BRIDES OF HORROR – Scream Queens of the 1960s! 🎃 Part 3

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ELSA MARTINELLI

Euro art house director Roger Vadim adapted Blood and Roses 1960, from Sheridan Le Fanu’s Sapphic vampire novella Camilla, setting down in contemporary Italy.

A lonely and bitter young heiress – jealous of her cousin’s engagement to another woman – becomes dangerously obsessed with legends surrounding a vampire ancestor, who supposedly murdered the young brides of the man she loved (IMDb).

The role of Carmilla was cast by Annette Vadim and Elsa Martinelli plays Georgia Monteverdi engaged to Leopoldo (Mel Ferrer). Camilla is secretly in love with Leopoldo. He and Georgia host a costume party to celebrate their upcoming wedding, which include fireworks, that wind up unearthing the grave of Milarka, who is Carmilla’s ancestor, a vampiress. Milarka now possesses Camilla and designs to corrupt the lovers. Although the film is in technicolor, Vadim shoots his impressionistic dream sequence in black-and-white with red tinted blood.

The film stoked the theme of the lesbian vampire, though not explicit, the trope gained traction in the late 1960s and 70s with Hammer studios. Martinelli also appeared in The 10th Victim 1965.

Hayley Mills

Hayley Mills comes from acting royalty, she is the daughter of great British actor John Mills and the younger sister of Juliet Mills. I happened to have the good fortune of meeting the gorgeous Juliet Mills twice at the Chiller convention here in New Jersey. I have to say that I’ve never met a more kind and gracious actor who has a profound inner glow. Having already been a fan, I’m even more enamored with her.

Hayley was discovered while at her parent’s home in 1958 by director J. Lee Thompson who immediately cast her opposite, of her father in the thriller Tiger Bay 1959. Her breakthrough performance, winning an award at the Berlin Film Festival and being acknowledged in Hollywood by Walt Disney who signed her to a five year contract. There she starred in Pollyanna 1960 garnering rave reviews and a second hit was for The Parent Trap 1961. She went on to do That Darn Cat! 1965 and The Trouble with Angels 1966.

Mills had been offered the role of Lolita in Stanley Kubrick’s film (1962) but her parents warned off the part fearing the sexual nature of the role would taint her iconic image of purity. Sue Lyon was cast in the role instead, but Mills regretted not taking the part.

in Twisted Nerve 1968, Hayley Mills plays Susan Harper who befriends psychopath Martin Durnley (Hywel Bennett) who appears to be a painfully troubled young man, taking on the persona of a six year old boy who calls himself Georgie. His mother (Billie Whitelaw) infantilizes Martin. He has a brother with Down Syndrom who has been hidden away in an institution. Georgie becomes fixated on the lovely and patiently kind, who realizes there’s something very wrong with Martin who ultimately goes into a murderous rage.

After Twisted Nerve 1968 Hayley Mills went on to do more psychological thrillers in the 1970s – Once again co-starring with Hywel Bennett in Endless Night 1972, and Deadly Strangers 1975.

ANNA MASSEY

Anna also comes from acting royalty being the daughter of actor Raymond Massey. She is known for her role as Helen Stephens in Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom 1960 starring Karlheinz Bohm as Mark, a disturbed young man who films women as he kills them with a tri-pod sword so that he can get off on their reactions of terror. Anna plays Helen Stephans, the one girl that Mark feels a connection to.

Once Mark is drawn to Helen they begin to spend time together. In Helen’s innocence, she remains out of danger from his dark, deranged eye on women’s suffering.

She also appeared in Otto Preminger’s Bunny Lake is Missing 1965, the psycho-sexual thriller drenched in paranoia. Carol Lynley reports her little girl missing, but there seems to be no evidence that she ever existed. Anna plays Elvira Smollett one of the teachers at the school where she disappeared.

Massey went on to do two more horror films in the 1970s, Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy 1972 and The Vault of Horror 1973 an anthology directed by Roy Ward Baker.

Continue reading “BRIDES OF HORROR – Scream Queens of the 1960s! 🎃 Part 3”

BRIDES OF HORROR – Scream Queens of the 1960s! 🎃 Part 2

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JANE ASHER

British born red head Jane Asher started out as a child actress who worked extensively in television and film. Her contribution to the horror genre is that of her character, Francesca the unflinching heroine peasant girl who out of six is the only one to survive the plague and begs Prospero to spare her father and brother. She is thrust into the hedonistic Danse Macabre of the castle, as Prospero’s unwilling mistress, in Edgar Allan Poes story directed by Roger Corman THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH 1964.

From Roger Corman’s How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime –

“Masque was the most lavish of the Poe films…(part of what made the film so visually stunning with it’s vibrant color scheme is the work of cinematographer by Nicholas Roeg)

Masque was a surreal, philosophical tale set in medieval Italy with Vincent Price playing Prince Prospero, a sadistic debauched Satan worshipper who retreats into his castle and hosts a lavishly decadent ball as his land is ravaged by the Red Death…{…} I had started going out with my Masque leading lady, Jane Asher, and we were having coffee on a Friday. But Jane showed up with a young companion. “Roger”, she said, “I’d like you to meet a friend of mine from Liverpool, Paul McCartney. Paul’s never been on a movie set and he’d like to see what’s happening.” … Jane had been dating Paul but because he was constantly away on tour, she was seeing me in London.” -Roger Corman

She was Paul McCartney’s muse for much of the 1960s; “Here, There And Everywhere” and many other songs were written with Jane in mind. They were engaged for seven months until finally separating in July 1968. -IMDb tidbit

She appeared the television series – Journey to the Unknown 1968 episode Somewhere in the Crowd. And went on to star in the psychological thriller Deep End 1970, The Buttercup Chain 1970 and the television movie, The Stone Tape 1972. Most notable is her performance in the major motion picture Alfie 1966 co-starring with Michael Caine. IMDb tidbit-By the time she was fifteen, she had appeared in 8 films, made 9 television appearances, over 100 radio appearances and was in five plays-

Personal quote – “Of all the things I do, acting is the thing that grabs most, but there’s another level on which it strikes me as being a little silly. In the end you’re dressing up and deciding to be somebody.”

