WHBQ horror-film host Watson "Sivad" Davis was before my time, but I can vouch for some of the films screening at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art this week in his honor.
The main selected titles in the film series embody three different types of mid-century horror films — the serious and honestly scary (Night of the Demon), the mischievous exploitation flick (Bucket of Blood), and the metaphorical/sociological (I Was Teenage Werewolf ).
Night of the Demon (also known as Curse of the Demon) is a 1957 British film directed by the underrated Jacques Tourneur (see also: Out of the Past, Cat People, I Walked With a Zombie). The film's narrative patience, minimal on-screen violence, and utter lack of blood — not to mention its black-and-white cinematography — might make it challenging for viewers weaned on modern horror films, but Night of the Demon is a genre classic, something like Hitchcock gone supernatural. (Though made in the late '50s, it feels more like a product of the '40s.)
The film follows a skeptical professor (Dana Andrews) to a paranormal-psychology convention in London, where he hopes to expose as phony a self-described witchcraft practitioner (Niall MacGinnis). But the professor arrives to find a colleague killed and soon finds himself the subject of a curse.
Night of the Demon (screening Thursday, March 25th, at 8 p.m.) is witty, suspenseful, and genuinely creepy — a sure candidate for the decade's best horror film. Some complain about the studio-imposed glimpses — one early in the film and one late — of the titular demon. And this does certainly drain the ambiguity out of the film. But here's one case where the hand-made, low-tech creature isn't cheesy. It's rather beautiful, actually. It inspires — at least in me — an admiring fondness rather than a chuckle.
Bucket of Blood (Friday, March 26th, 3 p.m.) is a quick (66 minutes!), funny, satisfying 1959 feature from B-movie master Roger Corman that spoofs the then-prevalent beatnik scene. Populated with pretentious poets, solemn folksingers, and unemployed coffeehouse pontificators, Bucket of Blood follows the rise and fall of a lowly busboy (Dick Miller) who becomes an art-world sensation via turning dead bodies into sculptures.
Cult classic I Was a Teenage Werewolf (Saturday, March 27th, 12:30 p.m.) stars future Little House on the Prairie patriarch Michael Landon as a hormonal teen whose puberty problems are manifested in lycanthropic fashion.
Also scheduled are a couple of unintentional comedy creature features — The Giant Claw (Sunday, March 28th, 2 p.m.) and From Hell It Came (same day, 3:30 p.m.) — and a Sivad-specific edition of the L'il Film Fest series (Saturday, 2 p.m.).