Fear

alfred hitchcoock

Ghosts and goblins may scare children only—but they haunt you all your life

 

By Alfred Hitchcock, as told to Adele Whitely Fletcher

American Weekly magazine, Oct. 30, 1960 

A baby, coming into this world brings with him two fears— the fear of falling, the fear of a loud and sudden noise.

Then what happens?

Then the two who love him most proceed to encourage these fears. His adoring mother bends toward him, suddenly, with a loud “Boo!” If he reacts with laughter, she is enchanted. But sometimes he hiccoughs instead. His exuberant father throws him into the air and catches him in his arms. If he laughs, his father is proud. But sometimes the baby cries, instead.

James Stewart suffers a nightmare of falling in "Vertigo"

James Stewart suffers a nightmare of falling in “Vertigo”

Nor does a child’s education in fear stop there. It continues with a scary curriculum of ghost stories, Halloween capers, neighborhood gossip of haunted houses, amusement-park treats in which skulls with green eyes gleam in the darkness and blood-curdling shrieks rend the air, and stories as terrifying as Little Red Riding Hood. As a postgraduate course in fear for the kindergarten set there are, of course, threats of bogeyman, big dogs and policemen who come after bad children.

Some phases of fear we enjoy. Or I would not be in business.

The next time you pass a school playground, stop for a minute and watch the little girl in the swing. There’s sure to be a little girl in a swing. Whether she propels herself or is pushed by a little boy, she insists upon going higher and higher until the physical excitement of fear overtakes her, Then she is satisfied, eager even, to slow down.

A birthday party goes awry in "The Birds"

A birthday party goes awry in “The Birds”

Later, I’m happy to say, in what appears to be the same quest for spine-tingling, older girls will say to their boyfriends, “Let’s go to the movies; a Hitchcock thriller’s playing.”

Clearly my audiences go to the theater hoping to be scared out of their wits. I try not to disappoint them. And there are certain principles, I have learned, which I can depend on when I want my audiences to shiver.

For one thing, danger must be imminent. When the danger is remote and far away, it does nothing to an audience.

 

Janet Leigh, publicity photo for "Psycho"

Janet Leigh, publicity photo for “Psycho”

For another, imagination is more powerful than reality. How often do we fear something that is about to happen—only to find, when it does, that it isn’t really so bad after all. In my films I usually try not to show violence, rather to let the audience’s imagination supply it.

Again, people are afraid not only for themselves, but for others. Wherever Psycho was shown, audiences cried out warnings to any unsuspecting character who started towards the “house of danger.” And when these characters entered the house and began to climb the stairs. a breathlessness filled the theater. It was delicious.

 

Staircase in "Psycho"

Staircase in “Psycho”

Incidentally, the better known a star, the more acutely an audience will worry about him. When a relatively unknown actor, with whom they have little identification, is in danger, they feel merely concern. The scene in North by Northwest in which Cary Grant was chased by an airplane brought me more letters than any other scene I ever have directed.

Many of the fears we carry with us are products of our civilization. For instance:

The fear of atom and hydrogen bombs; fear we will lose control of ourselves; fears about money; fear of old age and helplessness; fear—when things are going wonderfully—that our good fortune won’t last.

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Cary Grant looks like he's about to become  propeller meat in "North by Northwest"

Cary Grant looks like he’s about to become propeller meat in “North by Northwest”

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Cue the violins!

Cue the violins!

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Filed under Hollywood, Horror, Retro horror, Uncategorized

A ‘Monster Mash’ Love Affair – Fright at First Sight

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They’re creepy and ugly and usually have very bad intentions.

But we Americans can’t do without our monsters! That delicious thrill of being frightened from the comfort of our couches … the vicarious excitement of wondering what we would do in the same situations (who hasn’t yelled instructions at a hero or heroine in jeopardy?). Sometimes it’s just plain fun to get the daylights scared out of us. And in the late ’50s and early ’60s, monster mania was in full ghoul swing.

