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Great Horror Performances!


princessananka
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With TCM telecasting some of the grand old horror classics, is there one performance that still thrills and delights--even if you may have seen it countless times?

 

 

My pic as the greatest star performance in a horror film has to bestowed upon the great Boris Karloff for his astonishing mutli-layered performance as both Imhotep and Ardath Bay in l932's THE MUMMY.

 

 

After nearly seventy-five years, Karloff achieves true movie greatness as he magically chills us, but adds a haunting poignancy to his role of the living dead creature who has returned in find his beloved Princess Anck-es-en-Amon played with wonderful fire and emotion by Zita Johann. As Ardath Bey, Karloff moves slowly, carefully as befits a 3,000 year old mummy. When he speaks, his voice is deep, tomblike, as if coming from a great distance, but yet with infinite sadness. This is especially appreciated when he has Helen Grosvenor (Johann) look with him into the pool of death, to conjure up the ancient past.

 

 

Zita Johann told one interviewer years later that when she first met Karloff, who was dressed in ordinary clothes without the make-up, she looked into his eyes and saw "an infinite sadness and melancholy" which was perfect for his role.

 

 

We'll never know how much his portrayal was entirely his or how much German director Karl Freund directed him, but for his unforgettable acting, an ever-lasting Bravo to a true genius.

 

 

Followups for my favorites would be Basil Rathbone as THE SON OF FRANKENSTEIN and Frederick March in DR. JEKYL AND MR. HYDE. Bramwell Fletcher, whose scream of horror in THE MUMMY can stll scare the hell out of you should be awarded a supporting award for his brief but strong appearance. And of course Zita Johann gave a once-in-a-lifetime performance as the modern Helen Grosvenor whose torn between her young life and that of an ancient princess.

 

 

I should also add Claude Rains for his vocal performance in THE INVISIBLE MAN--and Charles Laughton as the mad scientist in THE ISLAND OF LOST SOULS.

 

 

Do you have a name we should applaud and stand up and cheer for?

 

 

 

 

 

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If I had to pick one, it would be *Madame Sul-Te-Wan* in *King of the Zombies* (1941). Madame, who plays Tahama, the cook and high priestess, gives a brilliant, memorable performance and has some of the great lines of cinema, e.g. "Tahama cooks for the living, not the dead!" She worked with D.W. Griffith and is generally regarded as the first African-American to have signed a contract with a major studio.

 

I could mention many others, but they are probably pretty obvious -- Karloff, Lugosi, Lorre, Rains, Zucco, two Chaneys, Atwill, etc., but it's people like Madame who helped make the films great and whose names are not well known.

 

http://www.aveleyman.com/ActorCredit.aspx?ActorID=88787

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You will think me shallow that my choice is modern. It is Nobuko Otowa's performance as Yone in *The Black Cat* (1968).

 

I believe it is because she has many sides which she shows well. She is a loving mother. She is proper and reserved during traditional ceremonies. She is a dutiful mother-in-law. She is a sublime man-killing ghost.

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If we can think "outside the box," I think the most powerful MODERN horror performances are by women:

 

 

1. Sigourney Weaver as the fearless, monster-killer in ALIEN.

 

 

2. Marilyn Burns as the much battered and nearly butcheredissy heroine in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.

 

 

3. Sissy Spacek and Peper Laurie for their dynamic duo roles in Brian De Palma's CARRIE.

 

 

4. Julie Harris, as the paranoid/possessed spinster in THE HAUNTING.

 

 

Oh, waita minute--we shouldn't forget Tony Perkins as, eh, what's his name--Norman Bates in PSYCHO!

 

 

Seems like the old horror classics showcased MALE stars--all with stage experience. That type of training gave them the professional traits that worked in their favor, i., taking a role and doing the damnest best job they could achieve, training their voices that was part of their charisma.

 

 

Today's performers in horror films are all graduates of TV. There, they can come from a trailer court and become a "star." So they never worry about such things as voice personality, creating strong characters, etc.

