Just like the 1950s and 1960s were the dawning of the rock ‘n roll era, these two decades served as a launching pad for the modern horror age. So it’s always fun to look back at some of the influences on the genre, like these four—two from each decade.
INVADERS FROM MARS (1953)
Having recently blogged about the 1986 remake, I just had to go back even further in time to cover the original.
Alien designs and special effects aside, they’re virtually the exact same film, with the remake straying very little from the source material.
The boy sees the spaceship crash at night. His scientist dad goes to check it out and comes back cold and distant…and mean! He smacks the brat in the face! He also has the creepy wound on the back of his neck.
The boy quickly realizes everyone is going Stepford, even the little girl next door (didn’t see that in the remake). This is where the original most differs from the remake. Whereas the remake had the sequence with the scary teacher and the school nurse the boy befriends, in the original the boy’s enemy is evil law enforcement, and the friend is a sort of child psychologist that comes in to talk to him.
Together they go to a scientist they both know and pretty soon there’s a ridiculously long montage of the military coming in to invade the underground caves in which the aliens are harbored. Aside from upgrading on the really bad painted outdoor backdrops, in the remake, the visual updates come from the aliens. Rather than huge headed monsters, the original aliens are just very tall men painted green, and their leader is an actual man’s head in a fishbowl rather than a designed creature head.
Just like the remake (and most horror movies), shit is kind of ruined once the military is called in. And also just like the remake, it has the surprise twist at the end.
But the one thing the original has that the remake doesn’t? An army guy says “You gotta hit ’em right in the puss….” Well, now we know all Trump’s vile rhetoric doesn’t just come from Hitler.
FIEND WITHOUT A FACE (1958)
It wasn’t until recent years that I finally tracked down this movie that freaked me out as a child, thanks to the Internet. I would never have even considered the title Fiend Without a Face based on what I remembered…it literally sounds like it’s about a faceless monster.
Instead, it’s about brains that fly and move across the ground like inch worms and strangle people with their still attached spinal cords. Awesome.
It’s all the fault of military atomic experimentation. At first, people are killed without us seeing what’s doing it, which is quite effective for a movie this old. But the real fun starts when we do find out what it is and a group of people is trapped in the house by them. It’s all very Night of the Living Dead. Hell, it even appears to be kind of Return of the Living Dead since these brains seem to want…brains!
Best of all? Every time one is shot or squished, it oozes goo and makes a puttering noise like a squeezy ketchup bottle slowly emptying out.
PEEPING TOM (1960)
There are ridiculous claims that THIS film is the first slasher from which all others stemmed, especially considering it came out the same year as Psycho.
This movie totally is not a slasher…and it is boring as fuck. The killer is the star, and the film is from his perspective. He goes around stalking and filming women—often prostitutes—so he can capture their terror on camera. When they’re not…auditioning for West Side Story for him?
Problem is, there’s nothing terrifying or scary here. It’s the same old routine every time. He lures them to his studio, he gets them to pose for him, then they scream in terror as we see NOTHING of what happens to them.
There’s a detective hot on his trail, and at one point he shows the “main girl” his old videos that explain why he is a nut—his dad used to scare him when he was a child while filming it.
He eventually references the fact that he stabs his victims with a spike, but his words are as gruesome as it gets, so we just have to take his gruesome word for it…
THE BEACH GIRLS AND THE MONSTER (1965)
I’m still dabbling in the loads of films from my brother’s DVD collection, which my sister-in-law gave me after his passing last summer. I can safely say that despite the near generation gap, we both have the same taste in bad horror movies.
This short 1965 flick (a little over an hour) opens with bikini babes dancing on the beach to a surfer rock tune by…Frank Sinatra Jr.! Say all you want about ol’ blue eyes being a master, but I’d still rather listen to music by his son or daughter.
Surprisingly, the intro montage also interjects a shot of the monster for no reason other than to spoil it…and to reveal that it looks like some sort of cheap rubber five-and-dime Creature from the Black Lagoon knockoff costume.
We then meet our group of kids partying on the beach…to a soundtrack playing on a reel to reel player? Did kids actually take reel to reel players to the beach before boom boxes?
One girl goes off on her own and is strangled to death by the laughable monster in a cave. But instead of a series of kids dying off right away, we must suffer through hilarious melodrama about a doctor, his spoiled son, his bitch of a new wife…and his hatred for the troublemakers and tramps his son is hanging out with at the beach. Seriously, this is what he calls them, and he claims they add nothing to society. And these are white, heterosexual kids. Can you imagine what people thought of blacks and gays back then?
There’s finally another dance montage on the beach that I would swear was sped up, because these guys and girls look like they could break something shaking it as fast as they do.
There are a few more kills before the shocking twist. I won’t spoil anything, but let’s just say it explains why the monster looks like a ridiculous costume.
And while various films from the 1970s are labeled as the “godfather of slashers,” the fact is, films like this clearly laid the foundation for the formula way back in the day. Okay, maybe I spoiled it…