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The rage was ignited in 1957, when Universal Pictures released its repertoire of classic monster movies for television syndication. Beloved characters such as the Wolfman and the Mummy spooked a new generation tuning in weekly to Shock Theatre. A year later, Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, which was originally conceived as a single-run publication, sold out its first issue in no time and ended up running for over two decades.

It wasn’t long before ghouls found their way from the small screen to the airwaves. While awaiting his Hollywood discovery, aspiring actor Bobby Pickett sang in clubs with the Cordials, impersonating film actors as part of his act. Pickett’s mimicry of Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster proved so popular with his audience that the singer’s bandmate encouraged him to pen a novelty song. The resulting hit, “Monster Mash,” though originally rejected by major record labels, is still played around the country every Halloween.

Bobby "Monster Mash" Pickett

Bobby “Monster Mash” Pickett

Aurora Plastics Corporation didn’t hesitate to jump on the spook bandwagon. By 1960, its customers were clamoring for monster plastic figure kits, and when Dr. Frankenstein’s hulking green creation made its debut in ’61, retailers could hardly keep it in stock. Dracula, King Kong and their cohorts soon followed. Kids also could put together a jigsaw puzzle of the Creature from the Black Lagoon – which glowed in the dark! – affix creepy rat and coffin stickers to their notebooks, eat their ice cream with monster spoons or race Bride of Frankenstein Hot Wheels cars.

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Of course, sometimes monsters aren’t so scary … just the folks next door. Much of the humor in TV shows like The Addams Family and The Munsters stemmed from the fact that their stars never realized how much they differed from their more conventional neighbors. While both clans had their share of misunderstanding-based adventures, their mixed-generation households still reflected the idealized loving family.

The Addams Family: Just another resident of Everytown, USA. Not.

The Addams Family: Just another resident of Everytown, USA. Not.

Sci-fi fantasy (think Star Wars) and gore (A Nightmare oOn Elm Street, anyone?) eventually helped banish Hollywood’s favorite spooks to late-night-rerun land, but even as zombies are the monster du jour for today’s fans, bets are on as to what form the next creature craze will take. Perhaps we’ll see a return to yesteryear’s favorites, given the recent resurfacing of Godzilla and his undiminished appetite for mayhem. The right combination of what one writer called “the appeal to awe, wonder and the unknown” with human imagination and some special effects should ensure that our love affair with fright never grows old.

- Lucie Winborne

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Monster tradiing cards, 1960s.

Monster tradiing cards, 1960s.

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Mad Magazine, Sept. 64. At the height of the monster craze.

Mad Magazine, Sept. 64. At the height of the monster craze.

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Milton the Monster Game, 1966.

Milton the Monster Game, 1966.

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Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine, 1958.

Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine, 1958.

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Colgate Palmolive Monster Soaky Set, 1963.

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Pop Tops Vampire and Skeleton, 1964.

Pop Tops Vampire and Skeleton, 1964.

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Ideal Mini-Monsters, 1965.

Ideal Mini-Monsters, 1965.

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"The Thing" coin bank, 1964.

“The Thing” coin bank, 1964.

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Filed under Horror, Retro horror, The Fifties, The Sixties

Roger Corman: King of Screams

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Angela Greene delivers a Roger Cormanesque scream in “Night Of The Blood Beast,” 1958. The boys from from “Mystery Science Theater 3000″ approve, sort of.

Roger Corman has written, directed, produced and acted in some 450 films since 1954. If you were watching a horror movie in the grittiest theater in town, necking at the drive-in, watching “Movie Macabre” with Elvira, or catching the midnight movie at the Octoplex at the mall, or home watching the VCR or late-night naughtiness Showtime, a Roger Corman movie probably was screaming and squealing, crunching and munching on the screen.

