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Classic Horror

Posted on September 1, 2017

Maniac (1934): As Crazy as It Gets

Guest Post

About halfway through Maniac (also called Sex Maniac, for no reason), a minor character gets an accidental shot of adrenaline and performs a monologue that has to be seen to be believed: “Creeping through my veins! Pouring in my blood! Oh, dash the fire in my brain! Stabbing me! Agony!” It goes on and on. The magic of 1934’s Maniac is that, despite its fifty-minute runtime, this isn’t even the craziest scene.

Is the craziest scene when the suicide victim comes back to life, licks her lips, and then is instantly forgotten by the rest of the cast? How about the cat-breeding next-door neighbor (a man in drag) complaining in total deadpan that the scientist next door keeps doing “queer” things like making too much noise and bringing dogs back to life? Perhaps it’s the big ending, which shamelessly rips off an Edgar Allan Poe story for no reason whatsoever.

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Posted on September 2, 2016

Dracula: Body Horror’s Beginnings

Dawn

In her book, Horror (Routledge, 2009), Brigid Cherry defines “body horror” as “Films that explore abjection and disgust of the human body” (6). Body horror involves a graphic breaching of corporeal borders—the body splitting open, its substances bursting, oozing, out. So, because of the inherent limitations of film techniques (notably special effects) in the 1930s, as well as restrictions imposed by the Motion Picture Production Code, classic horror films are generally not considered part of the “body horror” sub-genre: bodies typically remain intact (and fully clothed). A crucial scene from Tod Browning’s Dracula, however, shows that, even in 1931, at the birth of the sound horror film, body horror was part of the fascination (of the repulsion and attraction) of the film.

The scene occurs after Dracula (Bela Lugosi) has first come to Mina (Helen Chandler) at night. She is sitting on the couch the next day and Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) is questioning her about the “little marks” that are on her neck. We do not see them, but the other characters in the film are riveted by them: Van Helsing peers for a while at her neck, loosening her scarf to do so, and the camera cuts to Mina’s fiancée, Jonathan Harker (David Manners), and her father, Dr. Seward (Herbert Bunston), both of whom are staring at her neck. Read more

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