Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ten Fabulous Halloween Movies

Chas. Addams

Ten Films to get you in a Halloween mood. Trying NOT to duplicate all the films I talked about last year, but not succeeding.

1) The same as last year. My favorite Halloween film: ARSENIC AND OLD LACE (1944) starring Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey and Peter Lorre. A hilarious (and occasionally creepy) film about two very sweet (though murderous) old ladies, which takes place on Halloween in the borough of Brooklyn, N.Y. What could be better? Not much. Sinister quotient: 20%.

2) SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939) starring Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Lionel Atwill. I've loved the just-right-amount of creepiness in SOF for years. I especially love Basil's rising hysteria which is so fun to watch. And I love Lionel Atwill's study of an honorable man doing his best, denied greatness (in his own mind) by fate - he is burdened by a mechanical arm which replaced the flesh and blood arm torn off by the monster. He steals the movie. Love the bizzaro setting, the austere castle seemingly decorated by Franz Kafka, the lab, the underground sulphur pit and oh, Igor. Ah, the imaginative trappings of 1930's/40/s horror films. Sinister quotient: 80 %.

3) THE UNINVITED (1944) starring Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey and Gail Russell. A brother and sister combo buy a beautiful, isolated house on the English coast, a spur of the moment purchase which almost immediately proves to be ill-advised. The house is haunted. A very atmospheric ghost story which proves that special effects are totally over-rated. It's all about excellent camera work, the shadows, the music, the unexpectedly cold night breezes and the fluttering pages in a book. Sinister quotient: 90%.

4) DRACULA (1931) starring Bela Lugosi. The ultimate popcorn vampire move. Yes, it's a campy delight, but there are still a few very imaginative and frightening moments. Lugosi is wonderful far as I'm concerned. When I think vampire, Lugosi is still the immediate reflex. "I don't" Sinister quotient: 85%.

6) ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948) starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Bela Lugosi (Dracula), Lon Chaney, Jr.(The Wolfman), and Glenn Strange (The Monster) The title and the cast say it all. Just about my favorite Abbott and Costello film. Sinister quotient: 40%.

7) THE GHOSTBREAKERS (1940) starring Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, Willie Best and Richard Carlson. My favorite Bob Hope film. It's all about a mysterious inheritance, a creepy Caribbean castle, ghosts, a zombie, murder, racketeers, buried treasure and great photography. Sinister quotient: 40%

8) THE MUMMY (1932) starring Boris Karloff. Creepy first version which began (at least for me) the whole 'mummy runs amok' craze. Another of those early movies that proves you DO NOT NEED mind-boggling special effects or a guide book on a hundred revolting ways to die to make a scary movie. Karloff is perfect as the mummy in the title, the preserved cadaver of Imhotep, an Egyptian prince buried alive eons ago. Sinister quotient: 70%

9) CAT PEOPLE (1942) starring Simone Simon and the ever-bland Kent Smith. A Val Lewton classic of noir film-making. Frighteningly fabulous shadow photography by Nicholas Musuraca sets the mood and grips the imagination without ever really showing anything. Sinister quotient: 70%

10) THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962) starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey and Angela Lansbury. A seriously creepy 'mother as monster' story about a small group of Korean War vets brainwashed by the Reds then sent home to await their psycho prompts. The rather disturbing tea party scene alone is worth the price of admission. Sinister quotient: 100%.

Of course there are many more films perfect for Halloween watching, so if you like, feel free to add your own faves in the comments section. 

I was going to add the silent classic NOSFERATU to my mix, but that movie is still too frightening for me and I've never watched it all the way through. 

Some very cool movie poster art for Halloween.

P.S. November 2nd is THE THING From Another World Day, so we'll be dishing about my favorite monster film then.


  1. Cat People scared the crap out of me when I was little. I watched a ton of classic film, but I still remember being scared by that one.

    But Arsenic & Old Lace is my go-to movie for Halloween. Every year. Gotta love it.

  2. I love The Uninvited! Thanks for the great list!

  3. Some great choices here! Especially nice to see SON OF FRANKENSTEIN, which I think is greatly underrated. And THE GHOST BREAKERS may be my favorite Bob Hope comedy.

