A Fool's Utopia 2.28.13: Must Watch Horror Movies Pre-1970
Posted by Ron Martin on 02.28.2013
This week in one man's utopia we look at the horror movies that give you street cred, NBC mishandling of Parks and Recreation, a gloomy outlook on Ed, Edd and Eddy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES and Nielson changing it's ratings system.
As a fan of the horror genre, I have certain expectations. For example, if I am talking to someone else who tells me that horror is their favorite genre and they're a huge horror fan, if I start a discussion about the movie The Exorcist, I expect them to be able to keep up. I wouldn't be as militant about a movie like say, Critters 3. I don't expect fellow horror fans to have seen every horror movie ever made, but there are certain movies you have to see to give you the horror "street cred" you need to run with the big boys. I'm going to do this in four parts maybe four weeks in a row, maybe not. Below are "must see" horror movies made previous to 1970. These are the bare minimum I believe you have to see be considered a true fan of the genre.
It's a silent film and we all know the imagery behind it, but have you actually ever watched it? Loosely based on the "Dracula" story, Count Orlok is both disturbing and creepy. It lays the foundation for many of the movies that would come after it. It's not the best movie on this list, but it's a must see for it's influence, it's iconic imagery and sheer creepy factor. It's still creepy to this day think about how moviegoers felt in 1922.
The Universal Films, 1931-1954
In the interest of not putting 100 movies on this list, I've grouped these movies into just "The Universal Films." I'm not saying you have to have seen every single incarnation of every single Universal monster film ever made. However, I do think the following films need to be seen: Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935), The Wolf Man (1941) and Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). If you want to throw The Phantom of the Opera, The Mummy or any of the others in there, I'm fine with that. In fact, I think Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943) may be the best Universal Studio monster film. The five I listed, however, are the very minimum of the Universal films that I expect any horror fan to have seen. These films set the stage for a multi-billion dollar industry merchandising and reinventing these characters over and over until they've become ingrained in our every day life.
This is not only on the short list of the greatest horror movies of all time, but it's considered one of the greatest movies of all time, period. Alfred Hitchcock was a master at suspense and not too shabby at horror (The Birds). This is one of those cases where everything meshed together just right to create a classic movie. There are very few scenes in film history more famous than the shower scene. Few scores can compete with the instantly recognizable musical sounds accompanying the various knife strokes on poor Janet Leigh. This movie made Norman Bates a household name and some give it credit as the godfather of the modern day slasher. While that's not my stance, I can certainly understand the argument.
The Last Man on Earth, 1964
You didn't think we were going to get to 1970 without seeing Vincent Price, did you? I actually almost listed him twice on the list because of House of Waxand its effects on both 3D technology and ticket prices at the time, but I decided if I was talking to someone about horror who claimed to be a horror fan and they didn't know the ins and outs of House of Wax, I don't think I'd take away horror points from them. I certainly like Price's performance more in House of Wax, but he does a great job in The Last Man on Earth as well. However, if it were just Price you needed to see, House of Wax would have made the cut. The reason The Last Man on Earth is on the list is not only because it's a great film, but because it led to what we know today as zombies. They were called vampires in the film, but they are most certainly what would become modern day zombies. The term zombies to describe the living dead just hadn't been invented yet.
Rosemary's Baby, 1968
There's so much going on in Roman Polanski's American debut film that it would be wrong of me to try and recap the entire thing here in just a few sentences. What the hell I've been wrong before and I'll be wrong again! There is a supernatural subtext that almost plays as a secondary antagonist in this film to the people whom Rosemary is supposed to trust. I am sure there are college papers 40 pages long that have been written about this film. I could easily fill an entire column discussing the ins and outs, directoral decisions and the minutiae that make this film great. If you haven't seen this film (and of all the ones I've listed here today why do I get the feeling that this is the least watched one?), see it. Wait. Read the rest of the column, then see it. Then listen to my podcast. Then read the rest of 411mania.com. I think I've covered just about everything.
Night of the Living Dead, 1968
Apparently 1968 was a good year for horror movies. George Romero admits to being "heavily influenced" by The Last Man on Earth's vampires when creating what would become an entire subgenre of the horror genre. Did you follow that? They're still not called zombies quite yet in this film (they're referred to as "the living dead" or "flesheaters"), but let's call a spade a spade shall we. What amazes me about this film is how effective it still is in this day and age of CGI and fast zombies. Romero is the king of getting people who have little to no acting experience (and in some cases, aren't actors at all) and getting terrific performances out of them. With the current zombie craze that Hollywood and the rest of the world seems to be in, this may be the most influential film on this list.
NEXT UP: Must See Horror Movies of the 70s
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
1. I'm probably a lot late on this story and it was probably even talked about quite a bit here on 411mania at the time, but I think it's hilarious that cast members of the show Storage Wars have admitted that the show is faked. To quote Tony Kornheiser, "I believe I had that." After watching two episodes of the show sometime last year I even reported in this column that the show was so obviously faked that I didn't see how anyone could buy into it. I have friends who love the show. I have friends who now go to storage auctions because of the show. This is happening all over the country because people believe they're going to find a lost copy of the Declaration of Independence in a storage shed. The big winner storage unit facilities. The price of these abandoned units are now skyrocketing because more and more people think they're going to find pirate's gold hidden in a chest drawer. My thought process? If it were of any importance, it wouldn't be shunned to a storage unit.