Maxine Audley

British actress noted for her perfect diction and for her excellent acting range in classical plays on stage, in television and on radio. Her contribution to the 60s horror genre is her marvelous performance as Mrs. Stephens in Michael Powell’s subversive Peeping Tom, who can see Mark Lewis’ psychopathic personality clearly though she is blind. She has the instincts to feel that she and her daughter are in terrible danger.

Peeping Tom 1960, The Brain 1962, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed 1969

Michiyo Aratama

Beautifully shot, suffuse the landscape with haunting and uncanny stories that are chilling in Masaki Kobyashi’s- Kwaidan 1964.

Continue reading “BRIDES OF HORROR – Scream Queens of the 1960s! 🎃 Part 2”

BRIDES OF HORROR – Scream Queens of the 1960s! 🎃 Part 1

This special The Last Drive in Halloween Feature will conclude with Part 4 and it’s primary focus exclusively on the great Barbara Steele!

‘through the complex changes in society surrounding traditional female roles using the ambivalence of the horror genre’ – Claudia Bunce

The 1960s were plagued by controversy and convulsed with violence. Horror cinema with the exception of Hammer Studio and European filmmakers’ colorful pageantry of Gothic tales, and the colorful dreamlike poetry of Mario Bava, mainly transitioned from classical themes. In the 1950s, B-horror movie narratives were concerned with outside hostile forces, alien invasions, and fear of nuclear war, but the new decade began to explore more interior horror that originated in the home and within ourselves. And many of these movies stand out as women-centric protagonists…

“Widely interpreted as a pivotal moment in the horror genre. Suggestive that monstrosity must be defined as inherent to the bourgeois family structure rather than an arcane social aberration: the crimes of Norman Bates can be read as the consequence of the sexually active mother, not unlike Marian Crane. The film is profoundly subversive.” – source unknown

After Riccardo Freda abandoned Black Sunday, the project went to cinematographer Mario Bava and became his directorial debut. The film was the start of the director’s momentous contribution to the genre with his masterful grasp of mise en scené composition, allegorical visual symbolism imagery, and the bold use of expressionist color, vivid tones and spectrum of light. Bava directed Kill, Baby Kill! 1966 featuring a ghostly little blonde girl (actually a boy actor) with a white ball that is the creepy harbinger of a series of violent deaths.

Mario Bava unleashed on us his very dark-hearted black & white Black Sunday in 1960 with jolting scenes of death and a new horror goddess, the provocative, wide-eyed- Barbara Steele. During the decade of the 60s, Steele’s ascendance within the genre was part of a broader trend in horror cinema that echoed the real world. Her strong presence and instinct to captivate our gaze, stood head to head with male horror stars Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing during that period of horror cinema. Barbara Steele inhabited the haunted screen with such a formidable primacy, there’s no disputing she is the ultimate scream queen.

The Italian movie industry of the 1960s saw a wave of Italian gothic chillers. Bava’s Blood and Black Lace 1964 is best remembered as the first ‘Giallo’ a particularly savage trademark of murder mysteries.

Riccardo Freda directed The Horrible Dr. Hichcock 1962 and The Ghost 1963, Margheriti’s beautifully orchestrated, eerily atmospheric ghost story Castle of Blood and Ciano’s Nightmare Castle 1965. All starring Barbara Steele.

Roger Corman established himself as a successful director. Of course, maverick filmmaker Corman showered us with some of the best campy low budget sci-fi / horror films of the 1950s, and in the 60s we were reintroduced to the splendid Poe adaptations in a series of vivid films of glorious terror and dread, with Daniel Haller’s gorgeous hallucinogenic art direction. These films are a series of Gothic masterpieces, – House of Usher 1960, Pit and the Pendulum 1961 and Masque of the Red Death 1964, featuring Hazel Court, another icon of 60s horror, who would command the screen with her fiery sensuality, flexing her bloodlust to offer herself up as Satan’s bride in Red Death.

Corman established himself as a successful director with his landscapes as Rodrick Usher says are a ‘feverish and deranged mind’ with his colorful more substantial yet still low-budget homages to Poe’s series of horror tales. With screenplays by Richard Matheson and cinematography by Floyd Crosby. Reaching its artistic peak with Masque of the Red Death. Many of the women in his Poe series feature a more incendiary female character. The horror genre especially from the 60s forward would prove to have more provocative roles for women since the femme fatale reigned during the time of film noir.

Instead of the restrained earlier decades, the 60s held up a mirror to the decade’s social turbulence and reflected back to us, with subversive storytelling, its edgy gore, and taboo-breaking narratives that fed a whole new audience who were hungry for more realistic and challenging scenarios. A new vanguard of filmmakers shattered traditional boundaries that restrained on-screen violence and sexuality.

Women’s roles in classical horror films of the 1930s & 40s (to my memory for now), with the exception of Elsa Lanchester as the Bride, and Gloria Holden as Countess Marya Zaleska in Dracula’s Daughter, initiated most of the leading ladies and supporting actresses, as easily fainting from fright, who screamed with hollow innocence, projecting reductive nuances of helplessness.

Still, there were established directors such as Alfred Hitchcock who caught wind of the changes, inspired by Clouzot’s le Diabolique 1955 and impressed by William Castle’s popular run of low-budget horror formula (albeit with its use of gimmickry).

Psycho 1960 would be set in safe and secure American suburbia instead of the imposing castles of Europe. The clean-cut serial killer would eclipse the caped swarthy vampire as the screen’s new boogeyman. Yet Marion’s ascendancy is as much a major element of the narrative as Norman Bates’ psychopathy!

