6 Horror Performances That Deserved An Oscar Nomination


Despite making some inroads as of late, horror films still never quite get the respect that they deserve when it comes Oscar time.  That’s especially true of the performers who regularly appear in horror films.  If it’s rare for a horror movie to receive a best picture nomination, it’s even rarer for someone to get nominated for appearing in one of them.

And yet, it takes as much skill to make a monster compelling as it does a historical figure or a literary character.  In fact, it may take even more skill.  After all, everyone knows that Queen Elizabeth I actually ruled over England and that Atticus Finch was an attorney in the South.  However, everyone also knows that there’s no such things as vampires and that the dead cannot be reanimated or raised as a zombie.  It takes a lot of skill to make a monster seem human.

With that in mind, here are 6 horror performances that deserved, at the very least, an Oscar nomination:

1. Boris Karloff as The Monster in Frankenstein (1931) and The Bride of Frankenstein(1935)

The great Boris Karloff is perhaps the most egregious example of a deserving actor who was consistently ignored by the Academy because of the type of films in which he appeared.  In the role of Monster, Karloff was never less than brilliant and he set the standard by which all future monsters are judged.

Dracula (1931, directed by Tod Browning)

2. Bela Lugosi in Dracula (1931)

When viewed today, it’s perhaps a little bit too easy to be dismissive of Lugosi’s grandly theatrical interpretation of Dracula.  But, if you can ignore all of the bad imitations that you’ve seen and heard over the years, you’ll discover that Lugosi’s performance is perfect for the film in which he’s appearing.  Indeed, Lugosi’s best moments are the silent ones, when he goes from being a courtly (if vaguely sinister) nobleman to a hungry animal.  In those moments, you see why Lugosi’s performance endures.

3. Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Psycho (1960)

Ah, poor Anthony Perkins.  Before he played Norman Bates, he was considered to be something an up-and-coming star and even something of a neurotic romantic lead.  As with Lugosi’s Dracula, we’ve seen so many bad imitations of Perkins’s performance that it’s easy to overlook just how good he is in the role.  He was so perfect as Norman that spent the rest of his career typecast.  And, sadly enough, he didn’t even get a much-deserved Oscar nomination out of it.

4. Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man (1973)

Christopher Lee was one of the great actors and, though he may be best remembered for his horror work, he actually appeared in almost every genre of film imaginable.  Lee was often dismissive of the Dracula films that he made for Hammer so, as much as I’d love to argue that he deserved a nomination for The Horror of Dracula, I’m instead going to suggest that Lee deserved one for the role that he often cited as his favorite, the pagan Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man.  Lee brings the perfect mix of wit and menace to the role and, in the process, shows that not all monsters have to be undead.

5. Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis in Halloween (1978) and Halloween II (1981)

Much as with Lugosi and Anthony Perkins, it’s important (and perhaps a little bit difficult) to separate Pleasence’s performances in these two slasher films with all of the imitations that have followed.  In both films, Pleasence does a great job of playing a man who has been driven to the verge of madness as a result of having spent too much time in the presence of evil.  As potentially dangerous as Sam Loomis sometimes appears to be, there’s no way not to sympathize with him as he continually tries to get people to understand that he wasn’t the one who left Michael escape.  If nothing else, Pleasence deserved a nomination just for his delivery of the line, “As a matter of fact, it was.”

6. Betsy Palmer as Pamela Voorhees in Friday the 13th (1980)

“I’m an old friend of the Christys.”  AGCK!  RUN!

Horror On TV: Suspense 1.13 “The Yellow Scarf” (dir by Robert Sevens)


Tonight’s episode of Suspense features Boris Karloff as the mysterious Mr. Bronson, a scientist living in London in 1897.  Bronson gives lodging to Hettie (Felicia Montealegre) on the condition that she do the housework, that she never got out alone, and that she never enters his laboratory.  However, when Bronson discovers that Hettie has struck up a relationship with Tom (Douglass Watson), Bronson uses his scientific knowledge to seek revenge.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Karloff is the main reason to watch this episode of Suspense.  He’s wonderfully creepy here, playing one his more villainous roles.

This originally aired on June 7th, 1949.

Horror on TV: Suspense 1.7 “A Night At The Inn” (dir by Robert Stevens)


Suspense was an anthology series that aired from 1949 to 1953.  As you can probably guess from the show’s title, each episode was a thriller of some sort.  Occasionally, the episodes were also horror-themed.  Suspense was also a live production, with each episode essentially functioning as a 30-minute play.

