Goregirl’s TOP 10 Favourite Horror Films From 1969
IMDB listed 358 titles for 1969; 64 of those were full-length feature films. I seen 35 of the 64 films listed for the year. The number one and two spots earned a 5/5, films three through five received a 4/5, six through nine earned a 3.5/5 rating and spot ten received a 3/5. I gave five other films from 1969 a 3/5 rating; Inferno of Torture, The Mad Room, The Oblong Box, Malenka and Book of Stone. It is a bit of a bummer that the decade ended on a bit of an uninspired note, but it sure has been a fascinating trip! The decade provided its share of ups and downs. I found some great new gems that I look forward to re-watching and re-discovered some forgotten nuggets! I will have a Psycho-Delic 60s summary tomorrow!
#10 MARQUIS DE SADE: JUSTINE
Directed By: Jess Franco
This is Jess Franco’s third film to make a top ten list for the 60s! While Marquis de Sade: Justine is certainly more conservative than Franco’s titles that followed, it is still a touch racy for 1969. Marquis de Sade: Justine is like a fairy tale, except instead of being tempted by a house made of gingerbread the characters are tempted by Justine’s innocence, and instead of a witch they are perverts and creeps. It even comes with a lesson about being rewarded for a virtuous life! Justine our titular character gets booted from a nunnery and is taken to a brothel from which she escapes and becomes a maid briefly. Later she is framed and sent to prison from which she escapes. She is almost gang raped (and escapes) and takes refuge with an artist whom she models for. Again she is forced to flee and is offered refuge by yet another man who needless to say does not have her best interest in mind. Again she is forced to flee and is drawn to a quartet of religious men who appear to be living a life of meditation but she learns they are actually sexual deviants. She again escapes, this time from being tortured to death! This broad is like the great Houdini or something! Marquis de Sade: Justine has a stellar cast that includes Klaus Kinski, Jack Palance, Maria Rohm, Rosemary Dexter and Mercedes McCambridge. Romina Power is very pretty but drifts rather aimlessly about as Justine; alas all I can really say about her, is at least she looked good while doing so. Jack Palance as one of the film’s sexual deviants is without a doubt the weirdest role I have ever seen him play! Kinski gets top billing as Marquis de Sade but I don’t recall him speaking; he paces a lot! Technically speaking the film looks great and has a nice slick richly colored appearance, the pace is better than most of Franco’s efforts and there is a fair amount of bare skin and a dabbling of the kinky but nothing that is going to rock your average exploitation fan much. To say Jess Franco has a free style directing approach seems like the understatement of the year. Marquis de Sade: Justine is flawed but I must admit, I find it an intriguing watch just the same.
#9 THE WITCHMAKER
Directed By: William O. Brown
Witchcraft was a pretty popular subject for horror flicks through the 1960s. Seems to me I seen at least a dozen films about witches and witchcraft through the decade. The Witchmaker clearly had budget limitations and does look a little rough at times, but they manage a lot of creativity with what they have to work with. The excellent Louisiana backdrop is the perfect setting for a film about witchcraft! A group travel to an area deep in swamp country where the ritualistic murders of several young women have occurred. They soon meet Luther the Berserk and a coven of witches. Luther the Berserk is a warlock, or is he a berserker? I wish I had taken better notes. Luther the Berserk is part of a coven of witches who drink blood to stay young. There is a lot of mixed folklore here. There was something about garlic keeping witches away, or it made you invisible, I don’t remember. There is sex and nudity although neither is graphic but the violence surprisingly is. Well, you know, graphic for 1969 anyway. It also has a particularly grim ending which I loved! The foggy swamps are great and truly a better location could not have been chosen; it makes for a great chilling atmosphere. Luther the Berserk is well worth watching this film for! I never got tired of his chanting and carrying on and his crazy Satan talk! It was an absolute freaking riot! John Lodge gives an inspired performance as Luther!! Anastasia, one of the film crew is the descendant of a witch and is of great interest to the coven. Thordis Brandt was decent enough as Anastasia and if you enjoy slow motion shots of women running naked, look out! The acting in the film is not exactly good, but it didn’t really matter much. Luther the Berserk chews up every bit of scenery anyway! The Witchmaker is a fun, mildly exploitative witch flick with some surprising violence, a great atmosphere, a little weirdness and ritualistic high jinx that made for an entertaining watch.