Hitchcock offered us the bold cautionary, The Birds, a film Fellini referred to as “an apocalyptic poem” featuring a beautiful woman perceived as a she-devil that ushered in the natural world’s revolt.

FROM BARBARA CREED THE MONSTROUS FEMININE:

“Melanie Daniels in The Birds is a single woman in her thirties drifting – who must go through a trial by fire which she suffers, is humiliated and lectured to lower her defenses. She is an outsider who is being shown how social behavior becomes physically agonizing.”

The stark black & white Psycho 1960 based on a real-life serial killer, Ed Gein, pushed the boundaries of the Production Code with its shocking scenes of murder and inflected frames of Janet Leigh’s bra and slip. Leigh’s 30-minute on-screen persona of the immoral Marion Crane was a diverging representation of the traditional leading lady.

The decade also signaled a multitude of black & white psychological thrillers. Hammer split off some of its focus on the gory period pieces- translations of Frankenstein, Dracula, and Mummy, and jumped on the Psycho bandwagon with films like Scream of Fear 1961, Maniac 1963, Nightmare 1964, Hysteria 1965, Die! Die! My Darling! 1965 starring Tallulah Bankhead as the menacing Mrs. Trafoil, not a Medieval crone but a modern-day unleashed psychopath. And, The Nanny 1965 with Bette Davis, coming off of her pair of shockers by director Robert Aldrich, plays a sinister governess terrorizing young William Dix.

After Baby Jane, the industry was rife with menacing Hollywood starlets. I’ll be writing about the shattering of the myth of Hag Cinema, down the road. Robert Aldrich set in motion a trend of psychological horror films after he paired Bette Davis and Joan Crawford together in what is considered campy, outrageous at times, sickening – What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962. It was a watershed moment for the genre.

Crawford and Davis in particular in Aldrich’s films made the bold and courageous decision to act under harsh white lights, in grotesque makeup, and willing to immerse themselves into a character -eccentric, cringingly childish, and utterly sadistic.

After Baby Jane, Aldrich followed up with Davis, de Havilland, and Agnes Moorehead in Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte 1964. Crawford worked with William Castle on Strait-Jacket 1964, and Geraldine Page played a greedy murderess in What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? Co-starring Ruth Gordon. Shelley Winters appeared as the maniacal villainess in the fable-like Who Slew Auntie Roo? 1969 and Winters, Debbie Reynolds, and Moorehead in 1971 topped it off with Harrington’s What’s the Matter with Helen? A personal favorite of mine.

The second wave of the feminist movement and its emergence and impact began with Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, giving 50s suburban housewives a different vision of domestic enslavement and began to disassemble the myth of that decade’s family values. The quaint and complacent sentiment of post-WW2 comfortability became subverted by empowered women who broke free and found new independence reigniting the Monstrous Feminine giving permission to women as represented more freely in film, with more prominent parts, especially fostered in… the horror genre.

The 60s subverted the expectations surrounding the traditional housewife roles. Witches could be well-bred housewives like Janet Blair in Burn Witch Burn 1962 or a malevolent ingénue, Sharon Tate in Eye of the Devil 1966.

“The housewife witches of Burn, Witch, Burn and Season of the Witch use witchcraft to escape the confines of the domestic sphere and subvert their husbands’ patriarchal power. Then there is the cult leader witch of Eye of the Devil who uses her femininity to intimidate traditional societal gender roles” – Claudia Bunce

Significant films like Robert Wises’ The Haunting 1963, which were suggestive of lesbianism and repressed sexuality, stars two very significant central female characters, Julie Harris and Claire Bloom who give intensely complex and reflexive performances. Bloom as the stylish and extraordinarily self-composed Theo is a truly independent woman who lives life on her own terms. There isn’t anyone who wouldn’t shiver while at the mercy of the malevolent forces of Hill House. Director Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face (The French title Les Yeux sans Visage) 1960 has perhaps one of the most graphic scenes of horror, a gruesome fairytale with its medical experimentation with facial transplantation and a lead actress, Edith Scob with her macabre blank mask who floats around the halls like a lost princess swallowed up inside a night terror. The film also stars a stoic Alida Valli, a strong ally to the twisted plastic surgeon in search of a new face for his daughter.

Jack Clayton’s adaptation of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, became a screenplay by William Archibald, The Innocents 1961’ lead actress Deborah Kerr lies wide open with her distillation of a woman tortured by her sexual paranoia. Dressed in classical clothes, unlike Deneuve’s role in Repulsion, where her character Carol’s neurosis is flayed and hung out naked on display.

And most significantly, the female-centric role of Mia Farrow as the allegorical heroine Rosemary Woodhouse, hunted down by a coven of upper west side devil worshipers in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby 1968. Farrow’s performance is a striking denunciation of control over women’s bodies, a slow burn of paranoia, and a strong instinct for survival.

“but when he (Guy Woodhouse) took control of her reproductive functions, he asserted his dominance over her in the darkest way possible.

Assertion of dominance reinforced his masculinity and the traditional role that men had in relationships. Guy’s taking control assuages the fear of women gaining too much independence.” – From Jenna Labbie damsels in Distress Analyzing gender in horror movies of the 1960s and 70s

Polanski’s earlier released Repulsion 1965 strayed from Hitchcock’s black humor drizzled about in Psycho. Repulsion rather has a sense of nightmarish realism and a protagonist, Catherine Deneuve who goes down a rabbit hole of repressive seizures.

Repulsion is an extremely disturbing contemplation on the destructive forces of loneliness, isolation, and paranoia seen through the lens of a sexually repressed young woman, Carol who suffers a homicidal breakdown while her sister and married lover leave her alone for a long weekend. An exit from the cheeky dark humor of Hitchcock’s Psycho, Repulsion brushes the screen with strokes of Carol’s existential misery.

Michael Powell’s groundbreaking shocker Peeping Tom is a hauntingly twisted mood piece about serial killer Karl Bohm who films his victims in the last moments of their death to capture their fear. It features two very strong female leads, Anna Massey and Maxine Audley.

