Friday, June 4, 2010

Top 13: The Black Glove's 1st Annual Lost Gems of Horror Cinema

collated by THE BLACK GLOVE staff

As another way of celebrating our first year of providing a monthly free magazine of horror goodies for horrorheads around the world (and you wouldn't believe some of the strange and cryptic messages we get from horror fans from all over this planet), we decided to put together a list of 13 horror/suspense films that we feel every horrorhead should make it a point to find and watch. There was no other criteria than the subjective love we have for these 'lost' titles. They range from the 30s to the 80s. Strangely, but not too surprising, no one on staff picked anything from the 90s and 00s; maybe because they're too new to be 'lost' gems?
In any case, we plan to do this at least once a year, so we can draw attention to movies we feel deserve a new audience. The good news is, several of these titles are public domain, so you can find them in their entirety on or similar public video web sites.
So we hope this helps all of our horrorhead readers out there to find their own lost gems of horror. And, hey, feel free to share your own 'lost gems' titles with us. After all, we love horror, and we're always looking for new movies to add to our own horrorhead collections.

13. The Black Room (1935)

Boris Karloff was one of the greatest horror actors of all time and had over a hundred movies to his credit up until his death in 1969 (although he still continued to appear in movies for almost three years after that!) 1935's low budget horror thriller THE BLACK ROOM is one of forgotten goodies from one of the busiest decades for his career. In this film he plays twin brothers, one good and one very, very bad. So nasty in fact that he kills his good brother and assumes his identity and then proceeds to kill anyone who discovers his true identity. The place where he disposes of the bodies is the titular location, an pitch black oubliette. His acting is topnotch sinister and the characters truly sympathetic, even the villain himself.

12. Fade to Black (1980)

Starring Dennis Christopher, Tim Thomerson, Gwynne Gilford and an early role for Hollywood's resident old school tough guy, Mickey Rourke, FADE TO BLACK is an early 80s slasher flick with heart. The killer is a lonely, mixed up young romantic who only wants to find love in an increasingly hostile and cold world. His love for old films becomes the means by which he gets revenge on all those who abuse and reject him, as he takes on the persona and dress of the various cinematic incarnations.

11. Grizzly (1976)

There were a lot of Jaws ripoffs during the 70s, throughout the 80s, and even up to modern day. But there were some good ones and lots of really bad ones. 1976's Grizzly, directed by the late great exploitative directors, William Girdler, is one of the best. It's the old story: man encroaches on nature, nature gets pissed off, and nature strikes back in the form of a powerful retributive force, be it shark, piranhas, birds, or in this case, an 18 foot tall prehistoric grizzly bear that munches its way through the summer campers and backpackers of a 4 billion acre Georgia forest. Despite the PG rating this movie received way back in the 70s, don't be fooled. There's enough blood and guts to satisfy most gruehounds and some great performances from Christopher George (GATES OF HELL, PIECES, and many other horror greats), Andrew Prine and Richard Jaeckel- a trinity of 70s tough guys. The cinematography is beautiful, really showcasing the then natural beauty of Georgia's unspoiled forest landscape.

10. Horror Express (1972)

Most small budget films starring the dynamic duo of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing don't measure up to 1972's HORROR EXPRESS, a beauty of a Spanish production that has the creep value of a much larger Hammer style production. When sardonic Lee discovers an ancient corpse of a humanoid creature during his explorations, he attempts to transport it across the frozen Mongolia via a steam powered train. Along the way he meets Cushing, an interested colleague who helps uncover the mystery behind the strange deaths aboard the train. Seems the corpse isn't so dead after all and has decided to start taking over bodies for its eventual planetary conquest. What makes this a lost gem of horror is the tone and mood of the picture; it truly disturbs with its sudden violence.

9. Humanoids From the Deep (1980)

When I say they don't make 'em like this anymore, you can believe it. Directed by Barbara Peeters, she later disowned the picture after producer Roger Corman gave the film a little extra kick by throwing in some blood and monster on girl rape scenes. Starring Doug McClure as a bedeviled local fisherman who discovers the secret monster cove, this is a fast paced throwback to the old 50s style monster on the loose movies. However, it's no radiation that creates these half human/half fish creatures who seek to procreate with human females. No, this time it's some new fangled genetic experiments taking place upriver at that 'fishy' cannery that spawn these monsters.

8. I Bury the Living (1958)

This is one atmospheric little ditty starring Richard Boone as the new owner of a cemetery who finds he has the power of death over his plot owners. See, when he pushes black pins in the plot map people die. So when he decides to use white pins in the places where the dead lie...well, let's just say he probably shouldn't have done that. You can almost feel the dankness wafting from the tv, smell the mildew. Yeah, it's a cheapo, and, yeah, like a few of the titles on our list, it can be found in plenty of public domain DVD boxsets. But trust me, this movie alone makes it worth the purchase.

