Classic Horror: The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari (1920)

“Awaken for a moment from your dark night.”

Filmed entirely in a studio of intentionally bizarre and misshaped sets, 1920’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari takes its viewers on a twisted ride full of murder, insanity, and a sleepwalking. It stars Werner Krauss as Dr. Caligari, Friedrich Feher as Francis, Lil Dagover as Jane, and Conrad Veidt as Cesare. It was written by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer. It was directed by Robert Wiene. The silent film is considered one of the best representations of German Expressionism during the early 1900s. The film was divisive for critics and general filmgoers alike during its initial run in Germany and proved to be the same in other parts of the world due in part to the reception of Germany in general after the first World War. Despite this, Caligari would become one of the most influential films not just of its time, but of all time both in Germany and worldwide.

The film opens with Francis and another man talking. Francis then points out his fiancee, Jane, to the man and begins to tell him the story of Dr. Caligari. As Francis tells the story, we learn how Dr. Caligari uses a somnambulist (a sleepwalker) named Cesare to murder people in the town of Holstenwall. The town is thrown into chaos as they attempt to discover who is committing the murders. Eventually Francis discovers the truth of Dr. Caligari and he follows him to a local insane asylum. To tell you what happens next would ruin the film. If you haven’t seen The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, I highly recommend that you see it.

I could spend a lot of time discussing the themes covered in this film but I believe that it would be best for you to discover them for yourselves. You can easily look them up on the internet as well, but I highly recommend watching the film first. While you will most likely pick up on some of the themes easily, others will require you to place yourself in the mindset of Germans in the 1920s and/or the world as a whole at the time. The movie is entertaining on its own, but as you begin to recognize the themes involved you will realize that it is much more than a horror film about a murderer that uses an innocent sleepwalker to do his dastardly deeds.

The film is creepy. The cast all do an amazing job, especially Feher as Francis and Veidt as Cesare. The sets are amazing. They are a visual feast even if they are in black and white. Everything is out of whack and off balance. In all honesty they reminded me of many of Tim Burton’s creations, especially Beetlejuice, The Corpse Bride, and his short, Vincent. That being said, as much as Burton’s style seems to resemble Caligari, he admits that he didn’t see the film until well into his adulthood.

Be sure to check out this amazing film. You will not regret it.

Thanks for checking out my post. I’ll see you all again real soon.

The Last Universal Monster Has Passed Away

Ricou Browning, Aged 93, Has Passed Away

Browning is best known for his portrayal of the Gillman or Creech in the underwater sequences for all three of the Creature From The Black Lagoon films. He was also a director, stunt coordinator and double, and a writer. Outside of the Universal Monster films, Browning’s work included being a second unit director on films like Flipper, Caddyshack, and Thunderball, director of almost forty episodes of the TV series Flipper, and as stunt coordinator on the Flipper film and Thunderball. Browning also co-created Flipper with Jack Cowden.

Browning’s legacy will live on in his work both in front of and behind the camera. Rest in peace, Mr. Browning.

Classic Horror: Thirteen Women (1932)

“Don’t destroy their faith in the occult, Swami.”

Using nothing but the power of persuasion, a vengeful woman attempts to take out thirteen women who bullied and harassed her at an all-girls school in 1932’s Thirteen Women. The thirteen women were part of a sorority that taunted the woman, Ursula Georgi, so much that she was forced to leave the school. The film is considered to be an early influence on the slasher genre and one of the first films in which the antagonist builds a “body count” as the story progresses. It is also regularly mentioned as one of the first female ensemble films and an early example of societal racism addressed in film.

The film stars Myrna Loy as Ursula, a woman of mixed race, who uses her influence over a swami to manipulate the sorority sisters into going insane, committing murder and suicide, and believing that the dark predictions made by the swami will come true no matter what they do in order to prevent them from occurring. Standing in Ursula’s way is Irene Dunne as Laura Stanhope, one of the only women in the group who isn’t convinced that the predictions are real. Laura teams up with police sergeant Barry Clive (Ricardo Cortez) to stop Ursula when she targets Laura’s young son, Bobby (Wally Albright).

