Everyone has heard of classic horror movies from the '30s. That's when we first saw the rise of Dracula, Frankenstein, zombies, etc., and it's when horror movies really came into their own. But there's so much more to 1930s horror films than just those few you see on TV every Halloween. There was a time when censorship wasn't alive yet, so film makers did perverse and violent things with their scripts. There were remakes of classic stories from Poe and others that can still make your blood run cold even today.
Just because these lesser-known horror movies are obscure, doesn't mean they're not good - and scary. Two big names of the era, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, make regular appearances on this list, so be assured that you're still getting some quality horror acting here. Still other movies listed carry historical weight, or helped shaped horror movies as we know them today.
So, if you consider yourself a fan of obscure horror movies, prepare for some unsettling movies that you'll be simply dying to see. Just be prepared, even these old black and white films are bound to make you squirm.
In 1932, a movie came out that made people so deeply uncomfortable the British government banned it in the UK. That movie, Island of Lost Souls, was an adaptation of H.G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau, and featured scenes of vivisection and distressing sexual references. Viewers of the day felt so shocked, that the film actually helped push for the creation of a censorship board in Hollywood, which still influences movies to this day. Today, of course, the movie has a bit of a cult following, partially due to the fact that it featured famous horror man Bela Lugosi.
If you want another weird but fun reason to see this flick, consider this: Have you ever heard the saying "The natives are restless tonight"? Well, you have this movie to thank for that line.
#28 on The Best Old Horror Moviessee more on Island of Lost Souls
In 1932, silent movies were falling out of fashion and everyone was trying to convert to sound-focused movies. One early case of this is this German-French horror film named Vampyr. The film was shot as a silent film, and the sound was added in later - in three different languages. The vampire theme is hardly a new one, and the plot is pretty much the standard one, but this movie's creepy atmosphere and artistically-shot directing style make it hard to stop watching.
You can watch this one on YouTube, which any horror movie fans will love. It clocks in at only 73 minutes, so it's absolutely worth your time.
#42 on The Best Old Horror Moviessee more on Vampyr
The controversy surrounding this movie is almost better than the movie itself. Why? First, let's just say that the torture movie genre got a lot of inspiration from this film. The film features graphic scenes of people being whipped, being cut, being taken apart and placed on massive torture equipment, where they were then, well, tortured. Some scenes play blatantly sexual as a reaction to all the violence going on, because god forbid there's violence without sex. Karloff plays his part marvelously, and you can't help but feel like you're watching something way too distressing for its era.
Speaking of controversy, here's a little history that'll be sure to sell you on this movie: The Mask of Fu Manchu was shunned by the Chinese government for its violence, and was then criticized by the Japanese government... almost 40 years later! I suppose you could say that makes this movie timeless.
#62 on The Best Doctor Movies
#29 on The Best '30s Horror Moviessee more on The Mask of Fu Manchu
This creepy film about mad doctor bent on dark experiments, sometimes involving human flesh, holds a special place for many, because it was one of Warner Bros.'s earliest attempts at horror. After the success of Dracula and other creature features, the now-massive film company was itching to get a slice of the horror movie pie, but they went in a different direction. They went with a modern setting, had shockingly graphic visuals for the age, and looked to madness and murder for scares.
When you watch this, you might get the feeling it was originally a play, especially the way the dialogue reads. Well, that feeling is absolutely correct. The much-needed humor that pops up while characters speak, and the occasional over-the-top stage acting still add to this mostly-unknown relic's charm.
#62 on The Best Old Horror Movies
#69 on Early Technicolor Films
#25 on The Best '30s Horror Moviessee more on Doctor X