Cheesy Horror Films

Here are a few horror films that time has mostly forgotten. These are B-films from the 1960s and 1970s. You won’t find Psycho, Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining or The Exorcist on this list. There are so many, maybe I’ll add a second list.

Eye of the Devil (1966)

One of MGM’s British-made films on the 1960s. The Golden Age meets the New Wave. David Niven and Deborah Kerr in their waning years, with David Hemmings and Sharon Tate representing the new generation. Edward Mulhare and Donald Pleasence along for the scary ride.

The bewitching Sharon Tate.

The film is more a curiosity than memorable. A lot of talent for a film rarely seen outside of Europe. It’s very artsy, with tricky camera work, dramatic music, overwrought performances and much too serious. It was the last MGM film shot in black & white, which is supposed to add suspense. Directed by J. Lee Thompson (The Guns of Navarome), he must have been warming up for a dozen bad films with Charles Bronson.

Niven plays a nobleman in France whose vineyards produce lousy wine. At his estate are strange fellows in robes who hold odd rituals. A brother and sister (Hemmings and Tate) scare the nobleman’s wife and shoot doves with arrows. The nobleman seems under the spell of the men in robes.

Adapted from Day of the Arrow, it would have been more fun if Mel Brooks had directed the film as a campy devil story. Hopefully all concerned left this film off their resumes.


The Devil’s Rain (1975)

Imagine a film with Ernest Borgnine, Eddie Albert, Ida Lupino, Tom Skerritt, William Shatner, Keenan Wynn and John Travolta about Devil worshipping.

“A bunch of Satanists in the American rural landscape have terrible powers which enable them to melt their victims. However one of the children of an earlier victim vows to destroy them. A satanist cult leader is burnt alive by the local church. He vows to come back to hunt down and enslave every descendant of his congregation, by the power of the book of blood contracts, in which they sold their souls to the devil.” – Jonathon Dabell

Cheesy and overwrought, but entertaining. A lot of weird symbolism, spacey music, faceless people, chanting, and fire – all because of a sought-after book.

Anton LaVey, the actual founder of Church of Satan plays a High Priest in the movie and was the technical advisor. Cast members found him to be charming and quite interesting.

Borgnine and Shatner

Shatner is Shatner, intense, staccato phrasing. Borgnine is wasted, but animated, and he always finds a reason to remove his shirt. He screams, chained to a cross, about to be sacrificed at a ritual. This was before the Star Trek revival at the end on the 1970s. Lupino is much better than the material. Albert and Skerritt look like they wondered in from a better film.

Albert and Skerritt

Absurd, but watchable. The acting is almost campy, especially Borgnine’s performance, but it was meant to be taken seriously.


The Spirit is Willing (1967)

From director William Castle (Dr. Sardonicus, The Tingler, I Saw What You Did, House on Haunted Hill), known for his low-budget horror films filled with visual effects and gimmicks to frighten the audience. A low-budget Hitchcock.

Gordon, Miles and Caesar.

This is the lone comedy of the bunch. A superb cast includes Sid Caesar, Vera Miles, John McGiver and Barry Gordon, plus a handful of familiar character actors including John Astin (The Addams Family) The plot concerns a family staying at a quaint New England house inhabited by three ghosts who don’t want visitors. The ghosts create havoc that gets blamed on the son (Gordon).

The three ghosts, before they murdered each other.

The cheesiness begins with the music and pre-credit scene. Speaking of music, the score is by Vic Mizzy (The Addams Family, Green Acres) who was quite busy in the 1960s with Jerry Lewis and Don Knotts films. The direction is lackluster, the production cheap, and the script threadbare. Still, the film is almost campy.

Caesar and Astin

Caesar and Miles are wasted, and not even the comedy of McGiver, Jesse White, Mary Wickes, Doodles Weaver and Astin can help much.


I Saw What You Did (1965)

In the last decade of her life, Joan Crawford starred in some offbeat and low-budget films. She even was directed by a young Steven Spielberg. In I Saw What You Did, Crawford is directed by William Castle.

Here’s the premise of this psychological thriller: “Two teenage girls and a young child are left alone at home. For kicks, they pick random phone numbers from the phone directory and make prank phone calls. It’s all fun and games until they randomly phone Steve Marak (John Ireland) and tell him, ‘I saw what you did, and I know who you are.’ Unfortunately, Steve has just murdered his wife and buried her body. So Steve, believing his heinous crime has been witnessed, sets out to find the witnesses.” – synopsis borrowed from another blog site.

Crawford has a small part, the love interest of the killer. She appeared in a previous Castle film, Strait-Jacket. Crawford’s character is high-strung and gives an animated performance. John Ireland is very effective as the killer, and the young girls are also fine.

Ireland and Crawford

The problem is the film tries to accomplish too much and dilutes Castle’s ability to tell an effective story. It’s not a bad film, very effective as a B-film on a drive-in double bill or late-night, scary movie.

The girls talking to the killer.

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