by Paul Batters
It’s mid-October and we’re hopefully all enjoying classic horror film month, revisiting old favourites and discovering new ones. The call-out went for writers, bloggers and classic film fans to share their experience of the first classic horror film that they remember seeing. I can’t thank enough those who have taken part and I hope you will find their entries to be interesting and inspiring.
I will keep adding to this post , so you may want to resvisit to see the updated article.
So grab a coffee (or something stronger if you prefer) and enjoy the classic horror films that we know and love.
Link: The Mummy…has Vertigo?
Theresa went the extra mile and wrote a fascinating article on The Mummy (1932) but with a brilliant twist. Far be it for me to reveal more, so please visit Theresa’s page to read her work!
The Medusa Touch (1978)
When it comes to classic horror films I’m a 1970s kid at heart. Give me The Medusa Touch (1978) over any new horror film any day. Not only was it one of the first horror films I’ve ever seen and lovef but it is at times the most unintentionally amusing…
This film was one of many movies in the seventies which centered on the supernatural. It has a powerful performance from Richard Burton in the lead and I would argue a role he was born for.
It tells the story of John Morlar, a man haunted by his deadly gift for telekinesis. It also stars Lee Remick as a psychiatrist who aims to help him… As Morlar reminiscences about those people he’s killed including his parents, his nanny and more… and with more chilling scenes seen as he shows this psychiatrist his deadly talents…
There are treats for all Burton fans with both monologues and flowery speeches from Burton These are delivered in the way only he can so if you want to see Burton in a seventies horror, throw Exorcist II The Heretic (1977) to the side, and watch his moving performance…
Sean Batman, author of Sons Of The Shire and the upcoming Retro Ray
In the dimly lit one-bedroom apartment, I am white-knuckled, clutching at a recently knit crochet blanket. I have in moments considered pulling it over my eyes, especially as the knife plummets down again and again into a woman in the shower. But strangely, in those same moments, I cannot tear my eyes away. And that is the power of the film playing on the small television…
This was a ritual of sorts. My parents would drop my younger sister and me with my Grandmother, who was by far the greatest babysitter I ever had. Nan would feed us lollies and ice-cream and then she would put on Bill Collins and we would watch a classic film. Tonight’s screening was Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. I was nine years old. Having watched the Universal Monster movies and some Hammer Horror films, I felt certain that anything black and white would be easy viewing. I was wrong. The slow-burn narrative, the ominous soundtrack, the old house on the hill and Nan’s frequent whispers about Hitchcock’s cinematography were life-changing. I’d never seen a film like it and only years later, watching John Carpenter’s Halloween, would I feel the same sense of dread.
Still to this day, my memories of the apartment, doused in shadows and light, the unnerving plot twist – Norman Bates – both Mother and Son, smirking, knowing he will stay with me forever.
Jeffrey Jiraffe Simons – On Twitter @math4humans
My parents divorced when I was very young. My mom met my stepfather when I was 8. They went on a weekend getaway, so all the kids were given to family or neighbors for the weekend. My neighbor worked at the local drive-in and she sat me in the cab of her truck parked next to the concession stand and said, “Lock the doors, come get me if you have any problem”.
The movie? Alien. I was barely 10. Talk about trauma lol but here is what I remember vividly.
I was both horrified and paralyzed with fear, but utterly fascinated and engrossed with the plot, the tension, and the characters. Great introduction to my lifelong love of the horror genre and I didn’t leave that truck once. I was almost literally glued to my seat.
Robert Short – Writer & contributor to the Warner Bros – First National Pictures 1923 – 1960 FB Page
A CLOSE ENCOUNTER OF THE BEST KIND – My Initial Experience with Horror: Dracula (1931)
“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!”
With the passing of so many years, more than fifty in fact, it has become more and more difficult for me to recall precisely when my love and adoration of classic films in general, and classic horror films in particular, sprang forth; my fascination with the cinema of yesteryear must have grown silently and subtly within me. While I had undoubtedly watched my beloved “old movies” whenever I began watching television, by the age of twelve my love for them had certainly become a conscious element in my life.
I initially gained familiarity with the classic Universal horror films through reading about them; during the late 1960’s, such movies as Frankenstein, The Mummy, and The Wolfman were relegated, at least in my viewing area in southern Ontario, to that venerable, and now long-gone, institution, the television late show, which I was not permitted to watch. I certainly recall the envy I felt in Grade 8 towards my school friends who were allowed to stay up and enjoy them.
