Wednesday, April 22, 2009

70s British Horror

It’s hard not to write horror manuscripts and make spooky arts and crafts and hunt ghosts without wanting to watch horror in your down time. That’s me. I adore horror. I especially love supernatural themes and atmospheric British 1970s horror.

One of the most popular horror makers in Britain in the 70s was Hammer Films. They produced movies from the 50s to the 70s that were part of regular viewing for lucky Brit’s. A slew of films came from it including lots of Dracula and Frankenstein, but also a TV series called “Hammer House of Horror.” This was somewhat akin to the series “Night Gallery” and “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” that were showing in America at the time. It begins with creepy music and spooky settings and moves into what feels much like a play. Some of the episodes included “The House That Bled to Death,” “Children of the Full Moon,” and “The Mark of Satan.” These episodes are actually very riveting once you get over the time period campiness of the mod short skirts and frosted lipstick and move onto the story at hand. Hammer films were all formulaic and they worked. Much of what we consider to be classic horror came from these vaults.

Another popular series in that time period was “Thriller.” Many “movie episodes” were made off of this weekly series such as “Someone At the Top of the Stairs,” which started Donna Mills and Judy Carne. A lot of top stars from America at the time vied for a place in this weekly series. The filming of “Thriller” was very much like “Dark Shadows” with creaking floorboards and ambient room sounds coming across the poor audio, and a stage-like feel to it and scripting. The episodes are filled with quirky couples and eerie settings and can be genuinely chilling and inventive.

Aside from TV, Brit’s really got into the gothic feel of the 70s from influences of castles and history, paganism and free sexuality. America became known for slashers in the 80s, but 70s in Britain was the motherland for goth folks and horror buffs.

Some of my favorites I have in my collection include the two TV series listed above. I also have some favorite movies of that era and hope to continue the collection including “The Legend of Hell House,” “And Now the Screaming Starts,” “The Wicker Man,” “The Haunting” (1963), “Blood on Satan’s Claw.” This was such an influential time in horror movie making that there are loads of sites online that cover it. Here’s the British Horror Timeline. Some of these titles will be familiar, others you'll want to investigate.

For those who love or would like to learn about the heydays of British Horror, check out This site. What is so compelling about 70s British horror is that they truly understand atmosphere is 95% of a horror movie, the characters are perhaps 3% and the story is 2%. What is creepy about horror is a combination of isolated setting, frightened fragile characters, and a fantastically creepy score.

Well, you know what they say, “once you go British horror, you never go back.”


  1. Great post, I'm glad I found your blog. I'm big fan of this too; remember the movies with the actress Pamela Franklin? She was my favorite growing up.
    And my all time favorite movie is "The Haunting" with Julie Harris, it left a big impression on me as a kid.
    Please read my comment to your last post about shows like GH, GHI, etc, I'd like to know your opinion.

  2. I agree some classic movies from that area. I just recently purchased one of these movies that was a childhood favorite of mine. Die Monster Die! staring Boris Karloff and the DVD actually came with a bonus movie The Dunwich Horror how Sweet is that!!!! Nice Blog by the way and you have one good looking arm by the way lol!

  3. Hey Sandra;
    Yeah, I agree, "The Haunting" is the best of all. Pamela Franklin did a lot of great ones. I have an odd one on DVD that's hard to find called "And Soon the Darkness" with her in it. It was actually a pretty suspenseful and moody one and creepy too. She was a master at it. So was Carol Lynley ("The Shuttered Room" was one of my fav's). I agree about St. Augustine. They did finally go back there, but the problem with their investigations and I find in general on investigations is that a place actually gets "used to you" and you get "used to it." The longer you're there, the more you know the usual sounds and feels and such and the more the house seems to produce events. They had a spectacular night and really should have arranged for a second night because I can almost guarantee that the second night they'd have even more stuff happen, especially now that they would know where to monitor and film things. Oh, and as far as Lorraine Warren goes, she does have a huge name in the industry, but that's part of a kind of old world way of ghost hunting from the early and mid century. These are folks who use skills as a sensitive and believe in evil, demons, and possession. I have yet to see her walk into a place and say nothing is there and that's not very objective. She doesn't use anything with science on her side, but a lot of "belief based" work which means if you don't believe in house cleansings and priest's prayers as protection they aren't going to do diddly squat. I like where Jason and Grant have gone with ghost hunting because as someone who's witnessed a great deal in my life, I want people to capture it and show it to others. Not everyone gets to stay in a haunted house and witness things, but with their show folks can see what it's like first hand. They can also do a lot of debunking. I don't like to get excited about anything until I've used up every explanation and am left with no explanation, then I get excited. Lorraine Warren depends on magic and the spiritual which I don't think really helps the industry. There might be a place for the use of psychics and sensitives but what's occurring is manifesting in the physical world, so I kind of like investigators to deal with that place. The spiritual world is extremely vague, just look at how many religions believe they know the way of the God they pray to.

