Five must see black-and-white horror films

In this day of age of CGI-saturated, gratuitously sexualized horror films, it is easy to forget where exactly this genre came from.  Long before torture porn, splatter punk and a mind-numbing fascination with remakes, horror films relied solely on the written word.  A script was all that mattered for most films that came out during a time when effects were laboriously created by hand and monsters sometimes showed their zippers during scenes.

While not all scripts were golden from start to finish, many of the horror films our parents or even grandparents enjoyed as youngsters simply had something magical to them that just can’t be replicated today.
The 1960’s gave us a ton of great films, in every genre, but horror really was flying high during this decade.  One of the things I love about old horror films is the black-and-white presentation.  Granted, there really wasn’t much choice in the matter when these films first came out, but I wouldn’t want to watch these films any other way.  The graininess of the scenes, the feeling that someone was in every shadow, the overall moodiness of the film.  Oh, to have been alive and enjoyed this features on the big screen.

Witches, zombies, mutants and ghosts ran amok and in honor of these films and the great horror fanatics who still love them to this day, I present to you a list of five black-and-white horror movies you may not have seen yet that are absolute must-see’s for anyone who professes themselves a horror aficionado.
Most of these are available in any number of horror collections found on the shelves of Wal-Mart or online for a reasonable price, but don’t let the price tag fool you- these are some of the best the genre had to offer back in the day and, for the most part, they hold up quite well today!

 

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1. Carnival of Souls (1962)
It’s truly incredible to think of how ahead of its time this film is.  The Sixth Sense and the bunches of other “Am I alive or dead?” horror flicks owe it all to this classic.  A woman survives a horrific car accident and soon learns that something is very wrong with her life.  This film has been heralded as early inspiration for the likes of Lynch and Romero, and for good reason.  The soundtrack of organ music is downright spine chilling, too.  Herk Harvey wrote, produced, directed and starred in this film as The Creep.

 

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2. Horror Hotel, aka The City of the Dead (1961)
One of my all-time favorites.  A dead (undead?) city draped in fog, witchcraft superstition all around and the amazing Sir Christopher Lee turn this mystery film into a truly unnerving tale of a young woman finding answers to questions she never should have asked.  See this one immediately.

 

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3. The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)
A heartbroken mad scientist is on a mission to find a new body for his beloved Jan, who literally lost her head in a car accident.  The head and brain are reanimated and kept alive in his secret laboratory while the scientist stalks the city for the perfect body.  This one really tries when it comes to practical effects- you get a deformed hand on the scientist’s assistant, a mysterious monster locked in the closet and, of course, Jan in the pan!

 

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4. The Long Hair of Death (1964)
A woman is accused of being a witch and subsequently burned at the stake for murder.  Years later, the youngest daughter of the ‘witch’ is forced into a marriage she isn’t too keen on, with the years-ago murder victim’s nephew.  A twisted tale of superstition and a brooding atmosphere that cloaks a fantastic performance by the iconic Barbara Steele make this one well worth a watch!

 

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5. The Killer Shrews (1965)
A group is stranded on an island with a mad man who has created a serum meant to, uh, make humans half-size in order to stop world hunger.  Since tiny people eat less food, get it?!  The serum is tested on shrews in the man’s laboratory and wouldn’t you know, things go badly.  The shrews grow to the size of German Shepherds with the attitude and appetite to match!  If schlock is what you are looking for, this is the flick for you!  Look at the size of those chompers!

 

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