Mexican fright flicks abound with atmospheric gems like The Curse of the Crying Woman 1963, The Brainiac 1961, and The Witch’s Mirror 1962, featuring strong female-centric characters played by Rosita Arenas and Rita Macedo. And in Jack Hill’s oddball black comedy Spider Baby 1967 benefitted from the quirky presence of both Beverly Washburn and Jill Banner as two bizarre, homicidal sisters.

Luana Anders features significantly in the genre, highlighted in Coppola’s Dementia 13 as the independent yet ruthless Louise Halloran and as prostitute Sylvia in Robert Altman’s psycho-sexual thriller That Cold Day in the Park 1969. The film stars one of my favorite underrated actors, Sandy Dennis who gives a stunning performance as the disturbed Francis Austen, who holds Michael Burns hostage.

George Romero broke ground with the brutal realism of Night of the Living Dead 1968 which has not so indirect social relevance. 60s horror films were breaking away from Hollywood and being forged by gutsy independent filmmakers with smaller budgets, and an imaginative longing to experiment with diversity, artistic style, and a divergent way to visualize and process gender roles outside traditional cultural norms.

Barbara Shelley

The Queen of Hammer

Ryan Gilbey, in her obituary in The Guardian, praises Shelley’s acting in the Hammer films, considering that she had “a grounded, rational quality that instantly conferred gravitas on whatever lunatic occurrences were unfolding around her.”

The world lost Barbara Shelley in January 2021 at the age of 88. With hair like paprika, Barbara Shelley was born Barbara Kowin. A glamorous gothic leading lady was considered the ‘Queen of Hammer’ during the studio’s golden age of Gothic horror. A classical beauty, with an air of elegance and self-assuredness, she has co-starred with other Hammer royalty Christoper Lee and Peter Cushing. Shelley was an actress with such integrity and beauty that she transcended the horror genre.

The London-based production company was founded in 1934 by William Hinds and James Carrera who made a string of hit Gothic horror films from the mid-1950s until the 1970s. Inspired by classic horror characters like Baron Victor Frankenstein, Count Dracula, and the Mummy and appeared in 104 films and television series until 2000. She was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company between 1975 and 1977.

From Wiki-
{Hammer reintroduced to audiences by filming them in vivid colour for the first time. Hammer also produced science fiction, thrillers, film noir and comedies, as well as, in later years, television series. During its most successful years, Hammer dominated the horror film market, enjoying worldwide distribution and considerable financial success.}

“Hammer was like a family, a very talented family… with a wonderful atmosphere on the set and a wonderful sense of humour”

“When I first started doing Hammer, all the so-called classic actors looked down on the horror film. All the other things I did, nobody remembers those. But for the horror films, I’m very grateful to them because they built me a fan base, and I’m very touched that people will come and ask for my autograph. If you went to see a [Hammer] film in the cinema, the gasps were interspersed with giggles because people were giggling at themselves for being frightened, they were frightening themselves, and this is what made Hammer very special.”

With her success as a teenage model, she made her minor film debut in Hammer’s motion picture Mantrap in 1952 directed by Terence Fisher and starring Paul Henreid and Lois Maxwell.

Shelley took her screen name from Italian actor Walter Chiari who saw something in the actress and suggested that she use the last name as a tribute to his favorite English romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. She wound up living in Rome for four years and appeared in nine Italian-speaking films.

She returned to the UK in 1957, starring that year for British Lion Film in her first starring role within the horror genre as Leonora Johnson née Brandt in Cat Girl (1957), directed by Alfred Shaughnessy who set out to borrow from Jacques Tourneur’s superior, and innovative Cat People (1942.) Leonora Johnson returns to her ancestral home that is beset with the family curse, that she will be possessed by the spirit of a leopard. The film was a collaboration between American International Pictures and the British Anglo-Amalgamated.

Her first starring vehicle was Cat Girl (1957), Alfred Shaughnessy’s offbeat variation of Jacques Tourneur’s influential Cat People (1942), and A.I.P.’s first co-production with the UK’s Anglo-Amalgamated. The following year she made her first major appearance in a film for Hammer The Camp on Blood Island.

In 1958, she co-starred as a woman in peril at the hands of mad scientist Callistratus (Donald Wolfit). In Blood of the Vampire, Shelley is the picture of fainting beauty chained to the wall, a garish period piece in line with the days of Universal’s classic horrors though scattered with gory scenes satiated by fake blood and understated cleavage.

In 1880 Transylvania Dr. Calistratus is brought back to life by his one-eyed hunchback assistant Carl after he’d been executed as a vampire. At the same time, Dr. John Pierre (Vincent Ball) is on trial for killing one of his patients whom he tried to save with a blood transfusion. He is found guilty and sentenced to life. Barbara Shelley plays fiancee Madeleine, set on finding the truth behind the incriminating letter allegedly proving his guilt, forged by Calistratus.

He is brought to prison for the criminally insane by the mad doctor’s hunchback Carl. John is put in a cell, a menacing place guarded by vicious dogs, where Calastratus experiments and tortures his human subjects. In order to prove John’s innocence Madeleine poses as Calastratus’ housekeeper who winds up chained to a wall and strapped to an operating table!

Shelley was against her body being exploited or appearing in any nude scenes while being menaced by Wolfit. She warded off this endeavor by producers Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman by writing the word “STOP” on her chest. She threatened to sue the studio if it even used a body double.

“I had one or two dissertations on horror sent to me by students, and all the discussion ever seems to be concerned with is exploitation and the licking of blood and a scene of people making love, and it’s not right. It annoys me intensely because my career was not built on exploitation and sex. It was built on working very hard.”

In 1960, she is marvelous in the heartbreaking role of the tragic mother Anthea Zellerby who has given birth to an unfeeling monstrous alien boy who has uncanny dangerous powers along with the rest of the children of Midwich. All the mothers in Midwich have conceived during a strange blackout where they wind up giving birth to a breed of malevolent telepathic sociopaths.

