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Some Young People Learn about Universal Horror Movies for the First Time


sewhite2000
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So, I listen to a local sports and men's talk radio station. The weekday programs are hosted by people generally around my age. The youngest host is about 46; the oldest 73. An interesting thing the station does is turn over the weekend shows to the young people who work as producers or board ops or newsroom guys during the week. This is their chance to be hosts. Probably they're attempting to groom them to take over the weekday spots someday. Although, when they do, it will probably be the last day I ever listen to the station, because these weekend hosts, the oldest of whom turned 30 this week, I don't connect with in any cultural way, because if it happened before 1990, they've never heard of it. When they wax nostalgic about video games, it's not Space Invaders and Pong; it's Sonic the Hedgehog and GoldenEye. I listened to a guy today who not only had never heard of Bryan Adams; he'd never heard of Ryan Adams, and didn't understand the joke about their similar names. He's 28.

So, this was two weeks ago Sunday. Sorry for not getting around to it until now. During this month of Halloween, one of the weekend shows is running a recurring bit where they're getting a 27-year-old who's seriously creeped out by horror movies to watch what they believe are some seriously scary movies. So, they've been Googling "scariest movies of all time", and only making him watch movies they've actually seen or remember. The watchlist has skewed extremely modern, because they're highly dubious that anything old could actually be scary. For example, The Exorcist comes up on every list they Google, but they haven't made him watch it, because it's from the '70s, when, in their minds, everything was old and stupid and boring, so there's no way this movie could even be one per cent as scary as House of a Thousand Corpses, which they did make him watch.

So, on the very last segment of the show, they take calls, and they took one from a guy born in 1952. He told them the scariest movies of all time were the Universal horror flicks released in the early '30s. They were reasonably respectful to him, but ultimately, the things they said indicated they had SO had it with old people telling them everything from long ago was better than what they like that you could almost hear their eyes rolling through the radio waves. At first, they were extremely dubious how he could even be aware of the content of movies released 20 years before he was born, as they themselves had clearly never in their lives watched a movie from that long ago before their own births and instantly assumed it was impossible that anyone from any generation ever would have done that. He told them he watched the movies on TV many times as a child.

They pressed him on what exactly made these movies so great and would they really still be considered scary by the modern generation? He faltered a bit here, acknowledging that these movies might not seem that scary to a generation raised on jump scares but that what was so great about the movies was the pathos of the characters - none of them come across as pure evil; each monster experiences very human feelings of loneliness, love, revenge, despair, etc. The young people didn't have much to say about that.

The producer of the show, who's also in his late 20s, actually tried to support the caller. He'd seen Nosferatu and thought it would be helpful to say how even though it was a very old movie, it was incredibly weird and atmospheric and can still give a modern viewer a sense of unease. Unfortunately, I don't think the caller had ever heard of Nosferatu. He seemed to only know American movies. So, this effort to find common ground fell flat. The caller completely froze. I think he thought he was being made fun of, and immediately said, "Well, thanks for taking my call" and hung up.

One of the show hosts finished things up by a being a bit snotty, saying, "Well, we appreciate him telling us why everything in his generation is better than in our generation, and we're going to let him go back to pulling up Beto signs out of his neighbors' yards" (A reference to the Senate race here in Texas, where all the young people are supporting Democrat Beto O'Rourke and automatically assume if you're old, you're voting for Republican Ted Cruz, which is probably fairly accurate).

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That's an interesting topic of its own. When I was a kid, all those That's Entertainment! movies were coming out, and made me think MGM never did anything but musicals.

I suspect the caller was not super-knowledgeable of film output by studio, but he just remembered the Universal logo appearing before all his favorite horror movies from his childhood.

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Horror is most decidedly not my area of film expertise, indeed probably only 2% of what I have seen  would qualify for it, but Frankenstein (1931) is indeed a fantastic film, effortlessly atmospheric and chilling and unnerving, handled with great panache, and its such a pity that some would disregard it just because it was made decades before they were born. (Admittedly though, like the young anchors, I would have bungled video games, as Pac-Man aside, the only video ganes I know well are the ones I played on a computer, and although I heard Bryan Adams' music many times, I am not familiar enough with American alternative rock to know Ryan Adams. British Alternative of the 80s though is a different matter. I love that.)

For me at least though, I think the most disturbing horror film is Rosemary's Baby (1968), maybe because I'm Catholic, but its portrayal of depraved evil occuring amidst what looked on the surface to be ordinary, everyday people was bonechilling and very unnerving.