#8 EYE OF THE CAT
Directed By: David Lowell Rich
I have run in to a few cat-themed films through the 1960s and some of them have landed on these top ten lists. More than a few of them of course have been Edgar Allan Poe inspired! Eye of the Cat is a fun film that features a crapload of cats! Eye of the Cat is about some greedy people who would like to get their mitts on the fortune of an eccentric old woman with a house full of cats. When will people ever learn not to mess with a cat? Never mind a fecking army of cats! I am not going to lie to you; my favourite thing about Eye of the Cat is the cats! Eye of the Cat is well-filmed, made me laugh and even surprised me a few times. There is a mildly incestuous thing going on between two of the film’s characters that I found pretty amusing. The performances from Gayle Hunnicutt and Eleanor Parker are great. Gayle Hunnicutt who plays opportunistic Kassia is cold and calculating and a real treat with her big chic 60s hair and those sassy outfits! Eleanor Parker is also an awful lot of fun as rich old Aunt Danny. Michael Sarrazin who plays another one of the greedy characters Wylie was a little mediocre. The story is decent enough but seemed a little familiar. I don’t know if I seen the movie years ago or it borrows from another movie. It is still driving me nuts! In any case, Eye of the Cat is a beauty looking film with some good performances, a few laughs and a chill or two; but come for the cats! Eye of the Cat is all about the cats!!
#7 THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED
Directed By: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
After watching Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s excellent Who Can Kill a Child? I added his only other film credit La Residencia aka The House That Screamed to my queue. The man made two pretty entertaining horror movies, it is a shame he didn’t make more! Teresa is the newest student at Ms. Fourneau’s boarding school for girls. Ms. Fourneau questionable disciplinary methods are enacted by pet student Irene who relishes the power and has her own special methods for keeping her peers in line. Principle and proprietor Fourneau has her own issues including an uncomfortably intimate relationship with her teenage son Luis. She reminds Luis regularly that these girls are no good and one day he will meet a good woman like his mother. Meanwhile the list of runaways from the school is growing and it would appear that they may have never left the school at all. The school itself is an impressive building full of shadowy halls to explore and rooms to investigate. The sets and costumes are terrific and the film has this lovely lushness about it that makes it extremely easy on the eyes. Visually La Residencia is primo. Nudity and lesbianism are pretty much par for the course in girl’s school fare; the girl’s school girl fare I watch anyway! Nudity and lesbianism are promised but never delivered; in fact, it is really only hinted at. The film’s requisite shower scene sees the girls covered in long nightie things. Although one girl rebelliously strips for her shower and taunts Ms. Fourneau. Again, you don’t really see anything. Naughtiness is definitely of the PG variety. They are a little looser with the film’s violence, but there is very little of it. The trio of scenes you do get are not graphic but they are intense and well-executed. Despite a low body count and lack of sex La Residencia definitely has its share of memorable scenes. A disciplinary whipping for one of the girls as Ms. Fourneau supervises, the humiliation of new student Teresa, forcing her to put on her mother’s bustier and sing a song, and an orgasmic sewing circle. The students have no idea their peers are not running away but are in fact being stalked and killed. Only the viewer is let in on the secret. Who is the killer and who will their next victim be? While I can’t say the culprit was much of a surprise I nonetheless enjoyed the wonderfully energetic and demented reveal! The cast are great fun featuring Cristina Galbó, Maribel Martín, Lilli Palmer, John Moulder-Brown and Mary Maude. Lilli Palmer is a real stand out as Ms. Fourneau which she plays with such graceful severity. There is a smidge too much unnecessary chatter between the girls but otherwise I found La Residencia quite entertaining. La Residencia is well cast, beautifully filmed, with great sets and costumes, and enough memorable and unique scenes to make it well worth a watch.
#6 WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO AUNT ALICE?
Directed By: Lee H. Katzin & Bernard Girard
I had never heard of What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? before I compiled the films for this list from IMDB. The film is jam-paced with matriarch types with Geraldine Page being the mother of them all. Geraldine Page plays widow Mrs. Clare Marrable. Mrs. Marrable’s husband dies, and she becomes infuriated when she learns he made bad investments and left her nothing but a butterfly and stamp collection; she doesn’t even inherit their house and furnishings! A few months down the road we see Mrs. Marrable nicely set up in a rancher adorned with lovely pine trees. The resourceful Mrs. Marrable has concocted a way to extort money from her house keepers. What could be keeping those pine trees so healthy and beautiful in the desert? Life is going just swimmingly for our Mrs. Marrable until she meets her newest housekeeper Mrs. Dimmock who threatens to foil her murderously profitable gig. What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? is certainly lively with some amusing dialog, but what elevates this one is definitely Geraldine Page’s performance. Geraldine Page who plays Clare Marrable oozes class and sophistication, which makes her actions seem so much more devious. Her wonderful unique voice and well-mannered style is perfectly suited to the role. The fabulous Ruth Gordon shows up in a supporting role as Mrs. Dimmock who gives her regular spirited and charming performance. What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? is a pretty plain looking film visually and had a grating score but otherwise I found it very entertaining! What Ever happened to Aunt Alice? is worth the price of admission just for Geraldine Page’s performance that really is brilliant and although Ruth Gordon’s appearance is brief she always leaves a grand impression. What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? is charming fun!
