Goregirl’s TOP 10 Favourite Horror Films From 1965
IMDB listed 185 titles for 1965 and 62 of those were full-length feature films. 1965 was one bumpy ass ride; it kinda sucked actually! A rough patch is a bit of an understatement. I seen 29 of the 62 films listed. I rated the top two films 5/5, spots three and four were rated 4/5, five through nine were rated 3.5/5, and the final film on the list was rated 3/5! I loathe putting a film I rated 3/5 on a list, these films tend to be plagued with issues and are usually borderline recommends. There were six other films I rated 3/5; I Saw What You Did, Terror Creatures from the Grave, Dark Intruder, Color Me Blood Red and Bloody Pit of Horror. Needless to say a disproportionate amount of titles received a 2.5/5 or an outright fail! I feel as though I should make a special mention of Monster a-Go Go, The Beach Girls and The Monster and Orgy of the Dead (in Gorgeous Astravision and Shocking Sexicolor); three of the most ridiculously bad films I seen for this feature. If you are looking for films that are so epically bad they must be seen to be believed the aforementioned are a nice little trio of craptacularness.
#10 DIE MONSTER DIE!
Directed By: Daniel Haller
Die Monster Die! is a very enthusiastic name for a rather uninspired story. It is hard to believe that this film was based on H.P. Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space! This film is about as Lovecraftian as Schindler’s List. Okay, that may be a wee bit exaggerated. Boris Karloff plays Nahum Witley a wheel-chair bound scientist who makes a discovery that endangers everyone who comes in contact with it. His daughter Susan has invited her fiancé Stephen for a visit which provides an unwelcome complication for the scientist. The story is incredibly silly, although the first half of the film is somewhat intriguing it falls apart rather badly in its second half. There are two reasons you might want to bother with this one; Boris Karloff and an attractive visual presentation. The cast consists of Boris Karloff, Freda Jackson, Suzan Farmer and Patrick Magee!! That is one hell of a cast! Boris Karloff is without a doubt one of my favourite actors of all time ever and I would see absolutely anything he is in. He is as charming as ever in Die Monster Die! I am not terribly familiar with Nick Adams but he actually does a decent job as fiancé Stephen. Unfortunately the rest of the talented cast is largely wasted with Farmer and Jackson given limited character arcs and iffy dialog. Patrick Magee is actually quite watchable in his role but the inclusion of the character seemed wholly unnecessary. Besides Karloff Die Monster Die’s best asset is its appearance. I thought the name Daniel Haller seemed awfully familiar! Haller did the art direction for just about every Corman horror film from 1959’s A Bucket of Blood to 1964’s Tomb of Ligeia. Clearly the man learned much about making a beautiful film on a small budget! The home of Nahum Witley is properly spooky and claustrophobic and the widescreen color photography is quite pleasant on the eyes. Little touches like the otherworldly glow of a forbidden greenhouse at night, the obscured shots of potential scarred family members, and disappearing servants all provide a great sense of foreboding. Die Monster Die! certainly has its issues and although somewhat of a borderline recommend you can certainly admire its good looks and a wonderful performance by the legendary Boris Karloff.
#9 TWO ON A GUILLOTINE
Directed By: William Conrad
When I spied Connie Stevens and Cesar Romero’s names at the top of the cast list for Two on a Guillotine I was expecting something silly and comedic. I have to admit I was not in a big hurry to check this one out. Two on a Guillotine, although very “PG” is actually a fun little mystery-thriller with a hearty helping of camp. Cassie Duquesne comes home for the funeral of her eccentric magician father Duke only to be told she must stay a week in his creaky old mansion in order to receive her sole inheritance. Connie Stevens isn’t bad at all playing dual roles of both daughter Cassie and Melinda her mother whom was killed in a magic trick gone horribly wrong. There is a nice mood and a great creepy old house setting but its scares which consist of lots of screaming and surprises behind doors made me think of William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill with a touch of 13 Ghosts. Or perhaps it was the fact that Two on a Guillotine seems to be a film made for kids that put me to mind of William Castle. Two on a Guillotine with its gentle but charming disposition is certainly not going to be tense or scary for most of us, but it is quite fun; and I loved the anticipation of daddy Duke Duquesne potentially showing up from the grave at any moment. I can’t really think of a better descriptor for Two on a Guillotine than cute, it rather nicely sums up my feelings.
