Best of 1960’s horror films! We’re jumping back into the time machine folks and this time we’re heading back to the 1960s. The ’60s had some of the most enduring horror films of all time, as well as a whole bunch of hippies and free love! The time machine has enough energy for five films today so let’s not waste any energy, or else we’ll be stuck here.
5. Gamera: The Giant Monster – 1965
’60s Horror | Synopsis: From out of the arctic comes a gigantic flying, fire-breathing turtle that sets its sights on destroying Tokyo. An ancient gigantic prehistoric flying turtle is awakened from its centuries of slumber and embarks on the expected destructive rampage. Can an elite team of top scientists from all over the world figure out a way to stop Gamera before it’s too late?
Director Noriaki Yuasa, working from a neat script by Nisan Takahashi, relates the cool premise at a steady pace, maintains a serious tone throughout, and stages the funky and exciting mondo-destructo set pieces with real aplomb, the scenes with Gamera attacking Tokyo are not only very thrilling but also surprisingly harsh and grim.
The cast plays the material with admirable sincerity, with praiseworthy work from Eiiji Funakoshi as pragmatic zoologist Dr Eiiji Hidaka, the fetching Harumi Kiritachi as Hidaka’s faithful assistant Kyoko Yamamoto, Junichiro Yamashita as eager reporter Aoyagi, Jun Hamamura as the wise Professor Murase, and Yoshiro Uchida as lonely turtle-loving misfit kid Toshio Sakurai.
The special effects are pretty good and convincing; Gamera makes for an impressively huge, deadly, and fearsome fire-breathing beast. Nubuo Munekawa’s crisp widescreen black and white cinematography does the trick. Tadashi Yamauchi’s robust and rousing score likewise hits the spirited spot. Moreover, we even get a nice theme about the perils of hero worship with a subplot about Toshio idolizing Gamera to a dangerous degree. A fun flick for sure.
4. Masque of the Red Death – 1964
’60s Horror | Synopsis: A European prince terrorizes the local peasantry while using his castle as a refuge against the “Red Death” plague that stalks the land.
Death himself, cloaked in red, delivers a plague to a village under the rule of the cruel, corrupt Prince Prospero (Vincent Price, in one of his finest roles). Prospero is offended by two villagers who ridicule the way he treats their people and decides to imprison them keeping them in a dungeon alive temporarily thanks to the pleading of the father’s red-headed daughter, Francesca (Jane Asher). Prospero fancies Francesca, who is quite homely at first and wishes to corrupt her innocence and purity. Gino (David Weston) is Francesca’s beloved and Ludovico (Nigel Green) is her father and both are to partake in a devious game plotted by Prospero where one will die among the two in a “poisoned dagger” deal where each will choose from a group of blades cutting themselves until one receives that bad one that will end their life within five seconds.
Ultimately, the film is about Prospero’s devilish reign over everyone as he seems to hold the power over who lives and dies. Or, does he? What Prospero doesn’t know is that Red Death has his plans and everything that has occurred from the plague that kills almost all the villagers to the capture of Francesca..it’s a plan devised by Death to show Prospero his fate.
A universal theme of “good versus evil” is employed skillfully by director Roger Corman in arguably his finest film using Satanism as the source of evil and love as the source of good. Prospero and the woman of his castle, Juliana (Hazel Court), are “duelling” for Satan’s affections and Corman often uses dream-like surrealism to show their desire for the vile one’s favour. Juliana even takes the mark of the upside-down cross, burnt to her chest, to hopefully become Beelzebub’s bride.
We watch as Prospero shows no pity on villagers who wish to lodge in his castle and even certain aristocrats who just wish to barrier themselves from the red plague ravaging the countryside. We also see the wealthy denizens as they scrap for their host’s truffles and humiliate themselves often for Prospero’s sheer amusement(one sequence shows them mimicking animals at Prospero’s command). Prospero relishes misery, specifically from God-fearing Christians, and he often uses people he deems of a lower value as entertainment for his visitors. An excellent example is two miniature people, Hop Toad (Skip Martin) and Esmeralda (Verina Breenlaw whose voice is dubbed by an older woman) who perform recitals for them. When Esmeralda accidentally tips over a glass of wine on slimy aristocrat, Alfredo (Patrick Magee who portrays him as a devious toad), she is slapped by him rashly.
In a moment of pure vengeful delight, Corman shows good triumph over evil when midget Hop Toad gets the better of Alfredo tricking him into a gorilla suit during a masquerade ball Prospero was putting together. But, the film is about fate and death. We all shall meet that point and time and Prospero’s about to meet Death face-to-face. The ending where Prospero can not control the horror that will come to him is quite satisfying.
Corman used sets from the film “Becket” while making this film in England and provides us with a lavish look, magnificent colour, really wonderful surreal nightmarish sequences… that’s just inside the castle. Death is photographed inside an eerie fog and the film’s final sequence where we hear a collection of “deliverers” talk in jest and sadness of their unfortunate duties of taking souls as they wander is a fine artist rendering of a great story adapted from Poe’s magnificent macabre tale. Price as the evil prince and the way Corman films the depravity provides a template for that finale where everyone who inflicts their cruelty must meet their cruel fate.
