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Goregirl’s TOP 10 Favourite Horror Films From 1963

Posted in horror, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2012 by goregirl

IMDB listed 125 titles for 1963; 64 of those were full-length feature films. My rule is I do not include shorts, documentaries, made for TV movies or TV series on these lists. While I do not include anything listed as a short, I will allow anthologies that are a collection of short films sold as a full-length feature package. I have seen 35 of the 64 films from 1963. Woohoo! 1963 was one hell of a year for horror movies! I wasn’t sure anything would beat mighty 1960. 1963 edged out 1960 by a single point. I rated the top five films 5/5, spots six, seven, eight and nine received a 4.5/5 and the remaining spot received a very solid 4/5. There were seven other films I rated 4/5! The other excellent entries I did not include are These are the Damned, Man with the X-Ray Eyes, The Comedy of Terrors, Horror Castle, Twice-told Tales, Paranoiac and The Haunted Palace.

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#10 THE CURSE OF THE CRYING WOMAN

Directed By: Rafael Baledón

The Curse of the Crying Woman is a gothic folklore tale of witchcraft, curses and evil. Beautifully filmed in black and white with a wonderfully mysterious and haunting vibe complimented by fascinating and quirky characters, wonderful sets and props, and creative effects. A highly recommended little gem from Mexico; to read my full review click here.

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#9 MATANGO

Directed By: Ishirô Honda

Matango may be one of Toho’s most underrated creature features. Matango is indeed a story about mushroom people but it is also a well-executed human drama that explores love, lust, envy and greed. Matango is based on William Hope Hodgson’s The Voice in the Night. The first time I seen this film was on television under the title Attack of the Mushroom People. I loved it even with its bad dubbing, but the newly restored version I seen last year with a subtitled option was super fantastic. A group of people become shipwrecked on a mysterious island where the only thing that seems to grow is fungi. It is a classic story of survival where the creatures and the effects are as superbly alluring as the human interaction. The creatures of the story are fungi-infested humans and certainly are creepy. Matango is beautifully filmed with a wonderfully nightmarish atmosphere and an excellent score compliments it all. The great Ishirô Honda directed several amazing films for Toho including the exceptional 1954 Godzilla. The outstanding Matango can certainly be counted among Honda’s best.

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#8 THE SADIST

Directed By: James Landis

I could definitely sense a change in the wind through 1963. Horror films were getting grittier and more risqué. The Sadist is one such example, it is a great, dark, intense trip and Arch Hall Jr. as the titular sadist Charlie Tibbs is pretty damn unforgettable. The story cut short is about three teachers travelling to a Dodgers game; they have car troubles and are terrorized by Charlie Tibbs and his simple girlfriend Judy. There is certainly nothing complicated about its plot, the characters however are a different matter. The Sadist is a character-driven story and a fascinating one at that. The camera lingers on the victim’s agony and in equal measure Charlie and Judy’s menacingly child-like behavior. The stark daylight setting with its constantly blazing sun felt agonizingly oppressive. The film has a nicely executed build-up and some very effective scenes of violence. The Sadist is chilling and brutal with one of horror cinema’s most indelible killers notably played by Arch Hall Jr. The Sadist is a wicked and intense little number and is one of the grittier entries from the early 60s.

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#7 THE WHIP AND THE BODY

Directed By: Mario Bava

The Whip and the Body is the first of three Mario Bava films to make the list for 1963. The Whip and the Body is a dark, gothic sadomasochist love story. Mario Bava’s breath-taking scenery, incredible sets, stunning score and lovely soft muted tones scream with electric and chilling atmosphere. Christopher Lee is particularly dashing and gorgeous Daliah Lavi oozes sexuality; the two are impossibly steamy together. The Whip and the Body is a deliciously diabolical, beautiful, haunting, tragic, brutal and erotically-charged tale not to be missed. To read my full review click here.

