There’s something to satisfy every taste in spooky, creepy, horrifying (and sometimes humorous) entertainment over the course of 48 chill-filled hours in TCM’s annual Halloween Weekend Marathon, running from Friday, Oct. 29 through Sunday, Oct. 31, featuring 32 films.
The fun starts on Friday night, Oct. 29, as horror movie staple Vincent Price stars in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) as a highly creative madman mimicking the Biblical plagues of Egypt to exact revenge on the doctors he believes responsible for his wife’s death. Two great classics of the genre follow: the granddaddy of all zombie pictures, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), and the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). That last one is on late, but don’t fall asleep – you know what can happen! You can also catch 70s scream queen Linda Blair in Hell Night (1981) and Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), which offers the added treat of hearing the great Shakespearian actor Richard Burton utter the immortal line: “Pazuzu, king of the evil spirits of the air, help me to find Kokumo!”
Saturday, Oct. 30, is jam-packed with Halloween tricks and treats, ranging from Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961), featuring an appearance by future Oscar®-winning screenwriter Robert Towne (Chinatown, 1974), to Who’s Superstitious? (1943) and Black Cats and Broomsticks (1955), two short subjects examining the origins of some of our most enduring superstitions.
The most famous mad scientist/monster team of all time gets its due in three films: James Whale’s original and still unsurpassed Frankenstein (1931); the Hammer Films retelling The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), starring British horror legends Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing; and Mel Brooks’ hilarious spoof Young Frankenstein (1974).
Hammer, the leading British studio for shock and gore, is represented again with The Devil’s Own (1966), released in the U.K. as The Witches, in which Joan Fontaine seeks to outdo big sister Olivia de Havilland’s forays into the genre in the 1960s. Horror of Dracula (1958), again features the Tracy and Hepburn of Brit-fright, Lee and Cushing, as the vampire and vampire hunter Van Helsing.
Vincent Price is back, too, in the original version of The Fly (1958) and in two of the notable series of loose Poe adaptations made by Roger Corman in the 1960s, Pit and the Pendulum (1961) and obsessing over a dead wife again in The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), with a screenplay by Robert Towne. Poe is also mined for material in Phantom of the Rue Morgue (1954), starring Oscar® winner Karl Malden (A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951).
No compendium of great movie horror would be complete without at least some of the films released at RKO under the aegis of producer Val Lewton. Eschewing monsters, shock effects and obvious gore, Lewton was remarkable for a series of low budget pictures that were subtle in their approach to the genre; dark shadowy tales of psychological terror that also fit them perfectly into TCM’s Noir Alley series. He worked several times with director Jacques Tourneur, greatly advancing the career of the man who would go on to direct that quintessential noir drama Out of the Past (1947). Two of their collaborations are screening in the marathon, Cat People (1942), the film that set the tone and style of the Lewton unit, and The Leopard Man (1943).
One of Lewton’s protégés was Robert Wise, long before his turn to the big-budget musical genre in West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965). Starting out as an editor on Lewton’s team, Wise was promoted to director on The Curse of the Cat People (1944). Long after his association with Lewton, Wise wedged a supernatural classic between those two big musicals, The Haunting (1963). Carrying over aspects of the evocative style from the Lewton films, this adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel “The Haunting of Hill House” stars Julie Harris, Claire Bloom and Russ Tamblyn.
Also showing Halloween weekend: The Hypnotic Eye (1960), Chamber of Horrors (1966), Spider Baby (1967), Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971), Carnival of Souls (1962) starring Candace Hilligoss (follow her on Instagram here) , Macabre (1958), White Zombie (1932), Mad Love (1935), Curse of the Demon (1957) and Horror Hotel (City of the Dead) (1960).
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