Both performers have rarely been as vulnerable, sympathetic, affable and flat out sexy as they are here, which is partially due to the way they interact and seem to identify with one another’s characters. Their unconventional but utterly convincing on-screen romance is one of the many reasons why I find AGATHA so compelling.”

The Malaise of the Ghetto: LA HAINE (1995): “The broad appeal of Kassovitz’s film can also be traced to another film that mesmerized young audiences in 1955, Nicholas Ray’s timeless classic REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. Both films focus on a troubled threesome who form a makeshift family during the span of 24 hours. The neighborhood fighting might be on a much smaller scale and the suburban hood of 1955 Los Angeles appears much more inviting than the suburban slums of 1995 Paris, but both movies use the threat of gun violence to their credit. Neither Plato (Sal Mineo) nor Vinz (Vincent Cassel) can fully comprehend the lethal power of the weapons they’re carrying and their shared desire for some kind of notoriety or control in the face of an indifferent world is something many young people can unfortunately sympathize with . Does LA HAINE have the staying power of REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE? That remains to be seen.”

A Century of Scares: Happy Birthday Bava!: “This week marks the 100th birthday of Mario Bava who was born on July 30th (according to leading Bava researcher Tim Lucas and author of the essential Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark) or 31st (if you want to believe and Wikipedia). The brilliant Italian director, cinematographer, special effects artist and screenwriter died in 1980 but today he’s fondly remembered by horror film enthusiasts as the Maestro of the Macabre. Bava has long been one of my favorite filmmakers so I couldn’t let this important anniversary pass without acknowledging his artistry.”

2013 at the Movie Morlocks

jfrancoJess Franco 1930-2013

What follows is a collection of links to some of my posts at TCM’s Movie Morlocks from 2013. These are (in my estimation) the best and most interesting articles I wrote last year but you can read my entire output for 2013 at the Movie Morlocks if you peruse the archives. From this point onward on I’ll be collecting links to my Morlocks’ posts and sharing them here at the end of each month.

Rio – Rififi Style! GRAND SLAM (1967)
A Brief History of the Telefilm
Out, out, brief candle: Jon Finch 1942-2012
This is a Time for Ghosts : THE AWAKENING (2012)
All Love is Mad : MAD LOVE (1935)
Does Oscar gold come with an Oscar curse?
Telefilm Time Machine: DAUGHTER OF THE MIND (1969)
Tracing My Irish Roots Through the Movies
The Pulp Adventures of Lee Marvin
Telefilm Time Machine: THAT CERTAIN SUMMER (1972)
In Memoriam: Jesús “Jess” Franco (1930-2013)
Lon Chaney Jr. – Lady Killer
Comic Relief with ARTISTS AND MODELS (1955)
Telefilm Time Machine – FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY (1973)
GUN AND SWORD: An Encyclopedia of Japanese Gangster Films 1955-1980
Personal Passions: Alain Delon
Derelict Dancers: Gerard Depardieu vs. Roman Polanski – A PURE FORMALITY (1994)
Hail Cleopatra! Queen of the Nile & Queen of ’60s Style
Arsenic & Ambiguity in David Lean’s MADELEINE (1950)
Final Faces
Francois Truffaut – Friend, Teacher & Film Critic
Someone is Bleeding: LES SEINS DE GLACE (1974)
Oh Dear! What Can the Matter Be? : SO LONG AT THE FAIR (1950)
Telefilm Time Machine: Steven Spielberg’s SOMETHING EVIL (1972)
Four Reasons Why I Love Natalie Wood
Julie Harris 1925-2013: “And we who walk here, walk alone.
The Story of Film: UN CHIEN ANDALOU (1928)
In the Trenches with James Whale
Hollywood Goes to the Dolls
Telefilm Time Machine: SATAN’S TRIANGLE (1975)
Vincent Price Takes Center Stage
Vincent Price’s Small Screen Successes
Vincent Price & Gene Tierney: A Doomed Romance
In the Kitchen with Vincent Price
Adults Only: HOUSE ON STRAW HILL (1976)
Fighting Prejudice with Sidney Poitier
A Celluloid Revolution – James Dean: Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray
Telefilm Time Machine: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS (1972)

Do You Want to See Something Really Scary?


