Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Horrors of 1960, Part II

For my top 10 favorite horror movies of 1960, please visit the link provided: Top 10 Horror Movies of 1960.

Just the other day, I posted my top 10 favorite horror movies of 1960. It took me a while to watch all the movies I wanted in order to make that list, so naturally there were several other films that sadly did not quite make the cut. So, before moving on to the next horror list, I've decided to pay tribute to a few other films that I feel deserve mention, despite not cracking my top 10. These are movies that are notable for any number of reasons, but we'll get into that with each individual entry. Here we go.

Village Of The Damned

Everyone knows this movie, even if they haven't heard of it. A small group of light-haired British "children" with telepathic powers, capable of reading minds and manipulating people into performing against their will. As intriguing as this film is during its first and second acts, it never strikes me as much of a horror movie, more just an interesting science fiction story with a few subtle hues of horror thrown in. Not only this, but I find the topic much more captivating than the execution itself, as the film manages to become quite boring to me every time I watch it. It would have worked better as a Twilight Zone episode. I decided to give it another shot right before typing up my top 10, and my opinion was not swayed. So I feel this movie deserves mention merely to point out that yes, I have seen it I just don't so much care for it. It's bound to be chilling to people who find young British children inherently terrifying, but it sadly doesn't live up to the promise of the first half for the rest of us. As for availability, it can be found in multiple collections, 2-packs, and can be found individually on DVD and blu-ray for relatively cheap (anywhere from $5-10). While I peronally wouldn't recommend it, I do recognize it's large fanbase, and acknowledge that many people will find much more to enjoy in this movie than I do. So I can only advise you to check it out if you're interested in watching a sort of cult classic, but to keep expectations relatively low.

The City Of The Dead

Landing probably 12th on my overall list of favorite horror movies of the year, The City Of The Dead (or Horror Hotel, as some sources would refer to it) didn't quite hit the list due to a few last minute inclusions, like Eyes Without A Face. In a lesser year, it would have easily found a place in my top 10, but since 1960 was such a fantastic year for horror, it sadly wasn't quite able to make it. Though it's inaccurately billed as a starring vehicle for Christopher Lee, he only plays maybe the 4th or 5th most central character, so don't get your hopes up for a movie centered on Lee. Taking an unexpected turn roughly halfway through, this movie managed to surprise me with its willingness to make a pretty difficult turn, leading up to a pretty fantastic finale. The punchline isn't much of a surprise, but it still does well setting up the quirky and unsettling nature of the titular city (which really is more of a village or community, though I can understand why they didn't feel "Community Of The Dead" would be a very good title), which is reminiscent in ways of certain aspects of Silent Hill. This film can be found for a reasonable price on DVD and blu-ray, though I don't feel the blu-ray is necessarily warranted here, in spite of some cool visuals -- that is, assuming there aren't plenty of bonus features you might want to get your hands on. Just make sure you don't accidentally pick up City Of The LIVING Dead, which I haven't seen yet, so cannot attest to its quality. It's isn't a classic by any means, but the positives more than outweigh the negatives, and it would definitely earn a light recommendation (after the original top 10, of course).

Mill Of The Stone Women

Notable for being the first Italian horror film shot in technicolor, this somewhat obscure release can actually be found in various languages on sites like YouTube for free. I can't pretend I was close to putting this movie on my list, as I had already pretty much set my top 10 by the time I watched this, but it has left a strange impression on me nonetheless. Picture the Vincent Price version of House Of Wax done in the style of a giallo or Herschell Gordon Lewis movie and you might have an idea what I'm talking about. Unless you have no idea what those things are, in which case I apologize, because I couldn't make it any clearer than that. Vibrant colors, weird and sometimes hilariously cheesy practical effects, and very dramatic lighting are some of the things you'll have in store for you assuming you decide to venture into this bizarre French/Italian horror, and while I would have a hard time recommending it to most people, I would say it's worth checking out if you have an interest in Italian horror. I wouldn't bother trying to buy this one (physical copies of this movie are virtually non-existent and probably over-priced), but again, it can currently be found on youtube and other free streaming sites, so I'd check it out there first.

The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll

I'm a big fan of the gothic sensibilities of Hammer's classic horror films, especially those under the direction of Terence Fisher (who is among my favorite horror directors of all-time). The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll, despite lacking the presence of Peter Cushing, still features Christopher Lee in an important and fairly central role, and gives Paul Massie - who portrays Jekyll/Hyde - plenty of strong material to work with. Although this wasn't the only attempt Hammer made at adapting a Jekyll and Hyde story, their first being a 1959 comedy called The Ugly Duckling, and their third also a comedic attempt named Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype from 1980, this one remains their definitive attempt at a true horror version of this story. And while it doesn't work quite as well as, say the 1931 version starring Fredric March, this is among the better adaptations I have seen. Notable for reversing the effects of the potion in certain ways, Jekyll becomes more attractive and pleasant outwardly when transforming into Hyde, serving as a far more interesting contrast to the darkness within the character himself. Released only a couple years before Jerry Lewis' The Nutty Professor, I think it's safe to say this film served as a good deal of the inspiration for his rendition. Available on various collections featuring other Hammer horror movies for a decent price, The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll isn't one of their very best efforts, but still stands out for being risky, unexpected, and definitely worth looking into. This one very, very nearly made my top 10.

The Vampire And The Ballerina

Although this one never really stood a chance to make my list, it was still a bizarre and unique movie I felt deserved mention on this post. Shot in black and white with the use of incredible lighting and some intriguing practical effects, The Vampire And The Ballerina doesn't lie to you about what it has to offer: there is a vampire, and there are most definitely ballerinas. Sometimes it's nice to know that the title of a movie isn't misleading at all, and for people who share my outlook, there is this little movie. It's not an incredible horror experience, but it looks great and yes, the ballerinas look pretty nice, too. I couldn't legitimately offer this one up as a recommendation to buy - which is fine, really, because I don't even think it can be purchased anywhere on physical media - but it is worth looking into watching. Much like Mill Of The Stone Women, it's much more likely to appeal to fans of Italian horror than anyone else, although it really isn't much like many other Italian horrors of this era. This one is still available on Youtube, and is only roughly 80 minutes long, so it is worth checking out if you want to try out something that's a little different.

And those are my additional notes. I didn't want to include a massive honorable mentions section on my list, so I figured this would work as a good way to flesh out my opinions and give additional insight into movies that I liked and couldn't fit onto the list, or just movies I wanted to mention to verify that I had actually seen them in spite of their absence on my countdown. I hope this post was interesting to you, and I hope you check out my upcoming posts, as I am very excited to be sharing them with you all.

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