Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

1945 and the end of the eight years of World War II brought about many changes in manners sociological, cultural, and aesthetic; as will happen when civilization-defining conflicts end. We are going to concern ourselves at present with only one, a small one in the grand scheme: the sudden death of horror in American cinema. […]

Though Isle of the Dead was the second horror film released by Val Lewton’s RKO production unit in 1945, it was the first one started; it was beset by backstage difficulties, and The Body Snatcher was made during a gap in production as Isle‘s cast was impossible to gather back together. It was also the […]

The Body Snatcher, which premiered early in the summer of 1945, and was the last of producer Val Lewton’s movies to find release during World War II, represents the great sea change in the fortunes of the RKO B-picture unit where Lewton made himself one of the great names in cinema horror. For most of […]

Even after almost 70 years of people telling other people not to pay attention to the goddamn title, it’s impossible not to suppose that The Curse of the Cat People of 1944 would have a better reputation if it was called, literally, anything else. That the film is a sequel to the 1942 masterpiece Cat […]

As we have pointed out in this space already, thanks to the massive success of his Cat People, producer Val Lewton had a reasonably free hand to make movies the way he wanted in his RKO horror unit, with the major exception of titles: he was given titles and had to make a movie that […]

Convention tells us that The Seventh Victim, the third of four films produced by Val Lewton’s B-picture unit at RKO in their peak year of 1943, is a horror film; but even by the standards that Lewton had already established, whereby “horror” gets tweaked in some thoroughly unexpected and unrecognisable way, this one doesn’t look […]

The collaboration of director Jacques Tourneur and producer Val Lewton resulted in two such exemplary horror films, among the best produced during the horror boom that coincided with World War II, that it’s easy to use their names as a shorthand for everything that the genre is capable of at its most artistic and effective […]

If we’re going to make any sense of the RKO B-picture unit headed by producer Val Lewton in the 1940s, we’re going to have to get one fact straight, right now. For all his considerable freedom in making the movies he wanted to make, with very little (though often very critical) oversight from the studio, […]

October weekends here at Antagony & Ecstasy can mean one thing and one thing only: it’s time for a classic horror retrospective. This year, we’ve got the nine films produced in the 1940s by the RKO Radio Pictures B-unit headed by Val Lewton, formerly an attaché of megaproducer David O. Selznick. Lewton, the genius executive, […]