I managed to catch a cold this week so I’ve been feeling under the weather but hopefully I’ll be back on my feet soon. In the meantime I wanted to direct you to my latest post at the Movie Morlocks.

All month long I’ve been writing about horror films but this week I decided to share some of the scariest moments from a few of my favorite fright filled movies. If you’re a regular Cinebeats’ reader you’ll recognize many of the films I mention in my latest post such as longtime favorites like The Innocents (Jack Clayton; 1961) , The Tenant (Roman Polanski; 1976), Blood on Satan’s Claw (Piers Haggard; 1970), Night Tide (Curtis Harrington; 1961) and Dracula Prince of Darkness (Terence Fisher; 1966) but a few others might be a surprise such as The Beast with Five Fingers, (Robert Florey; 1946), which was the first Peter Lorre film I saw on television when I just 9 or 10 years old. A couple of the films I mention will be shown on TCM during Halloween on Oct. 31st so you’ll have a chance to experience them for yourself if you have cable TV.

If you’re looking for a few atypical Halloween viewing suggestions or just want to know what kind of films chill me to the bone and get my heart racing then please make your way over to the Movie Morlocks.
“Do You Want to See Something REALLY Scary?” @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

Comic Book of the Week: Curse of the Werewolf

Hammer House of Horror #10

The House of Hammer (also known as Hammer’s Halls of Horror) was a British film and comic magazine published between 1976 and 1978. The following pages are from issue #10, which featured a wonderful cover painted by artist Brian Lewis depicting Oliver Reed in Terence Fisher’s Curse of the Werewolf (1961). The following sample pages are from Part I. & II. of the Curse of the Werewolf comic illustrated by one of my favorite comic book artists, the talented John Bolton and written by Steve Moore. The back cover of the magazine featured a Belgian movie poster for Curse of the Werewolf, which I’ve also included along with a promo shot featuring a very handsome Oliver Reed without his monster makeup. I recommend you read these pages accompanied by the light of the full moon!

Hammer House of Horror #10

Hammer House of Horror #10

Hammer House of Horror #10

Hammer House of Horror #10

Hammer House of Horror #10

Hammer House of Horror #10



The First Leading Lady of British Horror

Barbara Shelley in Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

Like many of my fellow Americans I’m enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday so I’ve been distracted by family, good food and drink. But I wanted to take a moment to shine a spotlight on The First Leading Lady of British Horror, Barbara Shelley.

Barbara starred in no less than eight Hammer films that I’m aware of including Mantrap (1953), The Camp on Blood Island (1958), Shadow of the Cat (1961), The Gorgon (1964), The Secret of Blood Island (1964) Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966) and Quatermass and the Pit (1967). She’s easily one of the most talented actresses that worked with the studio during the ’60s but her name isn’t as well known as many of her female costars. Her earthy beauty, seductive voice, natural grace and impressive acting abilities made her standout among her contemporaries and it’s surprising that she didn’t become a bigger and better known star. She was terrific in the horror films she made for Hammer as well as other studios which earned her the title of “The First Leading Lady of British Horror.” And she also appeared in some of Britain’s best television shows such as Danger Man, The Avengers, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Dr. Who but it’s a shame that she’s not better known outside of the UK.