The movie is well executed. It does a fine job of showing how easily manipulated people can be with just a few strategic events and persuasive suggestions. We get to see how Ursula uses the beliefs, fears, and superstitions of her victims to have them kill themselves and others. The version of the film that I saw was only fifty-nine minutes long. The original film featured roughly fourteen more minutes of footage, mainly of some of the victims succumbing to Ursula’s influence, but when they didn’t work well with test audiences, the film was heavily edited. In fact, entire character arcs were edited out of the movie with the film only focusing on roughly six of the thirteen women.

The cast was excellent. Along with Dunne, Loy, Albright, and Cortez, the film featured Jill Esmond, Mary Duncan, Kay Johnson, Florence Eldridge, C. Henry Gordon, Edward Pawley, and Blanche Friderici. Phyllis Fraser and Betty Furness had roles in the original film but were completely removed from the final cut. Peg Entwistle appears in the film but had roughly twelve minutes of her performance edited out of the final cut. This is notable due to the fact that Entwistle committed suicide roughly one month prior to the film’s release and it is believed that she had become depressed with the way that her film career was going. Thirteen Women is her only on-screen credit but she was a prolific stage performer, starring on Broadway in many plays prior to her death at the age of twenty-four. Entwistle climbed to the top of the “H” in the Hollywoodland sign in September of 1932 and jumped to her death. Both Dunne and Loy would go on to have prolific careers in film and television.

Promotional shot of Entwistle.

I highly recommend this film. It’s well done and features a solid cast. It’s also chock full of firsts and early moments in cinema. Entwistle’s tragic story in real life only adds to the lore of this film. If you haven’t seen it, look it up on streaming services or on DVD. As far as I know it has not been released on Blu-ray.

Thanks for checking out m y post. See you again real soon!

Revenge of the Slashers!

Watch Out, Final Girls!!!

Sure, last month was all about Scream Queens, but next year, Ken’s Alternate Universe will celebrate Thirty-One Days Of Horror with a month-long celebration of some of the most popular slashers in the business! I’ll have the big guys like Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers, but I’ll also look at some of the lesser known bad boys (and girls) like the Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre, Blade from the Puppet Master films, and Angela Baker from Sleepaway Camp!

I’ll give a general overview of each killer and then go in depth on whatever makes each character unique. Ghost Face changes in every Scream film, the original killer in Prom Night never returned in any of the sequels, and I definitely have to take a look at Jason in Jason X! There are tons of slashers out there, so be sure to let me know if there’s anybody that you’d like me to take a look at and I’ll see what I can do.

I’ll look at the preferred weapon of choice for each villain, their primary target or targets, and what, if anything, motivates them to kill. Get ready for thirty-one nights of slicing and dicing! You have a year to prepare, so get ready!

Reign of the Scream Queens: Jamie Lee Curtis

Scream Queen Legend And The Final Girl!

Could it be anybody else? Would you expect anybody else? Of course the Final Girl and Scream Queen of all Scream Queens would be Jamie Lee Curtis! It’s Halloween for crying out loud! Curtis has appeared in multiple successful franchises, is the sole reason that the Halloween franchise has stayed alive for so long, and has been nominated for and won awards from MTV to Saturn to Fangoria to the People’s Choice Awards and the Primetime Emmy Awards. She has written children’s books, blogged for the Huffington Post, and has applied for two patents on inventions that she developed. She’s a true Renaissance woman and easily the most recognizable and most popular Scream Queen on this list.

