Monsters of the past: screaming through the 1950s and 1960s

Time to delve into four films from the black and white horror era, and they’re loaded with freaks and monsters.

DAY THE WORLD ENDED (1955)

Even if he didn’t have the money to make an impression with some of his movies, Roger Corman really was a trailblazer for plenty of horror and sci-fi concepts that are still recycled today.

After an atomic war, a handful of survives takes cover in the ranch of a survivalist and his daughter. As they dare to venture out during the day, they start to notice signs of something sinister: animal bones and huge footprints!

That doesn’t stop the girls from going swimming; shocker that they feel like they’re being watched. One guy who got pretty messed up by the after effects of the bomb is hankering for meat, but his hunting is cut short when a beast comes for his kill. Everyone is tense and fighting back at the ranch over various issues. And there’s even a sleazeball endangering the women.

The film is very slow, and the monster is ridiculous when it’s finally revealed! But hey, it was the 50s, so…it’s totally cool.

THE SHE-CREATURE (1956)

This bizarre little film is the epitome of misogyny in horror movies going all the way back to the early days. It’s uncomfortable to watch beyond the fun and silly monster attacks.

A hypnotist is wowing people in an ocean town, but he needs to up his game, so he hypnotizes his female assistant to resurrect the sea creature she was in a past life. What? I haven’t experienced horror this absurd since…well…since I finished writing the most recent novel in my Comfort Cove gay horror series.

The monster is awesome fun and the body count is good enough for the time—I especially love when the monster kills a couple making out in their car by pushing it off a cliff. But the plot of the whole movie has a bunch of white guys in power making a woman their Guinea pig.

THE MASK (1961)

Back in the 80s when I was a teen, a few 3D movies from the 1960s were revived on broadcast television, with the novelty being that you had to get your blue/red cellophane lens cardboard frame glasses from a fast food restaurant tie-in promotion. My point is, I think this may have been one of the movies that aired, yet I feel like if it were I would have recalled, because the 3D rox compared to the killer gorilla movie I remember watching.

The Mask is touted as the first Canadian horror film, and if that’s the case, they were sure playing to stay in the game. The film opens with a woman being chased through the woods at night by a psycho. The score perfectly sets the mood, and the whole scene is a blueprint for the openings of numerous backwoods movies to this day.

Ironically, this isn’t a backwoods horror movie. Most of it is set at a psychiatrist’s place…and he’s practically the only one in the movie.

A patient comes to him, tells him he is in possession of a mask that makes him do awful things, and then sends it to the doctor right before committing suicide. So of course the psychiatrist puts the creepy ass mask on immediately.

And that is the catch in this movie. Just as in Freddy’s Dead, it’s only in 3D for certain segments, in this case when the doctor puts on the mask—and a scary voice repeatedly commands us to “PUT THE MASK ON!”

I imagine the hallucinatory, hellish dimension of occult rituals into which the doctor is sent during these parts caused quite a stir with audiences back then. Even now it’s all quite eerie and ominous, with creepy, hypnotic music enhancing the trippy vibe. It actually feels to me like it may have been the inspiration for the hellish segment of the found footage film Voodoo.

The mask segments (there are three of them) are the highlight. Otherwise it’s just a basic film about a guy losing his mind from wearing the mask.

THE BLANCHEVILLE MONSTER (1963)

Originally titled Edgar Allan Poe’s Horror, this film is loosely based on The Fall of the House of Usher.

To me it feels very much like William Castle films of the time, particularly House on Haunted Hill, with thunder and lightning striking at all the right times and a terrified woman exploring shadowy halls by candlelight.

She’s a young woman about to turn 21. She comes to her family castle, where her brother lives. She’s under the watchful eye of a creepy maid.

Pretty soon a disfigured man is terrorizing her…or is it all just a figment of her nightmares?

If you’re a fan of the old black and white gothic horror of the 1960s, this is a good one to check out.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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