TCM Terror

Turner Classic Movies returns to October programming with a knockout schedule.  Below are a few recommendations to which I’m most looking forward.  Tweet along all month with the hashtag #TCMTerror and, as always, #TCMParty.

*All times EST.


Sunday, Oct 2

11pm – Son of Frankenstein (1939)

The third film (after Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, both of which also precede Son in TCM’s programming lineup Sunday night) in Universal’s classic line about the creature who belonged dead. The story is familiar but this particular entry is worth viewing simply for the chance to see Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff all in one place.


Friday, Oct 7

8pm – Nosferatu (1922)

The granddaddy of all vampire films. It gave us some of the enduring images of the genre.


9:45pm – The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Writer Hans Janowitz claimed to have been inspired by a trip to a carnival.  While there, the writer noticed a strange man lurking in the shadows. For some reason, the man left Janowitz with a deeply unsettling feeling.  The next day, Janowitz found out a girl had been brutally murdered at the carnival.  When he went to the funeral, the same man was there.  Of course Janowitz had no proof the man had committed the murder, but his imagination ran wild.  If that doesn’t compel you to find out what he came up with, check it out for the captivating visual style.  A monument of German Expressionism, Caligari is unceasingly interesting to look at.  It is full of leaning angles and paper sets that create a dream world for somnambulist Cesare, played by the supremely talented Conrad Veidt, to inhabit.


Saturday, Oct 8

6:30am The Unknown (1927)

Take one of the original masters of horror, Tod Browning, and team him with the man of a thousand faces, Lon Chaney (for once mostly baring his own countenance), and you’ve got quite a formula.  They don’t disappoint.  When Chaney’s criminal falls in love with a performer in the circus where he is hiding from the law, he comes up with a disturbing answer to the question, just how far will you go for love?  Also stars a very young Joan Crawford who credited Chaney with teaching her what acting really was.


Sunday, Oct 9

3:30am The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

A precursor to the slasher flick, The Town That Dreaded Sundown is loosely based on the “Moonlight Murders” that plagued Texarkana in 1946.  Director Charles B. Pierce delivers a slightly odd mixture of faux documentary, true crime thriller, genuine horror, and comic relief that is nevertheless interesting and engaging to the end.  The sack headed “Phantom Killer” in this film inspired the pre-hockey mask look of Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th Part 2.  Also original is a truly unsettling scene with a trombone.


Tuesday, Oct 18

6:15pm – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932)

Wedged between John Barrymore’s 1920 silent and Spencer Tracy’s 1941 version from MGM is this Paramount offering based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s work. This adaptation is the most risqué, focusing on Jekyll’s sexual repression and Hyde’s complete lack of inhibition. Fredric March, who won an Academy Award for his performance in the dual role, is fantastic as always. Watch for his performance as well as the truly impressive transformation scenes accomplished via filters and makeup of various colors.

Friday, Oct 28

8pm – Universal Horror

A full slate of the classics: Dracula, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, and The Wolf Man. You know ‘em, you love ‘em, and really, does it get much better?

Saturday, Oct 29

1:45pm – The Blob (1958)

Not likely to strike terror in the hearts of modern audiences, The Blob is still inexplicably likeable. A poster child of ‘50s sci-fi, it boasts Steve McQueen—billed as Steven—in his first starring role, and an infinitely catchy theme song. The trailer for this film famously plays just before Sandy leaves Danny “Stranded at the Drive-In” in Grease (1978). Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, one of the filming locations, hosts an annual “Blobfest” every summer. Enthusiasts act weeks in advance to reserve their spot in the routinely sold out re-enactment of the famous run out of the Colonial Theatre that appears in the film, still a fixture in Phoenixville.

9:30pm – Carnival of Souls (1962)

Absorbingly atmospheric indie film that just would not die. Something about the locations—an iron bridge, an amusement park—and organ music just charms. And the makeup is effectively creepy. If much of what appears or is suggested seems familiar, recognize this as the pioneer. Carnival’s influence can be seen from Romero’s Night of the Living Dead to Disney’s Haunted Mansion and beyond.


Sunday, Oct 30

Noon – The Tingler (1959)

Director William Castle’s showmanship and salesmanship were legendary. Much like The Blob, it’s hard to fault Tingler for mostly inanimate, prop monsters. It’s just too darn much fun.

3:45pm – Dead Ringer (1964)

Bette Davis had a hell of a run in seriously creepy pictures later in her career. Dead Ringer is among the best, along with Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and The Nanny. Instead of playing off of nemesis Joan Crawford as in Baby Jane, Davis went ahead and upped the ante two years later by playing twin sisters with an antagonistic relationship. The ending is affecting and all players involved, including co-star Karl Malden and director Paul Henreid, are as good as it gets.

Monday, Oct 31

11:15am – House of Wax (1953)

Vincent Price stars as the badly scarred artist in this feature which is credited on IMDB as the first 3-D color movie to be produced by a major American Studio, in this case Warner Bros. The film, with its three-dimensional effect and fourth wall breaking paddle ball man, was hugely successful. It’s also undeniably beautiful thanks in large part to its luscious color, eerily affecting when capturing melting wax figures. Look out for Charles Bronson—billed as Charles Buchinsky—in an early role.


2:30pm – Dead of Night (1945)

Good old-fashioned story-telling anthology from across the pond. If you love “The Twilight Zone” and haven’t seen Dead of Night, give it a look.


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