Tonight’s episode of Suspense originally aired on April 26th, 1949 and it features Boris Karloff.  It deals with four thieves hiding out in a British Inn, after having stolen a ruby eye from a holy statue in India.  Needless to say, that was not a particularly wise decision.

Enjoy!

Horror on the Lens: The Terror (dir by Roger Corman)


Have you ever woken up and thought to yourself, “I’d love to see a movie where a youngish Jack Nicholson played a French soldier who, while searching for a mysterious woman, comes across a castle that’s inhabited by both Dick Miller and Boris Karloff?”

Of course you have!  Who hasn’t?

Well, fortunately, it’s YouTube to the rescue.  In Roger Corman’s 1963 film The Terror, Jack Nicholson is the least believable 19th century French soldier ever.  However, it’s still interesting to watch him before he became a cinematic icon.  (Judging from his performance here and in Cry Baby Killer, Jack was not a natural-born actor.)  Boris Karloff is, as usual, great and familiar Corman actor Dick Miller gets a much larger role than usual.  Pay attention to the actress playing the mysterious woman.  That’s Sandra Knight who, at the time of filming, was married to Jack Nicholson.

Reportedly, The Terror was one of those films that Corman made because he still had the sets from his much more acclaimed film version of The Raven.  The script was never finished, the story was made up as filming moved alone, and no less than five directors shot different parts of this 81 minute movie.  Among the directors: Roger Corman, Jack Hill, Monte Hellman, Francis Ford Coppola, and even Jack Nicholson himself!  Perhaps not surprisingly, the final film is a total mess but it does have some historical value.

(In typical Corman fashion, scenes from The Terror were later used in the 1968 film, Targets.)

Check out The Terror below!

Horror On TV: The Veil Episode 11 “Jack the Ripper” (dir by David MacDonald)


For our final episode of The Veil, we have a look at one of the most infamous real world monsters of all time, Jack the Ripper.

In this atmospheric episode, a London clairvoyant (Niall MacGinnis) is haunted by visions of the Whitechapel murders.  Unfortunately, his attempts to help the police only leads to them treating him like a suspect!  Each episode of The Veil was usually described as being “based on a true story.”  In this case, it’s actually true.  A medium named Robert Lees — renamed Walter in this episode — actually did go to the police with claims that he had seen the murders and could identify the killer.

This is the only episode of The Veil in which Boris Karloff acts only as host.  That’s because this episode was not originally made for the series.  Instead, it was intended for an unrelated British anthology show.  The producers of the Veil later bought the episode and tacked on an introduction by Boris Karloff.  Of course, because The Veil itself never actually aired on television as a result of the production company running into financial problems, Jack the Ripper never aired in the U.S.  It was, however, later included in an anthology film that was put together using four episodes of The Veil.

Enjoy!  That’s it for The Veil.  Tomorrow, we start a whole new series!

Horror On TV: The Veil 1.9 “The Return of Madame Vernoy” (dir by Herbert L. Strock)


Tonight’s episode of The Veil is a weird one.

Basically, Armand Vernoy (Jean Del Val) is haunted by not only the death of Indian his wife but also the fact that he’s lost all of his money “in the war” and will not be able to send his son, Krishna (George Hamilton) off to study with the world-renowned Prof. Charles Goncourt (Boris Karloff, who not only hosts but gets to play a kindly character for once).  Then a young woman named Santha Naidu (Lee Torrance) shows up.  She’s a year younger than Krishna but she claims to be his mother, reincarnated!   Meanwhile, back in India, a young man hopes to marry Santha but he’s been told that he can’t because she’s already been married in a previous life….

This is an okay episode, though definitely not as good as some of the previous episodes of The Veil.  Boris doesn’t get to do much but it’s kind of nice to see him play a character who is as nice as he apparently was in real life.  If this episode were made today, the casting of Torrance and Hamilton as Indians would undoubtedly be extremely controversial.

Anyway, enjoy this trip to 1958!

 

Horror on TV: The Veil Episode 8 “Summer Heat” (dir by George Waggner)


On tonight’s episode of The Veil.

There’s been a murder!  Or has there?  Edward Paige (Henry Bartell) swears that he saw someone murdered in a nearby apartment but, when the police investigate, they discover that the apartment appears to be totally deserted.  Still convinced that he saw something, Edward is sent for a psychiatric evaluation from Dr. Mason (Boris Karloff, playing a sympathetic role for once).  Dr. Mason says that Edward’s not making it up.  Edward swears that he saw something.  But what?

This is a pretty good episode.  Think of it as being Rear Window with an extra twist.  Boris Karloff hosts as well as co-stars.

Enjoy!