Tuesday, June 06, 2006


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.

Greg Luce,
Sinister Cinema.


Blogger Tom Fowler said...

I have always felt that Boris Karloff and Henry Daniell in The Bodysnatchers are perhaps the greatest screen horror team. Bela Lugosi in a minor role is excellent as well. This is a great film and true classic.

6:37 PM  
Blogger Rob Craig said...

Geez - I've never seen THE RAVEN, either - where have I been? Also, I have a dumb question - how does one subscribe to the blog?

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Chuck Zuckerman said...

Love Chaney's perfprmance in " The Wolfman " The movie in my opinion is awesome. The performance by the old gypsy lady ia a classic.
The whole atmosphere is very spooky.

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Dennis said...

I think Dwight Frye should also get an honorable mention. I thought he was excellent in "Dracula" & "Frankenstein". In fact, his insane "laughter" (if that's what you call it) still gets me when he was in the cargo hold ("Dracula"). Glad you have this blog, Greg.

8:40 AM  

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