Sunday, June 18, 2017

This Week in Fright Film History June 18 - 24, 2017

Them! (1954) a science fiction film about a nest of gigantic irradiated ants was based on a story treatment by George Worthing Yates, which was developed into a screenplay by Ted Sherdeman and Russell Hughes. Directed by Gordon Douglas, and stars James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon and James Arness. Them! (1954) which is of the first "nuclear monster" movies, and the first "big bug" film, was released on June 19, 1954.

          Jaws (1975) directed by Steven Spielberg and based on Peter Benchley's novel of the same name. The film which starred Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw was released theatrically June 20, 1975. Jaws (1975) has been erroneous been
given the distinction of be the first blockbuster.At the time of Jaws (1975) a film that exceeded $100,000,000 in ticket sales was considered a “Blockbuster”.  Films such as Gone With the Wind (1939), Ben-Hur (1959) and The Sound of Music (1965) had earned well over 100,000,000. Jaws (1975) did encourage many Hollywood producers to make higher budget films with wide commercial appeal and promote these films with extensive advertising blitzes before their release, thus beginning what is known as the “Blockbuster Era” in Hollywood.

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955) directed by Charles Lamont and starring the comedy team of Abbott and Costello was released on June 23, 1955.

Irving Pichel an American film director and actor who played  Sandor, Countess Marya Zaleska’s servant in Dracula's Daughter (1936) was born on June 24, 1891.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

This Week in Fright Film History June 11 to 17, 2017

Brigitte Helm died  on June 11, 1996 at the age of 90. Helm made over thirty other films during her career including Metropolis (1927) and Alraune (1928). Helm was at one time considered for the title role in Bride of Frankenstein before Elsa Lanchester was given the role.

Rosemary's Baby  (1968)  a psychological horror film written and directed by Roman Polanski, based on  Ira Levin’s 1967 novel Rosemary's Baby  was arleased on June 12 1968. The cast includes Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Ralph Bellamy, Maurice Evans, Sidney Blackmer and Charles Grodin. Following the film inspired a string of other films involving  Devil worshippers and black magic, including The Brotherhood of Satan, Mark of the Devil, and Black Noon.

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) was a science fiction giant monster film directed by Eugène Lourié, starring Paul Christian, Paula Raymond and Cecil Kellaway, and with visual effects by Ray Harryhausen was released on June 13, 1953.

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello meet Frankenstein (1948), horror comedy film directed by Charles Barton and starring the comedy team of Abbott and Costello was release on June 15, 1948. This film is often referred to as simply Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and was  the first of several films where the comedy duo meets classic characters from Universal's horror series .

On June 16, 1979, Son of Svengoolie debuted on WFLD, with Rich Koz in the title role.  The “Son of” was later dropped making the name of the program simply Svengoolie. Svengoolie a long-running local program featuring classic horror films in the Chicago area has become somewhat of a sensation after expanding nationally on Me-TV. The program airs Saturday nights at 9pm cst.

Psycho (1960) directed by Alfred Hitchcock starring Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, and Janet Leigh. The film was written by Joseph Stefano, the screenplay was based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch which was  inspired by the crimes of murderer and grave robber Ed Gein. Psycho (1960) was released on June 16, 1960.

Mesa of Lost Women (1953) directed by Ron Ormond and Herbert Tevos. The film, which featured Jackie Coogan best remembered as Charlie Chaplin's sidekick in The Kid (1921) and Uncle Fester in 1960s sitcom The Addams Family. This low-budget science fiction film was released on June 17, 1953.

The Terror (1963) a low budget horror film produced and directed by Roger Corman and starred Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson was released on June 17, 1963. The film was also released as Lady of the Shadows, The Castle of Terror, and The Haunting.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

This Week in Fright Film History June 4 - 10, 2017

Revolt of the Zombies (1936) an American horror film directed and produced by the Halperin Brothers was released on June 4, 1936. The film stars Dean Jagger and Dorothy Stone. It is one of the earliest zombie films was released on June 4, 1936. Although he received no credit for the film, Bela Lugosi's eyes do appear in Revolt of the Zombies.

The Unknown (1927) an American silent horror film directed by Tod Browning and featuring Lon Chaney as Alonzo the Armless and Joan Crawford  was released on June 4, 1927. Movies critics have often cited Chaney's performance as one of the best ever on film. Joan Crawford said that she learned more about acting from working with Chaney in this movie than from everything else in her career.

Damien: Omen II (1978) directed by Don Taylor, starring William Holden, Lee Grant, and Jonathan Scott-Taylor was released on June 9, 1978. William Holden was the original choice to star in The Omen (1976), but he turned it down.  After The Omen (1976) became such a huge hit,  Holden made sure he got a part in the sequel.

