The Price of October: The Fall of the House of Usher (1960)

In 2013, a mere million years ago, Shout! Factory delivered to the world one of the most delightful October movie packages: The Vincent Price Collection, a Blu-ray set with six classics, including four from the Edgar Allan Poe/Roger Corman/AIP series. (The Haunted Palace is based on a short novel by H. P. Lovecraft, but AIP slapped the title of an obscure Poe poem onto it to make it another entry in the cycle).

Horror movie expert Brian Collins has said that if you go all of October without watching a Vincent Price movie, you’re doing it wrong. I won’t issue an absolute like that—and Collins has admitted he’s gone at least one October without Price—but it makes sense. Price as a persona matches the season: he combines sinister evil, charm, and the feeling of quality company. Halloween should feel sinister and cozy. It’s a holiday after all, meant to be fun, and Vincent Price invites us with his dulcet tones and long, gray face to enjoy ourselves for a few spooky hours and leave with good memories. 

And the best Vincent Price films for the season are the AIP-Poe films, which started with The Fall of the House of Usher. This was the first film I watched off the collection when I got it in 2013, and it was the Price film I chose this October to fill my quota.

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The Devil Rides Out: The Novel by Dennis Wheatley

For me, October is “Hammer Country”—the season of watching Hammer Films’ Gothic horror classics from the 1950s–1970s. Since we finally have a North American Blu-ray release of The Devil Rides Out (1968), that’s the first film from their catalogue I want to examine this October.

But since The Devil Rides Out is based on a best-selling and influential novel, I’ll take a literary horror detour first and look at Dennis Wheatley’s 1934 thriller before moving on to the film.

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The Pit and the Pendulum: You Need Vincent Price Each October

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Although Peter Cushing is my favorite horror movie actor—because Peter Cushing is my favorite actor, period—I bow to the popular wisdom that no performer better fits Halloween season than Mr. Vincent Price, whose elegance of evil combined with the reassurance of an old friend is the right flavor of fun n’ fright that marks the best of October.

When I first wrote about The Pit and the Pendulum, it was for the release of the first Vincent Price Blu-ray set. We’ve since had a second one, making it easier to indulge in the glories of Price during Halloween.

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Hammer Country Concludes

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John Carson in The Plague of the Zombies

The end of another October crammed with articles about horror films from Britain’s great beast of the genre, Hammer Film Productions. Like last year, I did a Hammer horror-post-a week for Black Gate. This month’s selections:

As I did last October, I mixed up the periods and the qualities of the movies and saved the best for the last slot: The Plague of the Zombies is underseen for such a great film in this horror subgenre. Thankfully, there’s a North American Blu-ray coming from Shout! Factory in January. Two of the films are from Terence Fisher, Hammer’s great horror practitioner, but The Phantom of the Opera and The Man Who Could Cheat Death are among his weakest. Apologies for that, Terence, but I did two of your best last year. Hands of the Ripper is, hands down, (sorry) my favorite of Hammer’s 1970s output. I think I’ve watched it every October since I bought the Blu-ray.

I’m not sure yet if I’ll do Hammer October again next year. I still haven’t run out of titles, but I may do the Hammer Frankenstein movies as an article series once I finish my John Carpenter retrospective, and that will more than fill up the Hammer bill for the year.

The Listener and Other Stories by Algernon Blackwood

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As we close in on the end of the Great Month of October, it would be remiss of me not to pay further homage to my favorite author of the weird tale, Algernon Blackwood. He has made possible a good deal of my fiction, such as my Gothic horror story “The Shredded Tapestry.” That piece wouldn’t exist without two of his John Silence stories, “Ancient Sorceries” and “Secret Worship.”

Earlier this month, I looked at Blackwood’s fourth collection of stories, The Lost Valley. Today, I’m rolling back a few years. Blackwood’s second original collection of (mostly) supernatural tales, The Listener and Others, was published in 1907, following the success of The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories the previous year. The Listener is best known for the novella “The Willows,” often cited as Blackwood’s masterpiece. The collection also contains a first-rate non-supernatural suspense story and a running theme about characters suffering from the oppression of the everyday and longing to escape from it into Nature (always with a capital “N”)—a theme as close to Blackwood’s heart as anything in his life. The often nameless protagonists are trapped in a modern psychical emptiness that feels surprisingly like the early twenty-first century rather than the early twentieth.

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