VOL. 9, No. 45
THAT MAKE YOU SCREAM!
...as Universal's "Werewolf of London" (1935)
You never forget
that make you scream!
By JIM BAWDEN
I remember the exact
time and day when I first screamed in a movie theatre. It was
in the fall of 1954Oct. 11and I was at a kids
matinee at Torontos Century movie emporium.
The usual fare hadnt arrived, the manager told a screaming
mob of kids under 15, so he had some unusual treats to throw
inand one of them was 1935s "The Werewolf Of
London." The print was murky, but the audience sat very
silent when Henry Hull began those piercing wolf songs. Me? I
got up, screamed and ran 10 blocks home in the rain.
Now that I think back I realize I could have taken the streetcar.
But, no, I wanted the sheer pleasure of being spooked to linger
so I ran all the way home.
My little brother had his own screaming experience when we took
him , aged seven, to see "Abandon Ship" (1957) with
Tyrone Power, first run at Torontos Odeon Carlton cinema.
It wasnt even a horror flick but the sight of the mighty
ship poised to plunge and sink really set him off. He had to
be taken into the lobby to cool down.
It was the fun of being scared that always excited me. I simply
liked being in the foyer of the Downtown theatre where William
Castle's "Macabre" (1958) was playing. There were nurses
and hospital beds in case anybody fainted and one had to sign
a beneficiary insurance form in case of sudden death during the
film performance. Alas, "Macabre" only induced a feeling
"Emergo" was another gimmick that passed me by. I saw
it in 1959, back at the Century, but I was older and wiser by
then. It was used during the original "House on Haunted
Hill." A skeleton was cranked out on wires over the heads
of the audience. It did evoke some screams but not from me. I
watched as the skeleton got stuck half way over and stayed for
some time before getting yanked out of view. I boycotted entirely
the one where certain patrons seats were wired to induce
a mild shock. ("The Tingler," 1959).
I was just plain nauseated by Smellovision when it arrived in
Toronto circa 1961 as the gimmick for a documentary called "Behind
the Great Wall," narrated by NBCs Chet Huntley. We
got to smell the Chinese earthworms and the stench caused a mass
exodus from the Towne cinema. I often wondered why they didnt
make a horror flick in Smellovision.
left, Tony Perkins at the "Psycho"
house on the Universal lot. Above,
Janet Leigh screaming in the
terrifying shower sequence.
By my teen years, it was what I didnt see or hear that
caused most fear. Thats why my first screening of Alfred
Hitchcock's "Psycho" truly scared methe brutality
of the shower scene and what I thought Id seen but really
hadnt and then the sudden appearance of mother.
Now that Ive read the books explaining it all, Im
rather bored by Hitchs trail of tricks.
Similarly, I could appreciate those elaborate color remakes from
Britains Hammer Films of "Dracula," "Frankenstein"
and "The Mummy," all dressed up. But they never really
scared me on any level.
I much prefer too little to too much in horror. For example 1963s
"The Haunting" truly haunted me when first seen because
I could hear the sounds of the house but never actually saw who
or what was making those sounds. The 1999 remake boasted big
stars and I hurried to the cinema to catch it on its first day
out. Was I disappointed. There were special effects galore which
ruined everything by making scenes too explicit.
Just about here I want to stop for a moment to extol Canadian
horror films. Its a proud tradition. I dont know
what others think of "Cannibal Girls" (1973) but the
mere mention of this title makes my mouth waterhey, Im
only fooling. But certain scenes from Toronto director David
Cronenberg movies including "Rabid," "Scanners,"
"Dead Ringers" and "Crash" are pretty stomach
churning. But are they scary on any level? That, Im still
trying to find out.
I remember being on the set of "Black Christmas" (1973),
but it was just to meet Olivia Hussey, I admit. But the finished
product wasnt half bad. Also recommended: "Prom Night"
(1980) and "Terror Train" (1980). Did you know "Terror
Train" was photographed by John Alcott, who also photographed
Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange"? Will wonders
ad for one of Canada's
all-time scariest movies,
"Black Christmas." That's
a dead coed inside the
wreath, tucked away
in the attic of her
But one entry in that demented genre actually did disturb me:
"Halloween"the first one, not all those interminable
sequels. With the nerve-tingling music, the presence of Donald
Pleasence, the fact we never saw the killer without his hockey
mask and the night time scenes of dark and lonely streets, I
found myself getting truly shaken up when I first caught this
one on video at home. Incidentally, I interviewed Pleasence way
before he went the horror route and he had a Claude Rains aura
about hima great character actor now only remembered for
his appearances as the sort of "Van Helsing" figure
in the "Halloween" horror movies.
Watching a film on a big screen with an audience present evokes
one set of senses. Watching an old movie in a darkened house
late at night provides a different environment for chills. Although
I admire many antique Hollywood horrors including "Bride
Of Frankenstein," "Son Of Frankenstein" and "Mark
Of the Vampire," Im hardly chilled by them. However,
anything made by RKOs Val Lewton ("Cat People,"
"I Walked With A Zombie," etc.) is in a special category
of minor movie masterpiece.
1943 "I Walked
With A Zombie"
is Frances Dee,
An old friend, Harry Purvis, now 84, tells me that at the original
run of "Dracula" in 1931, women actually did faint
or run up the aisles in fright. Seventy-five years later we can
only watch these films with great admiration for how they were
Im still watching horror but mostly from the safety of
my TV set. A currently running series that boasts a high fright
level is "Supernatural," (but not "Ghost Whisperer").
The latest batch of "Mummy" movie adventures are well
made parodies of the old adventure flicks and are made on huge
Something that really intrigues me these days are old "Inner
Sanctum" radio mysteries. Thats right, Im back
to the future. Im listening to old radio programs like
"Inner Sanctum" and "The Shadow" and finding
horror in its purest form, stripped of all visuals. Thats
it, the creaking door, the scariest moment of any old "Inner
©2008 by Jim Bawden.
The photo from "Werewolf of London" is courtesy of
Universal Studios. The photos from "Pyscho" are courtesy
of Paramount and Universal. The photo from "I Walked With
A Zombie" are courtesy of Turner Classic Movies and RKO
Pictures. The ad from "Black Christmas" is courtesy
of Warner Bros. Home Video. This column first posted Oct. 27,
BAWDEN is the former TV Columnist and Vintage Movie specialist
for The Toronto Star. He was written for many film magazines,
including "Films in Review." His columns now appear
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