Moving on from the classical era of the 30’s and 40’s, past the Sci-Fi flavored 50’s, the best horror movies of the 1960’s brought with them their own unique and varied brand of scares and thrills as well as having the distinct advantage of color film.
Further developments in both technical and artistic creativity were also of obvious benefit.
Sadly, due to the huge proliferation of titles made in the 50’s, the quality of production and the originality of content suffered greatly. Many movies were churned out solely for the teen drive-inn audience and were basically low budget/giant mutant spectacles. Horror became relegated to B-movie standard.
Thankfully, the 1960’s saw a necessary turn-around. Horror themes began to be centered more upon real life people and events instead of giant monsters from outer space.
Elimination of the restrictive “Production Code” can be credited to this change and hence, censorship laws became much more relaxed with the changing times.
Reflecting this is the shift in focus from the bizarre, other worldly and fantastical to the horror which may lie within and all around us.
Vincent Price Becomes the “Master of Menace”
Director Roger Corman, known as a producer of low budget horror fare including “A Bucket of Blood” and “Little shop of Horrors”, stepped it up a notch when he made several quality (and richly colored) horror films based on the gothic stories of Edgar Allan Poe.
Most of these starred the iconic Vincent Price and include, “House of Usher”, “The Pit and the Pendulum”, “The premature burial”, “Tales of Terror”, “The Raven”, “The Haunted Palace”, “The Masque of the Red Death” and “The Tomb of Ligeia”. Of these, House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, and The Mask of the Red Death are considered best.
The Horror of Hammer
Hammer Studio’s were meanwhile going strong with several sequels to their Dracula and Frankenstein remakes. Indeed, it was Hammer who dominated the horror film market throughout the late 50’s and 60’s with their richly colorized period pieces.
A new level of gore was achieved by the studio with their graphic showing of blood, which up until now had been purposely ignored. This was made all the more shocking with color film.
Blood was not only being shown, but was now in a ghastly bright red!
“Brides of Dracula”, “Dracula: Prince of Darkness”, “Dracula Has Risen From the Grave”, “The Evil of Frankenstein”, “Frankenstein Created Woman”, and “Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed” as well as “The Curse of the Werewolf”; Hammer’s take on the werewolf legend, “The Devil Rides Out”(base on the controversial novel about devil worship by Dennis Wheatley) and “Witchfinder General” with Vincent Price…
These are all strong examples by Hammer Studios.
The most famous and by far one of the greatest horror movies ever made came at the very beginning of the decade.
Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” is the very essence of how horror had begun to change direction with the evil now being ever present under a guise of normalcy.
The film was extremely daring for it’s time and explored with shocking candor the psychological make-up of a deranged schizophrenic killer. Themes of guilt, anxiety, repression and obsession are ever present.
Hitchcock followed up his masterpiece with the excellent, “The Birds”.
Surreal, Sinister, Stylized…and the Walking Dead!
Other notables are the highly controversial “Peeping Tom”, the surrealistic “Carnival of Souls”, “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” (with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford), “Black Sunday”; a stylistic Gothic horror (filmed in black and white) by Italian director Mario Bava.
The highly atmospheric and creepy; “Eyes Without a Face”, “Village of the Dammed” (remade in 1995 by John Carpenter), “The Haunting” (b/w haunted house classic).
The masterful Japanese horror anthology; “Kwaidan”. Another grim Japanese masterpiece; “Onibaba”, “Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors” with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, “Repulsion” Polanski’s other horror film.
And finally the seminal and ground breaking zombie horror that marked the beginning of a torrent of such films; “Night of the Living Dead”.
An Unforgettable Triumph
“Rosemary’s Baby” by Roman Polanski was another highly acclaimed piece from the period. It centers around a young pregnant woman’s corruption at the hands of modern day witches.
Again, they are frightfully normal, exceedingly helpful and even loving. This of coarse adds to the film’s unforgettable and shocking outcome…
These are the best horror movies of the 1960’s!
Please offer your thoughts and opinions below. Would love to hear about people’s favorite’s that I may have overlooked. Jamie.