The Horror of it All!

Horror thrives as the outlaw genre of filmmaking. For some reason it never gets the respect it is fully due. I’m not sure that it matters to the fans. But when I tell some of my friends I’m making horror movies, they usually say, “Why?”

Why indeed. So I wondered that myself. What is it that attracts me to this genre?

Part of the reason is the thrill of being frightened. Two movies come to mind from my childhood. Not from the Classic Universal Horror Film Catalogue, although “Frakenstiein” and “Dracula” certainly helped me love the genre.

The films were Terrence Young’s “Wait Until Dark” and Antonio Margheriti’s “Horror Castle”.

I was 8 years old in 1968 when I saw “Wait Until Dark” with my mother. I’m sure other people were with us, but I don’t remember who. We must have been visiting her sister, my Aunt Betty, in Milford at the time because she lived a block away from the cinema.

“Wait Until Dark” was a very popular home invasion movie that, as most horror films do, reflected the outside world of drugs and the violence of the counter-culture movement of the 60’s. Kind of the underbelly of the love generation. America was blind to the shift that was coming and if they didn’t act soon it would be too late. There is a revolution in your front yard! Hollywood was going through the same revolution and changing of the guard.

If you are unaware of the story is about Susy, played by Audrey Hepburn, who is a blind woman married to a photographer. One day he accidentally brings home smuggled heroin in a doll and the bad guys come to her apartment to retrieve it, while her husband is away.

Alan Arkin plays Roat, the evil leader of the gang that he plays with glee and brings the movie to a such a terrifying climax that it was listed at number 10 in Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments. I still remember everyone screaming in the audience. A magical moment.

Virgin of Nuremberg

“Horror Castle” as it was called in it’s US release, the original title being “The Virgin of Nuremberg” was an Italian Gothic Horror film that was released in 1964.  Years later on a UHF channel I watched one day when I was home alone from school.  I thought it was going to be another mundane ghost story in a castle until the protagonist Mary Hunter, played by Rossana Podesta, finds a blonde beauty in an Iron Madien with her eyes bloodied and dripping onto the floor. What the hell was this?

A little later another woman, a brunette beauty has her head placed in a cage with a starving rat, that devours a part of her face. This was way ahead of its time in 1964, and horrified my young mind. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The villain later exposed as  man with no face, a precursor to Vincent Price as Dr. Phibes, because of Nazi torture. The movie connecting the dots between the horrors and tortures of the Catholic Inquisition to that of the Nazi’s. How much more has humanity really evolved?

Years later learning the social significance of these films was a bonus. But as a kid just having the hell scared out of me was more than enough to realize how potent this art form was.

And sometimes that is reason enough.

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About skipshea

Horror Filmmaker and Fan skipshea.com
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7 Responses to The Horror of it All!

  1. BJHickson says:

    Great job. Love horror, I always need my horror fix!

  2. guinnalyn mason says:

    Well , Skip, horror films…I tend to think suspense is more of a thrill than horror, for me anyway. Any amount of scare and a film is almost always called a horror film. I would not enjoy watching “Saw” for example, that would be horror for me. But Hitchcock ( which are truly suspenseful and have kept many a person sitting on their edges), well those films are crafted. Even those 50’s and 60’s “Horror” films like “The Thing” or “They” or a five dozen other films, I watch them and if enjoy could be a word for it, well I like to jump when I am watching something meant to scare me. They are fun or are they called science fiction? You craft films of suspense I think. Horror? I suppose I do not see that word as do you? Film, an art form I can not get enough of. Thank you for the blog, wonderful insights.

  3. William Decoff says:

    Very Nice Skip

  4. chrisdsav says:

    I found you
    I will have to look this film up as I have not heard of it
    Good job Skip welcome to WordPress

  5. Wait Until Dark terrified me when I was a kid and still does. Nightmares guaranteed when I watch it.

  6. Che! says:

    Never having given it any thought until now, yet fascinated with the question of its provenance, I’ve traced the genesis of my affinity for the horror genre back to late night Fridays, in the 50s: 1958.

    “Zacherley at Large,” in NYC presented:
    “The Beast with Five Fingers,” featuring Peter Lorre (Scary! Scary! Scary! Then …)

    Note: Zacherley also hosted Chiller Theater in the 60s in NYC. I believe he had stood down as Chiller’s host though when I saw its presentation of Margheriti’s “Horror Castle.” (I may be mistaken about the film’s venue. Nonetheless, it’s a keeper in my ledger.)

    Back in 1958 I also sat, transfixed with fear and dread, through the following triptych of sensational spectacles:
    “Rodan,” 1958
    “The Crawling Eye,” 1958; (AKA “The Trollenberg Terror”) w/ Forrest Tucker
    “Cosmic Monsters,” 1958; (AKA “The Strange World of Planet X”) w/ Forrest Tucker

    All at our local theater’s Saturday Matinee, $0.25; That’s right $0.25! For an A and a B movie, a cartoon and newsreel.

    However, The Big One, the one everybody* in my neighborhood and at school anticipated with unfettered delight and equal trepidation was:

    William Castle’s “House on Haunted Hill,” 1959, w/ Vincent Price. ’Nuff said!

    I can still see, as if I’m looking at them right now, what we called then “coming attractions” — on TV and in the theaters, in B&W. (Color TV had not yet become ubiquitous.) And yes, I can still see vividly certain terrifying scenes such as …

    * (guys anyway, un-enlightened as we were then, we didn’t solicit, let alone register in our discussions/debates, the opinions of girls on these momentous cultural issues)

    Three of my favorites from the 60s:

    “Carnival Of Souls,” 1963, Herk Harvey: Writer, Producer and Director, (Scary! and Creepy!)
    “Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors,” 1965, Amicus Productions, with a great ensemble including an early Donald Sutherland and a couple of my favorites: Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.
    “The Skull,” 1965, Amicus, featuring my favorites: Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee

    Amicus rivaled Hammer Studios (both in England) for some of the best horror film productions of sixties.

    The Big Ones Of the sixties; the Really, Really BIG ones, the masterpieces of horror, sensation, spectacle and terror:
    “Wait Until Dark,” 1967
    “Rosemary’s Baby,” 1968, Roman Polanski

    P.S. Peter Lorre, Vincent Price and Forrest Tucker are three more of my favorite actors.

    P.P.S. I played Roat in a stage production of “Wait Until Dark,” Frederick Knott’s play, and basis for the film; 25 years ago this coming Halloween.

  7. David Graziano says:

    I can’t wait…

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