So far, I’ve found four films for my October Horror Festival, that contains only films where people wander around a mansion or castle, there’s the suggestion of ghosts, and suits of armor are part of the set design.
The House on Haunted Hill (1959)
The Bat (1959)
Horror Island (1941)
The Secret of the Blue Room (1933)
Two of these films are from 1959, which is interesting. (I wonder if there was a shared set, even?) But the second two are straight off of the original “Shock Theater” package of films, which was assembled by Screen Gems in 1957, and distributed to a number of TV stations across the country. The original Shock Theater package came with 52 movies. (One a week for a full year.) A second package, the year later, came with 20 more films, and by then, Horror Hosts were popping up all over, hosting these movies late at night. The Shock Theater package ushered in a new age of interest in horror movies, at a time when rock and roll was on the rise, and American Culture was seeing the influence of teenagers in a big way, something that wasn’t the case in the years before.
I think the appealing thing to me is that most o these films seem to include some sort of secret passage, or secret doors that lead to strange rooms. I think there’s any number of people who would love to live in a house with this kind of design, and while I’ve never lived anywhere like that, if you throw something like this into the film, I’m pretty much into it.
I’ve seen some of the Shock Theater package, but not all of it. But I suspect there’s a few more Suits Of Armor Shlock out there that I’m not familiar with. The idea is sort of genius: use cheap movie FX and a single, “Haunted House” set with an ensemble cast to plow their way through a tense (or, in the case of Horror Island, comedic) script, probably very quickly, based on older movie making practices of the “B” variety.
I’ve found all of these to be wonderfully charming in a corny way, and I’d be curious to see if I can find more for this list. I suspect there’s a lot more that I’m not familiar with.
In the meantime, I’ll keep working my way through the Shock Theater package. I’m sure that’s a good start.