Black and white horror movies are all right, but it takes a true master to make Technicolor terrifying. So from witches to serial killers to evil animals, check out the Technicolor horror movies here once shocked audiences by portraying creatures of the night so bold and bright:
The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) – One of the oldest Technicolor horror movies stars Lionel Atwill as mad man Igor and Glenda Farrell as a reporter investigating a murder. Unfortunately for Igor, he no longer possesses Madame Tussauds’ wax molding magic, so he resorts to the macabre to make his museum more popular, and the lovely Fay Wray is the perfect specimen to add to his collection. It’s not as bright as some of the other horror movies here since it only uses two-strip Technicolor, but it’s still a sight to behold with its infamous face mask crumbling scene, and it’s got just the right balance of humor and horror to help make it an enduring classic.
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) – Here’s one of the Technicolor horror movies of yesteryear that should have even more of an impact on audiences today, thanks to our society’s obsession with staying youthful-looking at all costs. I have a feeling there would be a lot of people with telling paintings in their attics if given the same chance to sell their soul for the sake of vanity, so at least this is one of the Technicolor horror movies here with a message (bonus: don’t miss seeing a young Angela Lansbury, a woman who has handled aging with grace and dignity).
Horror of Dracula (1958) – After barely seeing Bela Lugosi take a bite out of any of his victims, it’s refreshing to see Dracula’s fangs drenched with bright red blood. This is one of the many Hammer horror movies filmed in Technicolor, but it’s made this list for being somewhat groundbreaking in the way vampires are portrayed. There’s even a little sexuality (gasp!), something as shocking as seeing red blood to audiences in 1958. Christopher Lee usually lets his fangs do the talking here, and Peter Cushing is the perfect vampire expert out to stop him as Van Helsing. It may not be one of the best vampire movies you’ll ever see, but it’s great mind-bleach for those tired of watching sparkly, lovelorn vampires avoid the urge to bite.
Peeping Tom (1960) – This is definitely one of my favorite Technicolor horror movies, a tale of a somewhat sympathetic serial killer that shocked audiences when it was released. Michael Powell was a Technicolor master who startled audiences with this career move, a frightening flick about a disturbed young man who uses a camera with a murder weapon attached to it to kill his victims and film their last living moments (Carl Boehm is almost too convincing as the man behind the movie camera). It was controversial and hated when first released, but obviously simply ahead of its time due to the cult status it achieved later on (oh yeah, did I mention there’s a quick nude scene?). It’s strange that one of the best Technicolor horror movies ever made all but finished its director’s career, but at least Michael Powell got to see this unusual masterpiece finally get the fan following it deserved.
The Birds (1963) – Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ is often compared to ‘Peeping Tom’ due to its subject matter and release date, but one of his wildest horror movies matches it when it comes to color. It’s odd seeing a horror movie take place in broad daylight, with creepy creatures of the night replaced by the seemingly harmless songsters we’re used to seeing every day. But even though it’s not one of the most terrifying Technicolor horror movies here, somehow it just works, and the wild and wacky subject matter just makes it one of those horror movies that you can’t resist watching when you happen upon it.
Suspiria (1977) – And here’s one of the last horror movies filmed in Technicolor, a very bright film about a school inhabited by witches. However, this isn’t Harry Potter; the witches here are hiding their secret in a ballet school, and students definitely aren’t benefiting from their sorcery. Maggots rain from the ceiling; there’s a truly terrifying incident involving razor wire that’s pretty difficult to watch; and the ending is definitely over-the-top. The use of Technicolor here equals that of ‘Peeping Tom’, and ‘Suspiria’ also features a killer soundtrack by the rock band Goblin that’s just as creepy as the movie.
So while Technicolor horror movies might not have the same spooky look of those in black and white, somehow the filmmakers here have managed to go bright while still giving the audience quite a fright.