Directed By: Silvio Narizzano
Fanatic is a joint effort of Columbia Pictures and Hammer Films. I had not seen Fanatic for years and had no recollection of a Hammer association. There is one very good reason to give Fanatic a watch and that is Ms. Tallulah Bankhead. This was Bankhead’s last on-screen appearance for a feature film and she really gives a no holds barred performance as Mrs. Trefoile a fanatically religious, insanely devoted mother. Mrs. Trefoile receives a visit from her son’s former fiancée Patricia; former due to the fact that her son was killed in a car accident. Despite the fact that Patricia has moved on with her life; in Mrs. Trefoile’s twisted mind she believes Patricia belongs to her dead son. She takes it upon herself to purify Patricia’s sin. She is going to purify those sins but good! You gotta appreciate the imagery of a religious fanatic with a bible in one hand and a gun in the other!! I can’t say enough good things about Bankhead’s performance bouncing around from frightfully polite and sugary to seething jabs and growling commentary! She is just a treasure! I don’t usually root for the fanatically religious character; but I definitely rooted for Mrs. Trefoile! Patricia the former fiancée is an annoying character I didn’t care for much at all. Stefanie Powers is forced to be far too over the top to match wits with the plucky Bankhead. And I must admit, I just am not a fan of Stefanie Powers. Her performance and presence left little to be desired for me personally. The other supporting characters all do a fine job, especially Peter Vaughan and Donald Sutherland. This is really borderline as horror and definitely has more thrills than chills; it is also a touch campy but it is awfully fun seeing Bankhead slap Powers but good! Seriously, Fanatic is absolutely worth seeing just for Bankhead!
#7 NIGHTMARE CASTLE
Directed By: Mario Caiano
Yet another appearance for Barbara Steele on the top ten lists. In Nightmare Castle Steele once again plays dual lead roles. As cheating wife Muriel, she is full of seething hatred for her husband and as Jenny she is sweet but unstable. Nightmare Castle is the story of Dr. Arrowsmith who upon learning his wife Muriel has been cheating, tortures and kills Muriel and her lover. Before Muriel dies she tells her husband she has changed her will and has left everything to her stepsister Jenny who currently resides in a mental institution. The diabolical doctor will do anything to secure his fortunes and he is soon married to the unstable Jenny. You might guess things do not go smoothly. Nightmare Castle is a gothic tale of obsession, madness, greed and revenge. Its ideas are grand enough, but the story does tend to wander. Some of the dialog is also a bit sketchy. Fortunately it makes up for this with its presentation. Its moody black and white cinematography is excellent, the sets and costumes are stunning and Ennio Morricone’s low-key score is lovely. There are some delightfully diabolical and unsettling moments also including a torture scene that was particularly racy for the time, and a twisted subplot involving Dr. Arrowsmith and the maid. Paul Muller is solid as Dr. Arrowsmith and the small supporting cast are all decent. It is really Steele’s performance that elevates this one to a higher tier however. Nightmare Castle is deliciously gothic fun!
#6 A STUDY IN TERROR
Directed By: James Hill
When I was a kid I was a huge sucker for Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, just about any character that did “detecting”. I remember begging my dad to buy me a detective kit from the back of a magazine which after much persistence on my part he eventually relented. I remember like it was yesterday when that thing arrived in the mail. I thought my little blond head was going to explode with anticipation! I excitedly tore at the brown paper to find what turned out to be my biggest disappointment of my seven years of life! The detective kit was a cardboard box that was shoddily painted to look like a briefcase and already boasted a large dent from its journey in the mail. The kit consisted of an ink pad, a tiny notebook of blank paper, a plastic magnifying glass and a detective license. It didn’t take a detective to deduce this kit was a load of shite! After the Sea Monkey debacle that followed I lost my enthusiasm for ordering junk from the back of magazines. The well-known detective investigates the equally infamous Jack the Ripper/Whitechapel murders in A Study in Terror. The detective this time around is played by John Neville who I think makes a grand Holmes! The acting is good across the board, aided by some solid writing and dialog. They do a real nice job of capturing the period and add some unique touches like a real nice POV murder shot from the killer’s perspective. I must admit that at this point in my life having seen copious amounts of both Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes interpretations to last me a lifetime it was difficult to get too terribly excited about this one. A Study in Terror is a great-looking, well-written film with an applaudable performance from John Neville as everyone’s favourite detective Sherlock Holmes.
#5 THE SKULL
Directed By: Freddie Francis
I chose to review Amicus Production’s The Skull thinking it was unlikely to make a list with its 3.5/5 rating! I guess I should have looked ahead more thoroughly! This is one of two Amicus Production films directed by Freddie Francis to make this list. The Skull is an enjoyable little romp based on Robert Bloch’s The Skull of the Marquis de Sade. For a film about a possessed skull it is quite coherent, well-written, well-paced, solidly acted and a nicely filmed bit of fun! To read my full review click here.