My favorite Barbara Shelley performance can be found in the 1966 Hammer film Dracula: Prince of Darkness. In the movie Barbara plays a prim and proper British lady who turns into a bloodthirsty vampire. In an effort to keep the Hammer Glamour activities alive and well here at Cinebeats I thought I’d repost a link to my lengthy appreciation of Barbara’s standout performance in the film that I wrote back in 2007 called The Lady Is a Vamp.
Barbara Shelley in . . .
Top: The Secret of Blood Island (1964)/Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
Bottom: Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966)/Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

Barbara Shelley is still alive and well but she retired from acting in the late ’80s. She seemed rather reserved in the recent Hammer Glamour book, but most recently she participated in the DVD commentary for the British horror film Ghost Story which I wrote about earlier this month. I wish Barbara Shelley would follow in Raquel Welch’s footsteps and consider writing her own memoirs. During her lengthy acting career Barbara appeared in films with such celebrated actors as Gloria Swanson and George Sanders. She also worked with other important genre directors like Val Guest and Sergio Corbucci. During her years with Hammer studio Barbara worked almost exclusively with director Terence Fisher and appeared in films with popular Hammer stars Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing so I’m sure her insights and commentary on “The Studio That Dripped Blood” would prove invaluable to horror fans.

Spend Your Day With Dirk Bogarde


All summer long Turner Classic Movies is celebrating various actors with their ongoing “Summer Under the Stars” series. But August 10th is truly something to celebrate. Today TCM will be running films that feature one of my all-time favorite actors, the extraordinarily talented and incredibly handsome Dirk Bogarde.

This would be worthy of mention no matter what films they were showing, but TCM has gone out of their way to showcase many of Dirk Bogarde’s best films from the ’50s and ’60s today that are rarely shown in the US and not available on DVD. Some highlights from today’s programing include The Spanish Gardner (Philip Leacock; 1956), Penny Princess (Val Guest; 1952), So Long at the Fair (Terence Fisher & Antony Darnborough; 1950), The Blue Lamp (Basil Dearden; 1950), The Servant (Joseph Losey; 1963), Our Mother’s House (Jack Clayton; 1967) and Darling (John Schlesinger; 1965). They’ll also be playing three films from the popular “Doctor series” (Doctor in the House; 1954, Doctor at Large; 1957, and Doctor in Distress; 1964). The Doctor films were huge hits in the UK and helped make Bogarde a world-renowned film star, but American audiences rarely have the opportunity to see them.

If you happen to be as obsessed with Dirk Bogarde as I am you’ll want to spend the entire day in front of your television. Of course that’s not always possible so consider recording some of these hard to see films for future viewing. Many of these films are not even available in the UK and they’re directed by British luminaries such as Val Guest, Basil Dearden, Jack Clayton and Terrence Fisher. This is truly a rare opportunity to see some great British movies and the event shouldn’t be missed by my fellow Dirk devotees.

Previously at Cinebeats: At Home with Dirk Bogarde.

My Top 20 Favorite Films of 1968

At the Britannica blog Raymond Benson has finished listing off his Top 10 Favorite Films of 1968 so if you’re interested in the final results stop by and give them a look. I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions how much I dislike making lists of favorite films myself since they’re limited by what I’ve seen and are subject to change at anytime. Roger Ebert recently asked his blog readers to “. . . agree that all lists of movies are nonsense.” I agreed with him wholeheartedly at the time, but in the process of watching Raymond Benson share his list favorite films from 1968 I naturally began thinking of my own favorite films released the same year.

Compiling a list of favorite films restricted by their release date without implying that they’re “the best” (whatever that means) started to seem like a fun exercise. And while reading the complaints and reservations about Raymond Benson’s own selections I even suggested that it would be interesting if all the participants of the Britannica blog “round-table” supplied their own list of Top 10 Favorite Films for 1968 so we could compare them. I figured that if we were going to scrutinize Raymond Benson’s selections we might as well scrutinize each other. I also thought that it would probably enrich the discussion. No one else seemed willing or able to share a list of there own picks, but for the past two weeks I’ve been quietly compiling a list of my own favorite films from 1968.