Born April 5, 1926, Corman got his start in the 1950s supplying product for distribution by American Releasing Corporation (later American International Pictures). He would be given a sum of money and an advertising campaign (or sometimes just a title), and he would have to come up with the scripts and produce the films. If he had to shoot a film on location, he would always try to shoot a second film at that same location in order to spread out the costs.

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Roger Corman directs.

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In his early days, Corman never bothered with permits, shooting films on location and skedaddling before the cops arrived. He was the first to use union crews on low-budget films, figuring correctly that they would give his films a high polish, even though his budget was devoured so fast using union labor that he could never shoot for longer than a week.

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Beverly Garland and friend–I mean fiend–in “It Conquered The World,” 1956.

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One of his maxims was, “In science-fiction films the monster should always be bigger than the leading lady.” He learned this on such low-budget scream-fests as The Beast With a Million Eyes (1955) and Attack of The Crab Monsters (1957).

One joke about Corman was that he could negotiate the production of a film on a pay phone, shoot the film in the booth and finance it with the money in the change slot.

In the ’60s, Corman was able to move into more mainstream moviemaking. When American International offered him a sum of money to create a low-budget double feature, he countered with an offer to use the same money to shoot a single feature in color and Cinemascope. The result was House of Usher (1960) starring Vincent Price. The movie was a hit and earned unheard-of critical praise for AIP. Corman went on to make seven more in his “Poe Series,” including Pit and the Pendulum (1961) and The Masque of the Red Death (1964).

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Filming “The Pit And The Pendulum,” 1961.

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During the 1970s, Corman began booking his films in theaters but also aggressively in drive-ins that were starting to fade from the scene and thus desperate for product. A whole stream of Corman-produced low-budget exploitation films thrived in that market, ranging from The Student Nurses (1970), Women in Cages (1971), Grand Theft Auto (1977), and Rock n Roll High School (1979).

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Lobby card for “The Student Nurses,” 1970.

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As director and producer, Corman launched the careers of many now-famous film directors, such as Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme, Ron Howard, James Cameron and Martin Scorcese. He also offered roles to then-unknown actors and actresses such as Jack Nicholon, Charles Bronson, Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone and Sandra Bullock. Famously, he told them, “If you do a good job on this film, you’ll never have to work for me again.”

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Ron Howard’s first full length directing effort was the Roger Corman-produced “Grand Theft Auto” (1977).

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As the drive-in market collapsed with the advent of cable and videocassettes, Corman sold New World in 1983 and started Concorde-New Horizons, creating product aimed for this new market. Some of the films he produced there include Deathstalker (1983) Big Bad Mama II (1987) and Carnosaur (1993).

With the advent of digital, Corman’s low-budget special effects lost some of their appeal. And as direct-to-video waned to cable product, Corman struck deals to produce direct-to-cable movies with Showtime, the Sci-Fi Network and American Cable Network. Now in his late 70s, Corman hasn’t let up on his production schedule. Some recent TV efforts include Dinoshark (2010) and Attack of the 50-Foot Cheerleader (2012).

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Superjaws in “Dinoshark” (2010)

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With hundreds of movies to his credit, one of Corman’s most amazing achievements is that less than a dozen of these films failed to turn a profit.

In 1999, Corman was honored with an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Many of Corman’s early movies have been digitized and are available on DVD. It’s true that Corman once said, “I never made the film I wanted to make. No matter what happens it never turns out exactly as I hoped.” Now in his mid-80s, he’s still at it, and what he continues to crank out remains fresh and wild and an utter hoot to watch.

– David Cohea

First posted July 2013

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Dude just doesn’t understand it when Lori Nelson says “No” in “The Day The World Ended,” 1955.

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traci lords not of this earth

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“Hot Car Girl,” 1958.

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“The Navy vs. The Night Monsters,” 1966.

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Hazel Court adds a loud coda in “The Masque of Red Death” (1964).