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I love Rosemary's Baby and wish TCM was able to show it once in a while. I think The Mummy is my favorite of the Universal horror pics, although it has been a very long time since I've seen The Wolf Man. I remember watching The Black Cat on TCM a number of years ago and thought it was wonderfully weird. I see it aired on TCM twice last year, but I missed them. Hope I'll see it again one of these days.

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6 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

So, on the very last segment of the show, they take calls, and they took one from a guy born in 1952. He told them the scariest movies of all time were the Universal horror flicks released in the early '30s. They were reasonably respectful to him, but ultimately, the things they said indicated they had SO had it with old people telling them everything from long ago was better than what they like that you could almost hear their eyes rolling through the radio waves.

If this 'old guy' couldn't articulate what made the horror films from the 30s 'special' and worth viewing by horror fans today,  then I agree with the younger folks dishing him.   

In addition if 'old guy' actually said these 30s films were 'the scariest movies of all time',  that can come off as arrogant.   They can be the scariest films TO HIM,  but that doesn't make them the scariest of all time.   Unless one is an actual artist themselves (e.g. someone that has produced and \ or directed multiple horror films (or make jazz guitar albums,  etc..),   they shouldn't even try to represent what is 'of all time'.   

This type of discussion between younger and older lovers of an art form occurs often at the Jazz Guitar forum.   But since the majority of folks at this forum are actual jazz guitar players 95% of the discussions are respectful with each 'side' helping the other understand why what they dig (e.g. my thing is 50s jazz guitarist) is worth seeking out.

 

 

 

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3 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

Unless one is an actual artist themselves (e.g. someone that has produced and \ or directed multiple horror films (or make jazz guitar albums,  etc..),   they shouldn't even try to represent what is 'of all time'.   

I agree somewhat with the rest of your post, but the above quoted portion is bunk. According to IMDb, I've seen 3,397 horror movies. I feel I could make judgments on what are the best and the worst of the genre, without having actually made one myself. 

However, as much as I love the Universal horrors of the 30's and the 40's, I've never been able to imagine actually being frightened by them. But that's true for pretty much any horror movie, for me anyway.

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2 minutes ago, sewhite2000 said:

His first sentence was that they were the scariest of all time, but he pretty quickly conceded that younger viewers might not think so.

My point still is that unless one is discussing something from a technical POV and they are well trained in the techniques one should never be so clueless \ arrogant to use 'of all time'.      Since 'scariest' is subjective (verses say being able to play double stops on a guitar which is a technique),    one should never put that into an 'off all time' context. 

Anyhow,  as for 30s horror;   I don't find them very scary.    I do rate Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of,  as fantastic films, effortlessly atmospheric and chilling and unnerving, handled with great panache, and as noted with the humanization of the monster.

But I don't see that with the 30s Dracula films.   It is the more modern Dracula films that explored what it would be like being a vampire.        

 

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6 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

I agree somewhat with the rest of your post, but the above quoted portion is bunk. According to IMDb, I've seen 3,397 horror movies. I feel I could make judgments on what are the best and the worst of the genre, without having actually made one myself. 

However, as much as I love the Universal horrors of the 30's and the 40's, I've never been able to imagine actually being frightened by them. But that's true for pretty much any horror movie, for me anyway.

I stand by what I posted (i.e. it is NOT 'bunk'),  but I would grant someone like you an exception.    I mean that sincerely:   i.e,. that there are a select number of individuals that are so well versed in an art form that their judgements are as sound (or valid - a term I don't really like using),   as an actual artists.   But again, these are rare birds and therefore my point wasn't bunk because there is an exception to the general rule.

E.g. the fact you have seen 3,397 horror movies and know the number,  makes you unique.    

    

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Oh, well, people are prone to hyperbole, and I forgive the guy his original, admittedly unsupportable statement. He just really wanted these young people to know about these movies. He did probably make them immediately defensive by leading off with such a strong statement. 

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8 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

I stand by what I posted (i.e. it is NOT 'bunk'),  but I would grant someone like you an exception.    I mean that sincerely:   i.e,. that there are a select number of individuals that are so well versed in an art form that their judgements are as sound (or valid - a term I don't really like using),   as an actual artists.   But again, these are rare birds and therefore my point wasn't bunk because there is an exception to the general rule.

E.g. the fact you have seen 3,397 horror movies and know the number,  makes you unique.    

To be perfectly honest, IMDb knew the number, not me, so don't give me too much credit. :lol:

We've discussed many times in the past issues related to people stating "best" and "worst", as it truly is subjective. Art and entertainment is valid if it moves or entertains the audience, regardless of outside critical praise, no matter the reputed authority. The merits, or lack thereof, are in the eye (and/or ear) of the beholder. 