Shelley’s character is earnest in the role of a woman torn between motherhood and sheer terror in director Wolf Rilla’s incredibly unsettling moody classic blend of science fiction and horror-Village of the Damned (1960) based on John Wyndham’s science fiction novel The Midwich Cuckoos. The film co-stars George Sanders as Shelley’s altruistic husband Gordon, who seeks to understand the menacing children with their freaky white hair and piercing eyes and his creepy son David played by Martin Stephans. These dangerous little progeny can get inside people’s minds and make them do anything they want, as in making Shelley’s character stick her hand in a pot of boiling water. The screenplay written by Stirling Sillipant is quite a disturbing potboiler it total.

She went on to star in John Gilling’s turn-of-the-century old dark house mystery Shadow of the Cat (1961)

Some of the outstanding pictures that put her upon the thrown as the reigning Queen of those splendid years of Gothic horror are Dracula: Prince of Darkness 1966, Rasputin the Mad Monk 1966 with Christopher Lee, and The Gorgon 1964 with Peter Cushing. The monstrous Gorgon is portrayed by Prudence Hyman.

“She really was Hammer’s number one leading lady and the Technicolor queen of Hammer.
“On-screen she could be quietly evil. She goes from statuesque beauty to just animalistic wildness… She adored Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and loved working with them, that was very dear to her.”-Agent, Thomas Bowington

What truly established Barbara Shelley’s esteemed reputation as the First Lady of British horror in the mid-1960s is her collaboration with Terence Fisher. Leaving behind the more exploitative persona of the luscious heroine with inviting bosoms Shelley portrayed the sympathetic character of Carla Hoffman in Fisher’s mood piece The Gorgon. Carla is the assistant to Dr. Namaroff (Peter Cushing), and a tortured soul possessed by an ancient evil spirit with serpents for hair and the ability to turn whoever gazes upon her to stone, and Shelley conveys the bleakness of a woman who is held captive by her monstrous alter ego.

Before Shelley turns into a blood-sucking bride of Dracula, she plays her first woman transformed into a monster in The Gorgon (1964). She told the studio “I wouldn’t need any makeup… just a green face and the headdress of real snakes.” Shelley absolutely let down when she saw what the special effects department conjured up, “They came up with these terrible sorts of rubber snakes dancing around and it just looked awful. It wasn’t frightening at all.” She had said that it was “probably the biggest regret I’ve had in any film I ever made.”

She was absolutely dejected when they chose to substitute Prudence Hyman in the part of the Gorgon, “They came up with these terrible sorts of rubber snakes dancing around, and it just looked awful. It wasn’t frightening at all.” She called it “probably the biggest regret I’ve had in any film I ever made” though she admired the look of the picture, noting that “every shot … resembles a Rembrandt painting.”

In Dracula: Prince of Darkness 1966, Christopher Lee resurrects the count from Horrors of Dracula 1958. Shelley plays Helen the heroine whom we empathize with as she is trapped by her circumstances, when her stubborn husband Alan (who dismisses Helen’s panic) and his brother Charles, both refuse to leave the creepy unwelcoming Castle Dracula after stumbling onto the unattended mausoleum.

They want to stay and partake in a meal laid out for them, but Helen is justifiably spooked by its strange undercurrent. “Everything about this place is evil”.

Once Christopher Lee’s resurrection, Helen goes through a diverging transformation from the archetypal repressed female to an unrestrained raptorial vampiress liberated from her proper English breeding, in high contrast to her tight up swung hair in a provincial hat, was now wide open with unwound flowing hair and unequivocal breastage. Shelley loved how distinct her character’s trajectory was in Dracula: Prince of Darkness. From inhibited, startled gentlewoman to the monstrous feminine as one of Dracula’s brides. When she appears at Karlsbad Castle, telling Suzan Farmer, “nothing’s wrong” through hungry red lips and baring fangs. “Come sister, You don’t need Charles…” she tempts, with inviting arms outstretched to the innocent Suzan Farmer as Diana. Shelley’s virtuous woman who reveals to her Diana that she is now a vampire is lauded by Gilbey in The Guardian as having “traumatized and tantalized” viewers.

Shelley’s scream in Dracula is actually dubbed by fellow actress Suzan Farmer (Die Monster Die! 1965 with Boris Karloff) who appeared with her in Dracula: Prince of Darkness and Rasputin The Mad Monk.

In a terrifying scene perhaps inspiring Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, has Helen tapping on the window in the middle of the night. “Please let me in,” she pleads. “It’s cold out here. So cold. Everything’s all right now.”

She was delighted by one of her most potent scenes -as when she contends with her adversaries – monks who lie her on a table and hammer a stake through her undead heart.

Shelley told Mark Gatiss in his 2010 documentary series A History of Horror, “The scene that I’m most proud of is when she is staked that’s absolute evil when she’s struggling and then suddenly she’s staked and there is tremendous serenity. And I think that is one of my best moments in the film.”

“… and then suddenly she’s staked, and there is tremendous serenity. And I think that is one of my best moments on film.”

“Christopher Lee, who was an eloquent Gothic figure of pure evil in 1958’s first adaptation of Stoker’s vampire, had now evolved into a hissing fiend. But Shelley had this to say about the actor -“He brought dignity and veritas. It’s a difficult thing to bring to a fantasy like a vampire. And that is just Chris’ appearance and his personality. He did all that. He used to walk onto the sent and I’d say to him it’s an extraordinary performance, cause we know each other so well and you could hypnotize me. But it was brilliant because he completely dominated the film without a word. Talk about silent movies!”

Shot at the same time was another Hammer horror, Rasputin the Mad Monk with Christopher Lee has dialogue in a more colorful, lurid role, as the mad mesmerist in contrast to his silent, blood-eyed fiend. Shelley falls under the spell of Rasputin. While not willing to do a nude scene in Blood of the Vampire, she was however up to laying bare a seduction scene with Christoper Lee. “That scene was in the script when I read it. The scenes I refused to do was when they would suddenly say to me ‘Oh, you take your clothes off here’ The answer to that was always no” – From an interview with Fangoria Magazine 2010.