 

 

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The thing is, Princess A., those big male names of the past played the monsters or mad scientists, etc. The names you give today are mostly for heroic women. The male heroes of old were not the stars of the films, but rather actors like David Manners, etc., who also tended to be romantic leads. An exception of old would be *Gloria Holden's* brilliant performance in *Dracula's Daughter*.

 

Regarding the ladies of the modern age, let's not forget those who aren't superstars. Two great ladies of modern horror: *Lynda Day George* and *Mary Woronov*.

 

Today's monsters -- whether the Mummy or the Alien creature -- are often mechanical.

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I have been told that some men feel the most horrifying modern woman in film is Anita Liberty.

 

The short movie can be seen on YouTube:

 

I must note there is coarse language.

 

It is psychological horror which delves into a man's primal fear of what a woman might do.

 

She states in the opening that her boyfriend has left her and: "to get even, I have devoted my entire career to humiliating him in public."

 

It is nearly as frightful to men as the thought of what it might be like if a Lorena Bobbit-type could not find a knife and had to use a potato peeler.

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Karloff's performance in the Mummy is indeed outstanding, one of his very best. I think everyone gives a pretty wonderful performance in the Mummy. Even David Manners does very nicely in this film and I am not his biggest fan. The Mummy is a quiet, engrossing film that I never tire of watching.

My favorite horror performance is Bela Lugosi as Ygor. He was perfect and I miss him when he is not on screen in the two films in which he brought Ygor to life. I also find him mesmerizing as Dr. Mirakle in "Murders in the Rue Morgue". That film truly suffers when he is not on screen. It's an odd little film with some beautifully stylistic touches. He is very creepy, particularly in the scene with Arlene Francis.

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I also agree about Karloff in THE MUMMY, one of the finest in horror!

 

Others:

Bela Lugosi in DRACULA and WHITE ZOMBIE

Dwight Frye in DRACULA'

Peter Lorre in MAD LOVE

Bela and Boris together in THE BLACK CAT

Claude Rains in THE INVISIBLE MAN

Gloria Holden in DRACULA'S DAUGHTER

 

I may have forgotten some, but those are amazing perfomances off the top of my head!!

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I think Price's greatest horror role -- in one of the great horror movies of all time -- is as Matthew Hopkins in Witchfinder General. A brilliant, utterly depressing movie about the victory of evil, it is called The Conquerer Worm in the U.S. Price is not quite so campy in this film. It's truly a great performance.

 

Edited by: Swithin on Oct 6, 2012 10:20 AM

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These are some great replies and suggestions!

 

 

I think the "old" horror classics from the thirties are enthralling audiences 75 years after they were made is that these actors all had great VOICES!

 

 

As I've mentioned, Boris Karloff's voice is a major part of his triumph in the role of THE MUMMY. He used his vocal talent brilliantly as if he spoke from a deep well of tragedy (3,000 years ago) and when David Manners asks him his name in the beginning of the movie, Karloff turns that horrifying face to the camera and intones: "Ardath Bey!" HIs tone is so ancient, evil andother worldly that it must have've terrified movie audiences in l932.

 

 

The same goes for Bela Lugosi in DRACULA and all his other performances, but his thick accent proved an obstacle in his playing any variation on DRACUCLA although it's perfectly suited for THE BLACK CAT and THE RAVEN.

 

 

Lionel Atwell, Vincent Price, Claude Rains, George Zucco all made thier voices an integral part of their evil screen personae's.

 

 

Poor Lon Chaney Jr. never had the vocal talent or the charisma to frighten me in any of his horror creations.

 

 

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> {quote:title=Swithin wrote:}{quote}I think Price's greatest horror role -- in one of the great horror movies of all time -- is as Matthew Hopkins in Witchfinder General. A brilliant, utterly depressing movie about the victory of evil, it is called The Conquerer Worm in the U.S. Price is not quite so campy in this film. It's truly a great performance.

