Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Columns

October 30, 2011

The scariest movies ever, in my mind

LOCKPORT — I don’t enjoy scary movies, so my list of scariest is limited. First on my list would have to be “The Wizard of Oz.” The Wicked Witch of the West gave me the creeps and so did her creepy monkeys. Margaret Hamilton was so frightening to children that Mr. Rogers invited the actress to his neighborhood, cleaned the green paint off her face and show she was really a nice person.

Not once did she say, “Come here, my pretty.”

Lon Chaney Jr. was scary as “The Wolf Man,” but no hairy creature could give shivers as well Maleva, a sinister old Gypsy fortuneteller. It was Universal’s best horror film and she helped make it so.

 Maria Alekseyevna Ouspenskaya, a serious Russian actress and singer, did such a good job in the first Wolf Man in 1941, she reprised Maleva in “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” in 1943. I don’t recall seeing that sequel, but I’ll bet she was scarier than any of the made-up men. Ouspenskaya didn’t need makeup.

Our New Oakdale movie house was a little scary in Buffalo’s DP district, but offered a great Saturday bargain. For 9 cents, we kids saw a double feature, coming attractions, News of the World, cartoons, a serial that left you hanging and an occasional rat. They also gave

away a free comic book, which for some reason, had half the cover cut off.

When the proprietor asked for requests, the other kids screamed for Frankenstein. I silently wished for Lassie or a Hopalong Cassidy feature. I avoided horror films for the most part, but accidentally saw something even scarier, the 1950 “Father of the Bride” with Spencer Tracy. Women go crazy around weddings, you know, and you can’t stop a woman when she’s out of control. (According to Rodney Crowell)

I avoided the 1991 version with Steve Martin. He’s a funny man, who gets too serious too often.

“House of Wax” is my favorite horror film. It would be good even if it were not in 3-D, but in the third dimension, Vincent Price comes swinging right in your face with his fire-scarred face. The film’s chandeliers looked like they were part of the Shea’s Seneca Theater and there’s a pretty woman who almost takes a bath in hot wax. Almost.

The “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” has nothing gory or out of the ordinary — except some man-sized pods — and they’re subdued. But, the 1956 movie gets into your mind, and then into your body. Your friends are taken, your family is taken and soon, you’ll be taken.

However, nobody could get into your mind like Alfred Hitchcock. Charlie and I were on our first major league baseball road trip and we were free one afternoon, somewhere between Washington, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. We showed up eight minutes late for a matinee, with money in hand, and they wouldn’t let us in the theater. It was an Alfred Hitchcock rule that the director concocted for his “Psycho” promotion.

We came later in the day. I can still see the private detective climbing the staircase a the Bates Motel. I can still hear the sound when we see Anthony Perkins’ mummy. I won’t go back there. Once was enough.

I don’t see any scary movies these days, even at home, even on Halloween.

Contact reporter Bill Wolcott

at 439-9222, ext. 6246.

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