7. Night of the Comet (1984)

Having grown up in the 80s, I find it hard to believe that this movie could even be considered for this list of lost gems of horror. But after some recent discussions with (so-called) horror fans, I've unfortunately found that NIGHT OF THE COMET isn't as well known as I once thought. Starring two of the cutest 80s women to ever grace the screen during a music montage, Kelli Malroney and Catherine Mary Stewart, this is part comedy and part future zombie apocalypse all rolled into one great fun movie.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if a big comet swooshed by planet earth and anyone dumb enough to stare directly into it either turned to red dust or became a flesh hungry pseudo-zombie? No? Well, now you don't have to. Seriously, this is a fun 80s film that feels like John Hughes and George Romero decided to make a movie together.

6. Night Tide (1961)

Director Curtis Harrington has always been known for his somewhat strange films, and even more so for his strange movie titles, such as
Queen of Blood (1966), How Awful About Allan (1970), What's the Matter with Helen? (1971), Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971) and to unforgettable Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (1978), but NIGHT TIDE ranks up there as a definite gem of horror that most people have never even seen--unless, of course, you've been lucky enough to find it tucked away on one of those giant 50 movie packs from Mill Creek Entertainment. Starring the recently deceased Dennis Hopper (add link here!!!), this is a phenomenal low budget find, with tension and atmosphere and really great acting. Harrington never telegraphs the shock ending, nor does he simply leave us with all the loose ends tied neatly up. No, as any great supernatural film, he leaves us with doubts, despite the naturalistic explanation by movie's end. If you haven't seen this one yet, do so. You won't be disappointed.

5. Razorback (1984)

Another great nature strikes back film, set in Australia's outback, which stars (at the time) huge name American actor, Gregory Harrison, and a giant wild boar who likes to eat people. Directed by Russell Mulcahy, it bears his very odd signature style of cinematic weirdness. Truly, this movie's use of music video effects and strange camera angles was ten years ahead of its time, and utterly unappreciated at the time by critics and viewers alike. Now, of course, many horror fans herald it as their own lost gem. Mulcahy manages to one of the most dangerous places on earth look even more so by his use of ultra colorful lighting and shadowy cinematography. And check out the array of disturbing sound effects he implements throughout the production; the screams of slaughtered kangaroo and wild boars add an eerie quality to the whole which makes it uneasy viewing.

4. The Sadist (1963)

Here's another one that appears frequently on those public domain sets. Starring Arch Hall Jr., a self-styled teen idol of the likes of James Dean and Elvis Presley, this is definitely the best movie he ever appeared in. His psychopath teen killer on the run with his equally remorseless and insane girlfriend are nerve wrenching to watch as they torture and kill a trio of lost travelers on the way to see a baseball game. Some might view Hall's performance as over-the-top, but this fan thinks it hits the right nerves at the right time. There's a desolate and arid quality provided by the film's desert locale that you just can't buy.

3. Straight On Till Morning (1972)

In this little seen Hammer Studios release from 1972, we get what at first seems like a coming of age love story, but which soon reveals itself to be a very disturbing emotional roller coaster about a young, shy woman's encounter with a handsome, but dangerously disturbed, young man. And you'll undoubtedly pick up on the Barrie PETER PAN associations made throughout the movie that only add another level of menace to the storyline. Shouldn't be too difficult to find this one; Hammer did release it on a boxset collection not too long past, if you're of the mind to watch this treat of a horror film.

2. When You Comin' Back Red Ryder? (1979)

First made as a successful and critically acclaimed off-Broadway play, it was soon turned into a disturbing little film starring Marjoe Gortner, a well known 70s actor, as the psychopath drug dealer who finds himself stranded in a small desert town. It doesn't take long before he starts to physically and mentally torture the stunned, simple townspeople. Gortner is the epitome of menace and an unbalanced mind throughout the film, but he is also supported by a wonderful and memorable group of actors and actresses, that make this movie scream for re-discovery. There are no big time special effects here, and it feels like it might be a step or two above those made-for-tv movies of the 70s and 80s, but make no mistake: this is a disturbing film, nonetheless. And it's probably the one you'll have the hardest time finding from our lost gems list.

1. The Zero Boys (1986)

And this, our final film on our list, is a strange crossbreed of a teen comedy and a backwoods horror film. When a small group of friends, and their tag-along girlfriends, decide to go into the real woods for a weekend of drinking, sex and paintball wargames, they find themselves the targets of a group of depraved Deliverance-style killers, who like to film their victims as they abuse and torture them sexually and physically. Don't let the prettyboys on the poster fool you. This is one mean-spirited thriller, in which, even more disturbingly, never explains where the redneck killers originate or why their doing what they do. There's enough blood to satisfy most grue-fans, but it's the desperate nighttime escape attempt that will keep you on edge.

--The Black Glove Staff