I wasn’t planing on sharing my own list with anyone, but over the weekend I listened to an interesting discussion between Greencine’s David Hudson, Film Comment‘s Gavin Smith and film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum about the current state of film criticism that got me contemplating my list again. During the discussion Jonathan Rosenbaum smartly pointed out that, “People love lists now because they need to. There’s too much to navigate through.” In my own experience I’ve found this to be very true. Since I started blogging my “Favorite DVDs of the year” lists for 2006 and 2007 have become some of my most popular posts and they’ve generated some lively discussions and lots of email. I think other people appreciate them because they offer a brief look at some films I’ve enjoyed and recommend. And in the words of Jonathan Rosenbaum, the lists are easy to navigate through.

So without further explanation, here’s a list of some of my own favorite films from 1968. I couldn’t manage to narrow all my choices down to a mere Top 10 so I just decided to share my Top 20 list instead. I purposefully left off documentaries so you won’t find any listed and four of the films on my list were also on Raymond Benson’s list. The numerical order doesn’t mean much and naturally my list is subject to change at anytime since I’m continually being exposed to new movies. It also should be noted that after looking at various print and online sources I’ve come across different release dates for some films. As far as I know, the following 20 films were originally released in 1968.


1. If…. (Lindsay Anderson; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about If…. can be found HERE and HERE.

Black Lizard (1968)
2. Black Lizard aka Kurotokage (Kinji Fukasaku; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Black Lizard can be found HERE.
I’m currently working on a much longer article about the film and its star that I hope to share here soon.

Spirits of the Dead (1968)
3. Spirits of the Dead aka Histoires Extraordinaires
(Federico Fellini, Louis Malle & Roger Vadim; 1968)

Some of my thought about Spirits of the Dead can be found HERE.

Teorema (1968)
4. Teorema (Pier Paolo Pasolini; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Teorema can be found HERE.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
5. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick; 1968)

Diabolik (1968)
6. Diabolik aka Danger: Diabolik! (Mario Bava; 1968)
Some of my brief thoughts about Diabolik can be found HERE.

Succubus (1968)
7. Succubus aka Necronomicon – Geträumte Sünden (Jesus Franco; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Succubus can be found HERE.

8. The Great Silence aka Il Grande silenzio (Sergio Corbucci; 1968)
Some of my thought about The Great Silence can be found HERE and HERE.

Rosemary's Baby (1968)
9. Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski; 1968)

Petulia (1968)
10. Petulia (Richard Lester; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Petulia can be found HERE.

11. Blackmail Is My Life aka Kyokatsu koso Waga Jinsei ( Kinji Fukasaku; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Blackmail Is My Life can be found HERE

Boom (1968)
12. Boom! (Joesph Losey; 1968)
My lengthy look at Boom! can be found HERE.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
13. Night of the Living Dead (George Romero; 1968)

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
14. The Thomas Crown Affair (Norman Jewison; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about The Thomas Crown Affair can be found HERE.

Girl on a Motorcycle (1968)
15. Girl on a Motorcycle aka Naked Under Leather (Jack Cardiff; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Alain Delon and Girl on a Motorcycle can be found HERE.

16. Once Upon a Time in the West aka C’era una volta il West
(Sergio Leone; 1968)

Some of my thoughts about Once Upon a Time in the West can be found HERE.

17. Death Laid an Egg aka La Morte ha fatto l’uovo (Giulio Questi; 1968)
I briefly mentioned my fondness for Death Laid an Egg HERE.

The Devil Rides Out (1968)
18. The Devil Rides Out aka The Devil’s Bride (Terence Fisher; 1968)

19. The Party (Blake Edwards; 1968)

Barbarella (1968)
20. Barbarella (Roger Vadim; 1968)

Honorable mention goes to the wonderful Yokai Monster films that I wrote about a few weeks ago.