>

>

>

> Edited by: Swithin on Oct 6, 2012 10:20 AM

 

 

Yes, I've seen this movie... About the good old days in Merrie Olde...

Not very historically accurate with some major boo-boos, but that's filmmaking for ya...

Read all about it here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchfinder_General_(film)

 

Been on TCM in past:

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/150753/Conqueror-Worm-The-Movie-Clip-Fetch-the-Young-Pair.html

 

Still a good flick for Price fans... (And I is one of them.)

 

This flick and "Häxan" would probably go well together on a theme night for Misogyny in Films...

 

Vincent-Price-in-Witchfin-008.jpg

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RM, it's not supposed to be historically accurate, although it uses the character of a historical figure. The UK version is much better, not because the US version uses Poe's poem, which is relevant, but because they changed the amazing music score for the US.

 

This movie portrays, better than any other, the pervasiveness of evil in the midst of beauty.

 

 

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> {quote:title=Swithin wrote:}{quote}

> RM, it's not supposed to be historically accurate, although it uses the character of a historical figure. The UK version is much better, not because the US version uses Poe's poem, which is relevant, but because they changed the amazing music score for the US.

>

> This movie portrays, better than any other, the pervasiveness of evil in the midst of beauty.

 

 

Yes, movie is based on the novel by Ronald Bassett...

If it was accurate it'd be a documentary film...

But when you use an actual historical personage, some people (historians) are gonna squawk...

But it's just a movie... Albeit a good one with Vincent Price...

Which version has TCM aired in the past?

 

You can read about the real historical dude the film and novel use here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Hopkins

 

Below the frontispiece for Hopkins' book "The Discovery of Witches" (1647) showing English witches in big trouble because they named their pets (considered imps or familiar spirits: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Familiar_spirit by witch hunters).

Witch hunters looked at this as the old ladies naming demons in animal form who would then assist the old bats in their witchly ways...

 

Matthewhopkins.pnghttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Familiar_spirit|http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5b/Matthewhopkins.png

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When I was about 10 (1970), my maternal grandparents came over for a visit one Sunday afternoon in October. Due to failing eyesight, my grandmother had gone a bit overboard with the rouge (liquid in a little bottle). When my Dad came into the room to greet them, he said: "What Halloween party you goin' to, Mom?"

 

 

I fell to the floor laughing and it became a running joke in our family. Even my grandmother chuckled as my Mom whisked her to the powder room to tidy her up. (Indeed, she looked a lot like Bette in "Whatever happened to Baby Jane?")

 

 

I have a kind of melancholy feeling about that episode now that I'm the only one still living . . .

 

 

 

 

 

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"The Conqueror Worm"/"Witchfinder General" is indeed one grim, terrifying gem!

 

 

I've read the workng conditions on this movie were as grim and deathly as the storyline--with the cast and crew being treated like "cattle" by its brilliant/slightly deranged director.

 

 

A whole documentary could be made about how this movie came to be made, what happened behind the scenes, etc.

 

 

I was just thinking, Donald Pleasance, as the haunted father in DON'T LOOK NOW did a brilliant job, as he did in the remake of INVAASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.

 

 

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The director, Michael Reeves, allegedly committed suicide a week after filming was completed. I first saw the film at MOMA in NYC. By the end, even the audience was corrupted. Young hero Ian Ogilvy's line: "You took him from me..." is what the audience felt. We want villain Price to continue to be axed to bits. It is the total victory of evil over sanity.

 

Yet the film has moments of incredible beauty -- when Trooper Marshall is riding to see his girlfriend, to that haunting tune (cut from the US version), amidst all the beauty of East Anglia. What a contrast.

 

Don't Look Now (with Donald Sutherland btw) is another film so terrifying, that it sent a friend of mine into labor.

 

 

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Wow, Swithin, tell us more about THE CONQUEROR WORM!

 

 

I remember the extensive coverage it received in one of the fanzine's, probably Filmfax, about its production and its torturous path into American cinemas. In fact, the cover of the magazine showcased a great menacing portrait of Vincent Price as the evil witch hunter.

