Director: Brian De Palma
Starring: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon, Dennis FranzIn Brief: After the somewhat tepid response to The Fury, Brian De Palma went out of his way to court controversy with this splattery — and more than a little sleazy — 1980 thriller. And however you feel about it, the flick certainly worked to draw audiences with its sex, nudity and over-the-top violence. Designed as a mystery (even if not a very good one), the film succeeds mostly by virtue of De Palma's nonstop stylishness.
Director: T. Hayes Hunter
Starring: Boris Karloff, Cedric Hardwicke, Ernest Thesiger, Dorothy Hyson, Anthony Bushell, Ralph RichardsonIn Brief: Long considered to be a lost film, The Ghoul is back in circulation and not merely the curio you might expect a 1933 British picture to be. It's a full-fledged classic of the horror genre from its richest era. Set in the creepiest old, dark house imaginable, filled with a first-rate cast and directed with great skill by its little-known director, this yarn about an Egyptologist (Karloff) coming back from the dead can now take its rightful place with the great Hollywood horrors of the 1930s.
Genre: Horror Comedy
Director: Albert S. Rogell (The Last Warning)
Starring: Basil Rathbone, Broderick Crawford, Hugh Herbert, Bela Lugosi, Anne GwynneIn Brief: No, it's not the 1934 classic, nor does it have anything to do with Edgar Allan Poe (though it claims otherwise). The 1941 film called The Black Cat is an old dark-house comedy thriller that's a very obvious attempt by Universal to cash in on Paramount's Bob Hope comedy thrillers. OK, so Broderick Crawford is no Bob Hope, but the results are an agreeable little movie that's both funny and atmospheric -- and sometimes surprisingly grim.
Genre: Horror Mystery
Director: Harold Young (The Mummy's Tomb) / William Nigh (Black Dragons)
Starring: Lon Chaney, Jr., Evelyn Ankers, Milburn Stone / Bela Lugosi, Wallace Ford, Arline JudgeIn Brief: It's finally the makeup showing of the canceled The Frozen Ghost (1945) starring Lon Chaney, Jr. in one of his better Inner Sanctum mysteries. This time it's paired with the full-tilt nonsense of the delightfully silly Mysterious Mr. Wong starring Bela Lugosi in the title role, Mr. Wong — a criminal mastermind matching wits against wisecracking reporter Wallace Ford (professional wisecracking reporter portrayer). It rarely makes good sense and even feels like a serial stuffed into a 60-minute movie, but it provides no end of bizarre entertainment with the most anticlimactic ending ever.
Genre: Horror Fantasy
Director: Archie Mayo (The Doorway to Hell)
Starring: John Barrymore, Marian Marsh, Donald Crisp, Bramwell Flectcher, Luis Alberni, Carmel MyersIn Brief: One of the most stylish and effective of all early horror talkies, Svengali is a perfect blend of atmosphere, writing and a towering performance by star John Barrymore in one of his two or three best performances. The story, taken from George du Maurier's 1894 novel Trilby, had already been filmed a half-dozen times as a silent, but this was to become the definitive version of the tale of the lovestruck musical genius Svengali (Barrymore) who transforms the unresponsive object of his affections, Trilby (Marian Marsh), into a great opera singer by hypnosis. By turns horrific, darkly funny and even moving.
Director: James Wan (Insidious)
Starring: Ryan Kwanten, Amber Valletta, Donnie Wahlberg, Michael Fairman, Judith RobertsIn Brief: Incredibly creepy, surprisingly elaborate and almost a complete departure for Saw writer-director James Wan and his co-author Leigh Whannell as they trade in the pointless sadism of Saw for something more like classic horror with Dead Silence. Here they've cooked up a kind of local folklore yarn about the spirit of an evil ventriloquist using her dolls to seek vengeance on the families of those responsible for her death in the 1940s. Oh, it has its share of splattery shocks, but Dead Silence is a horror film built more on atmosphere than gross-out effects.
Director: Sam Newfield
Starring: George Zucco, Johnny Downs, Anne Nagel, Glenn Strange / George Zucco, Wanda McKay, Glenn StrangeIn Brief: What more does one need to know about The Mad Monster other than the fact that it has a werewolf in bib overalls? Or that the werewolf in question was created "scientifically" for the purpose of fighting the Nazis? This is exactly the sort of thing to expect from the series of "poverty row" horror pictures that British actor George Zucco made for PRC Pictures in the 1940s. This is the first and the most ambitious, which says much. The less elaborate The Black Raven is its almost-as-screwy companion feature.
Director: Karl Freund
Starring: Boris Karloff, Zita Johann, David Manners, Edward Van Sloan, Arthur ByronIn Brief: The classic Universal horror about a 3,700-year-old reanimated mummy (played by Boris Karloff in one of his best performances) seeking his reincarnated love (Zita Johann) in modern Cairo. This is an eerie, atmospheric and even poetic horror fantasy that remains unique in the genre.
Genre: Psychological Horror
Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani, Melvyn Douglas, Shelley WintersIn Brief: Roman Polanski's 1976 psychological horror film about a Polish immigrant (Polanski) losing his own personality to that of the woman who previously lived in his apartment (and who committed suicide by throwing herself out of the window) may well be the director's best film. It is certainly his creepiest -- and made all the more so when you realize its story is both personal and obsessive.
Director: Karl Freund / Edgar G. Ulmer
Starring: Peter Lorre, Colin Clive, Frances Drake / Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, David MannersIn Brief: A double dose of classic horror with Karl Freund's Mad Love (1935), the film that first presented Peter Lorre in a horror picture, and Edgar G. Ulmer's The Black Cat (1934), the first onscreen teaming of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. The former -- a remake of the silent The Hands of Orlac (1924) -- is a film with a somewhat exaggerated reputation, but the latter is one of the top horror pictures of all time.
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