Goregirl’s TOP 10 Favourite Horror Films From 1960
IMDB listed 139 titles for 1960, but once I dug into the list I discovered only 61 were actually full-length feature films. As is my modus operandi when doing these features, I do not include shorts, documentaries, made for TV movies or TV series. IMDB lists every individual episode of the television shows which accounted for a goodly number of the 139 titles. There were several episodes of the excellent Twilight Zone series along with two shows I had never heard of Thriller and The Unforeseen. I saw 47 of the 61 films from 1960. Ranking these was practically impossible. For starters my entire top five are films I ranked 5/5. How do you rank films you rated identically? Numbers 6 and 7 were films I rated 4.5/5 so they were easy enough to place. The bigger problem came when trying to decide which 3 films would round out the list when I had 8 films I ranked 4/5! What a colossal headache! The films I left off are all well worth a viewing; The Brides of Dracula, Circus of Horrors, The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll and The Secret of the Telgian.
#10 THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS
Directed By: John Gilling
The Flesh and the Fiends is the story of infamous corpse peddlers William Burke and William Hare and their business transactions with Professor Dr. Robert Knox. The lead performances are absolutely top notch; Peter Cushing as Dr. Knox, Donald Pleasence as Hare and George Rose as Burke are perfectly cast. Some of the supporting character subplots felt redundant but it’s a small complaint in an otherwise outstanding film. The Flesh and the Fiends beautifully captures the dark shadows of 19th Century Edinburgh. It’s a fantastic looking film with an excellent grim and eerie vibe. The deaths are not graphic but they are cold-hearted, well-executed and effectively chilling. I foolishly assumed being a 1960 British film starring Peter Cushing and directed by John Gilling (who directed the fantastic Hammer film Plague of the Zombies) that this was a Hammer film. It was in fact made at Shepperton Studios and was produced by Triad Productions. I was particularly torn between Circus of Horrors and The Flesh and the Fiends. In the end John Gilling’s excellent The Flesh and the Fiends won out in a large part thanks to the performances of Cushing, Pleasance and Rose.
#9 MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN
Directed By: Giorgio Ferroni
Mill of the Stone Women is about a reporter writing a story on a reclusive sculptor who lives in an old mill. The mill houses a strange tourist attraction created by the sculptor; a carousel-esque contraption that features statues of historical women including some famous murderesses. The sculptor is hiding a secret in the form of a beautiful daughter suffering from some mysterious illness. Add to the mix an eccentric doctor and you’ve got one entertaining story. They give away too much information too soon yet the finale is none the lesser for it. The film’s finale is an absolute utter treat! Mill of the Stone Women is an imaginatively filmed lush affair with some seriously trippy scenes. The performances are good; particularly strong are Herbert Boehme as Professor Gregorius Wahl and Wolfgang Preiss as Dr. Loren Bohlem. It is a slow-moving but hypnotic watch with utterly fantastic set pieces, especially that lady carousel; that thing was freaking awesome! Giorgio Ferroni’s Mill of the Stone Women is a stylish, atmospheric horror film that comes highly recommended.
#8 JIGOKU (aka THE SINNERS OF HELL)
Directed By: Nobuo Nakagawa
Jigoku or The Sinners of Hell is a bit of a bitch to give a short summary for. It is a story about a student named Shiro who is engaged to his professor’s daughter Yukiko. Shiro is the passenger in a hit and run, but there is a witness who wants revenge, Yukiko dies in a car accident, and Shiro is called home to see his dying mother. Shiro’s father runs a shoddy retirement home and openly flaunts his mistress and his mother’s caretaker is a dead ringer for his recently deceased fiancé. For reasons I will not divulge everyone ends up in hell. Hell! Rivers of blood, endless tortures, and demons await you! Jigoku is one of the earliest films to feature graphic gore. There is a flaying and a decapitation among other goodies. Jigoku is an exceptional film visually that is as beautiful as it is bizarre. To check out my photo review for Jigoku click here. Jigoku is an exceptionally unique Japanese horror film…and it has gore!
#7 HOUSE OF USHER
Directed By: Roger Corman
Roger Corman directed several films based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe starring horror legend Vincent Price. Expect to see more of these on the top ten lists as they are some of the best the decade has to offer! Vincent Price plays Roderick Usher who opposes the marriage of his sister Madeline due to their cursed family bloodline. Price, of course is brilliant as Roderick Usher and he gets strong support from Myrna Fahey who plays Madeline Usher, Harry Ellerbe as Bristol and Mark Damon as Philip Winthrop; Madeline’s intended. The visuals are first class all the way. House of Usher’s great costumes, fantastic sets, superb performances and well-paced plotting assures you are entertained every single second of its 80ish minute runtime.