Mrs. Curtis began her career with a small role on an episode of Quincy, M.E. in 1977. She made her film debut in the iconic horror film, Halloween, in 1978. She then appeared in a number of slasher films in quick succession from 1978 to 1981. Those films included The Fog, Prom Night, and Terror Train in 1980 followed by roles in Halloween II and Road Games in 1981. She also had a cameo as the voice on a speaker in Halloween III (1982). Curtis continued working in both film and television and still does so to this day. She has consistently appeared in television films, major motion pictures, and guest roles on television. She also starred in three television series, Operation: Petticoat, Anything But Love, and Scream Queens.

Some of Curtis’ most popular and well known roles outside of the horror genre include her performances in Trading Places (1983), True Lies (1994), Perfect (1985), My Girl (1991), Freaky Friday (2003), and Knives Out (2019). She has eighty-three credits currently on IMDb and that list will definitely continue to grow. I highly recommend checking out her work both in and outside of horror.

While she’s definitely been successful outside of horror and has had success in a number of different horror franchises, the one that put her on the map and the one that she has returned to a number of times is the Halloween franchise. The original film is considered a trailblazer in the genre and it produced multiple copycat films (including a few starring Curtis). Including her voice cameo in Halloween III, Curtis has appeared in a total of eight Halloween films: Halloween (1978), Halloween II (1981), Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), Halloween H20 (1998), Halloween: Resurrection (2002), and the modern trilogy of Halloween (2018), Halloween Kills (2021), and Halloween Ends (2022). She portrayed Laurie Strode in all of the films with the exception of Halloween III.

Jamie Lee Curtis is a full-fledged superstar. Her parents had amazing careers as well. Her father is Tony Curtis, who passed away in 2010, and her mother is Janet Leigh (a Scream Queen in her own right), who passed away in 2004. Both were very popular performers in their day Jamie Lee Curtis embraced her family’s legacy as an actress. It’s impossible to list all of her accomplishments in film and television on this post. She’s an amazing person.

Although she’s been in a ton of projects over the years, Jamie Lee Curtis will always be Laurie Strode to me. She’s one of the few actors to avoid being typecast and has become one of the most successful film stars of all time as a result.

Happy Halloween! This concludes my Reign Of The Scream Queens posts for October’s Thirty-One Days O’Horror. I’ve already got plans for next year and I’ll give you a hint about them tomorrow. Starting in November I will go back to my traditional film, book, and action figure reviews along with two The Year Of KISS posts. As the holidays are now well underway, I want to thank each and everyone of you for checking out today’s post and all of the other posts that I’ve cranked out this year.

See you tomorrow!

Reign of the Scream Queens: Barbara Crampton

Scream Queen Icon

Compared to other Scream Queens on this list, many folks unfamiliar with the work of Barbara Crampton might write her off as a horror starlet. When you dig deeper into her seventy-three credits in film and television, you’ll quickly realize that Crampton is not only an iconic Scream Queen, she’s also an accomplished soap opera actress. She’s been nominated for multiple awards in both horror and for her performances in numerous soap operas. In short, Crampton takes on roles based on quality, not quantity. She’s comfortable playing the hero, the villain, and the psycho in film and on television.

Crampton has been acting since 1983, when she received her first credit portraying Trista Evans on the daytime soap Days Of Our Lives. She appeared eighty-three episodes over the course of two years. Her first film role was in the erotic thriller Body Double (1984) that starred Melanie Griffith. I have a special connection to that film that I’ll share later in this post. Crampton continued working in both film and television throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Her biggest role on television came as Leanna Love on The Young And The Restless. It was a role that she would portray off and on throughout both decades and into the early 2000’s. She also had lengthy roles in The Bold And The Beautiful and Guiding Light. In addition to these roles, Crampton also appeared as a guest star on a number of popular television shows like The Nanny and Pacific Blue.

While her career blossomed on television, Crampton also made waves on the big screen in horror films, sex comedies, and science fiction films. She is perhaps best known for her roles in Re-Animator (1985), Chopping Mall (1986), and Trancers II (1991) during her early career. As Crampton grew older, she began taking on more roles as a villain in horror films and motherly roles in other films and did so with amazing success. Some of her biggest roles since the beginning of the 2000’s were in films like Little Sister (2016), We Are Still Here (2015), Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018), and Jakob’s Wife (2021).

