Archive for Black and White horror

Freaks (Scott’s Horror Corner)

Posted in Scott's Horror Corner, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2013 by splatterpictures

Can a full grown woman truly love a midget?


FreaksPosterThis is the question posed by the 1932 movie ‘Freaks’. The movie is about a young trapeze artist named Cleopatra who, upon learning of the sizable inheritance he posesses, seduces a sideshow midget named Hans to marry her. In reality, she’s infatuated with the strong man, Hercules. Hercules and Cleopatra are the normal folks in this carnival. Hans leaves his also-tiny current love interest to date someone outside of the ‘freaks’ he associates with.


It tends to be classified as a horror movie, though I believe that’s a debatable fact. There’s a lot to discuss here regarding the morals and ethics of what’s going on in this movie, but not a lot of horror to be found. That said, it is considered a cult classic in the genre. Cult classics generally become cult because their audience is low and they are weird. Well, the latter speaks for itself and the former means this movie bombed where it wasn’t banned. In fact, it bombed so hard that director Tod Browning, who directed Bela Lugosi in Dracula, effectively had his career ended by this movie. The movie was banned for 30 years in the United Kingdom. It wasn’t until the 1960’s and 70’s when it was rediscovered and received some success at midnight showings . Nowadays, it still pops up on the more eclectic movie channels.


So what was so horrible about it? Truly, it was just the fact that they used real sideshow performers as their actors. Characters like the Human Torso (a man with no limbs), the pinheads (people who suffer from a disease called microcephaley), and conjoined twins were simply too weird for audiences. Perhaps society felt bad staring, or maybe they rejected the idea of a movie that exploited them. The movie itself paints a really sweet picture of these ‘freaks’ as it were….casting aside the ending, of course.


‘Freaks’ has a lot of small side stories alongside Cleopatra’s conniving ways. We get to see the bearded lady have a baby, for example. The pinheads frolic in a field along with a midget and a man with no legs. Typing it out makes it sound a little weirder than the actual experience I received watching it, on second thought. The conjoined twins find love with two different men. As the second man announces his engagement to the other soon-to-be-husband he quips “You’ll have to come visit us sometime!”.

Photo 1


There are many memorable scenes in the movie, if only for the spectacle of what the body can adapt to. The aforementioned Human Torso lights a cigarette using only his mouth, for example. Then there are the iconic (maybe that’s not the right word) scenes which stick with you for horrific reasons or

otherwise. The scene that’s often quoted from this movie takes place before the wedding of Cleopatra to Hans. All of the freaks gather together and have a huge party with lots of drinking. Midway through the festivities, one of the midgets jumps up on the table and pours some liquor into a huge glass. He beings to chant:

“We accept her, we accept her, one of us, one of us, gooble gobble, gooble gobble!”

The rest of the freaks join in, as he gleefully moves from freak to freak, offering them a drink from this glass. Of course, when he finally gets to Cleopatra, she goes crazy, cursing them, calling them terrible names and then throwing the drink at them. It doesn’t endear her anymore that she had poisoned poor Hans earlier in the night.


The freaks find out about her treachery in the creepiest way possible, namely staring at her from under wagons. The climax comes in the middle of a thunderstorm and has some pretty creepy imagery which probably was what earned it the horror genre tag. I’ll save her comeuppance for your own viewing pleasure.

Photo 2

Sideshows barely exist anymore. A lot of the acts from the old sideshows would probably be getting special care in homes or at institutions today. So, is it ok to watch this movie? Knowing that these people were being exploited? Or, in the case of this movie, is it ok because these people were not portrayed as anything but a well-knit family? Granted, a well-knit, vindictive family, but still.


For some, such as Schlitze, one of the pinheads, the spotlight was what kept them happy. He (despite wearing dresses, Schlitze was a he) was institutionalized after his caretaker died. The hospital deemed the best care for him would be to stay in the sideshow as it was the only thing that kept him happy. When he died, he was interred in an unmarked grave in California. In recent years, a message board took up funds and had a small marker placed with her name, date of birth and death. I won’t say much about whether the movie is right or wrong, but if it weren’t for ‘Freaks’, no one would know Schlitze was buried there.

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Vampyr 1932 (re-visited)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2011 by splatterpictures

One of the first posts I ever did was actually much older pieces I did just for facebook. I discussed vampire movies before 1935. I touched on the films Vampyr, which to this day is one of my favourites. I didn’t really give it the credit it deserved because I was still new at this. So if you’ll indulge me I give you Vampyr re-visited. This was posted on awhile ago but I wanted you guys to have it too.




