Movies teach us lessons.
Like think twice before accepting an invitation to stay overnight in a mansion. Don’t visit an English village – especially in the 17th century. If an inheritance involves an old house or meeting relatives for the first time, you might want to politely decline. And Dracula is never really dead.
Those are some of the recurring themes in the more than 70 horror films being aired in October by Turner Classic Movies.
TCM’s annual October scarefest returns with a night of themed horror movies every Thursday in October: “Betwitched” is the theme on Oct. 3, “Black Magic” on Oct. 10, “Ghost Stories” on Oct. 17, “The Undead” on Oct. 24 and “Horror Classics” on Oct. 31.
Friday nights are devoted to the TCM Monster of the Month, Godzilla (who brings along a few friends). You’ll find other horror films sprinkled throughout the schedule, too, with a horror marathon starting at 8 p.m. Oct. 30 and concluding in royal fashion with “Dracula, Prince of Darkness” at 6:45 a.m. Nov. 1.
This is what we have to look forward to: at least 10 movies from Hammer Film Productions; 8 movies starring Christopher Lee; 6 films each that feature Vincent Price and Peter Cushing; 4 with Karloff and 3 films directed by Roger Corman. Multiple movies carry the names of Barbara Shelley, Val Lewton, Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Matheson and American International Pictures (AIP), another favorite studio for horror fans.
Below is a quick look at the Thursday night horror films. I’ve added my thoughts to the movies I am familiar with, especially my favorites like “Bell Book and Candle,” “The Uninvited” and “Poltergeist.” After that, you’ll find the schedule of Godzilla films, without my commentary. If you are a Godzilla fan, feel free to share your thoughts with me and I will post them.
Oct. 3: Bewitched
8 p.m. “Bell Book and Candle” (1958). Kim Novak plays a witch who puts a love spell on neighbor James Stewart – because Kim Novak needs a spell to make someone fall in love with her. Seriously, this is an enchanting film with Novak as the barefoot witch who owns an African art store, lives with her cat Pyewacket and has an eccentric family of witches and warlocks. The “supporting” cast includes Elsa Lanchester, Jack Lemmon and Ernie Kovacs.
9:45 p.m. “Horror Hotel” (1960). Here’s a witch of a darker color. Christopher Lee stars in this film about a 17th century witch who returns from the dead seeking more victims – as they like to do. Originally released as “City of the Dead.”
11:15 p.m. “The Devil’s Own” (1966). Joan Fontaine in a Hammer film? I’ve got to see this. Joan plays a schoolteacher traumatized after an encounter with a witch doctor in Africa. She doesn’t fare much better after she moves to a small English village.
1 a.m. “Suspiria” (1977). The original from Dario Argento about a young American dancer who finds strange things at a European ballet school.
2:45 a.m. “Night of Dark Shadows” (1971). In the second big-screen film based off the TV series, a young couple arrives at Collingwood where they are in danger from ghosts and reincarnated witches. David Selby stars as Quentin Collins, although not the werewolf version of Quentin from the TV series. With Kate Jackson, Grayson Hall and Lara Parker. Directed by Dan Curtis.
4:30 a.m. “Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages” (silent, 1922). A Swedish-Danish documentary-like film on the history of the occult that re-creates actual incidents. Benjamin Christensen writes, directs and stars as Satan.
Oct. 10, Black Magic
8 a.m. “The Black Cat” (1934). It’s not the Edgar Allan Poe story. And the only thing it has in common with the 1941 film of the same name is that they both star Bela Lugosi. That’s OK – watch it because it’s the first of eight films starring Lugosi and Karloff and you have to see them all. This one is about American honeymooners in Hungary who get mixed up with a Satan-worshiping priest.
9:15 p.m. “Curse of the Demon” (1958). An American professor (Dana Andrews) visiting London gets caught up in investigating a devil worshiping cult. Directed by Jacques Tourneur.
10:45 p.m. “The Seventh Victim” (1943). Have you ever seen a horror mystery noir? Me neither, until I saw this odd little film that kept me watching to see where it was going. Kim Hunter makes her film debut as a young woman who travels to New York searching for her missing sister and instead finds a Satanic cult. Also with Hugh Beaumont (yes, from “Leave it to Beaver”), Tom Conway and Jean Brooks.
12:15 a.m. “The Devil’s Bride” (1968). Two men arrive at a party where they discover a Satanic cult. Christopher Lee stars in this Terence Fisher film from Hammer. Richard Matheson adapted “The Devil Rides Out” by Dennis Wheatley.
2 a.m. “The Blood on Satan’s Claw” (1970). Townspeople become possessed by a demonic claw in a small 17th century village.
3:45 a.m. “Dracula A.D. 1972” (1972). Dracula is resurrected in a very mod London, circa 1972, where he feeds off a group of devil worshiping swingers including the granddaughter (Stephanie Beacham) of Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing). Cue the holy water and the band.