#6 CITY OF THE DEAD
Directed By: John Llewellyn Moxey
City of the Dead was on my list of favourite witchcraft films I posted last week and it easily qualified as one of the best of 1960. City of the Dead is about a college student prompted by her professor to do research in the tiny village of Whitewood where much to her horror she discovers she is a target for a coven of witches. The performances are good particularly from Patricia Jessel who plays dual roles and Christopher Lee who has a memorable supporting turn. City of the Dead is a great atmospheric horror films with excellent suspense, beautifully gothic visuals and an engrossing story with one hell of a finale.
#5 VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED
Directed By: Wolf Rilla
Village of the Damned has been a favourite since I was a kid. An entire town rendered unconscious and protected by an invisible force field even the military can not breach. After a while the force field disappears and the townsfolk begin waking up seemingly unharmed. A few weeks later however the women of child-bearing age discover they are pregnant and all deliver on the same day. The children grow at an alarming rate and bare a striking resemblance to one another. The creepy, emotionless blonde haired children also possess supernatural powers! Filmed in beautiful black and white with a perfect sense of paranoia and an eerie menacing vibe that is completely engrossing. Village of the Damned is well-written and the performances are perfect; especially excellent is George Sanders as the affable Gordon Zellaby, and the talented Barbara Shelley as his charming wife Anthea. Beware the glowing eyes of the children! Why haven’t you seen this film? Village of the Damned is one of the great classics of sci-fi horror.
#4 BLACK SUNDAY
Directed By: Mario Bava
I warned you it would not be the last time you would see Mario Bava’s Black Sunday on a list! There is no movie on this list I have seen more than Black Sunday! My childhood viewing of Black Sunday terrified me! These days I appreciate it more for its beautiful, gothic, hypnotizing cinematography. But that scene of the mask of Satan being pounded into Barbara Steele’s face still has some sting! It is the story of a witch put to death by her own brother who returns 200 years later to seek revenge on her descendants. Black Sunday is beautiful, eerie and hypnotic and Barbara Steele simply stuns in her dual roles. Black Sunday is one of the greatest gothic horror films ever made!
#3 PEEPING TOM
Directed By: Michael Powell
Peeping Tom has a particularly racy story for 1960. Peeping Tom is the story of Mark Lewis who murders women so he can capture on film their terrified expressions before death. Its voyeuristic nature is heavily emphasized and the film is as much psychological as it is horrifying. Carl Boehm plays it quiet and brooding and is outstanding as the awkward and unstable titular Peeping Tom Mark Lewis. This isn’t simply a film about a serial killer it is an in-depth character study and an intelligently written story that explores deeper issues than one would expect of the sub-genre. The film is a slow-burn but an extremely effective one. Peeping Tom is a dark, edgy, well-made film that was ahead of its time. Absolutely brilliant.
#2 EYES WITHOUT A FACE
Directed By: Georges Franju
Eyes Without a Face is about Christiane who lives hidden from the world, shrouded by a white featureless mask that hides her horribly disfigured face. Her father is guilt-ridden plastic surgeon, Dr. Genessier. With the help of his assistant Louise, they lure young women in and surgically remove their faces in hope of successfully grafting the skin to his daughter. But one failed graft after another leaves a pile of bodies and little hope. Eyes without a Face is about vanity, guilt, obsession, depression and redemption. It is a tale that is as bizarre and bleak as it is beautiful. Eyes Without a Face is a visually stunning film; its sterile brightly lit surgeries, shadowy corridors, endless rooms and impressive set pieces. The “face removal” was very graphic for the time and still impresses. A strange and wonderful score compliments beautifully. Eyes Without a Face is a flawless, strikingly original, bleak and beautiful contribution to the horror genre.
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock
Truthfully, I don’t enjoy Psycho any more than the other films in this top five. As I mentioned in my introduction I gave all five of these films an identical perfect rating. Alas one of the films had to hold this spot and technically speaking Psycho is a flawless masterpiece. I am sure there is nothing I can add that hasn’t been said about Psycho before. If you are unfamiliar with Psycho’s story it revolves around a woman named Marion Crane who decides to leave town to start a new life with money she stole from her employer. Inevitably she must stop to rest and chooses the Bates Motel run by a socially awkward momma’s boy named Norman Bates. This does not end well for Ms. Crane whose disappearance does not go unnoticed. Psycho is a stunning film with a pitch perfect mood and atmosphere. Psycho’s real attraction for me is Norman Bates. Anthony Perkins gives a truly epic and iconic performance as cinema’s most infamous momma’s boy. Hitchcock constructed a truly beautiful, chilling, ground-breaking film that has a firm place in horror history.