There is no better time for a big bowl of popcorn and a classic horror film than Halloween. Here is a look back at just a few of the possible selections.
‘The Mummy’ (1932)
• Top billing went to Boris Karloff (the mummy), Zita Johann (Helen Grosvenor), David Manners (Frank Whemple) and Arthur Byron (Sir Joseph Whemple).
• In 1921, a field expedition in Egypt discovers the mummy of ancient Egyptian prince Im-Ho-Tep, who was condemned and buried alive for sacrilege. Also found in the tomb is the Scroll of Thoth, which can bring the dead back to life. One night a young member of the expedition reads the Scroll out loud, and then goes insane, realizing that he has brought Im-Ho-Tep back to life.
• Makeup artist Jack P. Pierce spent eight hours a day applying Karloff’s makeup. Karloff once commented that the artist did a wonderful job but forgot to give him a fly.
• A lengthy and complicated re-incarnation scene, so important to the plot, never made it into the film. This upset many people, including the film’s leading actress, Zita Johann, who was a firm believer in re-incarnation.
• An original of the film’s posters once sold for more than $453,500 in an auction.
• Boris Karloff was virtually unknown when he appeared as the creature in “Frankenstein.” He created such a sensation that when this film was made, only a year later, Universal advertised: “KARLOFF....’The Mummy.’”
‘The Wolf Man’ (1941)
• Notable names in this movie include Lon Chaney, Claude Rains, Ralph Bellamy and Bela Lugosi.
• Upon the death of his brother, Larry Talbot returns from America to his ancestral home in Wales. He visits a gypsy camp with village girl Jenny Williams, who is attacked by Bela, a gypsy who has turned into a werewolf. Larry kills the werewolf but is bitten during the fight.
• This is the only one of the Universal series of “Wolf Man” films in which the full moon is never shown.
• Shooting lasted from October 27-November 25, 1941, with a December 12 release. Despite Universal’s apprehensions over the public’s appetite for horror movies following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the film became one of the studio’s top grossing in 1942.
‘The Thing from Another World’ (1951)
• Scientists at an Arctic research station discover a spacecraft buried in the ice. Upon closer examination, they discover the frozen pilot. When the body thaws ... well, you have to see it to believe it!
• The “Thing” was played by none other than James Arness, who became Marshal Matt Dillon on “Gunsmoke.”
• Arness complained that his “Thing” costume made him look like a giant carrot and reportedly regarded his role as so embarrassing that he didn’t attend the premiere.
• The U.S. Air Force was asked for assistance in making the film. Help was refused because the top brass felt that such cooperation would compromise the U.S. government’s official stance that UFOs didn’t exist.
• The scene in which “The Thing” is doused with kerosene and set ablaze is believed to be the first full body burn accomplished by a stunt man.
• Atomic tests in New Mexico result in the growth of gigantic mutant ants that menace cities in the American Southwest as a team of investigators and the army search for a way to control their spread.
• Look for these familiar actors in this classic: James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, James Arness and Fess Parker.
• The flame-throwers used in the movie were standard World War II weapons and were loaned by the U.S. Army. The actors handling the weapons were World War II combat veterans who had actually used them in battle.
• Walt Disney screened the movie because he was interested in casting James Arness as Davy Crockett. However, he was so impressed by Fess Parker as the “Crazy Texan Pilot” that he chose him for the part.
• The sound that the giant ants make as they approach their prey is a recorded chorus of tree frogs.
‘The Fly’ (1958)
• Starring David Hedison, Patricia Owens and Vincent Price and Herbert Marshall, this film is the story of a scientist who has a horrific accident when he tries to use his newly invented teleportation device.
• “The Fly” was originally a story by George Langelaan that appeared in the June 1957 issue of Playboy magazine.
• Patricia Owens had a real fear of insects. Director Kurt Neumann used this by not allowing her to see the makeup until the “unmasking” scene.
• In the scene where the fly with Andre Delambre’s head and arm is caught in the spider’s web, a small animatronic figure with a moving head and arm was used in the spiderweb as a reference for the actors. Vincent Price later remembered that filming the scene required multiple takes, because each time he and Herbert Marshall looked at the figure with its human head and insect body, they would burst out laughing.
• Filming lasted mid March to mid April 1958. The budget was roughly $700,000. It was one of the box office hits of the year for Fox and brought in an estimated $3 million.
‘The Blob’ (1958)
• Steve Andrews, a.k.a. “The Blob,” was played by Steven McQueen. This was the last time the actor was billed by his full first name. Henceforth fans knew him as Steve.
• A mysterious creature from another planet, resembling a giant blob of jelly, lands on Earth. The people of a nearby small town refuse to listen to some teenagers who have witnessed the blob’s destructive power.
• This independent production was originally picked up by Paramount for use on the bottom half of a double bill with its in-house production of “I Married a Monster from Outer Space.” Early marketing tests and initial bookings indicated that a larger share of the ticket buyers were coming for this film rather than the former, so it became the main feature and more money was spent on its promotion.
• Steve McQueen was offered $2,500 or 10 percent of the profits. He took the $2,500 because the film wasn’t expected to make much. It ended up grossing over $4 million.
‘Straight Jacket’ (1964)
• Lucy Harbin (Joan Crawford) has been in an asylum for 20 years after axing her husband and his mistress during a crime of passion, witnessed by her young daughter, Carol. While trying to renew ties with Carol, who is now a young woman about to be married, strange things begin to happen.
• This was the film debut of Lee Majors who got the small role of playing Lucy Harbin’s (Joan Crawford’s) husband in the flashback scene after his good friend Rock Hudson asked producer William Castle to please find a part for the then 23-year-old actor.
• Joan Crawford had script and cast approval and required the script be completely rewritten to her specifications before she agreed to sign on to the film.
• The children’s rhyme chanted in the movie, “Lucy Harbin took an ax, gave her husband 40 whacks. When she saw what she had done, gave his girlfriend 41,” is a slight alteration of the rhyme originally popularized about Lizzie Borden.