In the end, this thread is another "kids these days!!!" lamentation, of which we seem to never be in short supply of. People should accept that time moves on, and not everyone enjoys looking backward the way we classic film fans do. The last paragraph of the OP, where it states that the show hosts felt condescended to by the caller, with his "my generation is better than your generation" vibe, is typical of these threads, and it's a story going back at least 90 years, where you can watch films from 1920s lamenting how awful, coarse and unrefined the modern generation was. And you see it again in the 1930's, and the 1940's, and the 1950's, etc. etc. And it's as valid now as it was then, which is very little. 

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8 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

One of the show hosts finished things up by a being a bit snotty, saying, "Well, we appreciate him telling us why everything in his generation is better than in our generation, and we're going to let him go back to pulling up Beto signs out of his neighbors' yards" (A reference to the Senate race here in Texas, where all the young people are supporting Democrat Beto O'Rourke and automatically assume if you're old, you're voting for Republican Ted Cruz, which is probably fairly accurate).

I was fortunate as an eight-year old to have access to Shock Theater, which was on Channel 7 here in NYC. I was thrilled and scared, but I got to see Zacherle introduce the greatest horror films of all time, i.e. the Universal classics. Here's this link to what I was exposed to at a tender age:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shock_Theater

When I got to college I studied Theology, and did some post-graduate work as well. There was definitely a connection between my course of study and the movies I saw as a kid.

And despite my age, I would vote for Beto if I lived in Texas. (Ted Cruz is a character from a horror film.)

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19 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

In the end, this thread is another "kids these days!!!" lamentation, of which we seem to never be in short supply of.

That was actually not my intention. Maybe my bias is reflected in some of my asides. I tried to give a fair presentation of both sides. I feel empathy for both of them actually, remembering what it was like to be the age of these young people and often not having my opinions taken very seriously, but also the encroaching fear of one's opinions completely fading into obsolescence, as I'm already experiencing! 

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16 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Can they learn about Universal westerns too? And Universal comedies?

I've never understood why people act like Universal only turned out films in one genre.

Universal never HAD too many comedies, outside of Francis, Ma & Pa Kettle, and Abbott & Costello.

"Studio identity" was a big business back in the mogul 30's-40's, and studios did a lot to keep up their reputations:  Universal made themselves the "horror studio" even after the Code gutted the public's taste for horror, and then brought the Monsters back in the B-movies.  Warner was the "street" studio of Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney and scandalous Bette Davis, and MGM was the "prestige" studio of great highbrow books, until the Arthur Freed musicals came along.  Republic had the westerns, and Paramount had the comedies.

As for why "The classic 30's monsters aren't scary!" in modern kids' eyes is that the Monsters have become so ingrained in pop culture, we remember them more as "lovable" and "sympathetic" than nightmare fodder--Karloff's Frankenstein was a tragic antihero, even if you never saw "The Munsters", and it's hard to say what would have made 30's audiences "faint", as the first movie's introduction warned us about.  Todd Browning can still make the original 30's Lugosi Dracula creepy just from that silent talkie-era lack of music giving the film a nightmarish feel, but consider that the only other time Lugosi got to play Dracula was with Abbott & Costello.  (TBF, Lugosi did manage to play Dracula without irony, even when turning his hypnotic powers on Lou Costello.)

16 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

For example, The Exorcist comes up on every list they Google, but they haven't made him watch it, because it's from the '70s, when, in their minds, everything was old and stupid and boring, so there's no way this movie could even be one per cent as scary as House of a Thousand Corpses, which they did make him watch.

Hehehh...70's horror was NOT "Stupid and boring" ?, for exactly the same reason that the James Wan/Rob Zombie 00's era is.  Three things 70's horror had:

