Goregirl’s TOP 10 Favourite Horror Films From 1964
IMDB listed 194 titles for 1964; 68 of which were full-length feature films. I seen 33 of the 68 films listed. There were multiple television shows listed including; The Twilight Zone, The Munsters, The Addams Family, The Outer Limits and Estudio 3. 1964 was a solid year with an interesting range of titles. I gave the top three films on this list a 5/5, spots four, five and six were rated 4.5/5 and the final four were rated 4/5. I also rated two other films 4/5 which were Lady in a Cage and Mothra Vs. Godzilla.
#10 THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH
Directed By: Roger Corman
I will be most curious at the end of this project to see if any actor has more entries on the top ten 60s lists than Vincent Price. He already has five titles and there are three more on this list! Bloody Hell!! Will Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee give him a run for his money? Stay tuned! In The Masque of the Red Death Vincent Price plays a devil-worshipping Italian Prince by the name of Prospero. A woman in a small village has died of the Red Death and the prince orders the entire village burned. He takes with him an innocent and striking young woman and imprisons her father and lover. It is the prince’s intention to corrupt the young woman and win Satan’s favour. Within the castle walls cruelty and debauchery abound but are they safe from the Red Death? Those gorgeous, good enough to eat sets, props and costumes are here in abundance. The film is not without the odd campy moment but is generally a serious affair. Prince Prospero is an insidious, power hungry tyrant who rules with an iron fist. He is lacking morality and is devoid of compassion for any human being. Vincent Price gives the evil prince a subtle flair. Hazel Court is great as Juliana. She is ready to give herself over to the devil and is in the films nastiest and trippiest scene. Patrick Magee and Skip Martin also give formidable performances. The Masque of the Red Death is packed with memorable scenes full of delicious cruelty, amazing sets and costumes and superb performances. The Masque of the Red Death’s richly decadent world full of depravity and evil will keep you enthralled to the final credits.
#9 DANZA MACABRA
Directed By: Sergio Corbucci & Antonio Margheriti
Danza Macabra was directed by Sergio Corbucci and Antonio Margheriti. I know Corbucci for his Westerns; he did one of the best with his 1966 entry Django! Margheriti has directed a real mixed bag of bizarreness, but I have certainly enjoyed some of his stuff particularly Naked You Die and Cannibal Apocalypse. I wanted to give a special mention to his film Long Hair of Death which was also released in 1964 and like Danza Macabra stars Ms. Barbara Steele. Although it didn’t make the shortlist (I rated it 3.5/5) it is definitely worth seeing. Of Margheriti’s library Danza Macabra, also known as Castle of Blood is my favourite. Danza Macabra is about a writer who accepts a wager to spend All Souls Night in an allegedly haunted castle. If you are following this project than the name Barbara Steele should already be familiar to you; this is the fourth film in which she stars to make a top ten list. Steele’s character is one of the dead that comes back on All Souls Night and she chews up the screen. The equally sultry Margarete Robsahm although not afforded nearly enough screen time also shines brightly in Danza Macabra. Both women are fascinating and gorgeous; unfortunately the men are not their equals. The brawny groundskeeper dude is literally laughable! Georges Rivière who plays the man who accepted the wager did not have particularly good chemistry with Steele. Rivière wasn’t selling it in his love scenes with Steele, although he was quite acceptable otherwise. Danza Macabra is heavily visual and was captivating enough to overcome this lesser attribute. It is slower paced but I never found it dull. Its cadence was quite hypnotizing actually. There is a lesbian subtext and some brief nudity in the version I watched; rare qualities for a film from 1964! It also has one hell of a killer score by Riz Ortolani! Danza Macabra is loaded with atmosphere and chills and has an absolutely fantastic finale. A gorgeous gothic treat!
#8 HUSH…HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE
Directed By: Robert Aldrich
Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte features a cast of legendary actresses; Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland and Agnes Moorehead. Bette Davis plays the titular Charlotte but it is Olivia de Havilland that owns Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte! She is polite, classy and refined which makes her so much more interesting when she goes bitch-o-rama! She really is a great character and steals every single scene she is in! Joseph Cotton really stands out also; I just loved that accent (which I am badly imitating as I type this out) and he has great chemistry with Ms. de Havilland; I really enjoyed their scenes together. Of course Davis and Moorehead are great also, although I did find Moorehead’s character a little over the top. The story is solid and most intriguing with a finale that definitely did not disappoint! Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte opens with Charlotte as a young woman and relays to the viewer the horrific and grisly death of her married lover. We meet Charlotte again as a reclusive elderly woman haunted by the past and being threatened with eviction. I certainly would not qualify Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte as gritty by any means, but it was grimmer than I expected it to be. The film suits its black and white photography and has an effective moodiness throughout. Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte is a nifty sordid little affair with an outstanding cast and a well-executed story expertly shot by the talented Wise. Bitch-slapping fun and frights!
