Josh and George on 1970s horror films
Ooh, super excited to listen to this. And I agree about the ‘70s being the golden age of horror movies. I loved scaring the hell out of myself when I was a pre-teen. 😱
Just listened and, like Josh, I could have gone for another two hours. You guys nailed it. Everything you said are things I have thought about movies (and not only horror movies) from the 1970s: the realistic sets and places, the non-stylized and regular looking people, the sense of reality even when the topic was something totally not in reality. Now I’ve got “Tubular Bells” going through my head.
Just started listening, very fascinating discussion. To me, these movies have a “smell” to them. I find them repulsive, but that speaks to the realism. I can never watch the Exorcist again because of that bloody cross scene. There is something to the manifestation of evil in our everyday lives, on an ordinary street, in an ordinary family. Evil is incomprehensible because of its hatred of humanity and its desire to degrade and demoralize.
I appreciate the domestic angle in this conversation. Were the writers suggesting that these children were made vulnerable to evil because of their parents’ actions? That’s up for interpretation. It’s clear, however, that these movies depict everyday domesticity with an overwhelming sense of tension. You can feel the sinister forces lurking. People, objects and places that are supposed to feel safe are no longer safe.
I hope you do a part 2 on this subject. There are a few more themes worth exploring, maybe they tie into the cluster B theme.
1. The characters in these movies cannot stop the trajectory that they are on. There is a sense of dread as they head towards their fate. Totally unheard of in movies until Psycho killed off Janet Leigh. Other doomed movies: Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, Demon Seed, Don't Look Now, The Stepford Wives, The Wicker Man.
2. The exploration of the twisting of the female psyche, which frequently results in the demonic or otherworldly. Many movies prior dealt with female psychosis, but it was usually neatly explained with Freudian tropes- The Snake Pit, The Three Faces of Eve, Possessed (with Joan Crawford!). Repulsion led the way for more dangerous and sickening portrayals of crazed women. Other notable movies: Mademoiselle, The Beguiled, 3 Women, Possession. I don't know if male psychosis was ever treated the same way. Most mad men on film are explosive, outlandish, brooding- Norman Bates, Buffalo Bill, Eraserhead, the teen slasher type. Some are even sympathetic or anti-hero like Taxi Driver or A Clockwork Orange. The madness of women seems to conjure up the supernatural.
3. Children are victimized or they have great or terrifying powers. This was a huge taboo in decades prior. Even in 1950s' The Bad Seed, the credits had to reassure the audience that it was just a movie and Rhoda was just an actress. Her character is killed by lightening, because evil could not go unpunished. 1960s and 1970s brought us the creepy kids. They are in the movies you mentioned, but also in The Changeling, The Other, The Innocents. This was when we began to see kids in the movies mouthing off to adults, and dressing and acting like tramps. Was this a growing general attitude towards children? That they were no longer off limits?
I apologize for writing an essay, but I love the subject. I started listening to your show a couple of months ago and it's my "must listen to" of the week. You're really on a different level and you notice things that others do not or are afraid to talk about. I plan on paying for a subscription once I get a paycheck- I just started working again this week ;) Thanks again.
This was a great discussion! It reminded me of horror writer Thomas Ligotti's short piece called "Professor Nobody's Little Lectures" in which he describes the elements of supernatural horror. He seems to agree with you that supernatural horror helps us come to grips with the real life horror and trauma around us. One passage that stood out: "Fiction, unable to compete with the world for vividness of pain and lasting effects of fear, compensates in its own way. How? By inventing more bizarre means to outrageous ends. Among these means, of course, is the supernatural. In transforming natural ordeals into supernatural ones, we find the strength to affirm and deny their horror simultaneously, to savor and suffer them at the same time" (Ligotti 185). I think some people are drawn to supernatural horror as it helps to take in, rearrange, and process their own past horrors. I hope to hear future episodes with George in the future! Also, if you wish to read some of Ligotti's work, I recommend "The Lost Art of Twilight" and "Nethescurial." There are audio versions of them for free on YouTube.
What an entertaining—and thought-provoking—episode, and I haven’t seen either of the two movies in full, only clips. Re *The Exorcist,* I was utterly freaked out by the advertisement featuring the door—and accompanying music! These audio conversations on theater and film are terrific.
Just finished listening to this. You two are really natural together, so the delivery was wonderful. You make each other laugh and that’s great to hear. Agree with your analysis of 70s American horror films and was glad to hear The Omen get a mention. I think too that horror films from that period worked because they treated their audience as intelligent people, something that was lost with the glut of slasher films in the 80s. George is right, the excellent Hereditary is a return to the spirit of that period for that reason. I also thought the following Ari Aster film, Midsommar, was great too, riffing a bit on the British 70s horror classic, The Wicker Man.
This will be fun to listen to. Checking it out.
OMGOSH! I’ll have to listen to it as a recorded version -- but I’m DEFINITELY going to listen.