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#6 THE RAVEN

Directed By: Roger Corman

I have seen The Raven at least a half dozen times over the years and it never fails to make me laugh. It also features the epic trio of Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre! That alone is worth the price of admission in my opinion! The film is very loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Raven, and I do mean loosely! The film is a comedy written by the legendary sci-fi horror author Richard Matheson. If you needed another reason to visit, it is directed by Roger Corman and is full of fantastic sets and costumes. After a raven comes a-tapping, a good sorcerer must face an evil sorcerer. Probably not The Raven you remember. And the raven is Peter Lorre who plays a real rascal that got abracadabra’d by evil sorcerer Scarabus. Lorre in his bird suit is not to be missed! The film is full of clever dialog and is absolutely hilarious! The final showdown between Dr. Craven the good sorcerer and Scarabus the evil sorcerer is freaking awesome! Roger Corman brings together an epic trio of horror legends and delivers one seriously funny and entertaining film.

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#5 BLACK SABBATH

Directed By: Mario Bava & Salvatore Billitteri

Black Sabbath is an anthology comprised of a trio of atmospheric tales. We begin with a superb introduction from Boris Karloff who takes us into our three excellent stories; The Telephone, The Wurdalak and The Drop of Water. A woman terrorized by phone calls, vampires, and a dead medium are the subject matters explored so eerily and beautifully. My favourite of the three was definitely The Drop of Water about a dead medium and a nurse with a guilty conscience. This one is particularly creepy and really plays with the imagination. Jacqueline Pierreux gives a top-notch performance as Nurse Helen. The Wurdalak has a vampire with a doomed lovers scenario but don’t let that scare you. It is richly gothic, loaded with atmosphere and is completely enthralling. The Telephone could be called a Giallo with its wicked little twisted plot. It is a well-executed potboiler with a particularly notable performance by Michèle Mercier. All three segments of Black Sabbath are excellent and the Karloff connection is icing on the already delicious cake. All beautifully and imaginatively filmed with exquisite settings and a sexy gothic vibe that just turns me on.

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#4 BLOOD FEAST

Directed By: Herschell Gordon Lewis

Blood Feast definitely pushed the limits of what was acceptable back in 1963. Blood Feast has an utterly outrageous story and is undeniably campy but the film has some serious gore. 1963 audiences never saw anything quite like Blood Feast. Its insane story revolves around a caterer who worships the Goddess Ishtar and collects the body parts of young women so he can perform a ceremony that would bring the Goddess back to life. It is handy that he is a caterer as he has a great facility for cutting up body parts and sometimes he gets to cater engagement parties full of attractive young women. The gore is graphic and messy and there are definitely a couple of scenes that would sicken unseasoned viewers. Blood Feast is some wonderfully sick fun! The acting is certainly a questionable business and is sometimes hilariously bad. Mal Arnold is irresistibly mad as caterer Fuad Ramses! I absolutely loved Arnold’s incomparably wacky performance! Blood Feast is often unintentionally hysterical and is not a particularly attractive film either but that is all part of its charm. I have seen the gore-laden trash-fest that is Blood Feast countless times and personally I think it is an absolute fecking masterpiece!

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#3 THE BIRDS

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock

I am sure most of you are familiar with Alfred Hitchock’s The Birds. A film I am sure must have put the fear of the common bird into a few people. A campy premise expertly executed by Hitchcock into an exciting and suspenseful horror-thriller. A masterful build up and superb tension is complimented nicely by the unsettling sound of masses of birds. There are an impressive number of birds and the effects are just fantastic. There is an interesting dynamic between the characters and the performances are solid by all. There isn’t a thing I can criticize about The Birds; it is a thoroughly enjoyable horror-thriller I have seen many times over the years and it is always a joy to re-watch.

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#2 THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH

Directed By: Mario Bava

The Girl Who Knew Too Much, aka The Evil Eye is widely considered to be the first Giallo. It would be the last film the immensely talented Mario Bava would make in black and white and it is one of his best. A fantastic little mystery full of twists and turns with a sexy vibe. 60s-licious Leticia Roman plays Nora Davis the titular girl who seen too much and John Saxon plays love interest Dr. Marcello Bassi. Roman is a real stand out here, playing the strong and likable Nora and is very appealing and watchable. Saxon is charming as the hunky but clumsy doctor. All the performances are great but Roman is definitely the focal point. The Girl Who Knew Too Much is fast paced and exciting. Although greed seems to be at the heart of the crimes the mood is often light, almost comedic. That might appear to be an odd mix, but it works extremely well. With Bava on board it goes without saying the film is stunning to look at and the use of natural lighting and lighting in general helps to create a mysterious and moody vibe. The title I assume is a nod to Alfred Hitchcock, and while the film is a suspenseful mystery Bava borrows from the pulp fiction novels of the time to create something unique. The Girl Who Knew Too Much is a beautifully-filmed, well-paced, action-packed thriller, with chills, suspense and a few laughs thrown in for good measure.

