That Was The Week That Was 29 July

Wow this was certainly a busy week in horror history, lots of films released, and three great horror icons were born.  

31 July 1914 

Film director Mario Bava was born. He is best    remembered as one of the greatest names from the “golden age” of Italian horror films and is considered to have kick-started the giallo film genre.  The son of Eugenio Bava, a sculptor who became a pioneer of special effects photography and subsequently one of the great cameramen of Italian silent pictures, Mario Bava’s first ambition was to become a painter. Unable to turn out paintings at a profitable rate, he went into his father’s business, working as an assistant to other Italian cinematographers like Massimo Terzano, while also offering assistance to his father who headed the special effects department at Benito Mussolini’s film factory, the Istituto LUCE.
Bava completed filming I Vampiri for director Riccardo Freda in 1956, now referred to as the first Italian horror film. Bava was originally hired as the cinematographer, but when Freda walked out on the project midway through production, Bava completed the film in several days, even creating the innovative special effects that were needed. He also handled the cinematography and special effects on the 1957 Steve Reeves classic Hercules, a film credited with sparking the Italian sword and sandal genre.
In 1960, Bava directed Black Sunday, his first solo directorial effort, which made a horror genre star out of Barbara Steele. His use of light and dark in black-and-white films is widely acclaimed along with his use of color in films such as Black Sabbath (1963) and The Whip and the Body (1963).
His work has proved very influential. Bava directed what is now regarded as the first Italian giallo, La ragazza che sapeva troppo (aka The Girl Who Knew Too Much) (1963), and his 1965 sci-fi / horror Planet of the Vampires was a probable influence on Alien (1979). Although comic books had served as the basis for countless serials and children’s films in Hollywood, Bava’s Danger: Diabolik (1968) brought an adult perspective to the genre. 1971’s Twitch of the Death Nerve is considered one of the earliest slasher films, and was explicitly imitated in Friday the 13th Part 2. Many elements of his 1966 film (Kill, Baby… Kill!), regarded by Martin Scorsese as Bava’s masterpiece, also appear in the Asian strain of terror film known as J-horror.

01 August 1883

American actor Lon Chaney was born.  He is regarded as one of the most versatile and powerful actors of early cinema, renowned for his characterizations of tortured, often grotesque and afflicted characters, and his groundbreaking artistry with makeup.  Chaney is known for his starring roles in such silent horror films as The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera. His ability to transform himself using makeup techniques he developed earned him the nickname “The Man of a Thousand Faces.”
Both of Chaney’s parents were deaf, and as a child of deaf adults Chaney became skilled in pantomime. He entered a stage career in 1902, and began traveling with popular Vaudeville and theater acts. In 1905, he met and married 16-year-old singer Cleva Creighton (Frances Cleveland Creighton) and in 1906, their first child and only son, Creighton Chaney (a.k.a. Lon Chaney, Jr.) was born. The Chaneys continued touring, settling in California in 1910.
By 1917 Chaney was a prominent actor in the studio, but his salary did not reflect this status. When Chaney asked for a raise, studio executive William Sistrom replied, “You’ll never be worth more than one hundred dollars a week.”
In 1919, Chaney had a breakthrough performance as “The Frog” in George Loane Tucker’s The Miracle Man. The film displayed not only Chaney’s acting ability, but also his talent as a master of makeup. Critical praise and a gross of over $2 million put Chaney on the map as America’s foremost character actor.
 In 1927, Chaney co-starred with Conrad Nagel, Marceline Day, Henry B. Walthall and Polly Moran in the Tod Browning horror film, London After Midnight, considered one of the most legendary lost films. His final cinema role was a sound remake of his silent classic The Unholy Three (1930), his only “talkie” and the only film in which Chaney utilized his versatile voice. The actor signed a sworn statement declaring that five of the key voices in the film (the ventriloquist, the old woman, a parrot, the dummy and the girl) were his own.
In Quasimodo, the bell ringer of Notre Dame, and Erik, the “phantom” of the Paris Opera House, Chaney created two of the most grotesquely deformed characters in film history. However, the portrayals sought to elicit a degree of sympathy and pathos among viewers not overwhelmingly terrified or repulsed by the monstrous disfigurements of these victims of fate.
“I wanted to remind people that the lowest types of humanity may have within them the capacity for supreme self-sacrifice,” Chaney wrote in an autobiographical article published in 1925 in Movie magazine. “The dwarfed, misshapen beggar of the streets may have the noblest ideals. Most of my roles since The Hunchback, such as The Phantom of the Opera, He Who Gets Slapped, The Unholy Three, etc., have carried the theme of self-sacrifice or renunciation. These are the stories which I wish to do.”

02 August 1939

 American film director, writer, producer, and actor Wes Craven was born. Perhaps best known as the director of A Nightmare on Elm Street.  

Craven’s works tend to share a common exploration of the nature of reality. A Nightmare on Elm Street, for example, dealt with the consequences of dreams in real life. New Nightmare “brushes against” (but does not quite break) the fourth wall by having actress Heather Langenkamp play herself as she is haunted by the villain of the film in which she once starred. At one point in the film, we see on Wes Craven’s word processor a script he has written, which includes the exact conversation he just had with Heather – as if the script was being written as the action unfolded. The Serpent and the Rainbow portrays a man who cannot distinguish between nightmarish visions and reality. In Scream, the characters frequently reference horror films similar to their situations, and at one point Billy Loomis tells his girlfriend that life is just a big movie. This concept was emphasized in the sequels, as copycat stalkers reenact the events of a new film about the Woodsboro killings occurring in Scream. Scream included a scene mentioning the well-known Richard Gere urban legend. Craven stated in interviews that he received calls from agents telling him that if he left that scene in, he would never work again.
Other things that happened this week in horror history are :

29 July 

1987 – Zombi 3 released theatrically
2000 – Cherry Falls released theatrically

30 July 

1999 – The Blair Witch Project released theatrically


1942 – Invisible Agent released theatrically
1951 – Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man released theatrically
1987 – The Lost Boys released theatrically
1992 – the film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer released theatrically

01 August

1883 – Lon Chaney, Sr. born (d. 1930)
1971 – The Omega Man released theatrically
1986 – Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives released theatrically
1996 – Resident Evil released on the PlayStation in Europe
1999 – Silent Hill released on the PlayStation in Europe

02 August 

1939 – Wes Craven (director of many horror films) born
1999 – The Sixth Sense released theatrically
2001 – The Others released theatrically

03 August 

1978 – Piranha released theatrically

04 August 

1932 – White Zombie released theatrically
1964 – Elizabeth Kostova (author of The Historian) born

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