Still, the scariest show I ever watched as a kid.
In the 1960s, I went to bed watching Chiller Theater at 10pm (way past my bedtime), with a craft model of Frankenstein standing atop the black and white TV set in front of the nighttime sky. As much as I prepared for the opening each time I watched, I always got shivers during the opening trumpet blares and Vampyra lurching from the grave.
Chiller Theater was a showcase of black and white horror films of all genres, but not necessarily the bigger studio projects, like Peter Lorre/Boris Karloff/Vincent Price vehicles. Many, if not most of the films shown on Chiller Theater, were made from smaller budget, less well known directors, featuring actors no one would remember today. In their own way, they were as effective a treatment of the macabre story as any other could be. The actors were besides the point. It was all about the atmospheres, the darkness, the slow dialogue and creep of scene after scene until something happened suddenly.
These films, while obscure then and now, were the wellspring that grew the myriad of modern horror genres that came to follow. Few have compared to the often campy plots, but skillfully spare approach of the films from those days. They were under appreciated then, and maybe more so today. I want them back.
Audio: Unparalleled horror theme. Scared the sh*t out of me…
Trivia Challenge: What famously (and atrociously) bad 1959 sci-fi movie featured Vampyra’s famous grave yard scene, as well as the orchestral score above?