  4. We always watch Young Frankenstein around Halloween, which isn't scary at all, but it is fun.

  5. Good list, but I would add some Lon Chaney like London After Midnight or The Unholy Three.

  6. I need to add one which was a favorite and scared me as a kid when I watched it - "Something wicked this way comes" :)

  7. That choice of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE is truly inspired Yvette - would never have expected it but makes perfect, perfect sense - happy Halloween!

  8. I love The Uninvited, Dracula, and Cat People.

    I also really enjoy watching The Haunting from 1963 with Julie Harris and Claire Bloom. As well as House on Haunted Hill with Vincent Price.

    I do love the Hammer Horror movies, especially the Dracula movies with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. I also like Gorgon and a few other lesser know movies the studio did.

    One other movie I have to watch every year is the Disney version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, I love the movie and with Bing Crosby narration, it's wonderful. And of course there is It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, just not Halloween without that.

  9. "you DO NOT NEED mind-boggling special effects or a guide book on a hundred revolting ways to die to make a scary movie."

    yes. YES. Y E S ! ! ! !

    I think the most frightening movies I have ever seen (particularly the 1963 "The Haunting")have little or no graphic violence or special effects - just fine writing and acting.

    I don't remember your list last year...but let me mention a couple of my other favorites: "Dead of Night," a British nightmare movie from 1945 with Michael Redgrave and Mervyn Johns, is a collection of short horror stories beautifully told...and an overall framework that twists wonderfully in the very last shot of the movie.

    Also two other Val Lewton productions - both with Robert Wise as director: "Curse of the Cat People," sort of a sequel to "Cat People," and "The Body Snatcher," with Karloff, Lugosi and Henry Daniell. All linger in my memory many years after I last saw any of them.

  10. Picky: Yeah, for me it's the scene in the swimming pool area and the scene in the park. They still scare me. :)

    ARSENIC AND OLD LACE is a must see in case you haven't.

  11. You're welcome, Joanne. THE UNINVITED is SO wonderful and scary. :)

  12. Rick, I love SON OF FRANKENSTEIN. It is my favorite Frankenstein movie. I love Basil and of course, I love Bela and Lionel Atwill.

  13. That's a good one too. Mel Brooks and Halloween, perfect together. :)

  14. Mike, I don't know if I've seen those. I might have. But what is Halloween without Lon Chaney?

    Lon Chaney Jr. is in ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN and also THE WOLFMAN. We used to call him, Larry 'Wolfman' Talbot when we were kids.

  15. Skye: I think we all saw this together. But damn if I can remember much about it. It's based on a Ray Bradbury book so it had to be good.

  16. Thanks Sergio. We musn't forget Monster Moms. Ha.

  17. Because of you, I watched the Disney version of Legend of Sleepy Hollow a few months ago, Ryan. Lots of fun. I may watch it again.

    Oh for sure, Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.

  18. Les: Henry Daniell - hisssssssss!!!!!

    Our favorite actor to shout rude things to and about. Ha.

    I know I've seen all these films at some point, most likely when I was an impressionable kid.

    I remember CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE not having anything to do with cats, curses, or people. Strange movie.

  19. My list is coming later today. You will be most likely revolted by my choices. HA! We have different ideas about what is best for Halloween viewing. But I'm a lot younger and do tend to gravitate to some of the newer horror movies that I think are just as good as these oldies.

  20. These are not 'oldies' John, they are just great movies. If you want to call them anything, call them 'classics'.

    I'll take a look of your list and render my judgement. HA!

  21. Yes! Classic movies are what's on this list.

    I'm a scaredy cat so I avoid anything frightening, but there are some here that I've seen and are just plain fun.

    Mel Brooks is just a brilliant lunatic and nothing directed by him is frightening, just insanely funny. Young Frankenstein is hilarious.

    Now, I would see The Legend of Sleepy Hollow with Johnny Depp -- because he's in it and plays these roles so well.

    On to great Halloween viewing.

  22. The 1931 Frankenstien always frightened me as a child, especially the scene where the little girl befriends him and he seemed so gentle---until he had to smother her to keep her quiet.


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