When seeking source material in the early days of horror film, vampires seemed as logical a choice then as they are today. Whether it was Universal’s Dracula or F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, vampires have been the subject of many great stories that shock and awe audiences. The mentioned films, of course, are a more obvious and a less obvious interpretation of Bram Stoker’s work. Unfortunately, the problem with movies based off of Bram Stoker’s Dracula is that, no matter what, it has been interpreted and re-interpreted so many times that it’s hard to watch them without feeling like you’ve seen it all before.


Bram Stoker was greatly influenced by Sheridan Le Fanu’s short story, Carmilla. Carmilla would not only influence Stoker, but also inspire a number of films such as 1932’s German film, Vampyr.


Vampyr was directed by Carl Dryer who also co-wrote the script with Christen Jul and, while they do borrow from Le Fanu’s work, it’s largely an original story. The film stars Nicolas de Gunzburg who also co-produced the film and provided its main source of income. The rest of the cast (due to cost) is rounded out by unknowns or others who weren’t professional actors.


The story revolves around Allan Gray (Gunzburg) who is a paranormal researcher that wanders around the countryside studying things related to the occult. His travels take him to the village of Countempierre which is cursed by a vampire named Marguerite Chopin. Marguerite has been a plague on the village for a long time now, having taken control of most of the villagers who now act as her minions. The leader of these underlings is the town doctor who does most of Marguerite’s dirty work.


The vampire has targeted a lone Chateau in the village that is run by an old lord with his two young daughters, Léon and Giséle. During Gray’s stay at this creepy hotel, which seems to be the bastion of the vampire and her servants, the old lord of the manor comes to him in the night and begs for his help, but then quickly leaves. Gray follows the vampire’s minions and witnesses them shoot the old man in the back.


It soon becomes pretty clear that, while the people in the manor are aware that something is going on, only the lord seemed to know it was the curse of a vampire. When he visited Gray in the night, he left behind a book that was to be opened upon his death, a book that tells the story of Vampires and Marguerite Chopin.


In this world, vampires are servants of the devil that prey on children and young adults. Once bitten, they are cursed and will be driven to kill themselves so that their souls will go to the devil and, though Allan wants to help them, none seem to have much drive to do anything. The eldest daughter, Léon, is eventually taken over by Marguerite’s spell and is bitten, opening her up to the evil of the curse. In probably one of the creepiest scenes in the entire movie, she grins manically and looks about the room.


Her younger sister Giséle and even Allan seem totally aloof through the entire film, just blankly walking from one scene to the next, unable to figure out what to do. It’s not until the lord’s head servant reads the book that he discovers the curse can be ended if they find Marguerite Chopin’s grave and drive an iron stake (yeah iron none of that wood crap) into her heart.


Eventually the servant locates the grave and ,with Allan`s help (and by help I mean he moves some wood planks that are handed to him), they put an end to the curse once and for all. After the spell is broken, the bulk of the villagers and Léon are freed from the vampires spell. The worst of the henchman, though, are taken out by the spirit of the old lord of the manor in probably the most confusing death scene I’ve ever seen. Seriously, the evil doctor is chased into a flour mill by the superimposed face of the deceased lord, causing him to get smothered and die in the flour.


Sounds like a pretty straight forward plot doesn’t it? Let me tell you, Dryer was well known as an eccentric filmmaker and it shows throughout this entire movie from the strange collection of characters that pass from one scene into the next. Through shots of the farmers digging in reverse, disembodied shadows acting on their own along walls, and the purposeful blurring of the camera lens, Dryer relentlessly tries to disorient you. Allan is supposed to be someone lost in his own world and whose reality blurs with fantasy, something Dryer conveys through many different scenes that are, without a doubt, the most confusing but brilliant moments of the film.


One scene, in particular, was taken from Allan’s point of view in which he is locked in a casket with a convenient viewing window and carried off. When watching it for the first time, I remember not understanding if what I was seeing was real or something that Allan was just imagining. And that’s the point! To leave the audience uncertain, even confused… and it works! By the time the film ends, you aren’t really sure if what you just watched was supposed to be accepted as real or not.


Since this was Dryer’s first sound picture, there are strong indications of his background in silent movies. It showcases fantastic shadow use and minimal dialogue, but that was really more about the cost of sound editing. Ultimately, though, it serves to enhance the bizarre dreamlike mood of the entire film.


