I’ve been looking for something to juice me up this early October, and tonight, I found it. Totally by coincidence, I came across TCM’s Night at the Movies: Horror.
I’ve been watching so much junk on Netflix Instant, searching for something new to me and exciting. When you’ve seen as many horror flicks as I have, that’s a tall order. Coming across Dee Snider’s repulsive turn as Captain Howdy in STRANGELANDS, a puffy Renee Zellwegger in the “dusted off after years on the shelf” CASE 39 and one of the numerous GINGER SNAPS sequels did little for me. I was about to watch some dreadful horror cheapie when I came across mention that TCM was lighting the night up with some classic horror. So I kicked off the Xbox and headed over to Channel 734, where I found some reinvigorating stuff.
I’ve always enjoyed TCM because it’s what AMC was before AMC became a pile of trash. AMC used to show uncut, commercial free classics from the olden days of Hollywood; then one morning, it started exhibiting films from the 1990s and beyond, with commercial interruptions and editing for foul language and the like. In recent years, it’s become home to a slew of popular TV series, such as MADMEN and BREAKING BAD. It’s American Classic Movies in name only. Fortunately, Turner Classic Movies has picked up the slack. The channel shows hundreds of golden oldies a week, without editing for content or time, and goes without endorsements. It also respects the aspect ratio, so I’m seeing the full movie every time I turn it on.
But even if you shun black and white films from several generations ago, this month TCM has some great horror for you. Regrettably, I missed the earlier part of the evening. I’ve seen James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN (1931) scores of times since I was a kid, but following it was an hour with Stephen King discussing his favorite horror flicks. Granted, I’ve read so much of King the last 30 years, I probably didn’t miss much. But it would have been cool to catch, I’m sure.
What’s great about tonight is that TCM isn’t strictly focusing on those films horror fans such as me have seen a billion times. The next film in line was 1932’s version of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, for which actor Fredrick March won an Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of the title role (though, given the dual nature of the role, perhaps it should have been best actors?). I came in about halfway through, and fondly remembered this flick I haven’t seen in years. As Hyde, March looks like a mad ape man, and plays the monster’s verve expertly against the milquetoast Jekyll.
The real joy came for me with the following film, MARK OF THE VAMPIRE, which reunited director Tod Browning with the world’s most famous vampire, Bela Lugosi. After getting lambasted for FREAKS, Browning must have felt more comfortable on safer, more conventional horror grounds. Remaking his own LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT as a nutzoid variation on DRACULA, Browning really hit his mark. It’s a lot less staid than his earlier Lugosi effort, and it sports that image of Lugosi’s character and his daughter out among the midnight fog.
As I type, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI plays on my TV in the background. But it’s 4 a.m. and I certainly cannot sit through a silent film at this late hour… which is why I won’t be watching NOSFERATU, which follows. Both great films, which I’ve fortunately seen many times. TCM polishes off the night with Lon Chaney in the titular role of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, before hitting stride with a block of Charlton Heston flicks.
TCM has much more to come this month, including a Wednesday block of horror with guest John Carpenter. The master of horror will introduce IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE and THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, the basis for his 1982 horror classic THE THING. Next Monday they feature a bunch of Val Lewton flicks.
Check out TCM’s schedule for all its horror goodies this October. It’s offering up a nice crop of movies so far, some of which may not be in your DVD or Blu-Ray collection, but are WELL worth watching. I know I’ll be spending a good portion of my October with the channel.