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#1 THE HAUNTING

Directed By: Robert Wise

What a crazy mix of films director Robert Wise has on his resume! Wise directed West Side Story, The Sound of Music and Star Trek: The Motion Picture but he also helmed two of the best horror films ever made; The Body Snatcher and The Haunting as well as the excellent sci-fi horror flick The Day the Earth Stood Still and the charming Curse of the Cat People. Wise is not the first name that comes to mind when I think of great horror directors yet the man has made some significant contributions. While The Body Snatcher is my favourite (I can not even look at the cover of the film without hearing Boris Karloff saying “Toddy”) The Haunting is definitely a crowning achievement. The Haunting has an amazing setting in the massive and incredibly spooky Hill House where researcher Dr. Markway has invited an unusual group to help prove (or disprove) the existence of ghosts. The Haunting is equal parts psychological study and ghost story and works extremely well at both. The performances are great across the board but it is the awkward, socially inept and empathetic Eleonor played by Julie Harris that really chews up the screen. Harris is absolutely sublime as the troubled and traumatized Eleonor. Wise’s rich black and white photography and bizarre camera angles make for some seriously disorienting shots and the amazing use of its sound effects and score to motivate the terror is artful. Whether ghosts dwell within the walls of Hill House or they are all in Eleonor’s mind The Haunting is an effectively chilling tale. Smart, well-acted, beautifully and inventively filmed and genuinely unsettling; The Haunting is one of the finest horror films to come out of the 60s, or any other decade.

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That Sly Come Hither Stare…It’s Witchcraft!

Posted in horror, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2012 by goregirl

Don’t forget November is Psycho-Delic 60s month! I will be reviewing only horror films from the 1960s and posting a top ten list for each year of the decade. I have watched a spectacular amount of films from the 1960s in the past few weeks. I’ve seen well over half of the decade’s horror films thus far. As well as watching titles I have not seen, I am re-watching films that I have not seen since starting this blog (going on almost 4 bloody years!). I will go into specifics on the stats when I post my first top ten list in November. It turns out films about witches and witchcraft were kind of a popular subject in the 1960s. Six titles on this list are from the decade! I would say there is a better than average chance you will see these six films on my top ten list for its corresponding year. A special mention to Witchfinder General which is a film about a witch hunter who doesn’t actually kill any witches. I highly recommend Witchfinder General but I figured I would stick to films that actually had a witch (or witches) in them. Let us begin the bewitching!

VIY (1967)

Directed By: Georgi Kropachyov & Konstantin Yershov

I just posted a review for Viy yesterday! To read my review of this fabulous and funky folklore tale click here.

NIGHT OF THE EAGLE (aka Burn Witch Burn) (1962)

Directed By: Sidney Hayers

My first and so far only viewing of Night of the Eagle was just last week! I rather like its alternate title Burn Witch Burn; but having seen the film really either name is appropriate enough. A teacher ripe for a senior position and well liked by his peers discovers his wife is practicing black magic. She believes she has been responsible for her husband’s success. When hubby insists on burning all her black magic trinkets she fears the worst. Night of the Eagle has an intriguing well-written story, good performances, and great visuals that kept me bewitched throughout.

HAXAN: WITCHCRAFT THROUGH THE AGES (1922)

Directed By: Benjamin Christensen

As its name suggests, Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages is a documentary about witchcraft through the ages. It is a series of artistic interpretations and reenactments of rituals and witch hunts and the like. The Devil played by the film’s director Benjamin Christensen looks convincingly creepy and the witches cavorting with the dark lord whilst performing all manner of sacrilege must have caused quite the controversy in 1922! Haxan is downright fascinating, visually arresting and utterly hypnotizing.

BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999)

Directed By: Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez

Blair Witch Project is the story of three film students who set out to make a documentary about the titular “Blair Witch”. It isn’t like a film had never been made with a hand-held camera before, but the success of the Blair Witch Project certainly started a trend of nausea-inducing handheld camera work. I have read several reviews tearing Blair Witch Project a new asshole, but I actually liked this film a lot. I mentioned in my intro that I was going to include films with witches actually in them. You could argue this film does not qualify, but I think whether or not you actually see the “Blair Witch” is left up to the viewer. The film has a nice steady build up and a great mood and tension. I must admit, my home viewing of Blair Witch Project did not live up to my theatre experience but I enjoy it nonetheless.