My “maiden opportunity”, as it were, to actually watch one of these longed-for classic treasures finally manifested on a summer afternoon in 1969, during my school vacation between Grade 8 and Grade 9; an afternoon television showing of Dracula became my raisin d’être. From the musical strains of Swan Lake, underscoring the opening credits to the final title card reading “The End” I was transfixed; whereas an objective viewing of the film may bring forth observations of the artificiality of the dialogue and the overall staginess of the production, I was, on the contrary, absorbed and transfixed by the overall story, the eerie, otherworldly atmosphere, the sinister presence of Bela Lugosi. As our current wondrous technology, which can restore a ninety-year-old film to its original shimmering lustre, did not exist in my youth, old movies broadcast on television in the 1960’s showed their age, and to a thirteen-year-old any person or object thirty or more years old truly seemed ancient; sourced at that time from cheap, inferior 16mm print-downs prepared in rental packages for television airings, the films of this vintage contained their share of visual flaws, missing frames, and audio hiss. Yet, rather than serving as a detraction, these blemishes only enhanced my viewing experience of Dracula; the scratches, faded segments, and audio drop-outs appeared appropriate, given the age of the movie. The joy of watching my first classic horror feature simply transcended all physical imperfections.
My entry – Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell (1973)
Whilst the Universal horror films always had my attention and imagination through childhood, it was a Hammer film that I remember as my earliest experience with horror. Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell (1974) was also the last of the Hammer Frankenstein series, with the late Peter Cushing (unwell at the time) reprising the Baron for the last time as well.
As with many childhood experiences, this was one which my parents would not have allowed under normal circumstances. However, an aunt was babysitting so my parents could attend a wedding and I enjoyed the luxury of staying up late to see the film. I can still remember being horrified and aghast at the large jar of eyes (with one actually moving in the jar!). Peter Cushing’s Baron was cold and controlling and his manner exuded confidence and authority. However, I still remember the terror of seeing the ape-like and hulking monster that never left me. The contrast of this horrific aberation holding a violin escaped me at the time yet still affected me; likewise the mute girl Sarah who I felt terribly afraid for.
That night (and many more after) I was certain that the monster was coming down the hallway for me. I could sense that it was there ready to lunge at me. It took a lot of convincing from my mother that there was nothing there. I’m also pretty sure that my mother had an argument with my aunt for letting me watch it. To my aunt’s credit, as well as my grandmother and my mother, I would actually enjoy many more late night films as a child – which is why I’m here now, in a love affair with classic film that will never come to an end.
Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell is not a masterpiece but it’s a better film than the title suggests. It’s Hammer in all its colourful Gothic gore. And I will always have a place for it in my memories, as that first horror film that scared the heck out of me.
Amanda Schulze – Creative Writer @aschulze2001
My first classic horror film was The Blob (1958). It was on during the day – I was around 10 years old – and I sat on the floor inches from the TV screen and watched the gooey slime swallow everything in its path. My favorite part was when the blob squeezed through the air vents in the theater. Though it wasn’t fast, it kept getting bigger and nothing was able to stop it. I loved it!
Rebecca Deniston – Writer and blogger at Taking Up Room
I have never been a huge fan of horror, although it’s been kinda growing on me lately (Anyone else like “The Conjuring” series?). Slashers still aren’t my thing, though. Anyway, back in high school and junior high I wouldn’t watch horror films at all, probably because I didn’t want to repeat the experience I had with “The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb,” a TV movie which left me curled up on the couch, afraid to move but unable to look away. When I saw “Dracula” at the video store as a high school sophomore, though, curiosity got the better of me. My mom has never been a fan of horror, either, but she humored me because she had seen it on TV as a high-schooler in the nineteen-fifties. When we watched the film that night, it was a revelation. I didn’t feel scared so much as drawn in and curious, led along by Bela Lugosi, a man who created what we think of today as vampires. I didn’t know at the time how groundbreaking his portrayal really was; all I could think about was this character with the halting delivery, the elegant bearing and the hypnotic, piercing eyes. While it didn’t make me a horror fan, it changed my view of the genre completely, and on occasion I’m still drawn to visit with Mr. Lugosi in his iconic role.
Paul Batters teaches secondary school History in the Illawarra region and also lectures at the University Of Wollongong. In a previous life, he was involved in community radio and independent publications. Looking to a career in writing, Paul also has a passion for film history.