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Terror on the tube

Viewing suggestions between now and Halloween



There's no shortage of horror movies on the tube in the days leading up to Halloween — at least if you're tuned to Turner Classic Movies. For while other stations basically ignore the holiday in favor of the usual mix of stomach-turning reality shows and inane sit-coms — and others present their monster movies in heavily censored versions (we're looking at you, AMC) — TCM annually invokes the spirit of the season by cramming their October schedule with all manner of terror tales. Here are but a mere 10 to whet viewers' bloody appetites.

The Tingler (Photo: Columbia)
  • The Tingler (Photo: Columbia)

The Tingler (1959). One of William Castle's best films (certainly one of his most outrageous), this stars Vincent Price as a scientist who discovers that fear manifests itself as a physical creature that attaches itself to the frightened person's spinal cord — and that the only way to get rid of it is through screaming. (2:15 a.m. Oct. 24)

Spider Baby or, The Maddest Story Ever Told (1964). This cult oddity relates the story of the Merrye family, two sisters (Jill Banner and Beverly Washburn) and one brother (Sid Haig) who all suffer from a peculiar form of mental illness. Only Bruno (Lon Chaney Jr.), the family chauffeur, can keep them in line, but when distant relatives arrive at their dilapidated mansion with the intent of collecting an inheritance, even he can't stop the siblings' murderous antics. (3 a.m. Oct. 25)

Bride of Frankenstein (1935). This sequel to 1931's Frankenstein is even better, thanks to James Whale's playful direction, Boris Karloff's repeat performance as the tortured creature, some pungent witticisms, a dash of stark symbolism and an overriding gothic ambiance. (8 p.m. Oct. 26)

Cat People (1942). One of the all-time great horror films, this atmospheric, sexually charged drama stars the alluring Simone Simon as Irena, an Eastern European immigrant who's forced to remain celibate because of an ancestral curse that will turn her into a panther if her emotions are aroused. (11 p.m. Oct. 26)

Them! (Photo: Warner Bros.)
  • Them! (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Them! (1954). The 1950s was packed with giant-creature-on-the-loose movies — Tarantula, The Black Scorpion and many more — but the best of the bunch remains Them!, which finds a pre-Gunsmoke James Arness battling oversized ants. (6 p.m. Oct. 27)

The Phantom of the Opera (1925). In this silent classic, Lon Chaney (who also created his own makeup) is mesmerizing as Erik, the disfigured underground dweller who won't let anything stand in the way of his love for a singer named Christine (Mary Philbin). (1 a.m. Oct. 27)

Diabolique (1955). Set at a boys' boarding school, this French import casts Paul Meurisse as Michel Delasalle, a cruel headmaster who comes to be equally despised by his tough mistress Nicole (Simone Signoret) and his frail wife Christina (Vera Clouzot). The women devise a plot to drown him in a bathtub and then dump the body into the school's murky swimming pool, but what seems like fait accompli soon results in hints that everything is not what it seems. (3 a.m. Oct. 27)

You'll Find Out (1940). The plot of this comedy finds popular bandleader-radio star Kay Kaiser and his musicians journeying to a secluded mansion for a birthday gathering; there, they encounter a dapper judge (Boris Karloff), an oily medium (Bela Lugosi) and a fake psychiatrist (Peter Lorre), all of whom have murder on the mind. This isn't really a horror flick, but it's great to see Karloff, Lugosi and Lorre, all veterans of the macabre, sharing the same screen as cohorts in crime. (10:15 a.m. Oct. 30)

The Curse of Frankenstein (Hammer & Warner)
  • The Curse of Frankenstein (Hammer & Warner)

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957). This is the first film in the popular and long-running series of Hammer horror films, and as such, it's a must-see. Peter Cushing conveys elegant malevolence as the mad scientist, while Christopher Lee is an unholy sight as his creation. (6 a.m. Oct. 31)

Horror Express (1972). This Spanish-British co-production, set at the start of the 20th century, finds two rival scientists (Cushing and Lee again) teaming up once a monster long frozen in ice breaks loose on the Trans-Siberian Express and starts murdering the crew and passengers. Best laugh: When someone suggests that one of the two leads might be the monster in disguise, Cushing retorts, "Monster? We're British, you know!" (5:30 p.m. Oct. 31)

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