 

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Hot Wheels, Death Valley: The Munster Koach and Drag-U-La

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The Munster Koach was the family vehicle of the Munsters in the ’60s television show The Munsters. Hollywood custom-car creator George Barris built the hot rod, fitting an 18-foot-long custom hearse body to a 1926 Ford Model T chassis and getting 150 MPH of “dark” horsepower out of a Ford Cobra V-8 engine. (Barris also built the Batmobile, Monkeemobile and the Beverly Hillbillies’ truck.)

Exterior accents included tombstone-shaped gold radiators, ornamental coffin handles on the hood and spider -web headlights with gas lanterns. The interior was decorated with diamond-shaped tufts and buttons, a red coffin liner and ermine rugs. In the car’s three compartments were a stereo tape recorder, TV set, an electric shoe polisher, a blender and two antique French phones.

Interior of The Munster Koach.

Interior of The Munster Koach.

In the series, Lily Munster (Yvonne De Carlo) buys two cars – a roadster and a hearse – and has mechanics customize the two vehicles into one as a birthday present for her husband Herman (Fred Gwynne).

One day, Eddie Munster (Butch Patrick) persuades his father to race the Koach to settle a neighborhood bet. Herman loses the race and ends up having to give the keys to the Koach to his opponent. But then Grandpa Munster (Al Lewis) builds his own drag racer, Drag-U-La, a souped-up coffin, and wins the car back.

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Drag-U-La was built from a real casket and sits on a Dragmaster chassis, has a 350-horsepower Mustang V-8 engine and upturned organ pipes for exhaust.

The cars made appearances in various films and TV shows after the demise of The Munsters, including the TV movie The Munsters Revenge (1981) and The Munsters’ Scary Little Christmas (1996).

- David Cohea, ReMIND editor

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Munsters lunchbox features the Munster Koach.

Munsters lunchbox features the Munster Koach.

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Drag-U-La and the Munster Koach, together.

Drag-U-La and the Munster Koach, together.

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It's on, baby, it's on.

It’s on, baby, it’s on.

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Herman gets ready to drag to win back his Koach.

Herman gets ready to drag to win back his Koach.

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The race is on.

The race is on.

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Pat Priest

Pat Priest, who was one of the actresses to play the demure Marilyn Munster, got a heckuva lot of mileage out of this cheesecake pic with the Koach.

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Oh Herman.

Oh Herman.

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Filed under Cars, Horror, Retro horror, The Sixties

What Is About A White Latex Suit That Brings Out the Beast?

The "Gill-Man" can't wait to get a hold of Julia Adams In "The Creature from the Black Lagoon."

The “Gill-Man” can’t wait to get a hold of Julia Adams In “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” This article was reprinted from the Sept. 2012 issue of ReMIND Magazine.

by Lucie Winborne

Everyone enjoys a love story, especially the doomed ones. Orpheus and Eurydice, Launcelot and Guenevere, Romeo and Juliet, Scarlett and Rhett, Jack and Rose (of Titanic): pairings like these enthrall because they can’t last yet somehow are eternal.

And sometimes, bad lovin’ – when foul plays with fair–is even more thrilling. Cecil  B. DeMille knew this when he told Faye Wray how famous she’d become by playing opposite the tallest, darkest man in Hollywood–King Kong.

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“The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” a 1954 horror flick originally screened in 3-D, is another classic example.

Deep in the Amazonian rain forest, a researcher discovers a fossil resembling a human hand with claws and webbing similar to a marine animal.  Could this be the missing link between sea and land animals? Assembling a team of scientists, the researcher charters a boat down the Amazon River to explore the “Black Lagoon” for more such relics.  Along the way, the boat’s captain tells the legend of a half-man, half-fish said to stalk the lagoon.

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And what a stalker the Creature, otherwise known as the Gill-Man, turns out to be. Coming up to the surface of the lagoon, the Gill-Man (played by Ben Chapman) catches sight of the beguiling, bathing suit-clad assistant Kay Lawrence (Julia Adams).