One of her beloved roles is her last Hammer feature in Roy Ward Baker’s adaption of writer Nigel Kneale’s (The Quatermass Experiment 1955, First Men in the Moon 1964, The Witches 1966, The Stone Tape 1972 TV movie) Quatermass and the Pit 1967.

In Quatermass and the Pit, Shelley portrays scientist Barbara Judd who along with paleontologist Doctor Roney (James Donald) and a team of scientists discover an ancient alien race whose spacecraft is found buried in the underground station at Hobbs End during an expansion of London’s Underground transport system. Shelley develops a psychic link to the aliens and is taken over by the inhabitants of the alien spacecraft.

She is subjected to images of green gooey decomposing locust-like alien carcasses that in the process of being removed from the tunnels cause her brain to succumb to the electromagnetic influence of the spacecraft, causing her to writhe in pain. She is so totally reasonable as an actress that she brings credibility to her character. Shelly had claimed that director Roy Ward Baker was her favorite of all the filmmakers she worked with.

The way he felt about her goes like this. He told Bizarre Magazine in a 1974 interview that he was ‘mad about her. “Mad in the sense of love,” he said. “We used to waltz about the set together, a great love affair. It puzzles me about her. She should be much bigger than she is, but I don’t think she really cares whether she is a star or not. She can act, God, she can act!”

In The Avengers 1961 image: Studio Canal

Barbara Shelley would eventually do guest appearances on popular television shows including the British television series Doctor Who playing Sorasta in the episode “Planet Of Fire,” starring Peter Davison as the fifth incarnation of Doctor Who. She would also appear on The Saint, The Avengers, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, and Route 66. Later she would play Hester Samuels in “EastEnders.”

Shelley’s final role in horror films was in the old dark house mystery Ghost Story 1974 directed by Stephen Weeks co-starring Marianne Faithful.

Her final role on screen was in the Uncle Silas mini-series in 1989. A sinister character brought to life on screen by Derrick De Marney in 1947 with Jean Simmons in the role of Caroline.

Although Shelley ultimately felt framed in within the horror genre by the late 1960s, retiring two decades later, she always embraced her devoted fanbase and left behind a substantial legacy. “I realized that my work had been appreciated and that I had – through those horror films – actually reached a far bigger audience than I would ever have done if I’d stuck to the theater.”

The actress was modest about her achievements but happy with her legacy, as she conveyed with typical aplomb to Marcus Hearn: “There’s a lovely saying – we’re given memories so we can have roses in winter. When I look back over my various rose gardens, I’m only sorry I didn’t enjoy them more”.

“No one told me I was beautiful. They said I was photogenic but no one said I was beautiful. If they had I would have had a lot more fun!”

In an interview with the Express newspaper in 2009, she said she was told at a convention by female fans that they loved her for her strong roles. “Which I thought was a brilliant thing to have said about one. I never thought of it in that way. The fact that I’m still getting mail from my horror fan base really touches me.”

TRIVIA

While making the 1961 TV film, A Story of David, she met Hollywood star Jeff Chandler and they began a relationship. Chandler died suddenly the following year. Shelley is later reported to have said that he had been the love of her life

So convincing was Shelley’s violently realistic struggle against the stake, she swallowed one of her stuck-on fangs.

With no spares at the ready and a tight shooting schedule, it is reported that she kept drinking salt water until she puked it up.

After the scene in Dracula: Prince of Darkness where she struggles with the monks at the end with her demise, it was so physically demanding on Shelley, that she suffered from chronic back pain.

Barbara Shelley would recall how she and Lee, prided themselves on being “un-corpseable”, and would compete to make one another laugh during takes.

Cat Girl 1957, Blood of the Vampire 1958, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED 1960 THE GORGON 1964,  DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS 1966, RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK 1966, QUATERMASS AND THE PIT 1967

Continue reading “BRIDES OF HORROR – Scream Queens of the 1960s! 🎃 Part 1”

Film Noir ♥ Transgression Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”
Sigmund Freud

“Ladies and gentlemen- welcome to violence; the word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains sex.” — Narrator from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

Faster Pussycat
Tura Satana, Haji, and Lori Williams in Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! 1965
Cul-de-Sac
Françoise Dorléac and Donald Pleasence in Roman Polanski’s Cul-de-sac 1966
the Naked kiss
Constance Towers kicks the crap out of her pimp for shaving off her hair in Sam Fuller’s provocative The Naked Kiss 1964
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Peter Breck plays a journalist hungry for a story and gets more than a jolt of reality when he goes undercover in a Mental Institution in Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor 1963
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Bobby Darin is a psychotic racist in Hubert Cornfield and Stanley Kramer’s explosive Pressure Point 1962 starring Sidney Poitier and Peter Falk.

THE DARK PAGES NEWSLETTER  a condensed article was featured in The Dark Pages: You can click on the link for all back issues or to sign up for upcoming issues to this wonderful newsletter for all your noir needs!

Constance Towers as Kelly from The Naked Kiss (1964): “I saw a broken down piece of machinery. Nothing but the buck, the bed and the bottle for the rest of my life. That’s what I saw.”

Griff (Anthony Eisley) The Naked Kiss (1964): “Your body is your only passport!”

Catherine Deneuve as Carole Ledoux in Repulsion (1965): “I must get this crack mended.”

Monty Clift Dr. Cukrowicz Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) : “Nature is not made in the image of man’s compassion.”

Patricia Morán as Rita Ugalde: The Exterminating Angel 1962:“I believe the common people, the lower class people, are less sensitive to pain. Haven’t you ever seen a wounded bull? Not a trace of pain.”

Ann Baxter as Teresina Vidaverri Walk on the Wild Side 1962“When People are Kind to each other why do they have to find a dirty word for it.”

