Sunday, October 31, 2021

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Cinema '62: Boo!

It's Halloween! Happy Halloween, everyone! We've discussed the Academy Award nominees of 1962, so, in light of it being October 31st, why not discuss the year's horror offerings? The following ten films were released in the US in 1962, though some were out much earlier in their home countries:

The Cabinet of Caligari
dir/pr: Roger Kay
scr: Robert Bloch
cin: John L. Russell

A riff on the concept of the famous German Expressionist film from 1920, this Caligari has Glynis Johns as a woman who happens on a gated mansion whose host, Caligari, is a shadowy, sex-crazed figure. There is a mystery to be unraveled, of course, and there's a general nightmare sensibility about the proceedings. On the whole, an inventive post-Psycho adaptation embracing the obsessions of the times (sex! Freudian psychology! lovely blondes with big eyes!). Watch for the sets, cinematography, and play between Johns and Dan O'Herlihy.

Carnival of Souls
dir/pr: Herk Harvey
scr: John Clifford, story by Herk Harvey
cin: Maurice Prather

A weird cult classic whose low budget, advantageous locations, and never-seen-again cast come together for one of the eeriest supernatural thrillers of the era. A woman climbs out of a car accident, becomes an organist for a church in another town, and is haunted by images of ghastly ghouls from an abandoned carnival. Many films here deal with alienation, but it is Candice Hilligoss's performance here that best captures the anxious conflict of both wanting to be and fearful of being left alone. Haunting organ music.

Creature from the Haunted Sea
dir/pr: Roger Corman
scr: Charles B. Griffith
cin: Jacques R. Marquette

Send-up of Red Scare espionage thrillers and creature feature horrors, where a bumbling agent gets on a pleasure cruise with a gangster and some Cubans for some intrigue. If you accept that the cheap effects are purposely so, a wink and a nod at the audience, and focus instead on the one-liners and, especially, Betsy Jones-Moreland's riff on the gun moll, you'll have a good time. A favorite of my dad's.

Eyes Without a Face
dir: Georges Franju
pr: Jules Borkon / Riccardo Gualino
scr: adaptation by Pierre Boileau & Thomas Narcejac & Jean Redon & Claude Sautet, dialogue by Pierre Gascar
cin: Eugen Sch├╝fftan

AKA The Horror Chamber of Doctor Faustus. A great surgeon kidnaps girls and skins their faces to repair his daughter's visage following an accident. You can see where Almodovar got his inspo for The Skin I Live In. Straightforward pulp, beautifully executed in script, performances, score, makeup. Sophisticated but off.

Horror Hotel
dir: John Llewellyn Moxey
pr: Max Rosenberg / Donald Taylor
scr: George Baxt, story by Milton Subotsky
cin: Desmond Dickinson

AKA The City of the DeadPsycho with witches, beat for beat. Awesome. A great showcase for Patricia Jessel, who originated the Marlene Dietrich role on the West End and Broadway in Witness for the Prosecution. A pip!

Peeping Tom
dir/pr: Michael Powell
scr: Leo Marks
cin: Otto Heller

The film that challenges the horror movie audience's taste for voyeuristic thrills! Did anyone photograph color like Michael Powell? He worked with various cinematographers, he's the common denominator, and they're all gorgeous - this, Black Narcissus, A Matter of Life and Death, Age of Consent. Gorgeous! And spine-chilling - the scene with Moira Shearer, the visit from Maxine Audley, the climax...ooh, this is a spooky good time. This and Carnival of Souls are your guaranteed good times.

The Phantom of the Opera
dir: Terence Fisher
pr/scr: Anthony Hinds
cin: Arthur Grant

An interesting Hammer take on the oft-told tale, borrowing a little from the 1943 version, portraying the backstage politics of thee-ay-ter in a way that's unforgivably confused. Herbert Lom delivers a fresh take on the Phantom, defanged but with the scars of past violence and years in the cellars taking a toll on his mental health. That's an interesting wrinkle. This new guy, the Dwarf? I don't get it. Getting to watch a new opera about Joan of Arc? I dig it.

Premature Burial
dir: Roger Corman
pr: Samuel Z. Arkoff / Roger Corman
scr: Charles Beaumont and Ray Russell
cin: Floyd Crosby

Fun psycho-thriller has both an eccentric's obsessive fear and a mystery to solve. The one Corman-Poe film without Price, he's surprisingly not missed, Ray Milland and co. proving to be an able ensemble in tune with the material's gothic terror and dark mischievousness. The scene where Milland is showing off a coffin he built himself is a comic highlight.

Tales of Terror
dir/pr: Roger Corman
scr: Richard Matheson
cin: Floyd Crosby

Three stories by Edgar Allan Poe (actually four!), all starring Vincent Price in a one-of-a-kind showcase of range that would not be equaled until Theatre of Blood eleven years later. In "Morella," Price is depressed and welcomes back his estranged daughter. In "The Black Cat," Price is humorously pompous in his rivalry with Peter Lorre. In "The Case of M. Valdemar," Price is dead, his voice doing the heavy lifting as a man caught between the states of life and death via hypnosis. Good stuff, the rare anthology that's not so uneven.

Tower of London
dir: Roger Corman
pr: Gene Corman
scr: Leo Gordon and F. Amos Powell and James B. Gordon (as Robert E. Kent), story by Leo Gordon and F. Amos Powell
cin: Archie R. Dalzell

Riff on Richard III that embraces supernatural elements. Ehhhhh. Only worth seeing for a Price performance depicting the brutality of weakness.

Tomorrow, we'll be learning some new tunes, courtesy of the films of 1962. Stay tuned...

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