  4. Hitman;
    Thanks. I'm thinking of changing my pic. I wanted something serious, but everyone seems to think it's a bit too sexy for a ghost hunter. I had the picture taken a couple years ago, before I got my tattoo on that shoulder--an autumn leaf. I agree about the movies--Oh my gosh--I adore Dunwich Horror--it's a classic! I could go on and on about the more obscure ones. I love Pamela Franklin and Carol Lynley and Roddy McDowell--all gave the movies even more mood. Every now and then I like to review the odd movies no one really hears about. Keep reading.

  5. I missed out on many of the classic horror movies and shows that you have posted about, so I appreciate knowing about them. I was a big "Twilight Zone", "Night Gallery", and "Night Stalker" fan. Whenever we were having a day where wierd things kept happening, we would look for Rod Sterling to see if he was talking about us and if we were in the Twilight Zone, lol. Wonderful classic shows and memories to go along with them.

  6. Mike&Julie;
    I'm glad I'm introducing you to some movies you might not have otherwise known about. I think if I had to put my favorite horror movies in order, the top 10 would be:
    1. The Haunting (1963)
    2. Legend of Hell House
    3. The Changeling
    4. The Fog
    5. Halloween
    6. Dead Silence
    7. Poltergeist
    8. The Howling
    9. Blood and Chocolate
    10. Signs

    Of course, I may change that order or movies given any change in mood. But, what I usually look for is genuine chills, the ability to watch it dozens of times and not tire of it, mood/music, originality.

  7. Thanks so much Autumnforest-I will definitely have to check some of these out if I am ever able-I absolutely loved what you said about "the British understand atmosphere is 95 percent of horror" that gets my curiosity going right there!! best as always-thanks for link also!!

  8. Hi Autumnforest, thanks so much for your response.
    I hope someone will finally try to communicate with these entities and get answers to the important questions. How did they come to be? Is there life after death? Do we go to another dimension where we can interact with the living?
    Oh I do remember Carol Lynly, I love her too! And do you remember Kim Darby? She was in some spooky movies too!

  9. Sandra;
    Kim Darby--sure, she was in "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" with the little tiny creatures--awesome! I was just watching an hilarious MST 300 last night "The Dead Talk Back" and it was fantastically hilarious. They take a movie that was really a bad B-movie and make fun of it while it's playing. This one they made fun of a movie made in 1957 and finally edited in 1993 (stuck in someone's closet?) Well, it was a movie about a scientist trying to talk to the dead and make a machine using a crystal. The principals sounded intriguing. I keep thinking someone has to come up with a machine that can at least communicate with the energy left behind. If the energy contains any of the knowledge of the once living person, it could impart information. The question is, would it just give us the memories of that person, or could it answer us presently. Hmmm.... I love to speculate. For now, I'm certain we can find people in objects and locations being replayed. As for finding out if spirits exist and trying to communicate, it's a difficult one. I have family members who vowed before dying to communicate with me but never did in any way. So, I wonder sometimes if communication is a fleeting and difficult thing to obtain. Otherwise, we'd all be talking to dead Uncle Henry. So, I suspect that if the consciousness continues on in some manner, it may be performing in a range we can't access yet, like something akin to microwave waves being received by the living or perhaps in a dimension we don't have access to readily but occasionally skim across and see each other. I only wish we could tag a spirit when it enters the other side like we can tag creatures and track them. For now, we can only continue experiments like the ones doctors have in an operating room in England (I believe) where they have a rolling digital sign on top of a shelf way up high facing the ceiling where a spirit exiting the body could read it, then when the person is revived, they can see if they read the ever changing messages.

  10. Whoa! Great piece, Autumn! For the official commemorative Wicker Man My Space™ profile page, all interested parties party hearty here: