I recently had a chance to watch an old black and white movie by Ray Milland (The Gold Key), this movie is called Panic in Year Zero! (1962). I really liked this movie quite a bit, I even went on to write a recommendation for the movie.
With that said, I got to thinking about a few old movies that I have watched in my life, and that have influenced my interests as a movie fan, a horror buff, and my general interests as an aspiring filmmaker and aspiring artist as a whole. Such classics as Psycho (1960) by the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock (Frenzy) and Halloween (1978) by one of the true masters of horror, John Carpenter (Assault on Precinct 13)
I also got to thinking that recently I was talking with a colleague of mine one evening last year about a recent kick I had been on, in watching old Bela Lugosi movies. The one that I directly mentioned to him was White Zombie (1932), as it had been the one that I had seen not long before talking to him. It just didn’t seem to compute for him that some one would still be watching the film, and that I was one of those somebodies, and that I would actually like it! Now just FYI, it is a great film, and if you ever have a chance to watch it, I highly recommend it, but that recommendation is coming later…
Now I understand his position on this movie, and I don’t fault him for it… He comes from a generation that is so far removed from the generation that created White Zombie. He also I am sure grew up watching movies that spend more time and care on explosions and CGI, then any of the generations previously…
With that said I got to thinking about all of this and decided that I would write a little something on these classic films, and maybe remind a few people of some classics that they may have forgotten, or maybe introduce some utterly genius yet antique films to a new generation…
The first movie to ever have been made is only a few second long celluloid short film that has been aptly dubbed The Roundhay Garden Scene (1888). This short film was directed by Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince.
This short film was made in the Whitley family garden, at a house Oakwood Grange Road, in Roundhay, which is a suburb of Leeds, Yorkshire in England. The movie itself stars Adolphe Le Prince (Accordion Player), Sarah Whitley, Joseph Whitley and Harriet Hartley. In the short, the ‘cast’ is just walking around in circles for a few seconds, laughing, and keeping within frame.
Le Prince could arguably be called the father of the motion picture industry, due to the fact that he developed the first motion picture machine…
Enjoy this video of the first movie ever made: The Roundhay Garden Scene:
Now I would like to jump ahead to the early 20th century with another relatively unknown milestone: The Monsters before they became Universal’s monsters.
In the second decade of the 20th century and before Universal became the leader in the monster movie genre. There was a couple of movies that I thought that I would mention of note:
The first one is Frankenstein (1910). Before Robert De Niro (Taxi Driver) was lumbering around as Frankenstein’ s monster, or Kenneth Brannaugh (Hamlet) as the man who created him. Even before Boris Karloff was causing havoc as Frankenstein’s monster… Charles Ogle (The Flamingo Forest) had graced the screen as the monster that Dr. Victor Frankenstien has created in this nearly 13 minute short film:
Written and Directed by: J. Searle Dawley (Broadway Broke) and starring Charles Ogle, Augusts Phillips (A World of Folly) and Mary Fuller (The Untamed).
This version of Frankenstein is about a young medical student by the name of Frankenstein (Phillips) who while trying to create the perfect person, instead creates a monster. Due to his mistake he is made ill, and comforted by his fiancée. On Frankenstein’s wedding night he has a visitor… The mangled monster (Ogle) himself! Frankenstein and his monster get in to a fight. When the Monster sees himself in the mirror he is disgusted with his visage and takes off… He later returns to the happy couple’s room only to find that Frankenstein is alone, and that Frankenstein sees in himself becoming the monster he wished to forget!
I watched this version recently myself, and admittedly it is a little hard to watch. I have seen a few shorts from that era, and generally they are a little hard to watch because (I can’t confirm this) but because I don’t think that the art of the motion picture was very refined at that time, with Motion Picture technology only being less then thirty years old…
But I can just imagine what people must have thought about it, in it’s day, with Frankenstein probably being one of the box office smashes of its time, and for that alone, this movie will always hold a place in my heart.
If you would like, please enjoy watching the move:
Another one that is definitely worth mentioning, which I haven’t been able to see all of, but is still a great film that I am really looking forward to is Noseferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922), but for those who know it by today’s film audiences as just Nosferatu.
Why is this movie so great you might be asking. There are many reasons:
1. Although this movie is not the first vampire movie to have come out (This distinction goes to a movie called Vampire of the Coast which came out in 1909). Nosferatu happens to be the first movie based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
2. Elements of this movie have directly or indirectly been the inspiration for other people’s works such as Jerry Dandridge, the vampire from Fright Night (1985) played by Chris Sarandon (Child’s Play) is indirectly based on Nosferatu which popularized the concepts that Vampires can be killed by Sunlight.
One thing of note though that I thought that you guys might find interesting is that when the production company that made Nosferatu had petitioned Bram Stoker’s estate, his widow refused their request, and with the exception of the vampire, and the basic story line. All locations and names including the title for the movie were changed so as not to commit copyright infringement.
For more information on this film, please check out this clip from the movie:
After these though, of course Universal popularized these monsters with Dracula (1931) starring Bela Lugosi (Night of Terror), Frankenstein (1931) with Boris Karlof (Bride of Frankenstein), The Mummy (1932) which also had Boris Karloff, and many others.
Now I would like to head over to the 1950’s and the sort revitalization of Science Fiction.
The 1950’s saw the advent of many great Sci-Fi films that are still known and highly praised! One of these and one of the two that I thought that I would mention for this is: The Thing From Another World (1951):
Written by: Charles Lederer (Ocean’s 11), Ben Hecht (Notorious) and also written and directed by: Howard Hawkes (Rio Lobo) with Mr. Hawkes sharing the director’s chair with Christian Nyby (First To Fight) and starring Kenneth Tobey (It Came From Beneath The Sea), Margaret Sheridan (The Diamond Wizard) and Robert Cornthwaite (The War Of The Worlds)
The Thing From Another World tells the story of an Arctic research expedition that discovers an alien spacecraft buried in the ice. When they examine the craft, they discover a frozen alien that had been the pilot of the craft. anarchy ensues when they take him back to the Arctic research station and he thaws!
One thing I also thought that I would mention about this movie is that the director of Halloween, ‘John Carpenter’, who I believe is a huge fan of Hawkes, actually did a remake of this movie in 1982 with Kurt Russell (Escape From New York) aptly titled ‘The Thing.’
Check out this trailer for The Thing From Another World:
The next one that I wanted to mention is The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956).
Directed by: Don Siegel (Escape Form Alcatraz) and Written by: Daniel Mainwaring (Swampfire) and Richard Collins (Thousands Cheer) and starring Kevin McCarthy (UHF), Dana Wynter (Sink The Bismarck) and Larry Gates (Funny Lady)
The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers tells the story of Doctor Miles Bennell (McCarthy) who returns to his small town practice. After he gets back he finds that several of his patients are suffering from paranoid delusions about their friends and or relatives being imposters. Initially though he is skeptical about the situation. He eventually gets persuaded that something strange has occurred and decides to investigate what is really going on in this small town!
This movie went on to spawn some really awesome remakes, such as the 1978 remake with Donald Sutherland (MASH) and Body Snatchers (1993) with Gabrielle Anwar (The Three Muskateers)
For more information, check out this trailer for The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers:
With that said, there are many other great movies that have been made from 1888 – 1959, such as The Wolf Man (1941) with Lon Chaney Jr. (High Noon) and Forbidden Planet (1956) with Leslie Nielsen (The Naked Gun: From The Files Of Police Squad), and many others. But these are in my opinion, some of the more historically important films that have come between 1888 and 1959.