There was a period in the early to mid-1950s where the horror genre, in hindsight, was appearing to go through somewhat of a period of transition. Not just caterpillar to butterfly in terms of the material, but also the beginnings to a passing of the torch from the Universal Pictures horror icons to the next generation of scare feature personalities.
The 1940s, arguably, began the period of movement away from the creature features of the Universal monster pictures and started to explore deeper psychological, and supernatural elements of the horror genre over the course of the decade with the output of films from the Val Lewton team of collaborators at RKO. That period could possibly mark the first time that a major studio distributed a sequence of psychological thrillers sold as horror pictures over that length of time here in the United States, and probably the most significant since the silent-era German Expressionist pictures of the 1920’s.
In the 1950’s the drive-in crowd and genre enthusiasts began to be transfixed by the earlier period of science-fiction thrillers, which boomed all throughout the decade and into the next; thus leaving a relatively barren hole for patrons looking for either that next stage of evolution on the horror ladder, or even trying to find a decent number of pictures akin to the films of the Universal monster pictures of the 30s or Lewton inspired thrillers of the 40s.
Enter Britain’s Hammer Studios who began to re-explore the classic monster characters of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and others in the mid-to-late 1950s. Their output would be monumental over the course of the next few decades, as well as their artistry and the performance prowess of oft-used actors Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee; and the pictures would prove to be considerably popular.
So, the Universal films enthusiasts would have their reminiscence reignited; what of the fans of the Lewton form of horror?
Enter Britain’s Robert Day with his late 1950s double-punch of Corridors of Blood and today’s entry into the Criterion Files – The Haunted Strangler