 

 

A number of cast and crew were interviewed and they all agreed that they would have done anything for the brilliant/betroubled director, Michael Reeves, who drove himself and everyone to give their all to this extraordinary production. I believe the production was taken from Revves at the end and edited into a movie that he loathed. Even worse to come was when it was re-edited and censored when it made its debut in America.

 

 

We can only wonder what else Reeves would have done if he hadn't killed himself. This is a movie that deserves to be shown on primetime TCM to show them there are other great shockers besides the old Universal shockers.

 

 

As to DON'T LOOK NOW, I was living in London at the time it premiered and I was in the packed theater where it opened. There were several scenes I saw then that were deleted when the movie played in America. I think the graphic love scene between Pleasance and Julie Christie showed a lot more sexual congress than Americans have seen.

 

 

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Hey guys,

 

I think it's worth pointing out that Donald Pleasence isn't in *Don't Look Now* (and doesn't have graphic sex with Julie Christie) but Donald Sutherland is in the film and in that famous scene with Christie.

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Yes -- thanks, I mentioned that in my post. Possibly Sutherland's second greatest performance, after The Day of the Locust, which is also not without horror elements at the end. And a film which positively SHRIEKS to be shown on TCM, what with the obvious classic Hollywood subject, great cast, story, etc.

 

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> {quote:title=princessananka wrote:}{quote}Followups for my favorites would be Basil Rathbone as THE SON OF FRANKENSTEIN

I agree with your choices, but NOT Basil in SON OF...he's the one actor in that who is truly dreadful (as much as I love the movie itself), and he hams it up and overacts DREADFULLY. Everyone else...Lugosi, Atwill, and even Karloff...are wonderful, but Basil is horrible. Reportedly he intentionally overacted to show his contempt for being in a horror film (something along those lines). The one who truly stands out is Lugosi as Ygor...it's often been considered his greatest horror role, outshining even that of Dracula.

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Thanks, Izcutter, for correcting me on the different Donalds--since I am forever confusing the two and should be forced to sit through a 24-hour repeat showing of THE ROOM--a nightmare (although fun nightmare) that no one should have to experiencce unless they really are cult movie addicts.

 

 

I should have added more about why I've never considered Lon Chaney, Jr. among my favorite horror performers. He was good in THE WOLF MAN but everything else he always sounded half-drunk, his voice a mushy melange of slurred diction and tone. According to his co-stars, he usually WAS half-0runk on the set. Femme stars Ramsay Ames, who starred as Princess Ananka in THE MUMMY'S GHOST was terrified he would stumble with her into the muddy swamp sequence. Co-star Virginia Christine, who was also Princess Ananka in THE MUMMY'S CURSE said he was always drunkb by 12 noon so the director had to shoot Chaney's scenes in the morning. By the afternoon, he literally was shuffling and stumbling around as Kharis, the Mummy. Christien said Chaney had make-up to create a special plastic tubing that began hidden beneath his collar and went on down his leg where he could attach it to a hidden bottle of gin.

 

 

I've always loved Dorian Gray beautiful David Peele who played a vamnpire kng in BRIDES OF DRACULA. He was gorgeous and menacing and made quite a departure from our usual dark-haired bloodsuckers. The marvelous Martita Hunt, who played his tragic mother, was also a real standout as Mama Vampire.

 

 

 

 

 

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I believe that Boris Karloff's best horror performance in a Universal movie is "The Mummy". However, I do believe he hit his peak with his trio of Val Lewton's movies, especially "The Body Snatcher".

 

 

And I concur with the opinion regarding Bela Lugosi and "The Black Cat".

 

 

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I'm rather fond of *Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman*, and the whole cast therein; Ilona Massey is quite good as Baroness Elsa Frankenstein, a very positive character. The Festival of the New Wine musical sequence in the film is priceless -- pure operetta, and so well integrated into the plot.

 

 

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