The Scariest Things Podcast Episode LIII: The Diversification of Horror 1965-1969

Eric and Mike examine the late 60’s, getting beyond Night of the Living Dead and Rosemary’s Baby to recommend some classic films you may not have been aware of!

As we talked about in Episode 51, the 1960’s allowed the horror movie to return to adult fare. As the culture was rapidly changing around Hollywood, the appetite for blood and sex grew in film goers, and the horror movie really started to push some taboos. But before you think it went straight to sleaze, the 1960’s was also had some very sophisticated takes. But, let it be said, we do like the sleaze at TST!

As the genre matured, it became the testing ground for up and coming directors and actors. Two names would set the trends for much of the genre scene in the 60’s, Alfred Hitchcock and Roger Corman. Hitchcock with Psycho opened up the possibilities for visceral horror, allowing directors like Hershel Gordon license to go full-on with gore. With The Birds, Hitchcock established the template for the grim apocalyptic tale, that presaged Night of the Living Dead and George Romero’s decidely bleak view of the fate of mankind.

Roger Corman’s presence was not just that he was the Godfather of the B-Movie, having It Conquered the World, Not of This Earth, Wasp Women, and countless other fun, cheap, and independent films under his belt, but he managed to turn the corner and also lead the genre into a period piece Gothic era of Edgar Allen Poe. There he helped elevate the careers of Vincent Price, Jack Nicholson, Francis Ford Coppola, and innumerable others through his mentorship at American International Pictures. Hollywood’s old studio system began to give ground in the sixties, and Corman’s can-do school of inexpensive independent film became hugely influential for decades to come.

With the stigma of horror as kid’s stuff rapidly fading into the background, many seasoned actors and actresses began to find their way into the horror genre. In this episode, some of Hollywood’s bluest bloods will make their appearances is horror-thrillers in this decade, a real rarity in a genre usually populated with actresses selected for their ability to scream or look good in a sweater. And yet, the genre was still kind to the aging horror stars , though, as Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney still plied their trade through the decade.

The foreign films that really emerged in the early part of the decade continued their prominence in the later years. And like their American counterparts, they too were diversifying. Equal measures of schlocky fun and arthouse seriousness.

We’ve already talked at length before about Night of the Living Dead, Black Sunday, Psycho, The Haunting, and Rosemary’s Baby, as they all were prominently featured in our Top 100 Selections. What really begins to stand out in the back half of the decade is how diverse horror has become. Psychological thrillers. Gore. Somber haunted houses. Devil cult worshipers. Art house foreign horror. Independent Gothic Noir. Sci-Fi horror meets the space race. There’s a different flavor for everyone! I’ll take two scoops of grindhouse, with some Hammer sauce and Ghidora chips, please.

This diversification trend will really blossom in the 70’s as the MPAA kicks in, allowing for much more sex and gore, but the late sixties run up really knocked the door down to allow for all kinds of genre offerings. Eric and Mike have found eight other great films of the era that might just be new to you! Enjoy episode LIII (53):

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