#7 THE TOMB OF LIGEIA
Directed By: Roger Corman
The Tomb of Ligeia is yet another Roger Corman-Edgar Allan Poe adaptation starring Vincent Price! There has been at least one on every single year’s top ten list thus far! I think it is safe to say I am a fan. Vincent Price sure has an interesting look going on in this one…I rather dug it man! Price plays Verden Fell who still mourns the death of his long dead wife Ligeia. He catches the eye of The Lady Rowena Trevanion and the two are eventually married. When their honeymoon is over…boy is it over! Once they get back to Fell’s dilapidated mansion in the Abbey crazy disconcerting events begin to happen immediately. Fell’s cool crumbling manor in the Abbey is just the absolutely most perfect setting! I love so many of the little details Corman includes in The Tomb of Ligeia. The beautiful black cat used to excellent eerie effect, the freaking fantastic dream sequence, and the weird little hypnotism scene are particularly memorable visuals that really dazzle! The lush sunniness of its many daylight outdoor scenes is almost overwhelming in contrast with the spooky dark shadows of the inside of the manor. The Tomb of Ligeia also has an excellent story based loosely on Edgar Allan Poe’s story Ligeia. Elizabeth Shepherd plays dual roles as both Lady Rowena Trevanion and Lady Ligeia and is enchanting. I really like the duality of the Fell character; sinister and intense, sad and almost a little pitiful. The Tomb of Ligeia is a neatly-paced, beautifully-acted, well-filmed chillingly enchanting tale!
#6 TWO THOUSAND MANIACS
Directed By: Herschell Gordon Lewis
This is the second film from Herschell Gordon Lewis to make a top ten list. The much maligned director takes a lot of beating for his gory low-budget, badly-acted features. I can not deny that Lewis seems to have zero ability to direct actors and actresses. I have seen all of Lewis’ horror features and I couldn’t cite a single instance of what would be called a good performance. His horror features have an undeniable trashy vibe with cheap, ugly, simple sets, scantily clad women and of course the gore he is so famous for. While I would still call Two Thousand Maniacs trashy, it is without a doubt the cleverest of Lewis’ stories. A tiny Southern town of 2000 citizens lure tourists to their yearly centennial celebrations where the tourists are made unwilling participants of the event. You see, the townsfolk are pretty steamed about some union troops who once decimated their town. The story, although not without its plot holes is engaging but of course the best thing about Two Thousand Maniacs is its creative deaths and gore! Every victim dies a unique and quite dastardly death. I won’t spoil all the fun for you, but can you imagine being rolled down a hill in a barrel that has been hammered full of nails? That has gotta smart! I love it! I thought the gore was quite well done for the most part. I thought the wacky twist ending was great! The acting is almost as painful as those aforementioned nails, but some of it sure is funny! The townsfolk are all pretty over the top and the victims don’t react in the horrified manner they should. Two Thousand Maniacs has a decent pace, a unique story, inspired deaths, nasty gore and laughs!
#5 AT MIDNIGHT I’LL TAKE YOUR SOUL
Directed By: José Mojica Marins
No horror fan should go without seeing the exploits of Coffin Joe! You are warned by an old gypsy woman not to watch At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul! She tells you to go home before it is too late! Don’t listen to her! Ignore her mad cackling! Be brave my friends and take the strange, depraved and entertaining journey into the wondrous world of Coffin Joe! Coffin Joe is an undertaker who wears a cape and top hat and sports gnarly razor-like fingernails. Embittered with life, he is arrogant, depraved, and violent and is an all around nasty guy. He scoffs at society’s laws and is willing to rape, steal and kill to get what he wants. A run in with Coffin Joe could result in a severe beating, loss of fingers, gouged-out eyes and possibly death! This misanthropic character full of disdain and malevolence is one of the most unique horror villains out there. At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is quite violent and graphic for its time. Its visuals are pretty ingenious considering the budget Marins had to work with. The black and white photography and the use of shadows help set the beautifully oppressive mood. But the real cherry is the film’s climax. Admittedly At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is a little light on plot, but Coffin Joe and his theatrics are more than interesting enough to carry the film. José Mojica Marins is both director and central character Coffin Joe and creates a truly dastardly villain and an extremely effective atmosphere. At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is a cult cinema classic from Brazil that is not to be missed!
