Horror movies are very popular right now.These are tough times and I suppose there is some relief in being scared out of your mind on purpose. At least you know in an hour and a half, it’ll be over.
There’s something wonderful about scary movies of the past, before CGI and digital special effects. The audience really had to suspend their disbelief and agree that the silver spray painted cardboard thing was a giant robot.
My favorites are the horror movies that are just so unintentionally bad, they’re hilarious. If you’ve never seen the television show, Mystery Science Theatre 3000 ( MST3K), please get on that. Some of the episodes are on Netflix and You Tube at the time of this writing.
Two of the movies in this post fall under the “so bad they’re good” heading and one is just freaking terrifying.
Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
Of course, we have to begin with the movie once voted the “Worst Movie Ever Made”. How can you not want to watch that? Released in 1959, Plan 9 has a little bit of everything: Aliens, Clairvoyants, the Undead, Professional Wrestlers, Bela Lugosi, the director’s wife’s chiropractor, wobbly tombstones, it’s all just delicious.
The director, writer, producer, Ed Wood, really thought he was going to be famous and the next Orson Welles. He also believed in shooting everything in one take no matter what.
The film is about a verbose, over-acting alien who decides to teach Earthlings a lesson by raising the dead and having them stumble around slowly in a cemetery with their arms outstretched. In this case, the most entertaining part of the movie is not the plot, it’s the horrible acting, writing and mistakes. Normally, bloopers are shown after the movie or on a separate reel. In Plan 9, the bloopers are actually in the movie. IMDB has an extensive list of goofs and flubs. Go HERE if you want to see.
Just a couple of hints, Ed Wood had pre-filmed his idol and friend, Bela Lugosi, in a few scenes. Those are the shots of the old man leaving his house in the middle of the day and at his wife’s grave site. Unfortunately, Lugosi died before filming began. Instead of recasting the part, the director hired his wife’s chiropractor to play the role in the other scenes. Those are the shots of the considerably taller man with a cape covering his face.
Also, watch out for Vampira and the other undeads kicking over paper-mâche tombstones as they stroll through the graveyard and the police officer who uses his gun to scratch an itch.
Here are two of my favorite things; MST3K and Plan 9 from Outer Space:
Since Tim Burton’s Ed Wood movie was released, Plan 9 From Outer Space has become much more popular and even beloved. It really is great in spite of itself. Wood knew it was a hit before anyone else. He said,
If you want to know me, see Glen or Glenda (1953). That’s me, that’s my story, no question. But [Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)] is my pride and joy.
The best thing is, Ed Wood actually was trying to make a great film. This is not the case in the next film.
The Tingler (1959)
The Tingler was the second collaboration between Producer/Director William Castle and Vincent Price, the first being the successful, House On Haunted Hill. The Tingler was a wobbly insect looking thing that would activate and grow in people’s spines when they were frightened. The only way to supress the Tingler was to scream. Scream for your lives!
The Tingler incorporates a lot of gimmicks. I was lucky enough to see this movie a few years ago in a theatre that set up all those tricks and gags that the movie was intended to have. This included random seats being wired to vibrate at a certain time in the movie which really freaked those people out.
My favorite was when the picture just stops and Vincent Price’s voice warns the audience that the Tingler is loose in the theatre and that someone has fainted. Then two actors dressed in 1950’s nurses’ uniforms came in with a gurney and carted someone in the audience (a plant) away. It was SO GREAT! Even without this, the movie is fun to watch. Unlike the Ed Wood film, this one is fairly well written although campy and completely implausible. It is also notable as the first movie to depict an LSD trip.
Our final movie is not funny. It is creepy as hell. If you’re watching the third season of American Horror Story, you’ll find Freaks is heavily referenced if not downright repurposed.
Freaks is a 1930’s film about a circus Freak Show using real deformed circus performers of the day as the actors. This was a time when the film industry used Jewish men from Brooklyn to play Native Americans with no compunction. So to have actual pinheads and dwarfs and Siamese twins onscreen was quite shocking. The purpose of the film was to humanize the deformed people for the audience and encourage compassion Most of the lines that would do that, however, were cut. One woman claimed the movie gave her a miscarriage and Freaks was banned from playing in the United Kingdom for 30 years.
The classic and most memorable line from this movie is “Gooble. Gobble. We accept her. One of us.” American Horror Story: Freak Show repeated “You’re on of us” several times in the first episode. I don’t want to give too much away, but here is that famous scene from the movie:
You may have guessed by now that the Ramones also referenced the film with “Gabba Gabba Hey!”.
So, what do you think? Have you seen these movies?
Do you have a favorite old “scary” movie most people don’t know about?
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