31 Films That Give Me the Willies

Top: House with Laughing Windows (1976), Deep Red (1975)
Middle: The Seventh Victim (1942)
Bottom: Black Sabbath (1963), Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

I wasn’t going to participate in Ed Hardy’s 31 Flicks That Give You the Willies List due to suffering massive list-making burnout following the recent Favorite Foreign Language Film poll (which I still want to write about in more detail), but at the last minute I decided to send him a list of nominees. As I’ve mentioned before, horror is far and away my favorite film genre so I had an incredibly hard time narrowing down my list of favorite films to a mere 31.

I will confess that I cheated a bit since I deliberately left off any film that I knew had already gotten 3 votes and wouldn’t need mine to make the final list of nominees. Some of those films included Suspiria (1977), Martin (1977), The Wicker Man (1973), Dellamorte Dellamore aka Cemetery Man (1994), The Shining (1980), The Exorcist (1973), Psycho (1960), Alien (1979) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). With that confession out of the way, here are the . . .

31 FILMS THAT GIVE ME THE WILLIES (Listed by release date)

1. Frankenstein (1931; James Whale)
2. The Seventh Victim (1942; Mark Robson)
3. The Uninvited (1944; Lewis Allen)
4. Night of the Demon (1957; Jacques Tourner)
5. Blood and Roses (1960; Roger Vadim)
6. The Brides of Dracula (1960; Terence Fisher)
7. The Innocents (1961; Jack Clayton)
8. Night Tide (1961; Curtis Harrington)
9. Carnival of Souls (1962; Herk Harvey)
10. The Haunted Palace (1963; Roger Corman)
11. Black Sabbath (1963; Mario Bava)
12. The Haunting (1963; Robert Wise)
13. Castle of Blood (1964; Antonio Margheriti)
14. Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971; Piers Haggard)
15. Daughters of Darkness (1971; Harry Kumel)
16. Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971; Lucio Fulci)
17. Short Night of the Glass Dolls (1971; Aldo Lado)
18. Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971; Armando de Ossorio)
19. All the Colors of the Dark (1972; Sergio Martino)
20. Don’t Look Now (1973; Nicolas Roeg)
21. Deep Red (1975; Dario Argento)
22. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975; Peter Weir)
23. The Tenant (1976; Roman Polanski)
24. House with Laughing Windows (1976; Pupi Avati)
25. Full Circle (aka The Haunting of Julia, 1977; Richard Loncraine)
26. The Brood (1979; David Cronenberg)
27. Possession (1981; Andrzej Zulawski)
28. Zeder (1983; Pupi Avati)
29. The Reflecting Skin (1990; Philip Ridley)
30. Cure (1997; Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
31. Audition (1999; Takashi Miike)

After sending Ed my list I was surprised and annoyed with myself because I managed to forget to include films like Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face (1960) as well as my favorite horror anthology, Spirits of the Dead (1968) and lots of early Japanese and Spanish horror films that I love. I also neglected to include any films with Peter Lorre, Christopher Lee and Klaus Kinski who all appeared in some of my favorite thrillers. Where did my head go? I have no idea.

Some conclusions I came to after making my list:

1. Sexually repressed women, ghosts, the supernatural, vampires and devil worshipers/cults give me the willies. Since I’m not a religious person, I find it extremely amusing that so many satanic horror films made my list but I think it’s more about the esoteric elements of these films and the constant mystery of the unknown than the actual “devil” that gives these types of movies their edge. I’m also just plain frightened by cults or large masses of of people with a ‘group think’ mentality that causes them to harm others.

2. Only four American directors made my list. British and Italian directors dominate it. This isn’t a surprise since I really don’t care for American horror films all that much.

3. 1960 and 1971 were two of the most amazing years for horror cinema. At some point during the list making process I had six or eight films from each of those years on my list.

4. The only director that has more than one film on my list is the greatly under-appreciated Italian director Pupi Avati who makes some of the most fascinating and chilling films I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately I’m clearly in the minority when it comes to my affection for Avati since none of his movies made it on the final list of 180 Nominees. And as far as I know I’m the only person who even bothered to nominate any of his films for inclusion.