2. I'm glad to hear that the good people that compile the ever so important Nielson ratings are discussing various ways to compile said ratings. With technology advancing faster than ever, the old formula has become antiquated. With ON DEMAND programming, more people watching shows on their computer and even streaming sites like NETFLIX getting into its own original programming, it's good to know that the people who pretty much decide how much money you can charge for advertising is starting to become forward thinking. The next problem will be how to get people to actually watch that advertising now that they can easily fast forward through the commercials.
3. Let's pile on just another example of why NBC has fallen to fifth (that's right fifth) in network ratings. That example would be Parks and Recreation, what I consider to be the funniest show on television. What should have been the most important episode of the entire show (Leslie getting married) was basically ignored by NBC and falsely advertised. The week before the actual ceremony we were promised a one hour wedding episode. The voiceover actually said "one hour wedding special" was coming next week. What did we get? We got two separate episodes. A half hour wedding episode followed by a second, unrelated episode with its own opening and closing credits. That's not to say that both episodes didn't kill, but just that NBC has no idea what it's doing.
With Community all but cancelled and Christina Applegate quitting Up All Night, NBC has made a mockery of the once strongest comedy night of the week. In reality, it should have pushed Parks and Recreation to the 9 PM slot this season with The Office as a lead in to try and make Parks and Recreation at least look important so the show could be the building block for the next two season as NBC searched for shows to put around it. Instead, NBC tried to squeeze a little more blood out of a stone that went dry three seasons ago and the result is a horrible TV show that stayed around way too long and nothing to take its place when it leaves for good. Seriously NBC, this isn't hard. I work for cheap. Email me.
4. I came across something that I thought was really interesting this week. Again, this may have been around for awhile, but I'm just now seeing it. It appears there is a theory (easily debunked, but still very interesting) that the characters on the Cartoon Network show Ed, Edd and Eddy are actually dead and the cul-de-sac they all live on is purgatory. It's really kind of creepy but interesting when you think about it.
5. I'm not a comic book guy, so someone will have to explain this to me. Robin died in the last issue of Batman or some title variant thereof? Is that right? But it's not the original Robin? There's been a long line of Robins? I guess that makes sense. Has there also been a long line of Batmans? How do they pick new Robins and Batmans? I would research this, but I am afraid of the can of worms I would be opening and I'd be researching things until the wee hours of the morning.
USELESS TRIVIA AND SHAMELESS PLUGGING
LAST WEEK'S USELESS TRIVIA
Who has appeared most on the cover of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue?
ANSWER: Elle McPherson. She has appeared on five covers. The most anyone else has is three. Congrats to BEN PIPER for knowing the correct answer as he usually does!
THIS WEEK'S USELESS TRIVIA
What was the original title of Night of the Living Dead?
THIS WEEK'S SHAMELESS PLUGGING
In the biggest franchise we've covered yet, The Resurrection of Zombie 7 has started to invade your nightmares by covering the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Subscribe for free on iTunes. In this week's podcast, learn why Freddy is named what he is, why he wears a Christmas sweater and even how Wes Craven came up with the idea! Full of info and fun for free!
THIS WEEK IN RETRO
I know I've talked about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade scroller where I always chose Raphael despite him having the weakest weapon of the four. Today, I'd like to discuss Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES. I may have talked about this briefly before, but I don't remember and if I don't remember, you wouldn't either, so it's fair game. This was the game in my collection that I loved to hate the most.
The good news was that you got to play with all four ninja turtles so you didn't have to choose between the turtle that had the best weapon and your favorite. I mean, everyone's favorite was Raphael, right? The game wasn't over until all four turtles were dead, but once a turtle was dead, you couldn't bring him back. The smart strategy would be to play a turtle until he was almost dead, then once you got to a pizza (life), switch to that turtle and eat the pizza. You needed strategies like this because the game was f*cking hard! Don't believe me? Ask the Angry Video Game Nerd:
The storyline was such that April and Splinter were captured by the Foot Clan and for some reason, the turtles had to roam the sewers for awhile before fighting the Technodrome. Then you had to go inside the Technodrome to fight Krang. That's as far as I ever got. It was frustrating. It makes me want to somehow get ahold of an NES, get this game and play it again just so that I can beat it. My life will then be complete.
I will give the game this it had some of the coolest music. I remember it sounding like "Come Together," which at the time I thought was an Aerosmith song (silly Young Me). Upon listening to the music at a much more mature age, I have no idea how the Young Me came to that conclusion. I got a lot to say to Young Me when we inevitably meet up after the invention of time travel. This will be #12, just behind not taking the caffeine pills with Jolt Cola in eleventh grade.
23 Years Ago Today
February 28, 1990
"Opposites Attract" by Paula Abdul with The Wild Pair