With each passing year where movie companies, television and print media find new ways to scare and shock us, it is also the same amount of time where we tend to forget the classics that brought us here in the first place. The classic visual medium time frame I am fond of is the late 1800's through the early 1930's. There is a wonderful blend of innocence and weirdness with a dash of oddity that makes this era one of my favorites.
To honor and and keep the vintage classics in the minds of the old and new, I dedicate this page of vintage postcards, cartoons and coming soon...music. I have searched the internet, archives and public domain sites and collected some of our favorites to share.
Halloween was gaining popularity in North America by the late 1800's. It "had developed into a family festival full of parties, seasonal foods (pumpkins, maize and apples) and costumes. Ghost stories were told, contests were held, and games were played. Masks for Halloween were on sale by the late 19th century. Retailers advertised candies and nuts for the night. Black cats and bats became Halloween motifs, apparently because of the influence of Edgar Allen Poe and gothic writers."¹ To capture this popularity illustrators and companies produced postcards during this "golden age" (1893-1915). Famous illustrators and card companies were Ellen Clapsaddle, Frances Brundage, Gibson Art Company, Ralph Tuck and Sons, Darling & Co., Robson & Co. and Stengel & Company, just to name a few. I spent many hours searching through collections and public domain sites so you won't have to. Here, I will share with you some of my favorite weird, creepy illustrations from this golden era.
¹exercpt from Chris McGowan "Spooky Secrets: A Brief History of Halloween", article from HuffPost
There is something about the cartoons from the late 1920's and 30's that is so pleasing. The way the characters were drawn and the sound effects used. There's an overall innocence to them. But if you add a dash of 1930's spookiness and Halloween cartoon craziness, you have some great short form masterpieces. I have watched and collected some of these great cartoons and present to you some of our favorites. Grab some popcorn, turn down the lights and have some spooky viewing fun.
The Skeleton Dance is a 1929 Silly Symphony animated short subject produced and directed by Walt Disney and animated by Ub Iwerks. In the film, four human skeletons dance and make music around a spooky graveyard—a modern film example of medieval European "danse macabre" imagery. It is the first entry in the Silly Symphony series.
Animation began on The Skeleton Dance began in January 1929, with Ub Iwerks animating the majority of the film in almost six weeks. The soundtrack was recorded at Pat Powers' Cinephone studio in New York in February 1929. The final negative cost $5,485.40
In 1994, The Skeleton Dance was voted #18 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field.
Hell's Bells is a Silly Symphony animated Disney short film. Drawn by a team headed by animator Ub Iwerks, it was released in 1929. Among the music featured in the film is "In the Hall of the Mountain King" and Funeral March of a Marionette. In this Silly Symphony, we are introduced to the many creatures of Hell. Satan sits while creatures entertain him and feed him firemilk. When Satan tries to feed a little demon to his hound Cerberus, it runs away and kicks him off the cliff of Hell.
Flip the Frog is an animated cartoon character created by American animator Ub Iwerks. He starred in a series of cartoons produced by Celebrity Pictures and distributed through Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer from 1930 to 1933. The series had many recurring characters besides Flip; including Flip's dog, the mule Orace, and a dizzy neighborhood spinster.
The Mad Doctor is a classic Mickey Mouse cartoon released in 1933. It is known as the first appearance of the title character "The Mad Doctor", or "Dr. XXX". The plot centers on the title character, a mad scientist named Dr. XXX, who has kidnapped Mickey's dog, Pluto. Mickey tries to rescue him before the doctor can perform his experiment: putting Pluto's head to the body of a chicken in order to see if a puppy will hatch from an egg (that is if the end result will "bark or crow or cackle"). Mickey battles his way through booby traps and animated skeletons before eventually getting caught and strapped onto a table to get cut open by a buzzsaw, forcing Mickey to suck in his belly, trembling. The scene then fades to Mickey asleep in bed and suddenly woken up by a fly, whose buzzing resembles the whirring of the spinning blade. Not yet realizing the events were only a nightmare, Mickey shouts for Pluto, who eagerly jumps onto Mickey's bed with his doghouse and chain still attached to collar. The short's horror overtones made it unusual for a Mickey Mouse cartoon. Some theaters refused to show it, believing it to be too scary for kids. At one time, for this reason, it was banned entirely in the United Kingdom.
Red Hot Mamma is a 1934 Fleischer Studios Betty Boop animated short, directed by Dave Fleischer Studio Fleischer Studios
Distributed by Paramount Pictures Release date February 2, 1934
It's a snowy winter's night, and a shivering Betty is trying to sleep. Shutting all the windows isn't enough, so she lights a roaring fire in the fireplace and falls asleep on the hearthplace rug. The heat of the flames soon turns two roosting chickens into roasted chickens, and causes Betty to dream that her fireplace has become the gate to Hell itself. Betty explores the underworld, and sings "Hell's Bells" for Satan and his minions. When Satan tries to put the moves on Betty, she fixes him with a (literally) icy stare, freezing him and all of Hell. When she falls through a hole and onto an icy surface below, Betty wakes up to find the fire out with the windows open and her bed frozen, and she goes to bed, this time under a pile of warm quilts.
Tom and Jerry are police officers, driving around in their car and enjoying listening to some music on their police radio, when they hear a bulletin announcing another theft of a mummy from the local museum. They stumble upon the culprit, a mysterious and ghoulish man who is carrying a coffin through a secret door in a cemetery. They sneak in after him and watch him command the mummy to life; it is a beautiful woman, who he then commands to sing for his audience of skeletal theatre-goers. Tom and Jerry break up the evening and try to escape with the stolen goods, with mixed results.
Halloween Party Music
I searched and gathered some great Halloween themed tracks from the 1950’s and 60’s. Some obscure, some are not. They will make your toes tap, your hips sway, and your shoulders shimmy. Rest assured, there’s no Monster Mash type songs here.
Please note: I do not own the rights to any of these songs. This is strictly a fan based collection.
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins - “Little Demon” (1956) 0-2:23
Round Robin - “I’m The Wolfman” (1965) 2:23-4:54
The Naturals - “The Mummy” (1959) 4:54-7:08
The Duponts - “Screamin’ Ball (At Dracula’s Hall)” (1957) 7:08-9:16
Dave Gardner - “Mad Witch” (1957) 9:16-11:44
Terry Teene - “Curse of The Hearse” (1964) 11:44-14:06
Mack Allen Smith - “The Skeleton Fight” (1958) 14:06-16:39
Jack and Jim - “Midnight Monsters” (1959) 16:39-19:11
Rod Willis - “The Cat Halloween Rockabilly” (1959) 19:11-21:14
Gary “Spider” Webb - “The Cave (Part II)” (1961) 21:14-23:30
Joe August - “The Blob” (1958) 23:30-25:37