When I was a kid, and my dad’s cinemas in the small west Illinois cities ofCarthage and Warsaw I was a of the puerile teens who popped up with ideas of how to localize the low-budget horror films that he screened.
The Warsaw Theatre was situated in a Quonset built hut on Main Street in a town with a population of 2 000 people, that overlooked the Mississippi River, was, in the 1950s and 1960s, accessible only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, and often featured a different movie every evening. The Woodbine Theatre located in Carthage is located 20 miles from the river’s east and with a bigger population was able to stay open all night long however, they rarely showed one film for that lasted more than one week. The Warsaw Theatre, my father frequently ran double feature material including re-issues and older films and eighty-minute color westerns, billed in black and white “lower quarter” films. When he would listen to my requests for horror films, he would show films and these were the ones I went over and beyond to encourage. It was a tiny town, and our limited resources gave me some opportunities to think up creative ideas, such as display boards for storefronts, lobby display cases, and phone posters made from paper and ink.
Certain horror films of the time included their own promotional gimmicks, the most famous ones were made by the director of schlock and director William Castle. The first of his gimmicks was 1958, which was a commercial that featured the Lloyd’s of London insurance policy which covered the film’s patron in the scenario that they suffered a fatal terror during the film MACABRE.
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MACABRE is a budget-friendly yet tightly-paced black and white thriller that has a few scenes added for obvious shock value such as a bloody-faced corpse that is thrown over an mausoleum, a miniature fake skull-faced face inside the casket of the night of a funeral as well as the sudden appearance of a hand over the shoulders of a physician looking through a cemetery to find his daughter, who is believed to have been killed and buried alive. The resolution at the end is the most shocking of all and it’s because it’s extremely plausible. Human beings who are gregarious like in the following Castle film, HOUSE ON HUNTED Hill, are the actual monsters, not supernatural creatures. But the shocks remain effective, at least for those not needing the use of gore (as as in the remake that has the same name). As of today there have been there are only 2 Castle film have seen made with modern gore: HOUSE ON HUNTED Hill and THIRTEEN GHOSTS. The teen audience of today or at the very least in America will likely consider the original versions of those films rather moderate. *
When the film by Allied Artists MACABRE was playing in The Warsaw Theatre, I ordered additional 8×10 stills from the film through National Screen Service and decorated the windows of a local pharmacy with a cut-out cemetery made of cardboard. I designed my own tombstones. However, the pharmacist was offended when I put the names of people from my area in the tombstones. I was trying to make it an amusing joke, but the black comedy (sick humor) was not in the mix.
* The identical year Hammer Films released its version of the Dracula tale with the title in the US”HORROR of DRACULA. It was shocking to some audiences and quite boring to other audiences. When I presented this film during the 90s in a class at a college in Atlanta the students were disappointed to find it slow-moving at times and not particularly scary or shocking. But when I presented the film to an British Literature class in China the year 2004, a few students asked to be removed from the class. They were utterly terrified, and I was astonished by their reactions.
Despite my cardboard art However the film only attracted one small percentage of our tiny population. We played the standard soccer games in an exercise.
In a night-time Halloween show in the past, Dad played two hokey film horrors aimed at teenagers I WAS A TEENSEE FRANKENSTEIN and THE RENEWAL of DRACULA. In the late 1950s, for this double-bill, I built the castle out of cardboard over one of the inner exits close to the screen. I then connected a wire to the booth for projection. I draped a piece of white paper over a hangar and attached a string around the hanger. At the end in one film I stood at the exit area and pulled the string hoping to draw the ghost to the front of the crowd. The ghost emerged from the projection booth’s window just as it was supposed to however the hanger remained half-way down. I pulled at the string until it snapped off, leaving my deus ex machina hanging over the audience until the conclusion of the performance after which the light fixtures showed my trick.
The most successful of them was my massive cobweb that I made from regular white yarn which I wrapped over the doors and also the one-sheet as well as the 14×36 frames within the hallway.
Both I was a Teenage FRANKENSTIEN as well as THE RENEWAL of DRACULA have the film’s own internal gimmicks, which include the utilization of color in black-and-white movies. You may remember the short segment of color that was featured in 1940s films like the films THE PICTURE OF DOrian GRAY as well as THE PORTRAIT of JENNY. in both films only the portrait of the main character was displayed in color which was sharply contrasted with the other scenes in the film. Both inserted shots are quite effective. There isn’t much to say about that color is used in the Halloween movies mentioned above. The Frankenstein film it is only used towards the end of the film, when the monster kills himself with shock therapy. The sequence isn’t shocking, but it is a bit unexpected (as in the film Why? ).
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A film called the Dracula film, which is a more terrifying film (because of skilled directing or editing and not because of internal tricks) employs color in the close-up shots where vampire hunters stab an iron stake into the inside of female vampire. The color gushing from an open heart in this black-and-white movie is more powerful as a dramatic contrast than the sudden flash of color in Castle’s THE TINGLER, which depicts an empty bathtub saturating with blood and a human hand reaching towards an unintentionally terrified of blood.
In 1960, Nikolai’s novella “The Vij” was made to an Italian horror film directed by shock-for-shock director Mario Bava. The film premiered to the US as BLACK SUNDAY (and THE MASK of SATAN as well in Europe). BLACK SUNDAY later came to be utilized as the title for an John Frankenheimer film which dealt with the pre-9-11 terrorists trying to take down a soccer stadium packed with fans. The first BLACK cocktails bunkers and weevils SUNDAY was released by American-International Pictures, a company famous for producing its own low-budgeted but heavily promoted quickies like I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN.
In the 1960s, BLACK SUNDAY however is different from other formula movies that were aimed at teens in drive-in cinemas. Smart, self-conscious camera work makes use of a variety in zoom-lens shots, and concentrates your attention to the variety of gothic trappings that are brought to life in low-key black and white Some of the scenes are as stark and clear as those in Antonioni’s L’AVVENTURA. others employ the soft-focus technique to make a spooky scene. It’s an instructional manual of gothic scenes of black-robed hooded figures who execute witches wearing spike-studded masks prior to the title sequences are displayed painting that changes and rotates to reveal hidden passageways trap doors that open onto pits, with spikes long on the bottom, lanterns floating in mid-air, bodies discovered hanging in corridors and enormous bats flying in the cave.