DISCOUNT SCARES DELIVER BIG OF HALLOWEEN TREATS
For years, I’ve posted or published a “Do It Yourself Halloween Horror Film Fest” that’s just about exhausted the best as well as the most obscure (but still cool) horror films from the earliest days of cinema to the present. Home video distributor Mill Creek has been in the business of collecting mostly public domain films and making them available in low cost collection of 50, 100 and even 250 titles. In these harder economic times, here are three collections of cheesy, camp, retro and artistic gems of varying quality. Each collection contains 12 discs and between 3,600 and 4,200 minutes viewing pleasure. I’ve seen these collections for sale in stores (try Record Alley at Westfield) and online for about $10. Dirt cheap by any standard. There’s something here for everyone from classics, B-movie, cult and schlock. Creatures, ghosts, madmen (and women) run amok in this instant library of unsettling cinema. Yes, there are some overlaps and duplications of titles, but so what? (Maybe you’ll want to see it twice?). A few of the many stars included: John Barrymore, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney (Sr and Jr), Jack Nicholson, Ginger Rogers, Vincent Price, Dean Jagger, Boris Karloff, John Carradine, Max Schreck, Mike Conners, Richard Carlson, Robert Reed, Turhan Bay, Barbara Steele, Charles Laughton, Peter Lorre and the ever-popular George Zucco.
I wish there were space enough to elaborate on some of the offbeat and obscure titles as well as display some of the very cool vintage poster art that was created for the titles when they were first released in theaters. Reading all of the titles included in the various collections does give you a true feeling of the tine and subject of the films — as well as the cheese ball factor. But this is not a case of caveat emptor by any means.
LEGENDS OF HORROR
The Ape Man, Blackmail, The Bowery at Midnight, Champagne (silent), The Chaney Vase, Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride, Crimes at the Dark House, The Crimes of Stephen Hawke, The Demon, The Devil Bat, The Devil’s Messenger, Easy Virtue (silent), End of the World, The Face at the Window, The Farmer’s Wife (silent), The Fury of the Wolfman, The Ghost, Horror Express, The Incredible Petrified World, The Island Monster, It’s Never Too Late to Mend, Jamaica Inn, Juno and Paycock, The Lady Vanishes, Legacy of Blood, The Lodger (silent), The Long Hair of Death, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Manfish, The Manxman (silent), Murder in the Red Barn, The, Nightmare Never Ends, Number Seventeen, The Phantom Creeps, Rich and Strange, The Ring (silent), Sabotage, A Scream in the Night, Secret Agent, Shadow of Chinatown, The Shadow of, Silk Lennox, The She Beast, Shock, Silent Night, Bloody Night, The Skin Game, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Thirty-Nine Steps, The Ticket of Leave Man, The Werewolf VS Vampire Women and Young And Innocent. 12 discs (3604 minutes).
The Amazing Transparent Man, Anatomy of a Psycho, Blood Sabbath, Bloody Pit of Horror, Crucible of Horror, Curse of Bigfoot, Death in the Shadows, Death Warmed Up, The Devil’s Nightmare, Devil’s Possessed, Doctor Jekyll and the Werewolf, Don’t Answer the Phone!, Double Exposure, The Dungeon of Harrow, The Eerie, Midnight Horror Show, The Embalmer, Evil Brain from Outer Space, Fangs of the Living Dead, Frankenstein 80, Grave of the Vampire, Green Eyes, Guru: The Mad Monk, Hands of Steel, Horror Rises from the Tomb, The House by the Cemetery, The House That Screamed, It Happened at Nightmare Inn, Keep My Grave Open
Manos: The Hands of Fate, The Manster, Monstroid, Mutant, My Mom’s a Werewolf, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, Night Fright, Night of Bloody Horror, Night of the Blood Beast, The Oval Portrait, Point of Terror, The Sadist, Satan’s Slave, Scared to Death, The Tell-Tale Heart, Terror Creatures from the Grave, Terror in the Jungle, They Saved Hitler’s Brain, Thirsty Dead, The Undertaker and His Pals, Vampire’s Night Orgy and The Werewolf of Washington (is this about the upcoming election or just politics as usual?) 12 Discs (4,200 minutes).
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Blue Beard, The Corpse, Night of the Living Dead, Doomed to Die, The Phantom of the Opera, The Indestructible Man, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Nosferatu, Swamp Women, The World Gone Mad, The Little Shop of Horrors
Tormented starring Richard Carlson, The Monster Walks Among Us, Monster from a Prehistoric Planet, The Gorilla, A Shriek in the Night, Bloodlust, The Amazing Mr. X, Last Woman on Earth, The Bat, The House on Haunted Hill, The Last Man on Earth, Dementia 13, Phantom from 10,000 Leagues, Atom Age Vampire, Creature from the Haunted Sea, Nightmare Castle starring Barbara Steele, Black Dragons, Invisible Ghost, One Body Too Many, White Zombie, Attack of the Giant Leeches, The Screaming Skull, Beast of Yucca Flats, The Terror, Revolt of the Zombies, The Giant Gilla Monster, The Fatal Hour, Dead Men Walk, The Mad Monster, Maniac, Metropolis and The Vampire Bat. 12 Discs (3,743 minutes).
BABES IN TOYLAND
When people ask, What’s the scariest movie of all time? I always reply that, for me, it’s Laurel & Hardy’s MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS (AKA BABES IN TOYLAND). This beautiful, brilliant, fever-dream of a movie adapted from Victor Herbert’s operetta “Babes in Toyland,” delves dangerously into an alternate world hallucinatory madness.
Dum (Stan) and Dee (Ollie) are Santa’s toymakers preparing for the big delivery on Christmas Eve. Mother Goose and nursery rhyme characters are all over the place and Stan and Ollie are in constant trouble (“Is that 100 six-foot toy soldiers or 600 one-footers?”) Silas Barnaby, (remember “the meanest man in town”?), Bo Peep (she’s being forced into marriage by Silas or he will evict Bo’s mom, who is in fact The Old Woman In The Shoe). And there’s Tom Tom the Piper’s Son (Ms Peep’s true love) and the big finale with the creepy attack of the Bogeymen.
This classic has been cleaned up, digitally remastered and colorized. Yes, the great Crayola hues are a huge plus. It looks about as perfect as the best of old style children’s book illustrations and I bet Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy would have wanted this one in color if there had been the budge for it.
However, this Fauvistic children’s fable implies all kinds of dark, psychologically unsettling themes. For those who dare to read between the lines (or movie frames), this film can be seen as a sly and subversive horror fest that plumbs deeply disturbing psychological and political issues rarely dared in contemporary films. I am amazed that someone hasn’t examined this in detail and I have often wondered how much of it may have been intentional — perhaps from the brilliantly demented mind of Stan Laurel. Just know that only on the surface is this a children’s Christmas movie. So here’s my suggestion: If you only have time for one scary movie after trick or treating, see this one the way I’m convinced it was meant to be seen – on a sugar rush, in color and on Halloween! 1934. Legend Films.