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In one of cinema’s most famous swimming scenes, the Creature, unknown to Kay, mimics her graceful movements in a underwater dance of longing that chills viewers as they wait for the inevitable moment when his scaly hand reaches out, and…

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… Well, things don’t go so well for The Creature, though he does manage to kill off several of the expedition to gather Kay up in his arms and dive down to his cavern lair.

Ever been so in love you could just eat your beloved? Well, such appears to be the fate of pretty Kay until the Gill-Man is mowed down by a hail of bullets from the surviving boys from topside.

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Annex - Adams, Julie (Crea copy

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We watch the Creature sink into the murk in a cloud of bubbles, surely dead … Or not. Two sequels would be made, proving that there’s no way to truly get rid of Mister Wrong.

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Gill-boy back at it again in "Revenge of the Creature" (1955), hauling off Lori Nelson in this one. (Nelson stared in "Underwater!" with Jane Russell)

Gill-boy back at it again in “Revenge of the Creature” (1955), hauling off Lori Nelson in this one. (Nelson stared in “Underwater!” with Jane Russell)

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Of course, inquiring minds have always wanted to know: Did the Gill-man’s doomed attempt at romance fare any better off-screen?

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While the Hollywood publicity machine might have liked to hint otherwise, Chapman put the notion to rest in a 2000 interview, saying there wasn’t an iota of truth in it. He said he and Adams remained “very good friends” and appeared at conventions together until his death in 2008.

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Chapman and Adams.

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Adams, who went on to have a successful film and TV career in the years to follow, described Chapman as “a great guy, warm and funny.”

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Ben Chapman.

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Asked about her feelings about her most enduring image as that of a scream queen leading on a guy in a fish-suit in a B-grade horror film, she said, “it does keep you from taking yourself too seriously.”

And what of the famous white one-piece bathing suit that charmed male moviegoers and fish-men alike?

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A theatrical promo for the 3D release of “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”

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“Gone the way of all latex,” said Ms. Adams, noting that no one would have guessed it would become iconic.  “We just made a movie.”

Fifty-eight years after its release, a legion of fans young and old would probably say they made a good deal more than that.

Central Florida writer Lucie Winborne also blogs at Postcards From My Head.

This post first appeared in May 2013.

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Universal make-up artist MIllicent Patrick was largely responsible for the Creature’s look.

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Adams went on to appear in many movie and TV productions, including the Elvis Presley comedy “Tickle Me” (1955) and numerous Westerns. Check out her Facebook fan page here.

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Lily Munster’s Very Excellent Career

Yvonne De Carlo as Lily Munster and Salome

Yvonne De Carlo as Lily Munster and Salome in “Song of Scheherazade”

Yvonne De Carlo was an accomplished film and TV actress by the time she had been offered the role of Lily on the hit ’60s TV series The Munsters.

Born Margaret Yvonne Middleton in 1922, it seemed certain that she was destined for stardom in one way or another. She earned a bit of local recognition as a talented singer, but her single mother, herself a struggling waitress, pushed the young girl to instead pursue dance.

De Carlo spent her teenage years with her mother, moving back and forth between British Columbia and Los Angeles, California. She eventually dropped out of high school and, in order to ease her mother’s financial burden, began performing as an entertainer in various nightclubs.

Her professional acting career began in the early 1940s when she signed with Paramount Studios, though she did not enjoy a quick rise to stardom. She was cast in many small and uncredited roles, and it was four years before she gained any notable interest from the entertainment industry. A role in the 1945 Universal Pictures film Salome, Where She Danced, earned her the title of one of the most promising “stars of tomorrow.” De Carlo’s most memorable film was The Ten Commandments, in which she played Sephora, wife of Moses (photo at beginning of post)..

De Carlo married stuntman Bob Morgan in 1955, and the couple had two sons, Bruce and Michael. Morgan later lost a leg in an on-set stunt for How The West Was Won. De Carlo suspended her career to tend to her husband, but mounting bills forced her to look for work again in the industry.