As a kid, one of my earliest crushes was Barbara Crampton. I fell in love with her as the psychotic Leanna Love on The Young And The Restless. This was in 1987 and, at the time, I was completely unaware of her work in films like Body Double and Re-Animator even though both of those movies came out a few years prior to her role as Leanna. Still, I tried to follow Crampton’s career as best as I could as a kid growing up in rural Louisiana pre-internet. Within a year of falling in love with Crampton as Leanna, I saw her in Body Double. It was a shock to my still developing mind. Not only was Crampton one of the the first women that I saw nude in a film, she was the first woman that I recognized from another role that I saw nude in a film. Then a friend of mine with cable introduced me to her appearance in Re-Animator. I was raised to not look at such things (nudity in film) but as an 80’s kid with friends who had access to cable, it was inevitable that I would run across a naked lady sooner or later. It was weird to me because I didn’t dare tell my mom, who also loved the character of Leanna, that Crampton not only did nude scenes, but sex scenes as well. To this day I haven’t told her and I’m pretty sure that she is still unaware of the “dirty” movies that Crampton appeared in throughout her career.

I still love Barbara Crampton and I still have a crush on her. Hopefully I will get the chance to meet her at a convention one day and tell her how I’m still afraid to tell my mother that I saw Leanna Love in the buff! Crampton doesn’t do many nude scenes today, but she is no less gorgeous. In fact, she pretty much looks the same today as she did back in the 80’s. She’s very active on social media and shares tons of pictures of her day-to-day life and any projects that she is working on at the moment.

Crampton deserves more recognition for her work. She’s a wonderful actress who easily transitions from soap opera star to horror goddess. If I had to pick specific films of hers to watch, I’d recommend Jakob’s Wife, Re-Animator, and Chopping Mall. To be completely honest, I haven’t watched a film in which she gave a bad performance. She’s the consummate professional and it shows in her work.

Thanks for checking out today’s post! Tomorrow I will reveal the Final Girl, the Ultimate Scream Queen! Do you know who she is? Let me know in the comments and find out tomorrow if you’re correct!

Reign of the Scream Queens: Brinke Stevens

Scream Queen Legend

Of all of the wonderful Scream Queens on this list, none of them come close to being the ideal Scream Queen as does Brinke Stevens. Stevens has over 230 film credits to her name on IMDb and has been appearing in movies seemingly nonstop since 1981. She has one role credit prior to that year in 1972’s Necromancy, but it is listed as the 1983 re-issue. Other than that, Stevens has appeared in multiple films almost every year and, believe it or not, has appeared in more movies since 2000 than she appeared in prior to that year. Almost all of the films that she has appeared in have been low budget B-movies that emphasize skin more than plot, but that doesn’t mean that Brinke Stevens is a dim bulb. She’s actually quite intelligent, holding a Bachelor of Science in both biology and psychology and pursued her doctorate in marine biology at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She was ultimately denied her degree due to the use of dolphins from Sea World in her studies but did receive an honorary doctorate later.

Just over ten years after appearing in Necromancy, Brinke Stevens found work as an extra in 1981’s …All The Marbles. Then she snagged her first speaking role in the slasher classic The Slumber Party Massacre (1982). From there she begin getting role after role, mainly in low budget horror films, horror comedies, and softcore adult films but she constantly worked. She also appeared in various states of undress in a number of magazines. She regularly appeared in Femme Fatale, Monster Land, Famous Monsters Of Filmland, and Scream Queen Illustrated magazines among others.

Some of Stevens’ most notable appearances in horror include Nightmare Sisters (1988), Teenage Exorcist (1991, she also wrote the film), Sole Survivor (1984), Trophy Heads (2014), and Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity (1987). My personal favorites are The Slumber Party Massacre and Trophy Heads, but she’s been in so many films that I’m sure that I’ve missed a few more great ones.

