Tuesday, June 06, 2006

SINISTER CINEMA TOP 10s, Vol. 1

Here is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, compile top ten lists for horror actors’ performances from the ‘30s and ‘40s. Keep in mind, this is purely subjective on my part, strictly my opinion on what performances were the best. The 1930s seemed to be the easiest to do, perhaps because all the really great horror performances were pretty much from that decade. When I finished my top ten I realized I had to have an honorable mention category, there were just too many great performances left out. I did the same thing for the 1940s. My number one pick for the ‘30s is Lugosi in “The Raven.” As far as I’m concerned this is the greatest performance by an actor in a horror film of all time. Bela’s intensity in the final 15 minutes still gives me goose bumps. I just can’t see how you can get any better than this. Some of you might be surprised that I picked Karloff’s performance in “Bride of Frankenstein” over his performance in “Frankenstein,” but contrary to Karloff’s thoughts about dialogue ruining the monster’s character, I always thought it made his performance better, not worse. How can you get any better than the scene with the monster and the blind hermit? The ‘40s were a little tougher to sort out, there seemed to be a lot of solid performances, but few that really stood out. The top four were rather easy though, although I did almost had to flip a coin between Karloff’s cabman Gray and Lorre’s Hilary Cummins for the number one spot. There might be some Lugosi fanatics (of which I am one) who will be a little surprised, even chagrined at my high ranking of Lon Chaney in “Son of Dracula.” The key thing here is not to try to compare Chaney with Lugosi. Forget Bela when you watch this film and you’ll see that Chaney is outstanding in his interpretation of the bloodthirsty count. Personally, I think this is the best thing he ever did outside of “The Wolfman,” and “Of Mice and Men.” The rest of the ‘40s—including the honorable mentions—is filled with performances that are pretty much of equal quality. We’d love to hear your feedback on these lists. Please…send us your own or write a separate article. I’ll have some other top-ten lists in a few weeks.

Best,
Greg Luce,
Sinister Cinema.

Ten greatest performances by an actor in a horror film from the 1930s

1. Bela Lugosi in THE RAVEN

2. Basil Rathbone in LOVE FROM A STRANGER

3. Bela Lugosi in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN

4. Boris Karloff in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN

5. Bela Lugosi in DRACULA

6. Boris Karloff in THE BLACK ROOM

7. Lionel Atwill in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN

8. Charles Laughton in ISLAND OF LOST SOULS

9. Boris Karloff in FRANKENSTEIN

10. Tie: Frederic March in DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, Claude Rains in THE INVISIBLE
MAN

Honorable mention: Colin Clive in FRANKENSTEIN and BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Peter Lorre in MAD LOVE, Bela Lugosi in WHITE ZOMBIE and CHANDU THE MAGICIAN, Boris Karloff in THE MAN WHO CHANGED HIS MIND, THE BLACK CAT, and THE MUMMY, Lionel Atwill in DOCTOR X, MURDERS IN THE ZOO, and MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM, Tod Slaughter in FACE AT THE WINDOW, Leslie Banks in MOST DANGEROUS GAME, John Barrymore in SVENGALI, Warner Oland in DRUMS OF JEOPARDY, Lionel Barrymore in THE DEVIL DOLL, and Charles Laughton in HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME.

Ten greatest performances by an actor in a horror film from the 1940s

1. Boris Karloff in THE BODYSNATCHER

2. Peter Lorre in THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS

3. Stanley Ridges in BLACK FRIDAY

4. Lon Chaney in THE WOLF MAN

5. Claude Rains in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

6. Lon Chaney in SON OF DRACULA

7. Bela Lugosi in GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN

8. George Zucco in THE MUMMY'S HAND

9. Lionel Atwill in MAN MADE MONSTER

10. John Carradine in CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN

Honorable mention: George Zucco in THE MAD GHOUL, Boris Karloff in BEDLAM, ISLE OF THE DEAD, THE DEVIL COMMANDS, and THE MAN WITH NINE LIVES, J. Carrol Naish in HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Lon Chaney in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN, and STRANGE CONFESSION, Bela Lugosi in RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE and ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, Cedric Hardewicke in GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN, Spencer Tracy in DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, Onslow Stevens in HOUSE OF DRACULA,