With their startlingly perverse themes, lurid psychosexual undertones, and often-grisly violence, the horror films made in the early 1930s before the enforcement of the Hollywood Production Code still have the power to shock. Unbound by any concessions to family-friendly morality and influenced by the heightened visual style of German expressionism, these sordid tales of mad scientists (DOCTOR X, ISLAND OF LOST SOULS), sadomasochistic satanists (THE BLACK CAT), twisted revenge (MURDERS IN THE ZOO, FREAKS), and supernatural terror (SVENGALI, THIRTEEN WOMEN) brought primal fear to the screen with a daring creativity and explicitness that wouldn’t be seen in Hollywood again for decades. Highlights include a pair of early Technicolor wonders by Michael Curtiz: DOCTOR X and MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM.
Directed by Tod Browning • 1932 • United States
Starring Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Roscoe Ates
“One of us, one of us!” One of the most shocking films of the pre-Code era, Tod Browning’s classic of the macabre was condemned as an “outrageous onslaught upon the feelings, the senses, the brains, a...
Directed by Robert Florey • 1932 • United States
Starring Bela Lugosi, Leon Ames, Sidney Fox
Shockingly sordid even by the grisly standards of pre-Code horror, this (very) loose adaptation of the story by Edgar Allan Poe casts a memorably fiendish Bela Lugosi as the Parisian mad scientist Dr. Mi...