TCM is once again celebrating Halloween by bringing viewers the best classic, spine-tingling chills to escape into and shut out the real world for a few hours, with Fright Favorites every Friday this month, including George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Universal’s Dracula and Creature from the Black Lagoon, and many more.
TCM host Ben Mankiewicz is joined by David J. Skal, critic and author of TCM’s horror anthology Fright Favorites: 31 Movies to Haunt Your Halloween and Beyond, in presenting a weekly evening featuring some of classic cinema’s eeriest, creepiest and most terrifying films.
Skal is a cultural historian known for his research and analysis of horror literature and films. His published works include Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen (1990); The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror (1993); Dark Carnival: The Secret World of Tod Browning, Hollywood’s Master of the Macabre (1995); V is for Vampire: The A to Z Guide to Everything Undead (1996); Screams of Reason: Mad Science and Modern Culture (1998); Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween (2002); and Claude Rains: An Actor’s Voice (2008).
This scary festival leading up to All Hallows’ Eve is divided into categories beginning this past Friday, Oct. 2, with the David J. Skal Frightmare, which opens with the original Dracula (1931). This first sound adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel was released through Universal Pictures and stars Bela Lugosi as the definitive vampire who “never drinks…wine.”
Skal’s creepfest also spotlights Cat People (1942), the first of a series of striking, low-budget horror films produced by Val Lewton at RKO and directed by Jacques Tourneur. This one concerns a Serbian-born woman (Simone Simon) who takes on the characteristics of a cat when her emotions are aroused. Also screening are House on Haunted Hill (1959) and The Haunting (1963).
Back from the Grave on Oct. 9 features such visits with the undead as The Ghoul (1933), a British horror film starring Boris Karloff as an Egyptologist who rises from his tomb to wreak revenge on those who have violated his final resting place. The distinguished cast includes Cedric Hardwicke and Ralph Richardson.
Night of the Living Dead (1968) is the independent zombie picture, directed, co-written and photographed by George A. Romero, that became a major cult classic and spawned a series of money-making sequels. This original is set in rural Pennsylvania, where an army of cannibalistic corpses attack a group of people seeking shelter in a farmhouse. Also screening: Mark of the Vampire (1935) and Black Sleep (1956).
Horror Anthologies on Oct. 16 include Dead of Night (1945), a five-part British collection best remembered for the episode where Michael Redgrave plays a ventriloquist dealing with an evil dummy; Twice-Told Tales (1963), a three-part American movie based on stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne, with each episode starring Vincent Price; and Black Sabbath (1963), a three-part production from Italian horror specialist Mario Bava dramatizing stories by Chekhov, Tolstoy and Guy de Maupassant, with Boris Karloff introducing each episode and playing a vampire in one of them.
Among the Creature Features on Oct. 23, all drawn from the 1950s, is RKO’s The Thing from Another World (1951). An unrecognizable James Arness plays a murderous alien discovered in a block of ice at an Arctic outpost by scientists and Air Force officers. The renowned Howard Hawks produced this gripping film and reportedly made uncredited contributions to the writing and direction.
Another of the terrifying beings is the Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), a prehistoric “gill-man” discovered by a geology expedition exploring along the Amazon River. This Universal production stars Richard Carlson as an ichthyologist and Julia Adams (before she became “Julie”) as the beauty with whom the creature falls in love. Also screening: The Blob (1958) and The Tingler (1959).
Deals with the Devil on Oct. 30 include the one struck in Eye of the Devil (1966) by a vineyard owner (David Niven) who resorts to pagan rituals to save the crops on his French estate. The cast of this MGM film includes Deborah Kerr as Niven’s worried wife and Sharon Tate as a comely witch.
The Wicker Man (1973) is a highly regarded British film that falls into the classification of “folk horror” with its story of a police sergeant (Edward Woodward) investigating the disappearance of a young girl on a Hebridean island, where he discovers that the citizens practice paganism. Robin Hardy directs a cast that includes Christopher Lee as the island’s leader. Also screening: The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959) and The Devil Rides Out (1968).
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