Best Horror Films From The 1940 To The 1949By MortimerTGraves for Movies
Best Horror Films From The 1940 To The 1949
If the previous decade is called the birth of horror films, then this decade has to be the decade of maturity. Horror movies now started to have more than just scares and macabre subjects. The dry spell of the late 30‘s hadn’t taken a toll as was though it would. Of course the iconic movies of the 30‘s are still going strong, however we are introduced to exciting and new creatures and stories.
Some call this the decade of Lugosi, Karloff, and Chaney Jr. Since most of the iconic movies has one or more of the stars in it. Studio’s were skeptic with another possible world war going on if horror was something audiences wanted. England suspended making horror movies all together til after the war, as did most of the rest of the world. As usual, America never stops anything if there is money to be made. Not only did they continue, they went into overdrive when compared to the previous 2 decades.
The Devil Bat 1940
American horror film produced by Producers Releasing Corporation and directed by Jean Yarborough. A mad scientist develops an aftershave lotion that causes his gigantic pet bats to kill whoever is wearing it. Starring Bela Lugosi.
Even though the budget wasn’t the highest, or the effects being far from premier for the time, the story is original and it flows smoothly between scenes and characters. Lugosi gives his usual strong commanding performance.
The Invisible Man Returns 1940
American horror science fiction film from Universal. It was written as a sequel to the 1933 film The Invisible Man. A man is sentenced to death for the murder of his brother, a crime he did not commit. The brother of the original invisible man, injects him with an invisibility drug. He searches for the real murderer before the drug causes him to go insane.
This is the movie Universal decided to take a chance and continue the stories of their most popular horror movies. So they got a very young Vincent Price to play the Invisible Man, and the rest is as they say history. I loved the effects to the original and this one; add in Price, and this becomes a favorite.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1941
American horror film from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It follows the story of Dr. Jekyll. Other than a star studded cast, and great sets and atmosphere, we finally get not just a murderous Hyde, but a raping murderous Hyde.
This is the first time they use sex as a plot point. Although I like the makeup and actor from the original, this had a better story. Metro purchased the rights to the 1931 version so they would not have competition, and because of legal troubles; it was considered a lost film till the late 60‘s.
The Wolf Man 1941
American horror film from Universal. A man returns to his homeland is attacked by a creature of folklore, and infected with a horrific disease his disciplined mind tells him can not possibly exist.
This is the breakout movie for Lon Chaney Jr. Very few movies hit all the right spots, and this one does. This is the movie that took the werewolf from lore, and into modern times. The makeup in this film sets the standard for future monster movies.
The Ghost of Frankenstein 1942
American horror film from Universal. When Ygor brings the Monster to Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein for care, Ludwig gets the idea of replacing the Monster's current brain with a normal one.
A new story with a great cast of actors. Lugosi, Chaney, Atwill lead the first of Frankenstein’s 5 films in the 40‘s. I like the story but hate Chaney as the monster. He just doesn't look good in the makeup. Overall a great film.
The Mad Monster 1942
American horror film produced and distributed by "Poverty Row". A scientist who has been discredited by his peers. He attempts to kill them off after he develops a secret formula that transforms his gardener into a murderous wolfman.
This doesn’t have the greatest production value, nor does it have biggest budget, but it does have Glenn Strange(future and great Frankenstein), and George Zucco(Prof. Moriarty and a dozen other Universal horror films). If you are a western fan, then the list of famous actors is very long. This film is a Who’s Who of 1940-50‘s western stars.
The Leopard Man 1943
American horror film from RKO. A seemingly tame leopard used for a publicity stunt escapes and starts to kill.
I was reluctant to include this film in the list. It is a good but not great film, but does have one thing. It is one of the first American films to attempt an even remotely realistic portrayal of a serial killer(even though the term wasn’t used yet). It is a solid psychological thriller.
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man 1943, The House of Frankenstein 1944, House of Dracula 1945
American horror films from Universal. I put all of these together because they all are what we call a monster mash(Not the song), I didn’t want this list to be too long. They have different monsters featured in them; Frankenstein, Wolf Man, Dracula, mad scientist, deformed assistant(or a combo of them).
The story is extremely simple. Monsters meet under some kind of circumstance and then fight. Nothing fancy, nothing difficult to understand, just good old fashion monster vs monster fighting. Plus it has more stars than the night sky.
The Return of the Vampire 1943
American horror film from Columbia Pictures. When an errant bomb unearths the coffin of a vampire during the London Blitz, a gravedigger unknowingly reanimates the monster by removing the stake from his heart.
Lugosi plays the vampire, so most view this as a sequel to the original Dracula, even though it is from a different studio. A solid entry into the vampire canon that gets overshadowed by the iconic Universal movie.
Dead of Night 1945
British horror anthology film from Ealing Studio. An Architect goes to see a potential client. When he arrives at the house, he gets the feeling that he has been there before. Once inside, he meets a group of people who seem familiar. He tells them that he has dreamt about each one of them.
With the war in Europe over, English studio’s lost no time in getting their horror movies going. This is critical to horror as an anthology film and British horror, since horror films were not made during the war years. This kick started England's interest in horror that will give us some wonderful movies in the coming years.
The Body Snatcher 1945
American horror film from RKO. Set in Edinburgh in 1831, a Dr. runs a medical school, but he has a secret. He has been paying a local cabbie, to supply him with dead bodies for anatomical research.
This is one of Karloff’s greatest performances(and a personal favorite). Lugosi also gives a great performance, but it is small. This is one of the few films that has very few flaws. It is a favorite for most horror fans.
The Beast with Five Fingers 1946
American horror film from Warner Brothers. Locals in an Italian village believe evil has taken over the estate of a recently deceased pianist where several murders have taken place. The alleged killer: the pianist's severed hand.
This is one of my favorite Peter Lorre films. The atmosphere and score is haunting.
House of Horrors 1946
American noir horror film released by Universal Pictures. A struggling sculptor goes to the river to drown himself. There he discovers the half-drowned body of the notorious serial killer, the Creeper, and takes him back to his studio to recover. Feeling empowered by the friendship of the acromegalic sociopath, The scuplptor tasks him with murdering the critics who have pilloried him in print. When successful commercial artist is wrongly suspected of the crimes, his art critic girlfriend decides to follow her instinct about a mysterious bust De Lange has suspiciously covered in his studio, and she decides to snoop around.
Rondo Hatton best film.
Strangler of the Swamp 1946
American horror film, produced and distributed by Producers Releasing Corporation. A number of swamp land men have died by strangulation and the inhabitants believe that an innocent man they hanged is seeking revenge on all of the male descendants of those responsible for his death.
It's really a pity more people haven't seen this little number from PRC - it has a tight story, good acting, amazing atmosphere.
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad 1949
American horror(and folk film) film from Disney. This tells the story of the Headless Horseman(we are ignoring the Toad since I never was a big fan of the Wind in the Willow.)Contrary to most people’s knowledge, this is in fact a movie. It wasn’t til the 50‘s did it become a regular Halloween TV show. And it just isn't Halloween till I watch Ichabod and his horse run pell-mell through the forest trying to get to the covered bridge. And since this is my list, and it was only classified as a film for 6 years, it is a movie. Plus really who doesn't love this story. We all grew up watching it. Besides when something introduces so many kids to one of the greatest horror stories in American literature, it deserves a mention.