Saturday, September 16, 2006

SINISTER CINEMA Top 10s, Volume 3

  1. It’s time for the third installment of Sinister Cinema's "top 10s." It’s ladies night this time. Here are our listings for the top ten performances by a leading actress in a horror, sci-fi, or fantasy film. Our time periods are 1930-1949 and 1950-1959. We will do a separate top ten for 1970-1979 at another time and frankly, we would like to hear some of your input on that one. As with our previous listings, this is purely subjective on our part, strictly our opinion of what performances were the best. As in our previous listings, it was sometimes hard to determine exactly which were supporting roles and which were not. Jill Banner, who was masterful in SPIDER BABY, probably falls somewhere between a leading and supporting actress. Perhaps the biggest question we faced was whether or not to include Bette Davis for her role in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE. Not only would her performance skyrocket to the top of the horror list, but there are many critics who consider it one of the best performances in film history. The big question, though, was do we consider BABY JANE to be a true horror film? There are some historians who do and some who don’t. It is after all nothing in the vein of films like BLACK SUNDAY, MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, SPIDER BABY, or ROSEMARY’S BABY. Even the similar HUSH, HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE has much more of a "horror feel" to it. And though I’m showing my own personal prejudice here, I somehow just couldn’t see anyone at the top of the list except for Barbara Steele, even though Barbara herself presented a problem in that her voiced was dubbed in every one of her major ‘60s horror films (yes…even THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM) except for her dual performance in NIGHTMARE CASTLE where her voice is heard in the role of Jenny. However, it is clear that BABY JANE falls into the category of "psycho horror films," a sub-genre of horror that was made popular by PSYCHO. We faced a similar problem in the ‘30s/’40s with Olga Baclanova’s performance in FREAKS. FREAKS is certainly an odd film, but is it really, truly a horror film? Most critics think so, so her performance was included. One final problem we faced was comparing actresses whose roles were truly "sinister" in nature to those whose roles were "threatened heroines" or "screamers." Fay Wray certainly gave the best screamer performance of all time. Evelyn Ankers was right up there with her. As before, we’d love to hear your feedback on these lists. Please…send us your own or write a separate article. More top ten lists to come in the future.Best,Greg Luce,Sinister Cinema.

    10 greatest performances by an actress a horror film 1930-1949

    1. Fay Wray in KING KONG
    2. Carol Lombard in SUPERNATURAL
    3. Gloria Holden in DRACULA’S DAUGHTER
    4. Olga Baclanova in FREAKS
    5. Marion Marsh in SVENGALI
    6. Miriam Hopkins in DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
    7. Evelyn Ankers in THE WOLF MAN
    8. Simone Simon in THE CAT PEOPLE
    9. Ann Harding in LOVE FROM A STRANGER
    10. Helen Gahagan in SHE

    Honorable mention: Evelyn Ankers in GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN, Fay Wray in MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM, DOCTOR X, and MOST DANGEROUS GAME, Anne Gwynne in WEIRD WOMAN, Andrea King in THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS, Susanna Foster in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, Nancy Kelly in THE WOMAN WHO CAME BACK, Maureen O’Hara in HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, Virginia Christine in THE MUMMY’S CURSE, Louis Albritton in SON OF DRACULA, Zita Johann in THE MUMMY, Gale Sondergaard in THE SPIDER WOMAN STRIKES BACK, Clara Kimball Young in ROGUE’S TAVERN.

    10 greatest performances by an actress a horror film 1950-1969

    1. Bette Davis in WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE
    2. Barbara Steele in CASTLE OF BLOOD
    3. Barbara Steele in BLACK SUNDAY
    4. Jill Banner in SPIDER BABY
    5. Mia Farrow in ROSEMARY’S BABY
    6. Gianna Maria Canale in I, VAMPIRI
    7. Barbara Steele in NIGHTMARE CASTLE
    8. Yvette Vickers in ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN
    9. Carol Ohmart in HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL
    10. Tie: Edith Scob in EYES WITHOUT A FACE and Lilli Palmer in THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED

    Honorable mention: Barbara Steele in HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK, THE GHOST, AN ANGEL FOR SATAN, and PIT AND THE PENDULUM, Allison Hayes in ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN, Colleen Gray in THE LEECH WOMAN, Hazel Court in THE PREMATURE BURIAL, THE RAVEN, and MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, Bette Davis in HUSH, HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE, Beverly Washburn in SPIDER BABY, Candice Hillagoss in CARNIVAL OF SOULS, Sandra Harrison in BLOOD OF DRACULA, Barbara Shelley in THE CAT GIRL, BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE, THE GORGON, and DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS, Yvette Vickers in ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES, Susan Cabot in THE WASP WOMAN, Marla English in THE SHE CREATURE, Peggy Webber in THE SCREAMING SKULL, Gina Lollobrigida in HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME.