The Hollywood Horror

My wife does not like horror films.  I used to think it was because she does not wish to be frightened, but we all, even prim Victorian ladies, enjoy a good scare from time to time, especially when we know we are safe.  Girl Scouts around the campfire tell stories about the murdered little girl whose ghost appears when the wind in the early evening stipples the shadowed surface of the lake, just the way it is doing now.

When I was a young man, it was a settled conviction that young women wanted to be taken to dramatic thrillers that would inspire them to throw themselves—for protection, of course—into your arms.  My suspicions were aroused when a girl asked me, on our first real date, to go with her to Wait Until Dark, and they were confirmed when I discovered that she had already seen the movie.  Even so, I was taken by surprise when she virtually jumped into my lap when the dead (supposedly) Harry Rote, Jr., leaped out of the darkness.  It was, admittedly, Alan Arkin’s best performance.

There are lots of hair-raising dramatic thrillers.  Hitchcock specialized in the genre, but he is only one of many directors to have played successfully upon our fears.  Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard are classics, but so are Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, George Cukor’s Gaslight, Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People, etc. ...

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