B-Sol here once again! And continuing the trend I began with my last post, I’d like to take another trip back to the golden age of horror. This time out, I’m breaking down the finest fright flicks from the decade of World War II, bobby-soxers and the baby boom. So sit back and relax, as I take you through ten must-see horror movies of the 1940s!
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
This one is nothing more than a fun, mindless monster-ific romp. But what’s wrong with that? Don’t expect to be scared, but expect to enjoy the heck out of it, anyway. This was the beginning of the whole “monster vs. monster” thing that would later become all the rage…
The Body Snatcher (1945)
Based on a short story by Robert Louis Stephenson, this Val Lewton classic put Citizen Kane cinematographer Robert Wise behind the camera, and the legendary Boris Karloff in front of it, as a demented supplier of medical cadavers who is somewhat lacking in scruples when it comes to methods of acquisition…
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1941)
It might be inferior to both the 1920s and 1930s versions, but Spencer Tracy’s run at the good doctor is still well worth your time. It’s bizarre to see the typical good-guy actor hamming it up as an onscreen monster, and also impressive how he pulls off Hyde with minimal makeup.
The Seventh Victim (1943)
It’s unusual to find a film from this era dealing so frankly with Satanism, but this Val Lewton entry does so with gusto. A woman on a search for her missing sister uncovers a cult of Devil worshippers in New York’s Greenwich Village. This slick production is a feast for the eyes.
I Walked with a Zombie (1943)
Yes, this list is littered with Lewton, but the man dominated the 1940s horror landscape, so it’s only fitting. This might very well be the finest pre-Romero zombie film. Plus, it’ directed by Jacques Tourneur, who later did the 1950s English classic Night of the Demon.
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
The mother of all horror comedies, plain and simple. Bud and Lou mix it up with all three of Universal’s classic monsters, and the result is gold. Lugosi and Chaney mesh perfectly with the hilarious proceedings. This one is the perfect “gateway movie” for anyone looking for a fun intro to Universal horror…
Cat People (1942)
Lewton’s finest production, and one that truly stands the test of time. Our main character is a mysterious artist who believes she will turn into a panther if sexually aroused. The subtext is dealt with elegantly, and the film as a whole is a perfect example
of “less is more”.
The Mummy’s Hand (1940)
Readers of The Vault of Horror know that this one is a favorite of mine, and I probably prize it a bit higher than many other classic horror fans. In fact, I’d even put if above the 1932 Boris Karloff Mummy film. A truly chilling and fun flick that offers up tons of mummy action—and kicked off a whole series!
The Wolf Man (1941)
What can one say that hasn’t already been said about this Lon Chaney Jr. masterpiece? Claude Rains co-stars as the father to the tortured Lawrence Talbot, who transforms under the full moon into the murderous man-beast. Not quite as great as Dracula and
Frankenstein from the previous decade—but still amazing.
The Uninvited (1944)
With the possible exception of the original Haunting (1963), this may very well be the finest ghost/haunted house film ever made. The scares are abundant as the Oscar-winning Ray Milland discovers supernatural goings-on in an abandoned mansion on the
coast of England. This movie ironically also introduced the sublimely beautiful love ballad, “Stella By Starlight”. Strongly recommended for anyone who has ever enjoyed being frightened by a movie.