The House on Haunted Hill
Starring Vincent Price. Directed by William
Castle. 1958 75mins. B&W.
Friday, October 28 8PM
There can be a very fine line between horror and camp in the movies, and too often it is crossed from former to latter unintentionally, with less than good result. But William Castle, an auteur (so to speak) of 1950s B movie making, deliberately set out to blend the two by telling outlandishly macabre stories with a mischievous wink to his audience. The House On Haunted Hill is perhaps his best work of all. Vincent Price lives in a foreboding mansion where seven murders have been committed. To a small group that’s gathered in the mansion, he offers $10,000 to anyone who can stay and survive the night there. Needless to say, bad things soon start happening. A great deal of the film’s success owes to Price, who alternated between pure ham and quiet subtlety with remarkable aplomb and great effect. Price had begun his association with macabre horror a few years earlier in House of Wax, but here he cemented his star status in the horror genre. Though almost everything about The House on Haunted Hill has since been copied, the original still seems fresh and fun. Don’t miss this chance to see it back on the big screen, and while your at it, celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Vincent Price’s birth.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Also starring Bela Lugosi & Lon Chaney, Jr. 1948 83mins. B&W.
Saturday, October 29 6PM
This movie is really two for one because in addition to Abbott & Costello, the three most iconic characters of Universal Picture’s now legendary classic horror are brought together here: Dracula is in search of a “simple, pliable” brain with which to revive the long dormant Frankenstein Monster. It turns out that the “ideal” brain belongs to the hapless Lou Costello.
Soon, Laurence Talbot, better known as The Wolf Man, arrives to warn Costello and his pal Bud Abbott about Dracula’s plans. Both horror and hilarity ensue. What makes this movie so good is that the monsters are played more or less straight and not for laughs even as they are matched against the trademark comedy of Abbott and Costello. What’s even more remarkable is that two of the three are played by the actors who created them on screen: Lon Chaney, Jr. in his signature role as The Wolf Man and Bela Lugosi as Dracula; remarkably, though he played numerous vampire and vampire-like characters over the years, this was the first time since creating the role in 1931 that Lugosi again played “Dracula” — a character that is owned on film by Universal. (Boris Karloff turned down the request to reprise his most famous role, so Frankenstein’s Monster was played by Glenn Strange.) Fans of classic comedy AND classic horror won’t be disappointed.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Starring Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt. Directed by Robert Wiene. 1919 69mins. B&W. Silent.
Saturday, October 29 8:15PM
Seeing this landmark, famously creepy movie back on the big screen with live
organ accompaniment isn’t “just” a screening — it’s a spectacular Halloween event. Long before the demented horror of Psycho, before the stylized sets and long shadows of Universal horror movies, even before the Expressionist-infuses Nosferatu — there was The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a horror story involving hypnotism, madness, sleepwalking, murder, and sexual threat. Upon its release, it was hailed both in Germany and the United States as a masterpiece that elevated moving pictures to the realm of high art. Its highly stylized, often nightmare-like sets, stark lighting and shadows, and angled cinematography perfectly fit its theme of madness and disorientation, and made it perhaps the most visually striking movie yet produced. It defined the look of German Expressionist cinema — which went on to influence American horror films, Orson Welles, Film Noir, Hitchcock, and more. Long hailed as a cinematic landmark, virtually every aspect of the film has been discussed and lauded. But the most fundamental and remarkable thing about the movie is its enduring power to scare the viewer. From the aghast faces in the very first shot to the final chilling scene, it remains a very frightening movie. Nearly a century’s worth of movie making, including special effects and budgets that could not be dreamed of in 1919, has produced few films that can compare. (And yes, the man playing the hypnotist’s “somnambulist” is a young Conrad Veidt, who 23 years later and a continent away would play Major Strasser in Casablanca.)