Anyone who is curious should absolutely check this movie out. I will, however, warn that you should go into it understanding that you will probably be confused and maybe even frustrated at times. But really, with a 73 minute runtime you can’t go wrong.


I’ll see you next time and thanks for reading!


Now to see what all the fuss is about this "Twilight"



The Last Man on Earth

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2011 by splatterpictures

Awhile I ago I was writing about the zombie genre through the last hundred years or so in film, when I got to Night of the Living Dead, I explained that Romero’s inspiration for the Ghouls that devoured the flesh of the living was derived from Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend. A lot of you will be familiar with the 2007 film starring Will Smith.

When I am Legend was about to hit theatres, they were saying that it was based off of the novel of the same name, and some people went as far as to mention that the 1971 film The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston was also an attempt to adapt the novel.

But before all of that, before Will Smith and Charlton Heston and before Romero would reshape the entire concept of what a zombie was; there was the 1964 film called The Last Man on Earth that starred the great Vincent Price.

I came across this movie completely by accident. A few years ago I had bought one of those giant movie pack box sets. You know the ones? Like fifty classic horror films all in one package (all public domain films). I was shuffling through the titles after I got home and that title in particular intrigued me enough that it was the first movie I watched out of the set.

About halfway through my young ignorant mind made me say “wow this is just like I am Legend, I wonder if this is some first attempt at the movie?” well it obviously is and even though I have never read the book by Matheson, I have seen all three of the interpretations of the book on film and this one is easily my favourite.

Like I said the movie was released in 1964 (a short ten years after Matheson wrote the book) it was actually partially written by Matheson aswell but he didn’t like it and decided not to get credited on it.

The movie starts with showing Dr. Robert Morgan’s (Price) daily routine. He wakes, he checks his home’s security, Mirrors and garlic, he eats even though he finds the process boring and only a means of survival, he runs down everything he has to do, remove bodies from his property and take them to a giant pit to be burned, he needs gas and more garlic, he makes stakes and then goes hunting. That’s right it’s another vampire flick and I swear I don’t mean for them to come up as often as they do. A good portion of his day also consists of going door to door in his city killing as many vampires as he can.

There are a series of flashbacks that start to explain what happened. Three years ago, a strange plague coming out of Europe started to sweep the world. It’s an air born virus and it threatens to reach the United States. Dr. Morgan is optimistic, and has a staunch scientific mind that refuses to believe in the concept of a universal disease that could wipe out everyone. He and his friend Ben Cortman work at the Mercer Institute of Chemical research and are one of the many global facilities trying to find a cure.

Cortman is more inclined to believe that there might be no hope and that the rumours of some of the dead coming back to life are coming back as vampires; showcasing all of their weaknesses and desires and that the government is trying to cover up knowing the truth.

Soon the plague starts affecting Morgan’s own family, his young daughter (Christi Courtland) loses her sight and blindly paws at the air. I think it was supposed to be tragic but it comes off as pretty funny in my opinion. His wife (Emma Danieli) succumbs soon after and is the first person Morgan sees comes back to life and he is forced to kill her.

The ghouls that return are pretty different from any interpretation I’ve seen. They are zombie-like, with barely any intelligence or strength. Morgan lives in a basic two story house and they can’t seem to break in at all. His friend Ben (now a vampire-ghoul-thing) constantly calls his name and tries to pathetically get through the door.

The film hinges on Price’s performance. Morgan is a broken man, who does nothing but survive, he watches old home movies, and just breaks down into a hysterical fits of laughter that soon turns to tears as he remembers the life that will never be. He doesn’t even have any characters to interact with until towards the end of the movie he first finds a dog, that he befriends (this was what tipped it off to me that it was similar to I Am Legend) sadly he realizes that the pooch is infected and has to take ole yeller out back…if you know what I mean.

Later things get interesting when he meets a woman named Ruth Collins (Franca Bettoia) she exhibits some signs of vampirism but is somehow able to keep command of her mind.

It’s revealed that while a majority of the vampires are nearly mindless ghouls, there does exist another kind who are intelligent and are attempting to rebuild their society. This is where the message of the film seems to come into play. Morgan is the last man on earth and now is the one person who is unlike the rest of society and therefore the true monster.

In the Omega Man and I Am Legend the films end with a glimmer of hope. One that might suggest that mankind will make a comeback, but not this one. Last Man on Earth ends telling us that the age of mankind is over. The final moments of the film are just fantastic and overall this is worth a watch. Like I said its public domain and can be found just about anywhere.

See yah next time and thanks for reading!