The Naked Venus 1959“I repeat she is a gold digger! Europe’s full of them, they’re tramps… they’ll do anything to get a man. They even pose in the NUDE!!!!”

Darren McGavin as Louie–The Man With the Golden Arm (1955): “The monkey is never dead, Dealer. The monkey never dies. When you kick him off, he just hides in a corner, waiting his turn.”

Baby Boy Franky Buono-Blast of Silence (1961) “The targets names is Troiano, you know the type, second string syndicate boss with too much ambition and a mustache to hide the facts he’s got lips like a woman… the kind of face you hate!”

Lorna (1964)- “Thy form is fair to look upon, but thy heart is filled with carcasses and dead man’s bones”

Peter Fonda as Stephen Evshevsky in Lilith (1964): “How wonderful I feel when I’m happy. Do you think that insanity could be so simple a thing as unhappiness?”

Glen or Glenda (1953)“Give this man satin undies, a dress, a sweater and a skirt, or even a lounging outfit and he’s the happiest individual in the world.”

Glen or Glenda
Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda 1953

Johnny Cash as Johnny Cabot in Five Minutes to Live (1961):“I like a messy bed.”

Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton) Island of Lost Souls: “Do you know what it means to feel like God?”

The Curious Dr. Humpp (1969): “Sex dominates the world! And now, I dominate sex!”

The Snake Pit (1948): Jacqueline deWit as Celia Sommerville “And we’re so crowded already. I just don’t know where it’s all gonna end!” Olivia de Havilland as Virginia Stuart Cunningham “I’ll tell you where it’s gonna end, Miss Somerville… When there are more sick ones than well ones, the sick ones will lock the well ones up.”

Delphine Seyrig as Countess Bathory in Daughters of Darkness (1971)“Aren’t those crimes horrifying. And yet -so fascinating!”

Julien Gulomar as Bishop Daisy to the Barber (Michel Serrault) King of Hearts (1966)“I was so young. I already knew that to love the world you have to get away from it.”

The Killing of Sister George (1968) -Suzanna York as Alice ‘CHILDIE’: “Not all women are raving bloody lesbians, you know” Beryl Reid as George: “That is a misfortune I am perfectly well aware of!”

The Killing of Sister George
Susannah York (right) with Beryl Reid in The Killing of Sister George Susannah York and Beryl Reid in Robert Aldrich’s The Killing of Sister George 1960

The Lickerish Quartet (1970)“You can’t get blood out of an illusion.”

THE SWEET SOUND OF DEATH (1965)Dominique-“I’m attracted” Pablo-” To Bullfights?” Dominique-” No, I meant to death. I’ve always thought it… The state of perfection for all men.”

Peter O’Toole as Sir Charles Ferguson Brotherly Love (1970): “Remember the nice things. Reared in exile by a card-cheating, scandal ruined daddy. A mummy who gave us gin for milk. Ours was such a beautifully disgusting childhood.”

Maximillian Schell as Stanislaus Pilgrin in Return From The Ashes 1965: “If there is no God, no devil, no heaven, no hell, and no immortality, then anything is permissible.”

Euripides 425 B.C.“Whom God wishes to destroy… he first makes mad.”

Davis & Crawford What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford bring to life two of the most outrageously memorable characters in Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962

WHAT DOES PSYCHOTRONIC MEAN?

psychotronic |ˌsīkəˈtränik| adjective denoting or relating to a genre of movies, typically with a science fiction, horror, or fantasy theme, that were made on a low budget or poorly received by critics. [1980s: coined in this sense by Michael Weldon, who edited a weekly New York guide to the best and worst films on local television.] Source: Wikipedia

In the scope of these transitioning often radical films, where once, men and women aspired for the moon and the stars and the whole ball of wax. in the newer scheme of things they aspired for you know… “kicks” yes that word comes up in every film from the 50s and 60s… I’d like to have a buck for every time a character opines that collective craving… from juvenile delinquent to smarmy jet setter!

FILM NOIR HAD AN INEVITABLE TRAJECTORY…

THE ECCENTRIC & OFTEN GUTSY STYLE OF FILM NOIR HAD NO WHERE ELSE TO GO… BUT TO REACH FOR EVEN MORE OFF-BEAT, DEVIANT– ENDLESSLY RISKY & TABOO ORIENTED SET OF NARRATIVES FOUND IN THE SUBVERSIVE AND EXPLOITATIVE CULT FILMS OF THE MID TO LATE 50s through the 60s and into the early 70s!

I just got myself this collection of goodies from Something Weird!

weird-noir
There’s even this dvd that points to the connection between the two genres – Here it’s labeled WEIRD. I like transgressive… They all sort of have a whiff of noir.
Grayson Hall Satan in High Heels
Grayson Hall -Satan in High Heels 1962
mimi3
Gerd Oswald adapts Fredrick Brown’s titillating novel — bringing to the screen the gorgeous Anita Ekberg, Phillip Carey and Gypsy Rose Lee and Harry Townes in the sensational, obscure and psycho-sexual thriller Screaming Mimi 1958
The Strangler 1964 Victor Buono
Victor Buono is a deranged mama’s boy in Burt Topper’s fabulous The Strangler 1964
Repulsion
Catherine Deneuve is extraordinary as the unhinged nymph in Roman Polanski’s psycho-sexual tale of growing madness in Repulsion 1965

Just like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, Noir took a journey through an even darker lens… Out of the shadows of 40s Noir cinema, European New Wave, fringe directors, and Hollywood auteurs, brought more violent, sexual, transgressive, and socially transformative narratives into the cold light of day with a creeping sense of verité. While Film Noir pushed the boundaries of taboo subject matter and familiar Hollywood archetypes it wasn’t until later that we are able to visualize the advancement of transgressive topics.

Continue reading “Film Noir ♥ Transgression Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground”

A Very Ghoulish & Giffy Halloween from your ever lovin’ MonsterGirl!