Poltergeist III  (1988) the third and final entry in the original Poltergeist film series was released on June 10, 1988. The film was directed  by Gary Sherman and starred  Tom Skerritt,  Nancy Allen, Heather O'Rourke and Zelda Rubinstein.  O'Rourke and  Rubinstein were the only original cast members to return for this final installment of the trilogy.  The film was dedicated to O'Rourke who died four months before the film was release.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

This Week in Fright Film History May 28 to June 3, 2017

James Whale best remembered for having directed such classics as Frankenstein (1931), The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1933) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) committed suicide by drowning himself in his swimming pool in Hollywood, California on May 29,1957, he was 57 years old.

Jungle Woman (1944) released by Universal Pictures on June 1, 1944. The movie a sequel to Captive Wild Woman( 1943) The film features Evelyn Ankers, J. Carrol Naish, Samuel S. Hinds, , and Acquanetta.  Acquanetta was nicknamed "The Venezuelan Volcano" for her exotic beauty. 

Revolt of the Zombies {1936) an American horror film directed and produced by the Halperin Brothers was released on June 4, 1936. The film stars Dean Jagger and Dorothy Stone. It is one of the earliest zombie films. Although he received no credit for the film, Bela Lugosi's eyes do appear in Revolt of the Zombies (1936).

Sunday, May 21, 2017

This Week in Fright Film History May 21 - 27, 2017

Quatermass 2,  U.S. title  Enemy From Space (1957) a British science fiction/horror film starring Brian Donlevy, Jack Warner, Richard Wordsworth and Margia Dean was released on May 24, 1957. Quatermass 2 (1957) was a sequel to The Quatermass Xperiment (1955).

Dawn of the Dead (1979) written and directed by George A. Romero, the second film in Romero's Living Dead series was released May 24, 1979.

 Body SnatherThe Body Snatcher (1945) directed by Robert Wise, based on the short story The Body Snatcher by Robert Louis Stevenson.  The Body Snatcher (1945) the last film to feature both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi was released on May 25, 1945. The Body Snatcher (1945) is based the short story The Body Snatcher (1884) by  Robert Louis Stevenson which was based loosely on the Burke and Hare murders also known as the West Port murders. Burke and Hare were accused of committing a string of murders in Edinburgh, Scotland over a period of approximately ten months in 1828. William Burke and William Hare reportedly sold 16 corpses to a Doctor Robert Knox for his anatomy lectures. When faced with a shortage of suitable corpses, Burke and Hare began murdering people and selling the bodies to the unsuspecting Dr. Knox.

The Gorilla (1939) an American comedy/horror film starring the Ritz Brothers, Lionel Atwill, Bela Lugosi, and Patsy Kelly was released on May 26, 1939.

Peter Cushing was born on May, 26 1913. He is known for his many appearances in Hammer Films, in which he played the Baron Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Van Helsing. He appeared as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars (1977) and Dr. Who in Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965) and Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966).

Christopher Lee. known for appearing as Count Dracula in a number or Horror films, Francisco Scaramanga in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), Saruman in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (2001–2003) and The Hobbit film trilogy (2012–2014), and Count Dooku in the final two films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy (2002 and 2005) was born on May 27, 1922

Sunday, May 14, 2017

This Week in Fright Film History May 14 - 20, 2017

Margaret Hamilton was an American film character actress best known for her role as Miss Almira Gulch and the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz (1939) and 13 Ghost (1960). She died in her sleep following a heart attack on May 16, 1985, in Salisbury, Connecticut.

She-Wolf of London (1946)  released by Universal Studios on May 17, 1946. The film was directed by Jean Yarbrough and starring Don Porter and June Lockhart, best known for her role on the TV series Lost in Space.

The Black Cat (1934) which was the first of eight movies to pair actors Béla Lugosi and Boris Karloff was released on May 18, 1934. The film was retitled for its British release to "The House of Doom" because in Britain, black cats are seen as lucky. Black cats are sometimes given in token form to British brides on their wedding day. The Black Cat (1934) was Universal Pictures' biggest box office hit of the year.

Fright Night II with William Ragsdale, Roddy McDowall and Traci Lind was released on May 19th 1988. Soon after the film’s release, Roddy McDowall and Fright Night creator Tom Holland were scheduled to meet with Live Entertainment chairman Jose Menendez to discuss the possibility of making a third film, but the plans were cancelled when Menendez was murdered by his two sons.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

This Week in Fright Film History May 7 - 13, 2017

Val Lewton  an American film producer and screenwriter, noted for a series of low-budget horror films he produced for RKO Pictures in the 1940s. was born on May 7,1904 in Yalta, Imperial Russia.  He is noted for creating  the "Lewton Bus” technique.  The "Lewton Bus” is  a scene that slowly builds tension and then gives the viewer an unexpected jolt with something that turns out to be completely harmless. The Lewton Bus was first used in Cat People (1942) and is a technique that is still used today, especially slasher films such as the Friday the 13th and the Halloween series films.