That led her to the role of the ghoulish Lily Munster, fictional matriarch of the CBS sitcom The Munsters.  

As the story goes, Lily is born in 1827 in Transylvania, where she lives with her father, Sam Dracula. In 1864 she marries Herman Munster, a bumbling Frankenstein doppelgänger, and the three move to America. Lily, a sort of glamorous vampire, partakes in comedic housewife duties, such as “un-dusting” and spreading garbage around the household. The strikingly beautiful vampiress has a terrible temper, though is also the family’s voice of reason and the figure around which the other characters seem to revolve. She is easily recognized by her long black hair accentuated by a single white streak.

Once she was asked how an actress with such a glamorous resume could successfully perform as the madam of a haunted house. She replied, “I follow the directions I received on the first day of shooting: ‘Play her just like Donna Reed.”

De Carlo as Lily Munster with the rest of the gang.

De Carlo as Lily Munster with the rest of the gang.

Despite lasting only two seasons, the show was a success and reintroduced De Carlo to a younger, fresher audience.

After The Munsters, De Carlo appeared on Broadway and in numerous films. Her greatest stage triumph was on Broadway in Stephen Sondhiem’s Follies, which one the 1972 Tony Award for best original musical score.

De Carlo was shrewd in helping to augment her stardom with publicity. Gossop columnists frequently mentioned her liaisons with leading men. (She and Morgan divorced in 1968). In a 1987 memoir, De Carlo listed 22 of her lovers, including Howard Hughes, Burt Lancaster, Robert Stack, Robert Taylor, Willy Wilder, Aly Khan and an Arabian prince.

De Carlo passed away in 2007 at 84 years old, but The Munsters continues its long afterlife in syndication.

– David Cohea

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Taking a break on the set of "The Munsters"

Taking a break on the set of “The Munsters”

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De Carlo in "Salome, Where She Danced" (1945).

De Carlo in “Salome, Where She Danced” (1945).

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With Tony Lancaster in "Criss Cross" (1949)

With Tony Lancaster in “Criss Cross” (1949)

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Yvonne De Carlo could set a camera on fire.

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But of course!

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Spooky Tooth

Empty Movie Theater and Screen --- Image by © Corbis

When Universal Studios’ Frankenstein premiered in 1931, moviegoers had an instant reaction to seeing Boris Karloff lurch onscreen wearing that dead suit with the monster-sized shoes.

They ran from the theater.

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Over the decades, the horror-movie landscape has changed considerably. Directors have had to work hard and harder to spook audiences into theaters and out of their seats. Theater owners did what they could to help, issuing barf bags, Ghost Viewers and even, for 1959’s The Tingler, vibrating seats that went off whenever the main attraction crawled onscreen.

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And audiences sat resolutely through the incarnadine ’60s (think Christopher Lee drooling blood from his Dracula fangs) and the monstrous mayhem of the ’70s (The Exorcist, Alien). In the ’80s, horror got so gross that it was a relief to encounter faux monsters of the Gremlins kind.

And for those of you who found a rational reason to sit through latter-day chop-‘em-ups like Saw or Hostel, well—we run from you.

Aurora Box Frankenstein

Universal Studios recently announced that it is planning to re-release its old cast of ghouls for “an interconnected slate” of films similar to the Marvel film and TV franchise of comic book characters.

Now I’m sure it will be multiplatform and mobile and social and all that, but I think we can do one better with a casual walk back down Spooktacular row. We’ll revisit the Monster Craze of the ’60s and take a look at horror comedy movie classics of the ’80s.

Nothin' like '80s horror.

Nothin’ like ’80s horror.

And for an informing opinion on Fear, we’re bringing Alfred Hitchcock back from … the archives.

We hope you have an old-fashioned, spine-tingling good time.

And remember, the scariest monsters are the ones who always come back for more. Just ask Frankenstein. He’s standing right there behind you.

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Bwa-ha-ha-ha!

 

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Filed under Horror, Retro horror