#5 VENUS IN FURS
Directed By: Jess Franco
This is Jess Franco’s fourth film to make a top ten list for the 1960s. I am really taking liberties including Venus in Furs on a list of horror films. Venus in Furs is in fact a fantasy thriller, but since it has a supernatural angle I am including it anyway. Besides which, I think this is one of Franco’s best films from this period. Venus in Furs is admittedly incoherent at times but it is so dream-like and trippy that logic seems fairly unimportant. The Venus in Furs of the film is Wanda played by the delicious Maria Rohm whose dead body is found washed up on the beach by musician Jimmy Logan played by James Darren. Logan becomes enamoured with the fur clad Wanda to the point of obsession. Franco’s strange and surreal supernatural thriller has a hearty helping of eroticism. This is the Franco I know and love! This is an instance where Franco’s free wheeling style works very well. The storyline, though vague is decorated with sexy, dreamy and nightmarish visuals that are well accompanied by a cool jazzy score. The exotic locales are really lovely, almost as lovely as its trio of actresses Maria Rohm, Barbara McNair and Margaret Lee. I quite enjoyed James Darren as the jazz musician and Klaus Kinski and Dennis Price also make appearances which leave an impression. Come on! Who doesn’t love Klaus Kinski?! That guy is freaking awesome! Venus in Furs is pure Psycho-Delic 60s beauty and makes for a compelling watch. Venus in Furs is bizarre, kinky, sleazy, sexy, mysterious, and trippy; let its vibe wash over you.
#4 FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED
Directed By: Terence Fisher
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is Terence Fisher’s sixth film to make a top ten list! Baron Frankenstein just can not leave shit be and is back with his precarious experiments on human life. This time he is blackmailing Karl a young doctor and his fiancée Anna so they might aid him in his quest to save his friend Dr. Brandt who is currently residing in a mental institute. Baron Frankenstein performs a successful brain transplant but to what end? Man alive do these Hammer Frankenstein films have some outrageous plots! I love how cold and ruthless Baron Frankenstein becomes in this one. Of course, it is all in the name of science! Not his problem if some people happen to get murdered along the way! It goes without saying Peter Cushing is superb! Although Frankenstein is totally screwing with people’s lives you still have a little sympathy for the man. He simply must do these things in the name of science; his conviction is hard to argue with! Simon Ward is good as Karl and gorgeous Veronica Carlson is also strong. There is a bit of romanticism and sexy here, at least for a Hammer Film. The studio would up the ante (ever so slightly) once the 70s kicked in. Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed has its share of well-executed action sequences, a nice steady pace, beautiful sets, set pieces and costumes and strong performances! Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed rocks!
#3 HORRORS OF MALFORMED MEN
Directed By: Teruo Ishii
Horrors Of Malformed Men falls under the unique sub-genre “erotic-grotesque” (Ero guro), a tag that certainly evokes all manner of strange, sexual and horrifying images. It is certainly a quirky film that does indeed touch on a number of taboo topics like incest, torture and bestiality and there are more than a few bizarre and occasionally disturbing visuals. Horrors of Malformed Men is based on the writing of Edogawa Rampo and borrows from several different stories. This probably explains why the film is so disjointed and downright illogical at times. Horrors Of Malformed Men features a complete madman named Jogoro who inhabits an island where he has surrounded himself with deformed men, women, and creatures; deformed by his own hand. Jogoro is completely insane but he is an intelligent, passionate psycho. The film’s central character is medical student Hirosuke. Hirosuke escapes a placement in a mental institute and assumes the identity of his twin brother, eventually traveling to the island in pursuit of Jogoro his father. There are plenty of strange and interesting twists and oddities among its wandering plot. The film’s story does come together in the end and is tied up with an absolutely perfect finale. The film is a bit of a slow-boil and the pace won’t be to everyone’s taste but it definitely adds to the films dream-like mood. I was impressed with the shots of the mad doc scurrying about the rocks looking like some human-crab hybrid against a backdrop of roaring waves. The makeup and effects are simplistic but decent and there is a lot of creativity used in the various “malformitites”. There are some pretty twisted little bits that will certainly get your attention such as a woman eating the crabs feeding off of her dead lover’s body. There isn’t much in the way of a body count or graphic violence but there are certainly some truly bizarre and original visuals that deserve to be celebrated! Horrors Of Malformed Men is a little oddity that is both grotesque and beautiful. It has a dream-like feel that cast a spell over me with its strange and horrible images. It’s a circus side-show, full of perversity, a disturbing family drama and a completely unique experience. Highly recommended!