#4 PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES
Directed By: Mario Bava
This is the sixth film directed by Mario Bava to make a Psycho-Delic 60s list! Two spaceships receive a signal from an unchartered planet called Aura. One ship lands and when the crew are exposed to the atmosphere go berserk and begin attacking each other. Soon after the second ship lands and explores the area eventually finding their sister ship with its crew dead. With their ship incurring some heavy damage when they landed the crew are forced to wait on the repairs with deadly consequences. Regardless of what its name might suggest, Planet of the Vampires is not about a planet of vampires. It is a planet of incorporeal alien creatures that plan on using deceased human bodies to escape their dying planet. It is a fairly clever little story with a surprisingly chilling atmosphere. The film is colourful and stylish and despite its cardboard sets manages to look quite alluring. I love how Bava uses the fog and sound effects! But the real payoff is the most outstanding finale! Planet of the Vampires is moderately paced with an engrossing story and a hypnotically claustrophobic and chilling vibe. It definitely has its campy elements, but I rather loved those space ships with all their flashy lights! I have mentioned in other reviews that Mario Bava’s work has been highly influential and Planet of the Vampires is yet another example; apparently the inspiration for Ridley Scott’s Alien! Planet of the Vampires is solid entertainment!!
#3 DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS
Directed By: Freddie Francis
This is the second Amicus Production flick directed by Freddie Francis to make the list. Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors is a five story anthology as told by a mysterious fortune teller. The wraparound story in anthologies can sometimes really be bunk; Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors however is one of my favourites! Five strangers board a train and are joined by a fortune teller by the name of Dr. W. R. Schreck played by Peter Cushing. Dr. W. R. Schreck reads each man’s tarot cards and we are told the story of what the cards foretell. Cushing is super fantastic as the fortune teller and gives the character mysteriousness without resorting to hokiness. The themes covered include werewolves, vampires, a ravenous house plant, voodoo and a disembodied hand. Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors is certainly efficient with its five stories told over 90 minutes. I enjoyed all five segments although the two comedic ones about the killer plant and voodoo were less enjoyable than the other three. My favourite by far is the Christopher Lee segment about the disembodied hand! Absolutely, positively love the story’s finale and it is great fun seeing Lee’s character get his comeuppance. The vampire story featuring a young and handsome Donald Sutherland has a neat twist, the werewolf story is all around top notch and Dr. W. R. Schreck’s story that ties it all together ends with panache! Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors was the first of several anthologies Amicus would release and is one of the best of the bunch!
#2 THE COLLECTOR
Directed By: William Wyler
Like Cape Fear (which made my 1962 list), I’ve never thought of The Collector as a horror film but it showed up on the IMDB list under the horror tag. I love The Collector so I am quite happy to include it on this list. Freddie is a bank clerk and lepidopterist who kidnaps art student Miranda Grey believing if she spent time with him she would come to love him. A twisted, far-fetched idea to say the least and a particularly troubling one from a man who appears to be very intelligent. It is made clear to us that Freddie is an outcast and despite his intellect is past concerning himself with consequences. Miranda is a pretty smart cookie herself and handily matches wits with Freddie at least until the desperation begins to set in. The roles of Freddie and Miranda are played by Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar who could not have been better cast; both give smashing performances! Freddie is not your run of the mill kidnapper. He is neatly dressed and terribly proper which makes his steely intensity that much creepier. Stamp also brings a certain pathos to Freddie which made me feel just a little bit sorry for him. Miranda is strong and sexy but as the days pass her desperation mounts. Samantha Eggar is fresh-faced and lovely and brings both strength and vulnerability to the character. She refuses to be the victim but her resolve is inevitably weakened as time wears on. The Collector’s title refers to Freddie’s hobby of butterfly collecting. The idea of catching butterflies to pin to a board is a little unsettling to me. I don’t care if it is for scientific purposes or not, I think it is a grim hobby. I must say however, that it certainly adds an interesting subtext to this particular story! The Collector is a smart, well-written, beautifully-filmed compelling thriller with two unforgettable performances from Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar.
Directed By: Roman Polanski
Bloody Hell! No matter how many times I see Repulsion it crawls under my skin. I was fortunate enough to see this brilliant film in the theatre a year or two ago. If you are as lucky as we are here in Vancouver to have a killer theatre like Cinematheque that screens these older films I seriously can not recommend enough checking Repulsion out! It was a mind-blowing experience! The film is about Carol, a young manicurist living in London with her sister Helen. Helen accepts an invitation from her boyfriend to travel abroad leaving Carol to fend for herself. Carol is sweet and soft-spoken with obsessive compulsive tendencies, but when left to her own devices begins to slowly descend into madness. Repulsion is one of the greatest psychological horror films ever made and has long held a place on my 100 best horror films of all time. Repulsion is an exercise in delusion, unease and paranoia that is as powerful now as it was when it was released back in 1965. Repulsion is as much Catherine Deneuve’s film as it is Roman Polanski’s. She is absolutely magnificent! As Carol, Deneuve is silent and alone for much of the film and her state of being is constantly a focus. Every minute of her crumbling sanity caught in all its hallucinatory, haunting, disturbing glory! Filmed in delicious Sexual Repression-O-Vision masterfully executed by Mr. Polanski! All of the performances in Repulsion are top drawer but it is Deneuve’s Carol that will chill you to the bone; in my opinion it is one of the best performances to ever grace a horror film (or a film of any genre frankly)! Repulsion is a masterpiece of the first order!