Shiverin' 6: Horror from 1960
Another Shiverin' 6, folks, this time focusing on some of the best horror flicks released fifty years ago in 1960. They come from all around the globe and from all sorts of genres, but they're all highly recommended. As always, the Shiverin' 6 represents some of the best from a given category, not necessarily the best. As such, the entries aren't ranked but listed alphabetically. Be sure to let us know in the comments what some of your favorites from 1960 are!
Director: Mario Bava
Mario Bava made his (credited) directorial debut with this film, released in its native Italy as La maschera del demonio. A witch (Barbara Steele) rises from the grave centuries after her death to wreak atavistic vengeance on the descendants of the brother who ordered her execution. The plot is nothing special, but the visuals are where Bava makes his mark. Shot like the darkest of fairy tales, Black Sunday transports the viewer to a world of stark ruins, sinister trees, and slithering fog -- all in the crispest black and white. Classic-Horror.com review.
The Brides of Dracula
Director: Terence Fisher
How do you make a sequel to Horror of Dracula when your Dracula actor is unavailable (or unwilling) to reprise the title role? Easy. You put together a stellar vampire script, hire back Terence Fisher to direct, and engage the services of the stalwart Peter Cushing to play that other major character in Dracula lore, Professor Van Helsing. Baron Meinster (David Peel), a disciple of Dracula, has been released from imprisonment in his family home and sets his sights on a nearby all-girl's school. It's up to Van Helsing, of course, to stop him. There are a number of marvelous moments in this one, not least of which is Van Helsing's painful remedy for a vampire bite. Classic-Horror.com review.
Eyes Without a Face
Director: Georges Franju
French director Georges Franju takes a pulpy, comic-book plot (a scientist kidnaps young women to use their skin tissue to restore his disfigured daughter's beauty) and exercises such restraint and control in its telling that it becomes art. With only the thinnest patina of stylization, Franju focuses on the characters trapped by the doctor's obsession -- the daughter, the assistant, and the doctor himself. In refusing both the fantastic and spectacle, he makes Eyes Without a Face a haunting, beautiful film. Classic-Horror.com review.
Fall of the House of Usher
Director: Roger Corman
From its opening shots of a desolate, burned-out forest to its climactic (and oft-repeated) inferno, Fall of the House of Usher is a Gothic delight. Vincent Price is mesmerizing as Roderick Usher, a tortured soul whose obsession with family curses may result from darker desires. Corman provides some great Freudian imagery throughout and manages to provide some potent thrills in a horror movie without a well-defined antagonist. Mixing up Poe with Freud proved to be a potent cinematic cocktail for Roger Corman, who did a whole cycle of psychological Poe flicks in the early-to-mid 1960s. Classic-Horror.com review.
Director: Nobuo Nakagawa
Not just one of the best horror movies of 1960, Nobuo Nakagawa's Jigoku is one of my favorite films in any genre. It's a complex tale about Shiro (Shigeru Amachi), a young man whose tragic life puts him directly on the path to hell, a fate we get to witness in all of its gory wonder. Jigoku boasts as many possible levels of interpretation as it does painful tortures. Where does hell start? Who is the demonic Tamura and what is his interest in Shiro? What does that ending mean? Nakagawa's film encourages all theories even as it refuses to fit any of them neatly, which is probably why I love it so. Classic-Horror.com review
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
To quote Chris Justice: "Writing a review lauding the merits of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho is like writing an essay on why breathing is important. Or better yet, why sex feels good." Diabolique may have unlocked the door to the modern psychological thriller, but Psycho busted it wide open, and nothing was ever the same again (certainly not the shower). Psycho is one of those movies that reveals different facets every time it is watched. Countless books have been written about the film and yet we're still coming up with new ways to talk about it. Norman Bates and his mother issues are a cultural phenomenon and Bernard Herrmann's shrieking violins still show up in a variety of odd places (including a recent Travelocity commercial). If any film had a non-negotiable place on this list, Psycho would be it. Classic-Horror.com review.
Speak up, folks! What are some of your favorites from a half-century ago?