Golden Age Horror Classic Horror Movie Podcast Reviews and Discussion (GoldenAgeHorror.com) - Golden Age Horror Classic Horror Movie Podcast Reviews and Discussion (GoldenAgeHorror.com)
The 1930’s were an interesting time for horror pictures. Other than perhaps the 1960’s, the 1930s were responsible for the greatest boom of talented creators and quality horror pictures that has and probably ever will exist.
Nosferatu Golden Age Horror
The advent of the “talkie” and the increasing scale and power of the Hollywood studio system created a unique synthesis of the German films of the previous decade and new, prevailing tastes and film techniques. The 1920s and the early 1930s culturally were in a period of reaction to the Victorian era – sex was a newly broachable subject, and institutions like church and state were increasingly open to interpretation. As is true throughout the 20th century, science began to advance at an incredible, exponential rate and although there is little actual science at work, the films in this volume are filled with buzzwords from psychology and physics.
Dracula 1931 Bela Lugosi Golden Age Horror We Belong Dead
The film DRACULA in 1931 started a new wave of horror movies – although it could hardly be called progressive, Bela Lugosi’s performance certainly had a distinctly sexual edge to it, and it built upon the imagery of both the Romantic/Gothics of the 19th century and the visual style of the German films of the 1920’s. FRANKENSTEIN, which followed closely behind, was a more memorable and powerful film. Universal’s success inspired many other films, including cheaper pictures intended to shock and titilate.
Movies like DOCTOR X and THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, as well as terrible grindhouse style cheapies like MANIAC deal with sexuality and other dark themes, like cannibalism. . There was already a production code in place, the Hays Code, but it was not enforced with any real enthusiasm until 1934, after the initial first wave of horror films had been released.
Doctor X and the Raven - Golden Age Horror
In 1934, when Joseph Breen took over enforcement of the Code, violence and sex were more rigorously kept from the screen. Sex is not a necessity for horror, but 12 of the 20 films reviewed in this volume use the threat of sexual violence against women as a primary plot element, and it seems that there were few who were willing to try and make a horror movie without the ease of the thrilling effect of the woman in danger element.
Dr Pretorius Bride of Frankenstein Golden Age Horror
The Hays Code was not entirely responsible for the dearth of good horror movies in the second half of the decade. It did, however, reflect the increasingly conservative values of the time and the changing tastes of the moviegoing public. Horror films had begin to fall out of favor, although Universal did have a hit with DRACULA’S DAUGHTER in 1936 (racy undertones and all).
Dracula's Daughter Golden Age Horror
At the end of the decade, the film SON OF FRANKENSTEIN emerged and prefigured the horror films of the next decade. Starring matinee idol Basil Rathbone as an (almost) heroic, swashbuckling DOCTOR FRANKENSTEIN (he swings in on a rope and kicks the monster into a sulfur pit in the films climax) instead of the crazy-eyed Colin Clive and sepulchral Ernest Thesiger, the movie does not much resemble the wit and weirdness of THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. The Monster is no longer interesting – he is just a monster.
Over the following decade, the Universal monsters would be trotted out in a variety of combinations, but the elements of True Horror and Weirdness present in these early flicks would mostly be gone. Instead, they become rote adventure films, without any real thematic undertones at all.
The 1930’s are rightfully remembered as a peak period for horror films, because they represent a time in which cultural mores and technology managed to create something fresh, new and interesting.