If you’ve never watched one of Brinke Stevens’ films before, my advice would be to start with The Slumber Party Massacre and then follow that up with Sorority Babes In The Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988). From there, simply scroll through IMDb or visit Brinke’s website to find more of her films. There’s a little bit of everything in all of her films. There’s tons of gore, nudity, violence, questionable acting, and more, but it’s all B-movie gold.

I hope that you have enjoyed this very brief glimpse at Brinke Stevens. She’s a beautiful, intelligent lady that knows what her audience wants and delivers it in spades. She’s a Scream Queen without question!

Thanks for checking out this post. More horrific fun is headed your way tomorrow!

Reign of the Scream Queens: Veronica Carlson

Scream Queen Icon

Hammer Productions kept horror films above water after Universal turned away from the genre in the 1950’s. Hammer started producing films with their own versions of Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, and more, winning over tons of fans for themselves and breathing new life into Universal’s early classics from the 30’s and 40’s. Along for the ride was the strikingly beautiful Veronica Carlson. She starred alongside two titans of the company, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and also shared the screen with the man who would be Darth Vader, David Prowse.

Mrs. Carlson enjoyed working with Hammer Productions, appearing in three films for the company: Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), and The Horror Of Frankenstein (1970). In 1974 she appeared in the horror comedy Vampira and followed that with another horror film with Peter Cushing, The Ghoul (1975). She then stepped away from her career as an actress in order to focus on her family and marriage. One of the reasons that she left the industry was because of her religious upbringing and the demand in the industry for more and more nudity in films.

Carlson also appeared on the television series Spyder’s Web and had a number of guest starring roles primarily on British television. Her final television role came in 1975 on Public Eye. She made appearances in two horror films in 1994 and 1995 and wouldn’t return to the screen until 2016 when she appeared in the science fiction yarn, Stella Quasar and the Scrolls of Dadelia, She next appeared in House of the Gorgon (2019), and independent film created as an homage to Hammer’s classic films. That film also starred two other classic ladies of horror, Caroline Munro and Martine Beswick. Carlson’s final role is Lady Whitehouse in the unreleased as of this writing horror film, The Rectory. She passed away in February of this year.

Although her looks initially got her the attention of filmmakers, Carlson proved to be more than just another pretty face. She was an excellent actress and appeared in three very good Hammer films. For that reason I am dubbing her today’s Scream Queen.

Thanks for checking out today’s post. We’re getting down to the nitty gritty with just a few days left in October! See you tomorrow!

Reign of the Scream Queens: Gloria Holden

Scream Queen Impact

Much like Ingrid Pitt, today’s Scream Queen, Gloria Holden, made her audiences scream more than she ever did in a film. Holden has forty-one film credits to her name, but only one of them would ever be considered a horror film. That film, Dracula’s Daughter (1936), was the first sequel to the iconic Bela Lugosi Universal film Dracula from 1931. Holden starred as Countess Zaleska, the daughter of Count Dracula, who is attempting to break the curse upon her that makes her lust for blood. Needless to say, she fails at breaking the curse.

The film is considered by many horror fans, writers, and filmmakers to be highly influential in the vampire genre. Most notably, Anne Rice declared Dracula’s Daughter to be a major influence on her work, the Vampire Chronicles. She and others have stated that they found lesbian undertones and subtle homoeroticism in the film and this greatly influenced future vampire films, books, and television shows. For myself, having seen the film numerous times, I personally see the countess’ longings and desires to be her struggle with the hunger for blood. That being said, that hunger could easily be equated with the desire to engage in “forbidden love” or homosexual encounters. The countess doesn’t want to give in to the cravings but must give in to them. Please note that I use the term “forbidden love” only because homosexuality was seen as taboo back in the 1930’s (and still is in many places today).

