It doesn’t quite feel like Halloween unless I get some black-and-white films in my diet. I know y’all know to check out the classic UNIVERSAL stuff that includes all the usual suspects (FRANKENSTEIN, WOLF MAN, THE MUMMY, et al.) and I know you’ve heard me harp on and on about supernatural favorites like THE HAUNTING, THE INNOCENTS, BURN, WITCH, BURN, CURSE OF THE DEMON, THE UNINVITED and HORROR HOTEL. And certainly you know enough to salute any and everything within a seven mile radius of the name VAL LEWTON (GHOST SHIP, 7TH VICTIM, CAT PEOPLE and assorted kin) but here are five more glorious and nutritious mood setting B&W features that deserve a tip of the pointy witch’s hat this time of year!
THE UNDYING MONSTER (1942)
I’ll never forget the fine night I fell asleep in front of the TV and woke up to this gem and was instantly mesmerized. Somehow this one is known as a tag along B-flick but it could have fooled me with its incredible atmosphere and memorable visual flair (which includes a smoke-framed POV shot from within a fireplace). There’s a gloomy, fog-dipped mansion on a seaside cliff (with massive stain glass windows), an ancient family curse involving a ferocious fuzzy beast and wall-to-wall off-beat characters trying to figure it all out. My only complaint is that it’s too short!
ARSENIC & OLD LACE (1944)
This FRANK CAPRA flick based on the popular stage play is a well-known classic of course but I don’t think we’ve mentioned it enough around here. CARY GRANT should be more than enough to charm you into checking it out but if horror fans require more: it includes plenty of murder and mayhem; it takes place on a Halloween day littered with swirling dead leaves; and it features PETER LORRE and RAYMOND MASSEY doing a fine impression of BORIS KARLOFF, his costar in another B&W necessity, JAMES WHALE’s THE OLD DARK HOUSE.
THE WOMAN WHO CAME BACK (1945)
Please don’t act like you’ve seen enough movies starring THE BAD SEED’s momma NANCY KELLY because you know you haven’t. Here she stars as a lady who returns to her hometown after surviving an incredible bus accident (the special effect showing a toy bus falling over a miniature cliff is adorable) and begins to suspect that thanks to her witch hunting ancestor, she’s living under a witch’s curse and may be possessed by a dead witch herself. I certainly could do without the tacked on ending that explains all of the cool stuff we’ve witnessed away (boo, science!) but otherwise this is one highly entertaining and pleasantly spooky flick.
THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE (1946)
Exactly one year ago today on October 28, 2014, I was singing the praises of this movie so jump back in time and read all about that HERE.
SCREAM OF FEAR (1961)
This is another one we’ve talked about before (HERE) but I’m bringing it up again because it was just recently finally released on DVD (under the title HAMMER FILMS COLLECTION) thanks to the wonderful and generous folks over at MILL CREEK. I got my copy for less than 5 bucks and it includes four other movies for crying out loud! You can’t beat that kids, not even with a broomstick!!!