The Corpse Vanishes (1942) an American horror film starring Bela Lugosi, directed by Wallace Fox, and written by Harvey Gates was released on May 8, 1942. Lugosi plays a deranged scientist who murders virgin brides and injects their fluids his wife (Elizabeth Russell) in order to preserve her beauty.
Bedlam (1946) directed by Mark Robson, starring Boris Karloff, Anna Lee, and Billy House was released on May 10 1946. Bedlam  was the last in a series of horror films produced by Val Lewton for RKO Radio Pictures.
Jesús "Jess" Franco a Spanish film director, writer, cinematographer and actor noted for such films as  The Awful Dr. Orloff  (1962), Necronomicon (1967), Ninety-Nine Women (1968), The Bloody Judge (1969), Count Dracula (1969) and Vampyros Lesbos (1971) and  was born on May 12th  1930.
Werewolf of London (1935) an American horror movie starring Henry Hull and directed by Stuart Walker was released on May 13, 1935. Werewolf of London (1935) is credited with being  the first Hollywood werewolf movie.

Bride of the Monster (1955) starring Bela Lugosi, along with Tor Johnson, Tony McCoy and Loretta King Hadler was released on May 11, 1956. It was produced, directed and co-written by Edward D. Wood, Jr. and would be Lugosi last speaking role, Plan Nine from Outer Space (1956) would be his final film appearance.

Revenge of the Creature (1955) was the sequel to Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and was the only 3-D film to be released in 1955 and the only 3-D sequel to a 3-D film. The movie was released May 11, 1955 and was Clint Eastwood’s first screen appearance in an uncredited role .

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Student of Prague (1913)

The Student of Prague (1913) also known as A Bargain with Satan  rocketed legendary horror actor Paul Wegener to stardom making him the world’s first horror star.   Wegener not only starred in this 1913 silent film he also co-directed it with Stellan Rye. The Student of Prague (1913) was a classy retelling of the tried but true “deal with the Devil” story.  In this case a young poor student falls in love with a beautiful countess after rescuing her.  The student then make a deal with a sorcerer named Scapanelli, (who is none other than Satan himself) who in exchange for the student’s reflection gives him anything he wants.  As the student pursues his heart’s desire he finds that his doppelganger (an exact double) is following him. The doppelganger frightens the countess and then kills her fiancé' in a duel.  In the climatic ending the student takes a gun and shots the doppelganger but it is the student who is wounded by the gun shot and dies. The devil reappears, tears up the contact and then scatters the pieces over the student’s body.

With a run time of 1 hour 25 minutes, The Student of Prague (1913) which is hailed as the first true feature length film in history, premiered on August 22, 1913.  It is reported the some of the audience members actually screamed when the student’s image steps out of the mirror. Although this effect was achieved with the ever so common double exposure technique that effect had never been seen by the movie going audience at that time and made quite an impression.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

This Week in Fright Film History April 30 - May 6, 2017

Black Sabbath (1963) Italian horror anthology film directed by Mario Bava. The film is centered around three separate tales that have an introduction and conclusion from Boris Karloff.  The film was released in the United States on May 6 1964. The heavy metal band Black Sabbath appropriated their name from the title of the film.

The Hands of Orlac (1924) an  Austrian silent horror film directed by Robert Wiene and starring Conrad Veidt, Alexandra Sorina and Fritz Kortner was released on May 6, 1924.

Vampyr (1932) was a French-German horror film directed by Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer was released in Germany on May 6, 1932. The film was written by Dreyer and Christen Jul based on elements from J. Sheridan Le Fanu's collection of supernatural stories In a Glass Darkly. Vampyr was financed by Nicolas de Gunzburg who starred in the film under the name of Julian West. Vampyr was Dreyer’s was first sound film and had to be recorded in three languages. To overcome this, very little dialogue was used and much of the story is told with silent film-styled title cards.  Vampyr opened to generally negative reception from audiences and critics. At a showing Vienna, audiences demanded their money back. When the theater manager refused, a riot broke and the police were called to restore order.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

This Week in Fright Film History April 23- 29, 2017

Night of Terror (1933) an American  horror film directed by Benjamin Stoloff and starring Bela Lugosi, Sally Blane, Wallace Ford, and Tully Marshall was released on April 24, 1933. Bela Lugosi was working a heavy schedule during this time in an attempt to get himself out of debt, including filming International House (1933) by day and Night of Terror (1933)  by night.

Invisible Ghost (1941) released by Monogram Pictures, starring Bela Lugosi, Polly Ann Young and directed by Joseph H. Lewis was released on April 25,1941. This would be Polly Ann Young’s last film.

Mark of the Vampire (1935) an American horror film, starring Lionel Barrymore, Elizabeth Allan, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, and Jean Hersholt was released on April 26, 1935. The film was directed by Tod Browning and is a remake of his silent film London After Midnight (1927) with the characters' names and circumstances changed. 

Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956) Japanese American science fiction film. It is a re-edited Americanized version of the Japanese film Godzilla (1954) , which had previously been shown subtitled in the United States was released in America on April 27, 1956

The Thing from Another World (The Thing),  a 1951 RKO Pictures film based on the 1938 novella "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell (writing under the pseudonym of Don A. Stuart)  was released on April 29,1951. The film stars Kenneth Tobey, Margaret Sheridan, Robert Cornthwaite, Douglas Spencer and James Arness as The Thing