The Horror! The Horror!
October 23, 2020
Greetings horror film fans! This is Peter, one of the adult Reference Librarians. Well, it’s that time of year, again: the spooky season of Halloween! To me, that has always meant good, scary, classic horror films with monsters and ghosts galore and the eerily beautiful soundtrack music that often accompanies them, written by great film composers. Of course, there are silent horror classics as well, where the musical accompaniment, whether a piano, organ or full orchestra, becomes almost a part of the action. When I was a boy, Saturday nights were for scary movies on TV. We had a choice in the 1960’s and early 70’s of two competing weekly presentations: “Chiller Theater”, on WPIX channel 11 which specialized in 1950’s-era Science Fiction movies (it opened with a 6-fingered disembodied hand emerging from and falling back into the ground) and “Creature Features” on WNEW channel 5 which focused on the classic Universal Studios monster movies of the 1930’s and 40’s (it opened with the theme from “It Came from Outer Space” played under the video of the creation scene from “Frankenstein”). The latter show was my favorite by far, with weekly adventures of the Frankenstein monster, the Invisible Man, the Wolfman, Dracula, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and so on, sometimes featuring more than one monster at a time or their offspring and often starring Boris Karloff and/or Bela Lugosi. Unlike in the song “Monster Mash”, instead of dancing and partying together, the cinematic gatherings of these ghouls generally devolved into mayhem, violence and bad endings for the monsters. During this period, my younger brother and I had a horror fan babysitter named Beth who was an expert on all of these films and their actors. Beth never failed to fill us in on behind-the-scene details, like a human precursor of DVD commentaries. She also came equipped with the weirdest, most disturbing horror stories to entertain us after the movie ended and, after a creepy session with my Mom’s Ouija board, she would hustle us off to bed just as my parents pulled into the driveway, well after midnight. Of course, after a full night of terrifying movies and stories, “bed” seldom meant “sleep” as we were both too scared to doze off. Fun times; Beth was the best babysitter ever!
Many of the classic horror and science fiction films I grew up watching are available for download from the Library’s digital services Hoopla and Kanopy, which can be easily accessed from our website with a current Library card. Among those available on Kanopy are these personal favorites of mine:
House on Haunted Hill (1959): Campy haunted house classic produced by “schlock horror” master William Castle with Vincent Price at his most sinister. Lots of fun; be sure to watch it in the dark!
Carnival of Souls (1962): This low-budget high-concept gem casts an eerie spell that will stay with you long after the movie ends. Sent chills up my spine the first time I saw it, on TV in the middle of the night.
Black Sabbath (1963): Written and directed by Italian Giallo master Mario Bava, this was one of the first great horror anthology films and stars Boris Karloff. It also inspired the name of a certain heavy metal rock band.
Nosferatu (1922): This creepy silent by German master F.W. Murnau is not only one of the great films but a horror masterpiece as well. The appropriately named Max Schreck plays a character so obviously adapted from the novel “Dracula” that author Bram Stoker’s widow successfully sued the filmmakers.
What We Do in the Shadows (2014): an eclectic group of ancient vampire housemates living in present-day Wellington, New Zealand must cope with each other’s habits and idiosyncrasies, as well as deal with the various communities of werewolves, witches and other ghouls that populate their town. Very funny and silly but also graphic as they are, after all, vampires who drink the blood of innocent victims.
City of the Dead (1960): A British supernatural thriller better known here by it’s U.S. title “Horror Hotel”, starring Christopher Lee. A story of a coven of witches preying on the young and pretty, this one kept me up for a week after I first saw it on TV as a kid.
Dead of Night (1945): A British horror anthology starring Mervyn Johns, father of Glynis and Bob Cratchit in the Alastair Sim “Christmas Carol”, another great ghost story come to think of it! This one has a twist ending worthy of Hitchcock!
Phantom of the Opera (1925): Silent classic starring the amazing Lon Chaney (his son was Universal’s Wolf Man), with a still shocking unmasking scene and some very early 2-strip Technicolor footage. They’re still not certain how he created his incredible facial makeup!
The following link will being you directly to the Kanopy page featuring dozens of horror films from all periods. The above films can be located by typing the titles into the search field at the top of the page. I recommend browsing through the titles as you never know what else you’ll find! https://lindenhurstlibrary.kanopy.com/s?query=horror
Hoopla is an excellent source of TV horror content , including these classics:
Masters of Horror (2005-07): An excellent Showtime series that featured hour long episodes helmed by well known horror film directors, including Dario Argento, John Landis and John Carpenter. Highly recommended!
Dark Shadows (1966-1971): I always made sure to get home from school in time to catch Jonathan Frid as vampire Barnabas Collins in this gothic soap opera. The opening sequence with it’s spooky theme music still gives me chills and I still have my bubble-gum trading cards!
Here’s the link to TV horror content on Hoopla: https://www.hoopladigital.com/search?page=1&q=horror&scope=TELEVISION&type=direct The above titles can be accessed by typing the titles into the search field at the top of the page.
As I said, the soundtracks of my favorite horror films are as important to me as any other aspect, and I never fail to listen to my favorites at this time of year. Many of these are available on Hoopla, including:
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935): My all-time favorite film score was an early affort by Franz Waxman. I was as taken with this music as I was with the movie itself. The haunting theme of the “Creation of the Female Monster” sequence is a beautiful piece of music on its own. This is a modern re-recording of the 1935 score so every detail is clear!
Psycho (1960): This classic score for string orchestra by Hitchcock favorite Bernard Herrmann is so evocative of the film that one can picture each scene while listing to the score alone. And then there’s that shower scene with its shrieking violins! My Mom took my older siblings to see this one when it came out and that put them off showers for a long time!
“A History of Horror”: This music anthology covers a multiple of soundtrack scores from throughout the history of film. A few of my favorites are here, including “The Haunting” (the Julie Harris version from 1963), “The Omen”, “The Exorcist”, “The Sixth Sense”, “Poltergeist” and many others.
“Monster Mash“: Of course, one can’t celebrate Halloween without its ubiquitous unofficial anthem. The late Bobby “Boris” Pickett recorded an entire album of the musical antics of Boris, Igor, Drac, Yanush and the gang. I actually corresponded briefly with Pickett many years ago and found him to be very nice indeed!
Here’a a link to horror related music on Hoopla. The above titles may be accessed by typing them into the search field at the top of the page. https://www.hoopladigital.com/search?page=1&q=horror&scope=MUSIC&type=direct
Of course, there are many physical DVD’s of your favorite scary movies available at the Library to check out and take home! One non-fiction titile I can recommend is “American Scary: a Tribute to the Golden Age of the Horror Hosts”, featuring such favorites as Svengoolie, Sir Cecil Creepe and Zacherley himself!
Here’s hoping you enjoy some good old-fashioned scary entertainment this Halloween season and, as the late horror movie host Zacherley used to say, “Goodnight, whatever you are!”
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