Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Top Ten Horror Movies of the 1960s

As we go back further in time, the movies get less gory, there are fewer sub genres, and we lose that sta

10. Witchfinder General (1968) - Ever wanted to see Vincent Price in his most evil role? Look no further than Witchfinder General (sometimes known as Conqueror Worm). This Michael Reeves directed period piece is the story of Matthew Hopkins (Price), notorious witchhunter and rapist, as he makes his way across Europe driving confessions out of innocents and then killing them for their troubles. I told you that it was Price's most devious role. This little British piece most definitely needs to be seen more, luckily the DVD is readily available (namely in the Vincent Price Collection), so pick it up!

9. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) - Robert Aldrich directs and Bette Davis and Joan Crawford star in this tale of former child star Jane Hudson (and aged Bette Davis) and her sister Blanche (Crawford). Davis' Baby Jane is absolutely creepy-as-hell and one of the recurring figures from my nightmares as a child. Watch the two sisters relationship as it collapses further into truly bizarre oblivion. A great film, and Aldrich's later Hush...Hush Sweet Charlotte makes a wonderful companion piece to it!

8. The Birds (1963) - You knew that Alfred Hitchcock would be on here in some shape or fashion, and he debuts on the list with one of my favorite genres: animals run amok. In Hitch's case, its harmless little birdies that go nuts on humanity. Tippi Hedren stars, along with a whole bunch of birds, in this one. While it may be considrered pretty tame by today's standards, I gurantee that for days after you watch this flick, you'll feel ill at ease when you find yourself around a large group of bids.

7. The Last Man on Earth (1964) - This adaptation of Richard Matheson's beloved novel I am Legend is actually really good. With noneother than Vincent Price in the lead Dr. Robert Morgan (Neville from the book), The Last Man on Earth does take its fair share of liberties with the story, but gets the themes pretty much right, which is something that you really have to do when adapting this particular novel. Though possibly miscast here, Vincent Price does a very good job trying to capture the intricacies of the self-destructive last man on the planet.

6. Pit and the Pendulum (1961) - The teaming of Roger Corman, Barbara Steele, and Vincent Price to tackle poe is like a gothic fanboy's wet dream. I'll spare you the details on the story, but I do have to talk a little bit about the glorious set pieces in the film that really pop. The gothic soundstages are particularly extravagent, especially for an AIP picture. The influence that this film had on later Italian directors like Bava and Argento is pretty evident upon first viewing, and makes the film that much more interesting when watched in context.

5. Carnival of Souls (1962) - One of the eeriest pictures you may have never seen Carnival of Souls is a near masterpiece directed by a ma, Herk Harvey, who is relatively unknown outside of this film. After a tragic accident, our heroine, Mary, travels to a town to become an organist in a church. Seeing strange apparations at an abandoned carnival, Mary begins to realize that everything is not as it seems in this new town. The movie is filled with great imagery that will really stick with you. Carnival of Souls is available everywhere on DVD and on the net because it is public domain, but I would definitely recommend the Criterion Collection DVD release.

4. The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) - Roman Polanski directs and stars in this hilarious take on the vampire genre. This farce, sometimes known as Dance of the Vampires, is the story of Professor Abronsius and his assistant as they stumble ass backwards into the hands of Count Krolock and his horde of the undead! I highly recommend that you try this flick out, especially if you enjoy films like Young Frankenstein or any of the Abbot and Costello meet the Universal monster pictures. Great stuff.

3. Rosemary's Baby (1968) - Polanski makes the list for a second time, this one, however, is played completely straight. One of his greatest achievements, Rosemary's Baby managed to be both a fantastic film and a commercial success (never an easy feat) that really pushed the envelope of what was taboo in American cinema. I'm sure it was at least a little shocking to see a film about a woman being impregnated by the Prince of Darkness back in 1968. No matter what the socio-political climate may have been in the 'Nam/Manson/Hippie era, American film had (and still is to a lesser degree) been historically conservative. That must've been a kick in the head for a lot of right-wingers, but there is little question that it's a wonderful picture.

2. Psycho (1960) - Hitchcock's master piece of susepnse may drag a little long for some people, but if you have the patience to get through the somewhat tedious set-up, Psycho is an amazing character study that still has the ability to chill today. Anthony Perkins' Norman Bates is a truly strange character, but especially for 1960. A cross-dressing, corpse loving mama's boy, Bates is somewhat based on notorious necrophile and killer Ed Gein. Obviously I have to mention the notorious shower scene, which all the *oomph* has been taken out of for first time viewers because of the countless parodies. Yes, watching it today, the shower scene still holds up very well and is still one of the all-time greatest deaths.

1. Night of the Living Dead (1968) - Of course George A. Romero's seminal picture that essentially created the rules for the modern zombie tops out the list. There are many layers to the film, people "read" it as a social commentary all the time, the focal point being a black protagonist facing an onslaught of exclusively white foes that never stop barraging him. Obviously there is more to it than that, but that is one way that people "read" the film. Even just on the surface, however, the movie is as fantastic a piece of film-making as you are ever likely to see. The fun, and scary, Alamo-type story is one of the all time greats that allows the viewer to put himself in the same scenario without a whole lot of imagination.


Tower Farm said...

Good list -- I would've said the 60s were a dry decade for horror, but you reminded me of some great ones. Love "The Birds" and "Baby Jane" best, I think.

wiec? said...

great list. only haven't seen is The Witchfinder. going to Netfliks now.

bryan said...

miscast? vincent price or will smith, you decide.

The Warfreak said...

Thanks, guys. Glad you enjoyed it!

And, Bryan, despite the fact that Will Smith portrayed (pretty much) the same character, that doesn't mean that Vincent Price was the best possible candidate for the role. Now, I'm a HUGE Price fan, but I would've rather seen someone like Robert Mitchum in that role. He'd be a little easier to buy.

Radiation Cinema! said...

Warfreak: Great wrap up of the best the 60s had to offer. I agree with every choice, particularily the Birds. The first time I saw this film was a good thirty years ago and I still feel a chill if I see more than 6 or 7 birds flying around near me for no apparent reason. I hate it when they land in a tree next to you, and watch you with one eye as you pass. Now that's the power of film. -- Mykal

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