Goregirl’s TOP 10 Favourite Horror Films From 1966
There were 278 titles listed for 1966 and only 55 of those were full-length feature films! The television show Dark Shadows had 133 episodes listed for 1966! I have watched 32 of the 55 horror films listed for the year. The top two films earned a 5/5 rating, I rated spots three, four and five 4.5/5, and numbers six through ten were all rated 3.5/5. I gave two other films from the year a 3.5/5 rating; The Hunchback of Soho and The Undertaker and his Pals.
#10 QUEEN OF BLOOD
Directed By: Curtis Harrington
This is Curtis Harrington’s second entry on a top ten list; his former entry being the 1961 film Night Tide starring Dennis Hopper. Hopper also has a role in Queen of Blood, along with the excellent John Saxon, Judi Meredith, Florence Marly and Basil Rathbone. The acting by the major players is quite good, although much of the acting of the minor roles is a little sketchy. Earth receives an alien transmission from Mars stating a desire to make contact. The alien space ship crashes and a crew are sent to recover any survivors. The only survivor they find is a green-skinned female who they discover has a thirst for human blood. Queen of Blood has a moody vibe with some eerie and well-executed visuals. The film is somewhat on the slow-paced side and a touch talky but most of it works to the films advantage gradually building up suspense. There are a few fun twists and surprises and the final half hour or so is a lively and exciting payoff for your patience. The story is decent; a nicely balanced mix of sci-fi and horror elements. Queen of Blood has some genuinely creepy moments, decent performances, a bit of camp, and a fascinating menace that is downright entertaining!
Directed By: Anton Holden
Aroused is definitely one of the sleaziest entries to make a top ten list for the decade! Aroused is a grimy psychodrama loaded with nudity, violence and some surprisingly decent visuals and acting. Shot in black and white in New York City, Aroused was one of several seedy underground sexploitation films from the period; in my opinion it is one of the best. I was shocked by the similarities to William Lustig’s Maniac; one of my favourite horror films from the 80s. While not nearly as graphic as Maniac, its nudity and violence was very risqué for the time. A prostitute whose lesbian lover is murdered teams up with a cop to catch the killer and get her revenge. The film does linger a little long in sections but is mostly well-paced and exciting with a great opener and one hell of a finale (damned satisfying too)! The fantastic abode of the killer with its mannequin parts and fetish gear is something else as is his completely mental flashbacks!! Aroused has better character development than one would expect from this type of fare (particularly the sordid details of the killer’s childhood) and as already mentioned the acting really isn’t half bad. Aroused is an early Grindhouse entry that is well worth seeking out for any fan of early sexploitation.
#8 ISLAND OF TERROR
Directed By: Terence Fisher
I am surprised Island of Terror is only Terence Fisher’s second film to make a top ten list (although he does have a third entry on this list in the number three position). My first and only viewing of Island of Terror was for this feature. I have no idea how this film slid under my radar. I am a huge fan of Terence Fisher and even gave him the #41 spot on my fifty favourite directors list. I am also a big fan of Peter Cushing who stars along with Edward Judd. Both men play doctors; Cushing is laid back and likable while Judd keeps a stoic demeanour. Island of Terror has an original science fiction oriented story that involves cancer research. I can’t recall another film from this period that specifically uses cancer research to motivate its story. A cancer specialist by the name of Dr. Philips has created a living organism that he hopes will be able to attack cancer cells. The experiment goes horribly wrong and the organisms that live off of bone are unleashed on the small island. The film opens with a constable discovering a corpse who seems to be missing its bones! The two doctors eventually trace it all back to the aforementioned Dr. Philips who they inevitably find dead. The idea of having your bones sucked out of your body is actually rather grim! Granted, the creatures are a bit on the campy side but they still provide some really great, lively action sequences. I loved those slurpy and nasty accompanying sound effects! Island of Terror has well-executed suspense, strong performances, a great atmosphere, fun action sequences and provides its share of thrills and chills!
