Holy crap. The next four oldies I’m covering from my multipack DVD sets go back as far as 1934…which is less than two decades away from being 100 years old! So which were my favorites from this batch? Here’s the rundown.
Maniac is a perfect example of why I love watching early horror films even if they aren’t going to scare or shock me these days.
Running only 50 minutes long (another reason I love watching old movies), this is an interesting twist on the evil scientist re-animation genre—all the way back in 1934! The evil scientist’s assistant is an ex-entertainer who decides to impersonate the mad scientist and soon becomes an even madder, unlicensed mad scientist! Awesome.
As his dastardly plan spirals out of control, he discovers he’s not the only lunatic in the world, so he draws others into his sinister plot to gather bodies for his experiments.
It might be a sloppy, cheap film, but there are some moments that really struck me. First, there’s what appears to be a total nod to a couple of Edgar Allan Poe tales—the maniac bricks a body up in a wall, and a black cat leaps in with it!
There’s also a shockingly edgy, early take on the horror movie all-girl slumber party scene, with girls giggling and talking while wearing lingerie, one girl soaking in a bathtub with the bathroom door open, and one using a fat burning band machine on her jiggly butt!
THE SCREAMING SKULL (1958)
Coincidently, I recently watched Point of Terror, another film made by this movie’s director over ten years later, but I can definitely say this is more my kind of film, and the kind of black and white horror I love.
It’s shocking that this came out a year before The House on Haunted Hill, because this is very similar in style to the William Castle classic, from long, panning shots of dark rooms and corridors, to the plot of a woman being terrorize by supernatural occurrences only she seems to experience in the house. There’s even a very William Castle intro voiceover warning that the film may kill you! The plot of the film also brought to mind Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte, which didn’t hit until 1964!
A newlywed couple moves into the husband’s old home…where his previous wife died in a pond in the yard. Soon the new wife is being terrorized by a screaming skull! This fricking bonehead even comes knocking on the door at night. Eek!
But is the wife really seeing anything at all? Because the husband never sees it, and the wife has formally been away at a “hospital”.
There are some twists and turns leading up to the final chase through the house and a relentless pursuit by the floating skull in this atmospheric classic.
ANATOMY OF A PSYCHO (1961)
It might have the word psycho in the title, but it’s a real stretch to include this one in a horror movie multipack. It’s just a crime drama turned court drama that has way too much going on.
A dude starts to lose his shit after his brother is given the death penalty for murder. He’s positive his brother is innocent, but his own sister even believes the guilty verdict.
While he begins to snap, convinced everyone is against him (they basically are), there are all kinds of jerks going around doing bad things…like guys with sacks over their heads beating up the son of the D.A., and literally everyone having some connection to the murder case.
Eventually the main guy kills one person, sort of by accident, sort of on purpose, before going on trial. Yawn.
Bert I. Gordon, a b-movie horror king for decades, directs this rather cheesy take on the vengeful ghost plot.
The life of an engaged man is turned upside down when his ex comes and threatens to never give him up…before sort of accidentally falling off a lighthouse…
He finds her body the next day. She turns to seaweed. He sees her footprints appearing in the sand. She plays records when he’s trying to play the piano. His new bride finds seaweed on her wedding gown. And finally, the ex’s disembodied head (even though she wasn’t decapitated) starts harassing him and having conversations with him.
This is a mess, with no scares or atmosphere, and while I appreciate the use of that creepy windy whistle music used in so many horror films of the era, an attempt at a scary nightmare sequence is a disaster thanks to some jazzy, West Side Story sounding score.