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Public Domain Horror: Scared to Death

February 23, 2009

This is a weird one. It’s Bela Lugosi’s only colour film, a 1947 B-movie horror anti-classic that features an unusual storytelling structure: a dead girl tells the audience how she ended up on a mortuary slab.

She’s being haunted, as it turns out. But as the story unfolds, we meet a strange travelling magician (Lugosi) and his dwarf companion. Sometimes a face appears in the window … but I’m getting ahead of myself. It would be better if you just watch it.

I can tell you now that you will cringe at some of the acting. The production values are pretty shaky. But there’s a surrealistic use of colour at work here, something Argento would later adopt as his own. I’ve always found lurid colours to be as effective as high-contrast black-and-white when it comes to crappy horror movies.

Like other instalments in my Public Domain Horror series here at the Weather Station, that YouTube clip up top is your intro; this link will take you to the rest of the film. Enjoy.

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