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THANKS TO RETRO-FIEND FOR ALL THE SKIN-CRAWLING GIFS!!!!!

 BE SAFE AND HERE’S WISHING YOU A SPOOKTACULAR HALLOWEEN FROM THE LAST DRIVE IN…!!!!!!

Quote of the Day! Lon Chaney Jr. as Bruno The Chauffeur: Spider Baby (1968)

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Lon Chaney Jr. Spider Baby

Lon Chaney Jr. is the sympathetic Bruno the chauffeur, who teaches the kids a little bit about ethics in Jack Hill’s sublime cult horror gem Spider Baby or, The Maddest Story Ever Told (1968)

Spider Baby

“Just because something isn’t good doesn’t mean its bad.”

That’s right Bruno-MonsterGirl

MonsterGirl’s Sunday Nite Surreal: Spider Baby 1968-“This has gone well beyond the boundaries of prudence and good taste.”

Spider Baby or The Maddest Story Ever Told -1968

Virginia “I caught a big fat bug right in my spider web and now the spider gets to give the bug a big sting.Sting, Sting, Sting, Sting, Sting!”

One of the most original psychological horror gems that is as queerly frightening as it is endearing. It opens with Lon Chaney Jr. really singing a little nursery song about werewolves and vampires and it’s quite effectively eerie as the opening hymn. Chaney’s character delivers one of my favorite lines–it goes to the sense of all oddballs in the world who struggle to find their place. How often that quiet place is usurped by society’s gatekeepers and grabbers.

Bruno, The Chauffeur: “Just because something isn’t good doesn’t mean it’s bad.”

The film is special partly due to the presence of Lon Chaney Jr. as Bruno the chauffeur, who looks after the Merrye children with an undying devotion. Living in the decrepit and crumbling old family mansion, the last generation of surviving Merryes’ occupy the odd space like a whimsical little fun-house.

Because of inbreeding the family has been cursed with a type of mental regression, or arrested development. Bruno sort of cleans up any of the messes or fatalities that happen due to the Merryes being like wild unchecked gremlins,

Like the postman (Mantan Moreland busy actor in the 40s who often took off on black caricatures for the all white films he played all jittery or buffoonery in, you could either be reviled by his being cast to play the part, or for taking the part as an actor when the studio wasn’t making oodles of roles for black actors to be seen in– either way he made a brand out of his name and his ebullient personality and always seemed a likable guy)

Anyway he should have known better than to try and leave a package any further than the steps, instead of being trapped in Virginia’s web and sliced up with the gardening shears. He was a big bug caught in her net after all.

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Directed by Jack Hill  brilliantly populates this queer little world with the perfect character players, all on a budget of $65,000.

Lon Chaney was only paid a flat fee of $2,500 for his role and it was a little poignant to watch his performance with bits of his alcoholism seeping through the character, he had been drinking pretty heavily at that point.

The Merrye sisters Virginia (Jill Banner) and Elizabeth (Beverley Washburn) are suited as the demented girls, and then there’s Ralph, adorable feral little Ralph manifested by the quirky Sid Haig.

Now Carol Ohmart comes into the picture as Cousin Emily Howe who is after the family fortune not expecting to uncover the house of Merrye madness.

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Ronald Stein’s music is often lyrical & offbeat (Attack of the 50 Ft Woman (1958), Dementia 13 (1963), It Conquered the World & She Creature (1956) Not of this Earth, Attack of the Crab Monsters, The Undead, Dragstrip Girl (1957) The Girl in Lovers Lane (1960) The Haunted Palace (1963)

Alternative titles The Liver Eaters–be assured no livers are eaten, at least not on screen. Cannibal Orgy-I assure you there is no orgy, there isn’t even any cannibalism. While I say there is no cannibalism, there is a book that explains how exclusive Merrye Syndrome effects only that family, where the disease: causes its victims to regress mentally to pre-infantile state of savagery and cannibalism. The three surviving children of Titus Merrye is Elizabeth who dresses like a little girl (creepy) and Virginia who thinks she’s a giant spider.

The film has been compared to the work of Luis Buñuel. who was considered an iconoclast and a moralist who definitely populated his films with the sense that revolution was necessary to change the stagnant ways people conform to their lives.

I can see the dinner scene as, with his The Exterminating Angel etc, the table is set where everyone but the guests are vegetarians. Ralph has caught a Rabbit. Unfortunately it’s the neighborhood cat. When Ralph grabs the ‘rabbit’ and starts tearing into it, Cousin Peter (Quinn Redeker)  is confused because he thought he was a vegetarian. Bruno tells him “But Ralph is allowed to eat anything he catches!”

Spider Baby in that sense does create it’s own little universe of characters who are moving in their own orbit with a sense of unreal abstract unorthodoxy. Virginia with that large bow in her hair is ridiculous as it is uncomfortably repulsive, but the sharp knives in her anxious hands elevate her to a truly gruesome character and not just a childish simpleton. It’s this teetering from not looking serious to suddenly going for the jugular that creates the uneasy feeling surrounding the Merrye family.

It’s one of THE definitive Cult films for sure, that even defies one particular label. It’s witty, macabre, quirky, irreverent, a bit of noir in it’s use of shadows and tragic figures doomed from the beginning.

It’s an adult fairy tale with dark corners and speculative questions about madness and responsibility and who gets to make those decisions. And Carol Ohmart just looks damn sexy in her black lingerie. Sorry for reverting to objectifying Carol Ohmart, even for a moment, but I truly do find her a very sexy lady as well as a good actress.

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Savage hunger of a BLACK WIDOW

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IMDb Fun Fact:

The film was shot in August and September of 1964 with the title “Cannibal Orgy, or The Maddest Story Ever Told”, but its release was held up for years because the producers went bankrupt, which tied up the film in legal limbo. Independent producer David L. Hewitt acquired it for distribution in 1968 and changed the title to “Spider Baby” and “The Liver Eaters.”