The World Grand Master of Horror, James Herbert paid a visit to Tesco Books Blog and shared with us his all time favourite scary movie and TV moments from classic black and white movies!
Like many other interested watchers of horror movies, I’ve become a little inured to their shock or chill factor over the years. It’s as if repetition and familiarity have somehow dulled their impact, the sight of gushing blood and severed limbs no longer as upsetting (or titillating) as it used to be, the fright somehow diminished because of imitation. It’s as if we are becoming conditioned to terror, both the real kind and the invented.
I still have my memories though. I can remember truly scary movies moments and the impact they had on me at the time. The gnarled hairy hand that slid into view on the banister at the top of the stairs in the black and white classic The Old Dark House (1932). The small fossilised primate’s hand that cruelly twisted its bearer’s wrist when a wish was made upon it in The Monkey’s Paw (1948), and the knocking on the cottage door in the dead of night when a mother wished for her son to return from his premature grave.
On television, Nigel Kneale’s The Quatermass Experiment (1953) made its indelible mark on my psyche. How could I ever forget the astronaut fresh from space, a plant eating his body as some alien force possessed him, or Westminster Abbey eventually being taken over by bristling alien-controlled foliage so that its interior resembled some Gothic conservatory? This followed by Quatermass and the Pit (1958), in which the ghosts of centuries-dead Martians haunted the London Underground, and the ethereal devil-creature in the serial’s last episode hovering over the city, driving both man and beast insane. Again, all in glorious black and white.
In the cinema, who could forget the blurred looming figure behind the plastic curtains as Janet Leigh takes a shower in Psycho (1960)? And later, when the plump detective climbs the staircase inside the Bates’ gloomy and sinister abode, the door at the top opening and a person rushing out, gleaming carving knife held high, all of this viewed brilliantly from overhead so that nothing is given away? The finale, the discovery of the rotted thing in the fruit cellar below, made even more terrifying by the swinging shadows and hysterically high-pitched violin screams? I get goosebumps just thinking of it.