#7: King Kong (1933)
This has to be one of the most well-known, iconic, and familiar movie monsters. How astounding that a giant ape would be able to cause such a stir that the echoes can still be heard today. In 1933, one would think the special effects would be amateurish, but just 4 years passed the silent film era, this movie is ahead of its time in many regards, including and most especially in special effects. The stop motion technique was not just convincing, but astonishing. The love story between Kong and Fay Wray is emotionally moving. Rotten Tomatoes and The Motion Picture Academy have awarded this movie many honors, but in particular is that they both have it as one of the top fifty movies (of any genre) ever made. One last lingering touch. One last longing look. The strafing of fighter planes, and a monstrous fall, but still the insistence that it wasn’t the planes. “Oh, no, it wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.” Doesn’t that happen to us all?
#6: Nosferatu (1922)
F. W. Murnau directed this German expressionist masterpiece. When he was refused the rights to make Dracula by the estate of Bram Stoker, he chose to make the movie anyway, and change the names, but he was sued anyway. Part of the settlement was to gather up every copy and have them burned. Clearly some copies survived. (Thank God!) Hutter (the Jonathan Harker character) is far and above the worst part of this movie with his expansive gestures and over-acting that would make Shatner blush. However, Max Schreck’s Count Orlok is the star of the show. The makeup effects give the vampire a rat-like look that is supremely disturbing and unsettling. The scene with Orlok rising out of his coffin in the bottom of the boat is one of the scariest scenes ever filmed. Oh, did I mention this is a silent film? Wow!
#5: The Invisible Man (1933)
I will never understand why you hire one of the most handsome men in Hollywood and then proceed to cover his face for most of the movie. When his face is not there, he’s invisible. The special effects for this movie involved a gray body suit and a gray screen — an effect that is STILL USED TODAY. The only difference is that Hollywood now uses a green screen along with digital CGI. The effects are compelling. The acting is amazing except for Una O’Connor who plays the annoying hotel manager. Lord forgive me, but I was hoping he would kill her. She was such an annoying busybody, and he warned her to leave him alone. He had things to work on, like trying to find a cure. You get the sense that if they would just leave him alone, that he would complete his work and he would just be a happy camper, but no. Why leave the guy alone when he’s giving you good money to just give him a little space? Ugh! Still, far and away my favorite movie of the bunch. There’s a dark pall over this movie that I really like.
#4: Freaks (1932)
I think that maybe I can watch this movie one more time in my life. This is the most scary, unsettling, troubling, horrifying movie ever. It is most troubling for the visceral reaction that I get at seeing these deformed people who are abused and mistreated carnival performers. They are not at fault here. It is we voyeurs who misunderstand and revolt against these gentle people. When it is discovered that one of their number is being set up to be poisoned by the normal trapeze artist femme fatale and the strongman, the freaks decide to revenge themselves upon them in an extreme and horrific way. This is director Tod Browning’s final film and one has to wonder if this was a response to Browning having cast real-life circus performers, instead of Hollywood pretty people actors. This is a revenge story that I wish they would restore the ending to what originally was intended. This is a strong horror movie that admittedly, to my disappointment and chagrin, I don’t really have the stomach to watch, again.
#3: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
For a horror movie, 136 minute running time is exorbitant. It’s a supernatural horror film written and directed by Roman Polanski, based on the book by Ira Levin. The film is about a husband and wife who move into an apartment building, where they get involved with neighbors who may or may not have occult designs on Rosemary. After a dinner party one night, she winds up going to bed feeling inebriated. During the drunk episode, she is raped by Satan (a VERY difficult episode to watch). *Trigger warning for rape. Even though this is no where near “I Spit on Your Grave,” it still is a troubling scene to watch. This is a slow psychological build, but absolutely a top flight movie. The climax will shock you, but the denouement does not let up either.
#2: Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Both, 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead are on my Top Ten Horror Movies. (My third post for the Blog and Geektoberfest Days 4 and 5, respectively.) Clearly, I have a thing for zombies. It is true that I understand the subtext of these movies their metaphor and symbolism. Here, though I would make the claim that this movie is more important than all of those others. Romero’s commentary on the devolution of the nuclear family has proven correct. There was and continues to be schisms that separate families causing breakdowns of communication and rampant loneliness due to the inability of people within the family to simply say, “Can we talk, please?” The images are horrifying and and stay with you long past the closing credits. If you haven’t seen this movie, where have you been, and what have you been doing? This is a must-see.
#1: Psycho (1960)
When talking about the movie “Peeping Tom” yesterday, I alluded to another movie that came out the same year. This is the movie, I was talking about and should demonstrate Hitchcock’s genius. Understanding that Peeping Tom and his movie were thematically similar (both involve a serial killer long before there was such a thing as serial killers,) Hitchcock decided to forego trailers and teasers. He invited journalists and other members of the media to come screen the movie simultaneously. That way no individual could poison the well. Whereas Peeping Tom was trashed; Hitchcock was praised as a marketing genius. There are so many great things about this film that it would be difficult to enumerate them all. The false protagonist, is present for almost half the movie. The antagonist is rarely seen. The shower sequence. The choice to film in black and white, when color was available and even cheaper. The explanation by the psychologist as we watch the antagonist’s grin grow bigger on his face. Genius movie and superior horror. This concludes my list, but something important to note is that EVERY movie on this list has been selected by the National Film Registry to be preserved.
This finishes My Top Ten “Classic” Horror Movies list. Please don’t forget to LIKE the post, if you do. If you don’t tell me why you don’t. If you disagree with something, say so. Tomorrow, the Beard has a new Off the Rack story. Don’t forget to check that out tomorrow. I’m sure it will be the equal to all that’s come before. For the Mustache and the Beard.com, I’m the Mustache signing off. Thank you.