#7 CARRY ON SCREAMING
Directed By: Gerald Thomas
I have not been a huge fan of the Carry On films. It is comedy that just doesn’t really tickle me much. Carry on Screaming is one of five I’ve seen from the Carry On gang and it is the only one I can actually say I like a lot. A sinister doctor, an alluring vampire, a hairy dude that abducts women, mannequins that were once beautiful ladies, a clueless cop called Detective Sergeant Bung and of course tons of parodying of classic horror films. It is incredibly hokey and silly and packed with tons of one-liners, sexual innuendos and site gags. Carry On Screaming is actually nicely furnished with all the details needed for a lovely looking gothic horror film; if they never spoke this could have passed as a Hammer flick. The film is quite enthusiastically paced and has very little downtime. The exchanges between the daft Detective Bung and his equally dim sidekick are fun as is Bung’s interaction with his grating wife. Carry On Screaming is absolute silliness and does not take itself serious for a single second. If you are a fan of the Carry On gang and their films you should not be disappointed. Even as someone who is not particularly a fan of the Carry On films I thought Carry On Screaming was an amusing and satisfying spoof that had me chuckling and even howling a few times!
#6 THE REPTILE
Directed By: John Gilling
The Reptile is John Gilling’s third entry on a top ten list and he has one more on this list ranked number two! John Gilling is another director I don’t think I have given enough respect to. Admittedly, Gilling’s name has not been one that immediately comes to mind when I think of my favourite Hammer directors; but it will be now! The Reptile is about couple Harry and Valerie Spalding. Harry inherits his brother’s cottage who died under mysterious circumstances. The couple move in to the cottage and get a chilly reception from the locals. Much to the townsfolk’s chagrin Harry intends to stay around until he discovers how his brother died. So why is this film called The Reptile you might ask? The Reptile features a snake woman who stalks her victims by the light of the moon. Unfortunately the makeup for the snake woman was not terribly inspired. Otherwise The Reptile has great looking cinematography, lovely sets and costumes and excellent performances. The film has a fun creative script that kept me in suspense from beginning to end. It maintains a nicely moody atmosphere with a strong sense of mistrust and unease. A little more on the mythology of the snake woman would have been nice, but I still found the finale wholly satisfying. The entire cast are strong but the real standout in The Reptile is Michael Ripper who plays Innkeeper Tom Bailey; the only local willing to speak to Harry and Valerie. Ripper’s Bailey character is empathetic and very likable. The Reptile is a charming supernatural tale that is easy on the eyes and mucho entertaining!
#5 THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z
Directed By: Jesus Franco
This is Jess Franco’s second film to make a top ten list and it is a damn fine one at that!! I noted that Franco’s 1962 film The Awful Dr. Orloff was the best film Franco ever directed, but I think I have to take that back! I loved The Diabolical Dr. Z! What an outrageous and twistedly fun story! Irma Zimmer hungry to avenge the death of her father trains dancer Nadia to do her bidding. Trains her like she is a lion in the freaking circus she does! Seriously! Whip, chair and all! Another black and white entry that looks quite slick, with some well-executed scenes of violence and a strong sexual undercurrent; a sign of things to come from Mr. Frano. Estella Blain is perfect as the seductive Nadia in her funky-fantastic costumes with her delicious, kinky and sexy dance routines. Nadia alone is worth checking the film out for. The vengeful Irma is excellent and is convincingly obsessive and even a wee bit sympathetic. The great Howard Vernon also has a brief appearance leaving a memorable impression. There are some unique surreal touches throughout the film and the sets are quite wonderful. The old castle and the wild laboratory furnished with peculiar gadgets are a joy. There are some perfectly conceived action sequences that are down right heart-pounding and one particularly jarring scene for 1966 where a character ends up with her head crashing through a window pane! The Diabolical Dr. Z is an absolute shitload of fun!
Directed By: Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Japanese monster movies are generally a campy affair with very few exceptions. I can really only cite three; Ishirô Honda’s films Godzilla (1954) and Matango (1963) along with this film I have given the number four spot for 1966; Kimiyoshi Yasuda’s Daimajin. Set in feudal Japan, Daimajin is the story of a determined son, a young woman whose tears have the power to move the great statue Majin, and an evil warlord who needs to pay for years of terrorizing a small village. Daimajin has a simple but solid story with a strong folkloresque vibe. The massive giant stone statue that stands among the mountains is quite impressive. All of the effects in the film are quite impressive! Majin’s massive bulk and earth-shaking footsteps are a relentless force! You do have to wait a while to see this bad boy in action, but it is well worth the wait. The Majin’s presence made for a grand finale! The performances are great, the visuals nicely captures a long ago time, the score is superb and the story engrossing. A classic tale of good versus evil; the vengeful son, the noble lord, the evil and detestable usurper, and the femme whose tears can wake a stone giant. Daimajin is an absolute treat!