5:30 a.m. “Eye of the Devil” (1955). What a cast. Deborah Kerr follows her hubby David Niven to his ancestral wine estate in France where an old pagan ritual insists on a human sacrifice to save the crops. Sharon Tate plays a witch; look for Donald Pleasence and Flora Robson, too.
Oct. 17, Ghost Stories
8 p.m. “The Uninvited” (1944). If a ghost story can be poetic, this is it. A brother and sister stumble upon a house on a cliff in Cornwall and are so enchanted they buy it – then learn about its tragic history. This is the type of movie where the scares come from things we can’t see like a cold chill in a room. There’s even a romance or two that somehow work. Charles Lang’s gorgeous cinematography was nominated for an Oscar. One of my favorite films.
10 p.m. “The Haunting” (1963). The house lives – and it’s not friendly – in this adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House.” A doctor invites a few people to help him study paranormal activity in Hill House. Director Robert Wise does a masterful job of scaring the heck out of us without ever showing anything even at its most terrifying moment that has haunted me since I was a kid. (No spoilers – ask me and I’ll tell you.) I watch this with all the lights on and then keep them on when I go to bed. With Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Russ Tamblyn and Richard Johnson.
Midnight “The Fog” (1980). If you take this for what it is – an old-fashioned ghost yarn – you’ll have fun. Director John Carpenter co-wrote the story with Debra Hill. A deadly fog rolls into a California seaside village looking to avenge a 100-year-old wrong. It’s atmospheric and creepy. With Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, Tom Atkins and Hal Holbrook
1:45 a.m. “Poltergeist” (1982). One of the best ghost stories – ever. A family terrorized in their home by malevolent spirits who kidnap their daughter call in paranormal experts. You will notice similarities to Richard Matheson’s “The Twilight Zone” episode “Little Girl Lost.” With JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Beatrice Straight and a memorable performance that borders on creepy by Zelda Rubinstein as a medium.
3:45 a.m. “Kuroneko” (1968). This ghost story based off a Japanese folktale is about female spirits who seek revenge on the samurai who killed them. Written and directed by Kaneto Shindô
5:30 a.m. “The Phantom Carriage” (silent, 1921). A surreal and haunting fantasy from Sweden with special effects before its time. A man learns he may be fated to drive Death’s carriage to collect new souls. Directed by and starring Victor Sjöström.
Oct. 24, The Undead
8 p.m. “Horror of Dracula” (1958). Here it is – the one that started it all with Dracula, Christopher Lee and Hammer films and their take on a sexy, bloody vampire thriller. Peter Cushing returns as Van Helsing and Terence Fisher directs.
9:30 p.m. “The Gorgon” (1964). Hammer puts its unique spin on Medusa from Greeky mythology and I love it. The tables are turned on the usual Cushing-Lee pairing: Peter Cushing plays the sinister role with a disheveled Christopher Lee trying to figure out what’s going on. With Barbara Shelley. Directed by Terence Fisher.
11:15 p.m. “Plague of the Zombies” (1966). A professor and his daughter visit a Cornish village to help a friend determine why people are dying at an alarming rate – and then reappearing. Starring Andre Morell, Diane Clare and John Carson.
1 a.m. “Night of the Living Dead” (1968). If you love zombies today, thank George A. Romero for the original classic zombie thriller. They really are coming to get us.
3 a.m. “The Hunger” (1983). Tony Scott’s feature-length directorial debut was a sexy, stylish and often panned film about a vampire couple and a doctor who specializes in aging research. Watch it for the cast: David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon. Based off Whitley Stieber’s horror novel.
4:45 a.m. “Nosferatu” (1922). F.W. Murnau’s German Expressionistic silent film has remained an influential film for nearly a century, giving us an iconic vision of a vampire in Count Orlok (Max Shreck).
Oct. 31, Horror Classics
6 a.m. “Two Hearts in Wax Time” (1935). A drunken department store worker watches mannequins come to life in this 15-minute color short.
6:30 a.m. “Don’t Lie” (1942). The Our Gang kids won’t believe Buckwheat when he says a monkey went into a haunted house in this comedy short.
6:45 a.m. “Freaks” (1932). A few sentences won’t do this film justice but here’s some background. Tod Browning’s career nearly ended after the release of this film about circus “freaks” that starred real people with real disabilities. It was considered so “shocking,” it was heavily censored. It took time for people to understand it was damning the idea of physical perfection, a lesson still needed today.
8 a.m. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1932). Fredric March takes on the iconic role of the scientist battling good and evil. His makeup is by Wally Westmoore. Rouben Mamoulian directs; Miriam Hopkins co-stars.
9:45 a.m. “The Bat” (1959). Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead star in a mystery about a killer called “the bat,” missing money and a mystery writer who moves into a mansion that was the scene of murders. I wonder where the money is? Fourth version of Mary Roberts Rinehart’s “The Circular Staircase.”