3. Jigoku – 1960
’60s Horror | Synopsis: A group of sinners involved in interconnected tales of murder, revenge, deceit and adultery all meet at the Gates of Hell. This is one unique viewing experience, that can get quite artistic and unusual to watch. But that’s just Japanese cinema for you. It’s simply just a very different culture, with also a different style of cinema. I admit that you perhaps have to be a bit into (old) Japanese cinema, to fully appreciate- and perhaps also understand this movie. You could divide this movie in two parts. First, you have a dramatic movie, with supernatural and horror elements in it, while the last part of the movie is purely set in hell, in which all of the movie its sinners have to pay for their sins.
It’s Japanese hell, so it’s not something you are accustomed to seeing when thinking of hell. It’s nightmarish and very visually orientated. It plays on fears and torturing pains, while the movie at all times remains a classy and artistic one to look at.
For a 60’s Horror movie, it feels and looks surprisingly modern. It also isn’t afraid to handle some daring themes and to feature some erotic moments. I can see how this movie inspired later genre movies and Japanese filmmakers. Its story gets told slowly, as is often the case with Japanese cinema. The story can get quite hard and confusing to follow but not nearly as confusing as some people try to make you believe. Seriously, as far as old fashioned Japanese movies go, this one is pretty much straightforward and understandable enough for western people, when you have subtitles available of course.
But above all things, this movie still manages to impress the most with its visuals. I liked the directing approach of this movie, which also provided the movie with some at times artistic shots, that you are more accustomed to seeing in a good ’70’s movie. The editing on the other hand can get quite dodgy if I have to say something negative about this movie. A great movie, for the lovers of old fashioned and daring Japanese cinema at least.
2. Night of the Living Dead – 1968
’60s Horror | Synopsis: A ragtag group of Pennsylvanians barricade themselves in an old farmhouse to remain safe from a horde of flesh-eating ghouls that are ravaging the East Coast of the United States.
For an unknown reason, the dead are returning to life and eating the living. Our story has a group of people gathered inside a farmhouse where they not only have to battle the dead but also each other. George A. Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is without question one of the greatest horror films ever made and it’s also quite possibly the greatest “B” movie ever made.
It’s rather amazing to see how well this film still holds up decades after its release and it’s even more amazing to see how well it holds up no matter how many times you watch it. The film is a reminder of what can be done with a low budget and some creativity and it remains one of the greatest shockers ever made.
Even though the gore level would be topped in DAWN OF THE DEAD and countless other movies, there’s just something so dark and sinister about this movie. There’s no question that the B&W cinematography adds a layer of fear because you just look out into those dark fields, see the dead slowly come towards you and it just shows that time is running time. The opening sequence is perfectly done because Romero shoots it at a frantic pace and it just puts you right there in the action. The same is true for the chaos at the end when all hell breaks loose.
Romero did a remarkable job and managed to make the film almost seem like a documentary. The rawness of everything just makes it seem all the more real and there’s no question that some of the most famous moments in horror history can be found here. The most chilling aspect is seeing the world around these people collapse as they can’t even work together when facing death. To this day the scene in the basement between the mother and her child is one of the most haunting ever filmed.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD features some raw performances but I think they just help the film ever more. Duane Jones is perfect as Ben and I think Judith O’Dea is also extremely good in her role. The supporting players are just as effective and together you’ve certainly got a great group of characters to root for or against.
The film is about as great as you can get and it constantly gets better with time. Romero has now made a total of six films in this series and fans will debate whether this one or DAWN is better. To me, both are pretty flawless movies and the highest quality of zombie pictures.
1. Psycho – 1960
’60s Horror | Synopsis: A Phoenix secretary embezzles $40,000 from her employer’s client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.
If you don’t already know what this movie is about then you need to stop reading this right now and go watch the movie. I’ve seen this movie dozens of times over the years from VHS to DVD to Blu- ray and I’ve seen it at least five times on the big screen and for my money, this is Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest film and one of the greatest ever made. I know VERTIGO, a brilliant movie, gets all the love and respect but for my money this here is his greatest film.
Where do you start with a movie like this? Everyone knows that the budget was slashed on the director and it certainly helped the film because had this been in colour or had it been lavished with a big budget then it just wouldn’t have the same feel. The movie has some of the most historic moments in film history that everyone knows about. These moments are of course the shower sequence as well as the ending. Both certainly deserve to be mentioned whenever you discuss brilliant scenes but for my money, the greatest sequence in the movie is what happens before the shower sequence and it’s the discussion between Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) and Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) as they discuss what is holding them back.
The performances between the two actors are just so flawless and this scene is so important because it tells us everything we need to know going into the second half of the movie, which is pretty much after the shower scene. In the first portion of the movie, we’re worried and caring about the Crane character but we get the shock of what happens and then our sympathy immediately turns to Norman and him helping his mother. The way Hitchcock pulls this off is rather remarkable but the shocks keep happening with one terrific twist after another leading up to the ending.
What’s always amazed me about this movie is how your initial viewing is nothing but pure shocks and gasps but then on repeat viewings, even when you know all the secrets, you can enjoy it just as much because you can then enjoy the film by watching a master handle the material. You can watch for the clues and see all the winks that Hitchcock is giving the viewer. No matter how many times I watch this film I can simply sit back and enjoy it on so many levels. It’s a movie where you brain knows what’s going on but the film is just so great that you can enjoy everything and wish that the character’s fate changes somehow.
Everything from the performances to the score to the cinematography is flawless. This is without question one of the most impressive movies ever made. It’s certainly a ground-breaking picture that has its legendary director at the top of his game. PSYCHO has been copied countless times over the past fifty-five years but nothing has come close to its impact.