Classic Horror

 

“The air itself is filled with monsters”

My choices for the ten best Classic Horror films

  • Bride of Frankenstein
  • The Uninvited
  • The Wolf Man
  • Frankenstein
  • Dracula
  • I Walked With a Zombie
  • The Invisible Man
  • Island of Lost Souls
  • Son of Frankenstein
  • Creature From The Black Lagoon

The “classic” or golden age of film horror spans the 1930s and ’40s, coming to an end when modern fears of the atom bomb and communists took over the genre. Many “Classic Horror” films have some tenuous connection to gothic novels, and they owe a dept to German Expressionism, that sprung of that countries silent horror films, but faded as the Nazis rose to power and many of the directors came to America.  The “Classic” label once applied only to the Universal Studios monster films of the period, and to the few monsters owned by other studios, mostly Dr. Jekyll and King Kong. I’ll use it to refer to any horror films of the era made by the eight major studios, which means the dominating Universal monsters, Val Lewton’s RKO films, the strange and often misguided attempts by Paramount, and the occasional bizarre Warner Bros. horror that gifted us with the sight of Humphrey Bogart with white striped hair petting a bunny. But the big guns are the monsters of Universal Pictures which have taken their place in popular culture, with over twenty-five films falling into six series (not counting the Abbott & Costello comedies), each starring one or more of the most famous monsters of film: Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man, and the Creature From the Black Lagoon.

I will not be including the second leg of the Golden Age of horror, the cheaply made, “Poverty Row,” film distributed by PRC, Monogram, and others even smaller, that focused on mad doctors and killer gorillas. You can find those here.

Three actors dominated the classic era: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Lon Chaney Jr.  All three were superb actors, though Lugosi and Chaney were limited, and they were also personalities.  No one can forget Karloff’s eyes or Lugosi’s voice.

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