Feature: Halloween Flicks to Watch

We are fewer than two weeks out from my favorite holiday, so I think it is about time I bring up some upcoming, halloween-appropriate showings on Turner Classic Movies. Essentially what I have done below is gone through the TCM lineup and noted the one’s I’ve seen, which has caused me to realize I am not as well versed in classic horror as I thought. Ryan would be the authority on horror films past and present. In fact, we recently enjoyed Die! Die! My Darling from an old TCM recording, so look for a review of that next.

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Up first is Arsenic and Old Lace. I know what you’re thinking: That’s a comedy, you fool. You would be correct, but it is a comedy full of poison, insanity, and best of all murder! Ryan would certainly name Arsenic and Old Lace as his favorite Cary Grant movie, and oddly, in the numerous times we have watched this one, I have only maybe once made it through without falling to sleep. That is not, of course, to say this flick is dull. Far from it! I use it as my benchmark for Grant’s screwball comedy phase. To sum it up, Grant’s two old aunts like to invite lonely men to their table for tea and arsenic before burying them in the basement. Add in another relative who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt and uses the stairs to reenact the charge on San Juan Hill, and you’ve got a rip-roaring good time as Grant tries to save his family from prison.
The feature is set for 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 20.

Nosferatu (1922)

TCM has Nosferatu planned for this weekend. I will admit this one also found me falling to sleep, but Ryan owns it, so it must be good, right? It is a 1922 silent picture is from one of Germany’s most well-known directors, F. W. Murnau, and follows a woman who tries to end a vampires plague of death. I like to think of this as the original Dracula movie, and is in fact an adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel. What I have witnessed of this film are some fantastically creepy and visually impressive moments. The monster himself is the stuff nightmares are made of and the style of filming — German Expressionism — I always find appealing in its uniqueness.
Look for it at noon Sunday, Oct. 24.

Rebecca (1940)

I am always delighted to talk about Alfred Hitchcock, and 1940’s Best Picture winner receives nothing but my praise. Rebecca was Hitchcock’s first film produced in the U.S. and the director managed to find considerable freedom on this one because producer David O. Selznick was too distracted with Gone with the Wind to crack down on Hitch’s creative vision as he would on later works. Rebecca takes black and white cinema to new heights. It is a visually very impressive piece with great undertones that managed — in Hitchcock’s special way — to slip past the censors. In this rather creepy tale we have a young woman who marries a wealthy man whose first wife’s death remains a mystery to the “new Mrs. DeWinter” (the character doesn’t have a first name). I even considered naming this blog after the DeWinter mansion: Manderley.
Expect it at 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 28.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

I never considered Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?  a horror film until Columbus’ summer movie series featured it as a late night thriller. I suppose a rat for dinner is rather disturbing. Being the only picture Hollywood rivals Bette Davis and Joan Crawford actually did together, it illustrates severely the two most differing characteristics between the duo: Bette Davis is talented and Joan Crawford aged well. Davis was frightening looking enough in her old age but as a former child star who never coped with her loss of fame, she really puts Crawford through the psycho wringer. Crawford certainly comes off as a sympathetic character despite what I would say is a reversal of the roles in real life.
Check it out at 10:15 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 30.

Cat People (1942)

This next one is pretty much a joke. Cat People was the film for Simone Simon, who would go on to make a sequel to the mediocre flick. As I recall it, a beautiful young woman comes into a man’s life but she has a strange affinity for cats. I believe she might later turn into a panther, but the most important thing to remember about this flick is that it is good for a laugh.
Laugh along at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30.

Freaks (1932)

On the last day of the month and the official Halloween holiday, TCM brings us a movie that has typically been considered a horror film, but that really evokes only sympathy from my perspective. Freaks came out in 1932 and features a cast full of “circus freaks” including conjoined twins, a “human torso”, and dwarfs (including one of the lollipop gang in The Wizard of Oz). The film takes place in a circus setting where the strong man and what I’m remembering as a trapeze woman are the only “normal” of the crew. Those normal folk eventually incur the wrath of the freaks. Perhaps what people find frightening about this one is the potential to be attacked by deformed individuals.
Get Freaked at 6:15 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 31.

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3 Responses

  1. I agree with your selections. Of all of them, Freaks is the most socially significant. It caused a stir when it was made and still does today, as many people see the circus perforers as being horribly exploited. But what really bothers us is that we can’t stop looking.

  2. A few comments…

    Max Schreck as Nosferatu is the most hideously creepy vampire ever! Christopher Lee was the best Dracula. Did anyone find Lugosi even remotely scary in that role?

    The trailer to 1962’s “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane” scared the living crap out of me and my brother. We were watching a local afternoon cartoon or 3 Stooges show and they ran the commercial for it. We screamed and ran from the tv room and into the kitchen. We wrapped our arms around our mother’s legs who happened to be cooking at the stove. We were lucky we didn’t get hot pasta dumped on our heads.

    That image of the doll’s face with a piece missing still gives me chills!

  3. Watch the trailer if you dare! Especially the first 7 to 10 seconds that freaked me out as a kid!

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