Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Horror flicks today: bloody offal

Cleveland Press October 26, 1973

Boris Karloff was the best known practitioner in the field of horror movies. But the term "horror" in connection with them is one to which he objected.

"Horror means something revolting," he said. "Anybody can show you a pailful of innards. But the object of the roles I played is not to turn your stomach -- but merely to make your hair stand on end. It (the descriptive word) should have been 'terror.'

"They are bogey stories, that's all. Bogey stories with the same appeal as thrilling ghost stories or fantastic fairy tales that entertain and enthrall children in spite of being so hokey.

"Actually, "Jack and the Beanstalk" is shocking. And 'Grimm's Fairy Tales' are appalling. I suppose films like 'Frankenstein' remain popular because they have such deep, deep roots."

If Halloween with its packaged goodies isn't what it used to be, neither are the horror flicks.

The pictures now use the "bucket of innards" as staple fare. Limbs and heads are chopped off in full view of the camera. Blood flows copiously.

Even the films that do not belong to the horror or terror class revel in the depiction of gore.

It is a truism in movies that what is suggested is often more effective than that which is graphically shown. Often the downfall of a horror picture (notably one in which people were frightened by some unknown being) has been the depiction of the horror's cause. Nothing is quite so frightening as one's own imagination.

Most of the original horror pictures of the '30's, those now considered, classics, have been remade, but not in such memorable forms.

Perhaps Bela Lugosi's first "Dracula" and Karloff's "Frankenstein" were more notable because they remain the originals. Maybe they stand apart because sequels were bound to go downhill as they became repetitive. The plot is a formula that allows for little variation.

The Hammer Studios of London had a modicum of success not by making more sequels but by remaking the originals. With modern color these became gorier than ever, blood was a bright red and repellent.

Another look at those old movies brought with it a realization of the power of black and white as lights and shadows played on the imagination.

Dracula in the latest remakes is so busy indisecriminatately chomping on the nearest neck for sustenance that one wishes he would make a withdrawal from the nearest blood bank and not bother us anymore.

The late Edmund Wilson intellectual and author, noted that there is a rise in the popularity of ghost and horror stories in times of stress in society. Surely these are times filled with stress.

We may see more horror pictures. And every once in a while along will come one that is different enough, imaginative enough to be successful.

It's like the little kids who ring your bell on Halloween. There will be one who puts extra effort into his disguise and you will reward him with extra candy.