11:15 a.m. “House on Haunted Hill” (1958). Guests are invited to a mansion with the promise of $10,000 to anyone who stays the night. Oh, did I mention it stars Vincent Price and is directed by William Castle? Enjoy the ride.
12:45 p.m. “Black Cats and Broomsticks” (1955). Black cats, spilled salt, a broken mirror – this documentary explores superstitions in the 20th century.
1 p.m. “From Beyond the Grave” (1973). Amicus Productions gives us this horror anthology film led by Peter Cushing as the owner of an antique shop who turns the tables on cheap customers. With David Warner, Donald Pleasence, Diana Dors, Ian Ogilvy, Lesley-Anne Down.
2:45 p.m. “Black Sabbath” (1963). Boris Karloff introduces three stories in Mario Bava’s anthology film.
4:30 p.m. “The Chamber of Horrors” (1966). After cutting off his hand to escape hanging, a killer seeks revenge, as they tend to do. Starring Cesare Danova, Wilfrid Hyde-White and Laura Devon.
6:15 p.m. “House of Wax” (1953). A talented sculptor becomes disfigured after a business partner sets his museum on fire. Yet his wax creations are amazingly life-like … mmm. Try to have fun with the obvious 3-D effects like the balls bouncing toward your face. André De Toth directs. With Phyllis Kirk and Carolyn Jones.
8 p.m. “Bride of Frankenstein” (1935). Is this the greatest sequel ever? I would throw in my vote for that distinction. It’s such a tragic film, though, as the lonely monster (Boris Karloff) wants a mate, but is shunned by his bride. Elsa Lanchester plays both the Bride and Mary Shelley.
9:30 p.m. “The Devil-Doll” (1936). Such a fun film and with great pedigree. Tod Browning directs and co-wrote the screenplay along with Erich von Stroheim, Guy Endore and Garrett Ford. Franz Waxman provides music. It stars a cross-dressing Lionel Barrymore as a man wrongly convicted of murder who exacts vengeance in a “small,” but extremely interesting way.
11 p.m. “House of Usher” (1960). Roger Corman directs film based on Edgar Allan Poe story as a young man arrives at the family mansion of his fiancée to become embroiled in a family curse. With Vincent Price, Mark Damon, Myrna Fahey. Another adaptation by Richard Matheson. This is the first of three films airing in a row that are part of the seven Corman/Poe/Price films. I would like that boxed set.
12:30 a.m. “Pit and the Pendulum” (1961). Raise your hand if, after you first saw this film, you had nightmares involving the objects in the title of the movie. Me, too. Starring Vincent Price, Barbara Steele and John Kerr.
2 a.m. “The Haunted Palace” (1963). Vincent Price does double duty as a warlock burnt at the stake in 1765 and his great-great grandson who arrives a century later to live in the family estate. With Lon Chaney Jr. and Debra Paget in her final film.
3:45 a.m. “Die, Monster, Die!” (1965). An American scientist visits his fiancée’s family in Britain where he finds frightened townsfolk, scorched Earth, weird happenings and an unwelcoming wheelchair-bound father played by Boris Karloff. Based on “The Colour Out of Space” by H.P. Lovecraft.
5:15 a.m. “The Curse of Frankenstein” (1957). Cushing and Lee return in Hammer’s first of seven Frankenstein films and its first color horror movie. Universal stopped Hammer from having the monster look anything like the 1931 film. Phil Leakey created the new look – an odd white-greenish mishmash with raised scars -on Lee’s face. Directed by Fisher.
[More on Cushing and Lee: The dynamic duo of classic horror]
Friday, Nov. 1
6:45 a.m. “Dracula, Prince of Darkness” (1965). When we last met Christopher’s Lee’s Dracula, he was disintegrated by sunlight. Luckily for us, there’s always someone ready to revive the old Count. Interesting fact: Dracula may hiss, but he doesn’t speak in the film. With Barbara Shelley.
Monster of the Month: Godzilla
Here is the schedule for the Godzilla movies airing Friday nights in October.
Friday, Oct. 4
8 p.m. “Godzilla” (1954)
9:30 p.m. “Godzilla, King of the Monsters!” (1956)
11 p.m. “Godzilla Raids Again” (1955)
12:30 a.m. “Mothra vs. Godzilla” (1964)
2:15 a.m. “Mothra” (1962)
Friday, Oct. 11
8 p.m. “Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster” (1964)
9:45 p.m. “Invasion of Astro-Monster” (1965)
1 a.m. “Son of Godzilla” (1967)
2:45 a.m. “Destroy All Monsters” (1969)
Friday, Oct. 18
8 p.m. “All Monsters Attack” (1969)
1 a.m. “Rodan” (1958)
2:30 a.m. “Sugar Hill” (1974)
4:15 a.m. “Blacula” (1972)
Friday, Oct. 25
8 p.m. “Godzilla vs. Megalon” (1973)
9:30 p.m. “Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla” (1974)
11 p.m. “Terror of Mechagodzilla” (1975)
12:30 a.m. “The War of the Gargantuas” (1966)