Monday, 28 October 2013

Tank Top Movies' History of Horror - Part 2

Welcome back to Tank Top Movie’s History of Horror series. Take a seat round the campfire, pass round the s'mores and listen closely if you dare… we are going to take a look at some horror movies post World War 2, some classic horror revival and the birth of a new genre of horror movies. If you missed part 1, we took a close look at the classic Universal horror pictures of the 30’s and 40’s, check it out. All the movies covered in this series are available to watch around the web and on On-Demand services. Head over to Tank Top Movies to get your Horror viewing sorted.

After World War 2, the world change. It was the birth of the atomic age. Much more frightening than the monsters under your bed was the nuclear potential of mankind to obliterate itself. Horror movies drifted away from gothic tales and instead it was the era of the B’ movies and science fiction. Alien Invader movies perhaps were the new horror icons. The day the Earth stood still (1951) is a brilliant example of the mood of the 50’s. While by no means the scariest movie discussed in this series, it is perhaps my favourite. The alien Klaatu comes to earth to warn the planet that the destructive aggressive path they’re on will lead to their own destruction unless they learn to use their new found technology/power responsibly. Perhaps the other most iconic Alien Invader movies of the 50’s was Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), a treat for all fans of the brilliant work of Ray Harryhausen

A good example of the science fiction horror of the 50’s, is 20th Century Fox’s The Fly (1958). The movie tells the story of scientist Andre Delambre’s matter transporter device gone wrong. It’s very reminiscent of the universal horror movies as his experiments go wrong much like Frankenstein’s. Like many of the best Universal Horror monsters you feel a great deal of sympathy for Andre and the suspense and tension of the film is masterfully crafted.

In the late 50’s, much to horror movie fans delight, the icons of horror made a triumphant return. This time it was British based production company Hammer who took the reigns. Amongst others, they bought back two classic Universal horror series: Frankenstein and Dracula. The classic monsters were back, but this time with much more blood, guts, gore and sex (well, overt amounts of cleavage anyway). Much like Universal had their horror movie stars in Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, Hammer’s horror counterparts were Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. They both starred in numerous Hammer productions., Cushing as both Dr Frankenstein himself and Van Helsing, and Lee as the Prince of Darkness, Dracula, and the monster in the first Frankenstein movie.

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) was the first remake of a horror classic Hammer attempted. Thankfully, Hammer’s version of Frankenstein is distinctly different to the books and Universal’s interpretation. In previous films Dr. Frankenstein was a character who the audience could really root for and understand. If you have any sympathy for Peter Cushing’s Frankenstein however, then check yourself into a mental hospital now. Frankenstein in the hammer movies is the real the monster, not his creations. He is ruthless and diabolical: there is nothing he won’t do to carry out his work. In one sequel, Frankenstein Must be destroyed (1969), much to the objections of Cushing himself, they even mid-way through the film portrayed him as a rapist. It’s clear, this Frankenstein isn’t a nice guy. The strength of the films are in their fantastic sets and laboratories, the makeshift rudimental science that the Dr uses for his creations are always fantastic to watch. I say creations, because Hammer productions loved a sequel it would seem. After the original The curse of Frankenstein (1957) here are all the other sequels available On-Demand currently:

The Revenge of Frankenstein (1959)

Frankenstein must be destroyed (1969)

Frankenstein and the monster from hell (1974)

Horror of Dracula (1958) was the first in Hammer’s take on Universal’s first horror Icon. I would argue that Universal created the best Frankenstein movies, but Hammer horror’s Dracula series surpassed earlier version. Christopher Lee as Dracula had an unbelievable screen presence. The physicality Lee brought to the role made Dracula a real towering dominating menace. Hammer’s Dracula movies also raised the ‘stakes’( ha...ha.. I’ll leave now) in terms of blood and gore. By no means are the films shocking to today’s eyes, but at the time, the level of blood was pushing the censor’s boundaries. Opposite Dracula in the role of Van Helsing was Peter Cushing again. Cushing really shows his brilliance as an actor. As much as you hate him in Frankenstein, in the Dracula movies he is the coolest, most badass vampire hunter you could wish for. Seeing Lee and Cushing battle it out is what makes the films such a great spectacle. It’s always a treat to see how Dracula will meet his end in the films, from getting burnt alive, drowned and even struck by lightning. Here is a list of all the Hammer Dracula films available on demand currently:

Horror of Dracula (1958)

Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

Dracula has risen from the grave (1968)

Taste the blood of dracula (1970)

Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)

The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1974)

Hammer horror dominated the 60’s and 70’s horror movie scene, but they did not produce in that time the horror movie that was the biggest game changer. George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) was a hugely significant horror film. The film created an entire new genre itself, but it’s style and direction was innovative too.

First and foremost, Night of the Living Dead introduced Zombies to the world as we know them today. There had been plenty of film previously about Zombies, even as far back as 1932, with our good old pal, Bela Lugosi in the film White Zombie. Up until Romero’s take however, Zombies were more like people under a trance, people who had been hypnotised. Romero introduced to the world of cinema, the reanimated mindless corpse. You only have to have a look at the major success of The Walking Dead TV series or World War Z released this year, to see how long lasting and important the influence of Night of the Living Dead has been.

Not only did Romero pioneer the idea of Zombies but an entirely different approach to a horror movie. This was not a big Hollywood production, it was shot at a very low budget and in a handheld style, a formula used by many aspiring film makes since. It took risks other films previously would not have. There is little to no explanation for example of what is going on, instead we are thrown straight into the action. Even more so the end of the film did something audiences would never have seen before. Furthermore, the film is culturally significant, in that Romero cast Duane Jones as the lead Ben. In 1968, to cast a black man as the lead character and hero in a film otherwise dominated by a white cast was a brave move, and unfortunately a potential financial risk.
Night of the living Dead introduced a completely new genre to the horror movie world and arguably hasn’t even been surpassed since, such is the originality and quality of the film. Romero has since made numerous sequels but oddly enough, the only other one available on demand is Day of the Dead (1985)

Check back next time for part 3 of our History of Horror- where we will take a look at the Slasher genre and practical effects of the 80s. For all your horror needs though, get on over to Tank Top Movies now.