#2 BLIND BEAST
Directed By: Yasuzô Masumura
Blind Beast is a fabulous and unique Japanese horror film that definitely fits in the psychosexual category. Aki is the subject of an artist’s exhibit. Aki’s naked body is featured in several photos and in a life-size sculpture. Aki watches on as a blind man gropes her nude likeness. Once home, Aki orders a massage. They send a new masseuse named Michio who is revealed to be the blind man who was groping her sculpture. Michio drugs Aki and with his mother’s assistance they kidnap the model. Most of Blind Beast takes place in one room, and boy is it one hell of a fecking room! The room features a giant naked sculpture of a woman and each wall reveals a different body part; eyeballs, breasts, legs, lips, ears, noses and arms! It is truly nothing short of phenomenal! You really must get a load of this funky-ass set; words truly can not justify! The performances from the film’s three actors are all strong. The smashing Mako Midori plays kidnapped model Aki. Aki goes through a range of emotions before she comes to terms with her true nature. Eiji Funakoshi plays the blind sculptor Michio. Michio is awkward, naive, morose and occasionally pitiful. Despite the premise, the two characters; have strong chemistry together. Noriko Sengoku is solid as Michio’s tough but frighteningly dedicated mother. Blind Beast is a well-filmed, hypnotizing trip with tight performances and an unforgettable finale. To give away Blind Beast’s finale would be a sin. The ending is truly a taunt and disturbing bit of marvellous! The finale, while twisted, seemed logical enough, particularly considering the highly sensory theme throughout. While bloodless, it nonetheless packs a punch. Blind Beast is a wonderfully weird masterpiece; go buy it right now!
#1 THE CREMATOR
Directed By: Juraj Herz
The Cremator is a black and white Czech film that is a surreal journey through one man’s descent into madness. It is a horror film with the most subtle of intentions. It doesn’t really become violent until well towards the end, but there is something sinister lurking underneath that definitely gets under your skin. The Cremator is truly one of the most unique films I have ever seen! Karel Kopfrkingl is a crematorium operator working in Czechoslovakia. He is obsessed with his work and believes cremation purifies the soul. He carries about a book on Tibetan Spiritualism and embraces the idea of reincarnation. He is visited by a friend whom he fought alongside during World War I. His respected friend is a member of the Nazi party and is doing his best to enlist Karel. With membership comes privilege, but will Karel give up his comfortable existence? The minute the film begins we are treated to weird camera shots as we follow the family around the zoo. Afterwards, they visit a fair, stopping to watch the happy people riding the merry-go-round. Karel has no interest in happy people, and instead brings the family to a chamber of horrors exhibit. As his family looks on aghast, Karel smiles contently. Karel Kopfrkingl seemingly has a reason for everything he does, and is always happy to offer you an explanation for it. He is a man of conviction who abstains from liquor and tobacco. He regularly has his blood checked to be sure he has not acquired some manner of infliction from his corpses. His true passion is really the art of cremation. His family is little more than furnishing in the film, and barely utter a word. Rudolf Hrusínský plays Karel brilliantly! For a man of conviction he is rather easily led down a very dark path; true to his character’s nature he finds a way to justify it. The look and feel of this film is perfection. It is absolutely seamless with one scene pouring into another. The steady and unwavering pace makes you feel like you are travelling with Karel on his journey into madness. Sometimes it is difficult to tell where Karel’s visions end and reality begins. The black and white photography adds a great deal to the mood. Although The Cremator is deeply disturbing, there is a dark humour that lies just underneath. There are comments made by Karel that will make you smirk, but on closer inspection add an ominous irony when the credits role. The Cremator is an engaging, disturbing and completely surreal trip that knocked my socks off!