SUSPIRIA (1977) & INFERNO (1980)

Directed By: Dario Argento

Suspiria’s plot revolves around Suzy a new student at a dance academy. The prestigious dance academy is of course run by a coven of witches. Suspiria has appeared on many lists on this blog. I am a huge fan of Suspiria! Suspiria is an incredibly beautiful film. Inventive camera work, beautiful colors, and of course impressively staged death scenes, an excellent cast and epic soundtrack are the icing on the cake. Suspiria is a bonafide horror masterpiece and is the first in Dario Argento’s “three mothers” trilogy. The second section of the “three mothers” trilogy is Inferno. The story moves from a prestigious dance school in Germany to an apartment building in the USA. An architect named Varelli built separate dwellings for the three mothers in Rome, Freiberg and New York. Inferno is a brilliant although pretty convoluted follow-up to Suspiria. The cinematography, lighting, fantastic surreal sets and beautifully bizarre and nasty images are a feast for the eyes. Mother of Tears is the third part of the trilogy. I am hesitant to recommend Mother of Tears; although it has its moments I found it rather disappointing.

BABA YAGA (1973)

Directed By: Corrado Farina

This is not the child-eating Baba Yaga of Slavic lore. Director Corrado Farina’s film Baba Yaga was inspired by the comic strip art of Guido Crepex’s surreal and sexy adventures of Valentina. In this adventure the sassy photographer has a run-in with a witch. Wild dream sequences, Nazis, executions, a kinky doll-lady; it is not surprising that the lines between dream and reality become blurred for Valentina! Baba Yaga is a stylish, surreal, strange, sexy and beautiful 70’s pop art time capsule.

THE CURSE OF THE CRYING WOMAN (1963)

Directed By: Rafael Baledón

There was quite the surge of horrors films that came out of Mexico in the 1960s. There are some damn fine gems among them too. The Curse of the Crying Woman is one of two entries on this particular list. Amelia accepts an invitation to visit with her Aunt Selma who she has not seen in many years. Amelia notices a change in her aunt and soon finds out that she may have had sinister reasons for inviting her. The Curse of the Crying Woman is a rich but simple folklore yarn of witchcraft, curses and evil. Beautifully gothic visuals, wonderful sets, interesting characters, creative effects, and a sinister mood that will keep you mesmerized.

THE WITCH’S MIRROR (1962)

Directed By: Chano Urueta

The Witch’s Mirror is the second horror film hailing from Mexico. Mad science, a vengeful wife, possessed hands and the black arts makes for one spirited watch! I love it! Director Chano Urueta includes elements of several other horror films into his story; the final result of which ends up being something quite unique. The second half of this film is a wild ride, and there is plenty to keep you occupied getting there. The Witch’s Mirror has one of the most entertaining finales ever! Some of the effects are a little on the hokey side but they are pretty damn fun and they certainly are creative! This great, black and white gothic tale of witchcraft is a serious shitload of awesome!

CITY OF THE DEAD (1960)

Directed By: John Llewellyn Moxey

City of the Dead is about a college student prompted by her professor to do research in a tiny village and discovers a coven of witches. City of the Dead is a beautiful, atmospheric black and white horror film that is effectively eerie. From City of the Dead’s outstanding witch hunt scene to its exciting and intense finale the film is truly a gothic delight. Top notch performances and an engrossing well-written story. Although Christopher Lee receives top billing on my copy of the DVD, he actually has a supporting role and limited screen time. Lee is super fantastic but Patricia Jessel sorta steals his thunder with her dual roles and wonderfully mad cackle. A gem.

BLACK SUNDAY (1960)

Directed By: Mario Bava

Black Sunday is yet another film that has appeared on several lists on this blog; and it will not be the last. I absolutely love everything about this film! 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. The stunning Barbara Steele takes on dual roles as Princess Asa Vajda and Katia Vajda and she is simply stunning, sweet and terrifying. One of Mario Bava’s best; Black Sunday is deliciously gothic, well-acted, beautifully filmed, eerie and atmospheric.