  1. Theaters.  You can turn on streaming and see it flooded with backyard indie micro-brew horror trying to do the same found-footage exorcisms and moving into haunted houses, but in the 70's, there was no home theater, there was very little cable, there was no streaming, and you HAD to take your chances with the kids looking for a Friday-night blast.  Theaters were also local, or even drive-ins, so you went to whatever your local theater was showing sight-unseen sometimes, and if a 70's-horror or classic 80's-slasher just put up a poster promising cheap thrills, it might be worth a ticket...On the condition that the movie had to deliver those cheap thrills, and it probably only had one weekend to do it.  The great 80's Jamie Lee Curtis slashers weren't epics, but they knew what they had to deliver, who they were delivering it to, and how to deliver it...If you're a teenager, what scares you more, a babysitter being stalked, or seeing someone like your mom worry about whether someone like your 6-yo. little brother end up possessed?  What's scarier, an evil nun, or a poor picked-on girl at the prom?
  2. Low budgets.  Studios wouldn't pay for horror--too risky for a mainstream audience--or if they did, it was usually for un-scary things that old studio executives thought was "horror".  It was the Tobe Hoopers and Wes Cravens who had to go out with their own little gonzo cameras, and scrape together indie B-movies.  That usually put teen non-actors (just like you or I) in the middle of deserted locations, with not much money for music or extras or set decoration, tapping into something primal--Our nightmares don't either, and come off just as weird, lurid and low-budget.  Just try telling some young kid that nobody actually gets cut up with a chainsaw in the original '74 "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", yet it's still one of the freakiest horror classics on the hall-of-fame list simply for an eerie nightmarish atmosphere of dread.
  3. We BELIEVED all this.  There's a reason why Rosemary's Baby was such a big hit in 1969, and The Exorcist was a such a craze in 1974:  Whenever society faces a major upheaval, and can't put its trust in the political or religious culture anymore, we start becoming curious about the occult and paranormal, and things are too weird and out there to "betray" us.  Watergate traumatized everyone out of believing in our political system, and we spent the rest of the Ford and Carter eras searching for witchcraft, UFO's and ESP psychics.  When something like '76's "The Omen" actually believes most of its own apocalyptic hype, that comes across the screen a lot less cynically than James Wan taking one jump-scare from one franchise and trying to transplant it to another, thinking that he's living up to the "ritual" of what the movie audience expects.
8 hours ago, Swithin said:

I was fortunate as an eight-year old to have access to Shock Theater, which was on Channel 7 here in NYC. I was thrilled and scared, but I got to see Zacherle introduce the greatest horror films of all time, i.e. the Universal classics.

I tried watching a little of Zackerly on a best-of compilation, and it must have been the movies--All great local hosts have that great style of local-filler ad-lib desperation (ah, those great glory days of USA Network's Commander USA), but Zack's David-Letterman-like unspontaneous flop-chuckles just started grating after a while:
"We're here broadcasting from the dungeon, uh, coming to you live, or, er, dead, as the case may be...Hahahaha!"

?

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7 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Can they learn about Universal westerns too? And Universal comedies?

I've never understood why people act like Universal only turned out films in one genre.

Probably the same reason people never discuss Ealing dramas.

Secretpeopleposter.jpg

Some studios are just more known for a certain genre even if they have some very good gems that are different genres.

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27 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

To be perfectly honest, IMDb knew the number, not me, so don't give me too much credit. :lol:

We've discussed many times in the past issues related to people stating "best" and "worst", as it truly is subjective. Art and entertainment is valid if it moves or entertains the audience, regardless of outside critical praise, no matter the reputed authority. The merits, or lack thereof, are in the eye (and/or ear) of the beholder. 

In the end, this thread is another "kids these days!!!" lamentation, of which we seem to never be in short supply of. People should accept that time moves on, and not everyone enjoys looking backward the way we classic film fans do. The last paragraph of the OP, where it states that the show hosts felt condescended to by the caller, with his "my generation is better than your generation" vibe, is typical of these threads, and it's a story going back at least 90 years, where you can watch films from 1920s lamenting how awful, coarse and unrefined the modern generation was. And you see it again in the 1930's, and the 1940's, and the 1950's, etc. etc. And it's as valid now as it was then, which is very little. 

Yes,  this is another 'kids these days' type threads and that is why I focused on the 'old guy'.     Yea,  'kids' (younger folks),  tend to focus on what is current but the inverse is also true;  older folks tend to focus on older 'stuff' and often are NOT very knowledgeable of (or exposed to),  more recent offerings.

But at a forum like this different generations should be able to educated each other (instead of trying to 'best' each other as you note).    

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13 minutes ago, Gershwin fan said:

Probably the same reason people never discuss Ealing dramas.

Secretpeopleposter.jpg

Some studios are just more known for a certain genre even if they have some very good gems that are different genres.

I find it very dismissive of the producers and actors who did great work in the other genres at the same studio.

Plus it carries forward a weird sort of bias. 

In all the discussions we've had on these message boards about film noir I don't think I've ever seen a thread devoted to Universal noir. And the studio turned out a lot of noir in the late 40s and 50s. 

Titles in other genres don't have to be forgotten while the horror films keep being revisited. A studio completist will look at and discuss all the output. Just saying.

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1 hour ago, LawrenceA said:

However, as much as I love the Universal horrors of the 30's and the 40's, I've never been able to imagine actually being frightened by them. But that's true for pretty much any horror movie, for me anyway.

I will admit that horror isn’t my favorite genre. I see them here and there. For me, I find horror movies boring. All the normal tropes elicit yawns from me. I’ve found that I really enjoy James Whale’s Universal films. I like the style, though I don’t find them scary in the least. I also like Vincent Price’s films because they’re funny and I love his voice. But I’m not into the slasher flicks or the paranormal films or the “jump scenes.”  Those bore me. Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, The Exorcist... boring. Not scary. 

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25 minutes ago, speedracer5 said:

But I’m not into the slasher flicks or the paranormal films or the “jump scenes.”  Those bore me. Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, The Exorcist... boring. Not scary. 

I really like Halloween. Very intense movie with a nice soundtrack. 

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If I had been that caller, and who I'm of the same age, instead of the Universal monster films that HE mentioned(yeah sure, I thought them KIND'A scary when I first watched 'em as a preteen on TV), I would have suggested to those "kids" that they sit down on some dark night and watch what I've thought was THE scariest film I've ever seen since I first caught it on TV as a teenager...Robert Wise's The Haunting.

And THEN when one of those still-wet-behind-the-ears "kids" MIGHT have blurted out over the airwaves that he remembers watching that "old" movie starring Liam Neeson, THAT'S when I would have "enlightened" that one that what HE watched was the vastly, and I DO mean "vastly" INFERIOR remake made in 1999. And THEN I would have gone on to tell those "kids" WHY the 1963 original IS so damn much superior.

And that would be that THAT version allows the viewer to "use their imagination" as to the threats the characters in that film must face. NOPE, there's no what you called "jump scares" in THAT film nor what ruined the remake--an over abundance of CGI effects--and which of course is pretty much ALL the "kids" out there today seem to care about, unfortunately for THEM!

NOPE, Wise's version actually plays GAMES with your head, and you even up asking yourself IF that old mansion WAS "haunted" or not!

(...yep, now THAT is what I would've told those snotty and clueless "kids" on that Texas radio show you listened to a while back, sewhite...JUST that...well, okay...and I probably ALSO would have made fun of their most likely then voiced objections to watching anything in, ahem, "horror of horrors", BLACK AND WHITE...OH, and I would've ALSO voiced all that in my OH so commanding, mellifluous, resonant, and NON-nasally voice TOO!!!)

LOL

 

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I'd mostly argue the point that to be fair, I'd agree to sit through what THEY think is a "good" modern horror movie in exchange for them to sit through one of MY favorite "classics".  Who knows...BOTH of us might wind up being surprised.  Especially if both of us are honest enough to admit that not ALL horror movies of either time periods are guaranteed "greats".  Ya gotta admit....

Many of the Universal and other "classic" period horror flicks fell into the "formula" trap as easily did the more modern fare.

Sepiatone

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12 hours ago, EricJ said:

Universal never HAD too many comedies, outside of Francis, Ma & Pa Kettle, and Abbott & Costello.

"Studio identity" was a big business back in the mogul 30's-40's, and studios did a lot to keep up their reputations:  Universal made themselves the "horror studio" 

Sorry but I don't agree with this. As I said previously, a completist will look at the entire studio output. If you go through all the titles Universal turned out from 1930 to 1960 it's easy to see there were a lot of films in addition to the horror stuff. And the studio's comedies were not just Francis, A&C or the Kettles. Ann Blyth made comedies, Piper Laurie made comedies, Rock Hudson made comedies, Tony Curtis made comedies, Yvonne De Carlo did comedies, Charlton Heston did comedy at Universal, etc....there was a lot of it.

Also if Universal was trying to market itself mostly as a maker of horror films, then it wouldn't have turned out so many Audie Murphy westerns and marketed him the way they did. 

My point is that the studio really did it all, but there's a selective amnesia when people talk about this studio, because it requires less effort...and it's easy to say Universal equals horror, when the truth is, that was just a part of what this great studio did.

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21 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

So, I listen to a local sports and men's talk radio station. The weekday programs are hosted by people generally around my age. The youngest host is about 46; the oldest 73. An interesting thing the station does is turn over the weekend shows to the young people who work as producers or board ops or newsroom guys during the week. This is their chance to be hosts.

Being a radio talk host today is just a glorified internet troll.

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