#4 THE LAST MAN ON EARTH
Directed By: Ubaldo Ragona & Sidney Salkow
The Last Man on Earth is based on Richard Matheson’s book I Am Legend; the story of one man’s survival in a world where everyone is dead or has been transformed into a blood-thirsty monster. We watch as Dr. Robert Morgan awakes to another day three years in to his solitary existence. Morgan is driven solely by the instinct to survive. His day to day existence involves discovering where the creatures that stock him at night lay during the day. Although they look an awful lot like zombies Morgan stakes them to death and burns their bodies. Sometimes he picks up supplies; fuel, food, mirrors, wood for stakes. We also learn through flashbacks the terrible circumstances of his family’s demise. This beautifully filmed black and white creeper drips with atmosphere and desolation; roads littered with dead bodies and abandoned cars as far as the eye can see. And there is the night. The vampires come to Morgan’s door in droves, moaning incessantly and hungrily banging to get inside. It is hard to ignore some of the similarities visually to Romero’s 1968 film Night of the Living Dead. Every last minute of The Last Man on Earth is eerie and perfectly executed with just one ever so brief scene that was a bit clumsy. The Last Man on Earth is an absolutely superb film with a wonderful, hopeless, and understated performance from Vincent Price.
Directed By: Masaki Kobayashi
Kwaidan is an anthology of four supernatural tales; Black Hair, The Woman in the Snow, Hoichi the Earless, and In a Cup of Tea. It is hard to choose which of the segments my favourite is as all four are brilliant. Kwaidan is three hours long so if you can’t get down with a leisurely pace you might want to pass. You would be missing out on a hell of a film though! Black Hair is the story of a man who leaves the wife he loves for a wealthy woman. He is unhappy in his new marriage and returns to his former wife; but not without consequences. The Woman in the Snow is about a woodcutter who becomes stranded in the snow and is visited by a malevolent spirit who spares his life if he agrees never to speak of their meeting. Hoichi the Earless is about a blind musician living in a monastery who is forced to play a ballad for ghosts who are draining his life energy with every performance. In a Cup of Tea a writer tell us about the mysteries found reflected in a cup of tea. All four of Kwaidan’s segments are wonderfully unique, stylish and well-acted. Kwaidan’s imaginative use of color really stands out among the films of this period. The sets, props, costumes and effects are quite astonishing! As I said, it is difficult to choose a favourite from the quartet, but I think I would have to go with The Woman in the Snow. While nothing in the quartet can top the visuals of the Hoichi the Earless segment, there is a poetic and lyrical vibe about The Woman in the Snow that I find utterly captivating. Kwaidan is without a doubt one of the best anthologies ever made. It is one of the most beautiful and haunting films I have ever seen. Kwaidan is an incomparable masterpiece.
#2 BLOOD AND BLACK LACE
Directed By: Mario Bava
The maestro of the macabre Mario Bava has yet another entry in the top ten. Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much came out the previous year and is considered to be an influential predecessor to Italy’s Giallo period of the 1970s. In Blood and Black Lace Bava fine-tunes the idea. Blood and Black Lace is a straight-up Giallo y’all! Drug dealing, blackmail and murder in the world of Haute Couture with copious suspects, red herrings, and twists galore! Blood and Black Lace is heavy on style. Even the opening credits are spectacular! The heavy use of mannequins on the set is brilliant and unsettling. Unmoving eyes witnessing daily depravity! The deaths are effectively grisly and creative. It serves up its share of intense moments and suspense. The performances are solid, especially Eva Bartok! A unique and wonderfully trashy soundtrack compliments it all perfectly. Blood and Black Lace is my plastic fantastic lover! I really dig this film’s groove and its delectable 60s fashions! I could watch Blood and Black Lace with the sound off and love it just as much! If you have never seen a Giallo Blood and Black Lace is a great place to start. A classic.
Directed By: Kaneto Shindô
Onibaba was included in a video I did recently of my ten favourite Japanese horror films and has long held a position on my top 100 best of all time. It is somewhat misleading to call Onibaba a horror film. Onibaba takes place in 14th century feudal Japan and focuses on the hardships of those left behind. Specifically a mother and daughter-in-law who eke out a living by killing soldiers and selling their possessions to the local trader. While certainly an unsavoury way to make ends meet the horror doesn’t really surface until the final quarter of the film. Onibaba is a stunning visual experience with sexual, surreal and haunting imagery that nibbled away at my brain, burrowing deep into my subconscious. The frank nudity, the night time walks through reeds, the heartless killing of the soldiers, the sleazy lair of the trader and the quirky but perfect complimentary score; Onibaba is special for those reasons and so many more! And when the film goes all horror on my ass in that final quarter it is absolutely sublime. Onibaba is definitely slow-paced but is not tedious for a second. It is masterfully acted with spare dialog and fascinating characters. Onibaba is a beautiful, bleak, chilling tale full of symbolism and unforgettable imagery that completely and utterly kicks my ass!