Holden continued working in film for many years after making Dracula’s Daughter. Her career lasted nearly thirty years and featured primarily guest starring or background roles. Her biggest role outside of playing the countess was that of Alexandrine Zola in the 1937 biopic The Life of Emile Zola starring Paul Muni. Her final role was an uncredited appearance as a party guest in 1958’s Auntie Mame.

Thanks for checking out today’s Scream Queen! Mrs. Holden only had one significant horror role, but that role went on to influence major works like Interview With The Vampire, Dark Shadows, and erotic horror films like The Vampire Lovers (which happened to star Ingrid Pitt). Countess Zaleska’s desire to end her curse and her reluctance to kill innocent victims has also become a trope of many vampire stories including Louis in Interview With The Vampire and Morbius in the Marvel comics of the same name. Gloria Holden is definitely deserving of her Scream Queen title. Be sure to check out Dracula’s Daughter!

Reign of the Scream Queens: Ingrid Pitt

Scream Queen Icon

While most of the ladies on this list spent a lot of time on camera screaming, today’s Scream Queen was mainly on the offensive, making both men and women scream for mercy. I’m going to talk a little bit about the seductively beautiful Ingrid Pitt who, thanks to her appearances in Hammer Film Productions, has become an iconic figure in the realm of horror.

Mrs. Pitt’s career began as most acting careers do, with work in the theatre that eventually leads to small and/or uncredited roles in films. Her first major role came in the form of the 1968 sci-fi B-movie, The Omegans. She also had a role in Where Eagles Dare with Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton. Then came two films that she is perhaps best known for, the Hammer films The Vampire Lovers (1970) and Countess Dracula (1971).

In The Vampire Lovers, Pitt portrayed the villainous Marcilla/Carmilla, a bloodthirsty vampire who seduces beautiful young women, murders them, and then moves to another town to strike again. The film featured Kate O’Mara, Peter Cushing, Dawn Addams, and a number of other popular actors from the United Kingdom. It has gone on to become a cult classic for horror fans.

In Countess Dracula, Pitt once again seduces young women, but this time it is to restore and maintain her youthful beauty. Pitt portrays the wicked Queen Elizabeth Nadasdy, a character loosely based upon Queen Elizabeth Bathory. She has her servants (and both of her male suitors) trick young virgins to come to her castle where she bathes in their blood.

Pitt then hopped over to Amicus Productions, a film production company that produced numerous horror films that competed with Hammer. For that company she appeared in The House That Dripped Blood (1971). As her career continued, Pitt moved away from horror in the 1980’s and began appearing in films like Who Dares Wins (1982), Octopussy (1983), and Hanna’s War (1988). Despite her absence from horror, she remained popular with horror fans.

Pitt also worked in television throughout her career. One of her most notable appearances include Doctor Who in 1972 in the story arc entitled The Time Monster. She played the Queen of Atlantis, Galleia. The arc featured Jon Pertwee (the Third Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant, the Doctor’s companion), Nicholas Courney (the Brigadier) and Roger Delgado (the Master). She would return to the series in 1984 as the character Doctor Solow in Warriors of the Deep. Peter Davison was the Fifth Doctor and Janet Fielding and Mark Strickson portrayed his companions, Tegan and Turlough, respectively.

Pitt was also a writer and in her later years occasionally appeared in film projects including Hammer’s 2008 film Sea of Dust. Pitt’s writings included a number of novels like Cuckoo Run (1980), The Ingrid Pitt Bedside Guide To Ghosthunting (2003), and Dracula Who….? (2012). Pitt also wrote for a number of periodicals, published an autobiography entitled Life’s A Scream (1999), and submitted scripts for a number of films and television shows including Doctor Who.

Pitt had brains, beauty, and a talent for acting and writing. She passed away in 2010 in London, England. She’s a Scream Queen Icon and I hope that you’ve enjoyed this brief look at her amazing career. See you tomorrow!