Last but not least…

I hope to write about some of the lessor seen films mentioned above that didn’t make the Official Nominee List in the future.

The Lady is a Vamp!

Hammer Studios created some of the greatest horror films ever made, but many critics wouldn’t consider the acting in them noteworthy and that’s a shame. Believe me when I say that you can find plenty of impressive performances in many of Hammer’s horror films if you go looking for them and one of my favorites is Barbara Shelley’s performance as Helen in Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966).

Dracula: Prince of Darkness was Terence Fisher’s incredibly creepy and effective sequel to Hammer’s Dracula (a.k.a. The Horror of Dracula, 1958). It begins when a group of British travelers find themselves lost in the Carpathian Alps and end up at an eerie castle that is home to Dracula. One of these travelers is the extremely prim and proper Helen as played by the lovely Barbara Shelley. Helen has embarked on a trip to Romania in order to experience the world and discover new things but she’s much too worried about keeping up appearances to relax and enjoy her trip.

Helen senses something isn’t right the minute she sets foot on Romanian soil and when she finally meets her fate in the arms of Christopher Lee it’s not too surprising. What’s impressive about Barbara Shelley’s noteworthy performance is the way she transforms from the uptight Helen into a sexy and lustful member of the undead. Shelley is one of the greatest female vampires to ever appear on screen and she delivers a screen stealing performance in Dracula: Prince of Darkness that leaves the rest of the cast in the dust.

Her female vampire has no scruples and doesn’t hesitate to try and seduce Diana (Suzan Farmer), the other female in the group who she seems to be harbouring secret feelings for, much to Count Dracula’s distress. When Helen’s not trying to bite another woman on the neck she’s busy going after the woman’s husband, her brother-in-law Charles (Francis Matthews), in some of the creepiest bloodsucking scenes ever conjured up by Hammer.

I first saw Dracula: Prince of Darkness when I was only about 10 or 11 years old and I’ve never forgotten Barbara Shelley’s incredible performance as Helen. Her first onscreen entrance after being turned into a vampire continues to give me chills and I still have nightmares from watching Helen beg Diana to open her bedroom window so she can feast on her innocent neck. And who can forget Barbara Shelley’s death scene? It takes a small army of monks to constrain her and Barbara Shelley’s final screams of agony are still unnerving today.

Watching Dracula: Prince of Darkness when I was a kid was an extremely memorable experience because the movie scared me silly and Barbara Shelley made me realize that it’s important to pay attention to the lesser credited actors in any production. They might secretly be the real stars of the film. I still consider Shelley’s performance as Helen to be one of the greatest moments in the history of Hammer horror. Before I saw Barbara’s unforgettable turn as Helen I had assumed that no one could upstage the iconic Christopher Lee, but I was wrong. Shelley not only upstages Lee, she literally wipes the set with the entire cast.

Barbara Shelley has appeared in many good films including Cat Girl (1957), Village of the Damned (1960), The Gorgon (1964) and Quatermass and the Pit (1967). She’s undoubtedly one of Britain’s greatest “Scream Queens” and she will always be one of my favorite actresses thanks to her amazing performance as Helen in Dracula: Prince of Darkness, which also happens to be one of the finest sequels ever made.

In an issue of the much missed magazine Hammer Horror there is an excellent article about the making of Dracula: Prince of Darkness with this terrific anecdote about the great Barbara Shelley:

“3rd May 1965 was spent shooting Ludwig’s cell on stage 4, where Barbara Shelley’s vampirised Helen would be staked on the table. In the middle of one take, Shelley struggled so violently that she managed to swallow one of her stuck-on fangs. There was no replacement available. Not wishing to hold up shooting for a day, Shelley swallowed salt water until she regurgitated the offending canine.”

That is the act of a truly dedicated performer! This is my contribution to The Performance That Changed Your Life Blog-a-thon.