#3 DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS
Directed By: Terence Fisher
Dracula Prince of Darkness is Terence Fisher’s third entry on a top ten list. Christopher Lee made seven appearances as Dracula for Hammer Films (Lee has played vampires in a few non-Hammer films also). Dracula Prince of Darkness is my favourite of his vampire roles. It seems like an odd choice when you consider he doesn’t speak a word. Furthermore he doesn’t have loads of screen time. Nonetheless I find this Count role particularly alluring, mysterious and menacing. I also enjoy Dracula Prince of Darkness accompanying story. Four travellers are lured to the much maligned Castle Dracula and inadvertently aid in the Count’s resurrection. And what a resurrection it is! Dracula Prince of Darkness is well filmed with a great moody atmosphere and fantastic sets. It has some wickedly executed action sequences and a nifty little twist ending. Lee’s lurking vampire is well complimented with great turns from Andrew Kier who plays Father Sandor, Thorley Walters who plays the Renfeld-esque Ludwig, Philip Lathan as Dracula’s faithful servant Klove and the scene-stealing Barbara Shelley as Helen Kent. Dracula Prince of Darkness is immensely entertaining but in all honesty it is the tall, dark and handsome Christopher Lee that puts the film on a higher tier for me.
#2 THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES
Directed By: John Gilling
The Plague of the Zombies as far as I know is Hammer Film’s only entry into the zombie sub-genre. Bloody shame frankly as this is a damn fine zombie film! Mysterious deaths have plagued a small village for the past year and the local doctor has become inflicted with a deadly infection. The doctor sends for his mentor Sir James Forbes; doctor, teacher and amateur sleuth who helps to uncover the mystery that takes his down a precarious path of empty graves, voodoo and the walking dead! The sets in The Plague of the Zombies are particularly impressive! There are lovely outdoor shots through lush forests, trips through crowded graveyards, beautiful estates and a creepy nickel mine. The props are equally impressive; the ceremonial robes, weird masks, copious candles and especially those awesome mini coffins with the little clay men and women that are used in the rituals. The effects are outstanding. These are some very creepy undead bastards! They come in various stages of decay but of course it is those gorgeous old rotting dudes with the white cloudy eyes that really do it for me. These are not flesh-eating zombies but rather voodoo-raised and with a very specific purpose. The performances are great with André Morell as a real stand out as Sir James Forbes. He has a wonderful dry wit I found endlessly entertaining. Diane Clare is strong as his daughter Sylvia and the two have great chemistry. Another piece of the puzzle I haven’t mentioned is Squire Clive Hamilton who has inherited his father’s home and his significant debts. He manages to turn the family finances around a little too quickly and his hired hands are terrorizing the locals. The Squire wields power but hungers for more and is an all-around smarmy jerk. You know with those sideburns he’s got to be evil! John Carson does a good job as the unlikable bloke. Although not afforded much screen time I thought Jacqueline Pearce was very good in the role of Alice Tompson; the wife of the village doctor. The Plague of the Zombies has a great story amazing visuals, impressive effects and great performances and in my opinion it is one of Hammer’s absolute best!
#1 KILL BABY KILL
Directed By: Mario Bava
Kill Baby Kill is the seventh Mario Bava directed film to make a top ten list and his first number one! A young doctor is summoned by the inspector to a small village to do an autopsy on a woman who died under questionable circumstances. The doc becomes entrenched in the town’s mystery which seems to point to the Baroness Graps and the death of her daughter twenty years earlier. The spooky old village is littered with crumbling buildings, endless corridors and graveyards all soaked in fog and cobwebs. Bava adds a ton of nifty creative touches like a ball bouncing in slow-motion, a dizzying spiral staircase sequence and scenes washed in green and red lights. Kill Baby Kill isn’t terribly graphic but there are some well-executed scenes of violence including impalement and a slashed throat. Kill Baby Kill is a mesmerizing and eerie supernatural tale with an engrossing story, good performances and truly spectacular visuals. I have watched Kill Baby Kill at least a dozen times over the years and it never loses it charm!