Six Must-See Technicolor Horror Movies
Black and white horror movies are alright, but it takes a true master to make Technicolor terrifying. So from witches to serial killers to evil animals, check out the Technicolor horror movies here that have all shocked audiences by taking the darkest creatures of the night and making them bold and bright.
1. 'The Mystery of the Wax Museum' (1933)
One of the oldest Technicolor horror movies stars Lionel Atwill as mad man Igor and Glenda Farrell as a reporter investigating a murder. Unfortunately for crippled artist Igor, he no longer possesses Madame Tussauds' wax molding magic, so he resorts to the macabre to make his museum more popular. The lovely Fay Wray plays one of his potential victims, a young woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to his beloved lost Marie Antoinette sculpture. Because of this, he believes that she would make the perfect specimen to add to his eerily lifelike collection.
The Mystery of the Wax Museum isn't as bright and colorful as some of the other horror movies here since it only uses two-strip Technicolor, but the pre-Code flick is still a sight to behold with its infamous face mask crumbling scene and its surreal art-deco sets that bring a distorted, expressionist vision of New York City to life. It also has just the right balance of humor and horror to help make it an enduring classic.
2. 'Doctor X' (1932)
Admittedly, this isn't one of the best horror movies you'll ever see, but it deserves a spot on this list for its place in history as the horror genre's first movie to be filmed entirely in color. Like the movie above, it's also directed by Michael Curtiz, and it's another pre-Code classic starring Lionel Atwill and perpetual damsel in distress Fay Wray. Curtiz made sure that his historical thriller had it all: mystery, monsters, mad scientists, murders that take place during a full moon, mutilation, creepy masks, a massive mansion, and even a few cannibalistic meals. There's also a murder-detecting machine that the killer manages to outsmart (I know there's a lot of alliteration here, but "M" is for "Murder," right?).
Serial killers are all the rage lately, thanks to TV series like Mindhunter and movies like Zac Efron's Ted Bundy biopic, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. But if you need a break from the morbid and somewhat distressing world of true crime that has been repackaged as entertainment, why not check out a classic made-up monster instead? Sometimes it can be somewhat comforting to watch a slightly silly horror movie about a serial killer like Doctor X because you get to laugh a little, and you can feel a bit better knowing that none of the crazed killer's victims were real people.
3. 'Dr. Cyclops' (1940)
Continue your Technicolor horror history lesson by checking out the first horror movie filmed in three-strip Technicolor. Fay Wray doesn't star in this sci-fi classic, but she does have a slight connection to it: Ernest B. Schoedsack, the man who directed her in King Kong, is responsible for bringing this colorful tale of terror to life.
Like King Kong, this film also takes place in the jungle, which is the perfect setting to fully utilize Technicolor; the vibrant motion picture process isn't all that impressive when it's used solely on dark and gloomy settings. Dr. Cyclops follows the adventures of a group of scientists who are summoned to the Peruvian jungle by one of their colleagues. Unfortunately, they are unaware that this colleague has become a mad scientist, and he uses a chamber full of radiation to shrink them. This leads to a series of scary misadventures for the Barbie doll-sized crew, including almost becoming cat food and caiman chow.
If you're a special effects junkie, you'll definitely want to check this one out; it was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Visual Effects category at the 13th Academy Awards.
4. 'Horror of Dracula' (1958)
After barely getting to witness Bela Lugosi’s classic vampire character taking a bite out of any of his victims, it's refreshing to see Dracula's fangs drenched with bright red blood. This is one of the many Hammer horror movies filmed in Technicolor, but it made this list for being somewhat groundbreaking in the way that vampires are portrayed. There's even a little sexuality (gasp!), something that was as shocking as seeing red blood to audiences in 1958. It's also notable for being the first British horror movie filmed in Technicolor.
Christopher Lee usually lets his fangs do the talking here, and Peter Cushing is the perfect Van Helsing, the vampire expert out to stop the creepy count from claiming more victims. It may not be one of the scariest vampire movies that you'll ever see, but it's great mind-bleach for those who are still suffering from the after effects of being exposed to vampires of the sparkly brooding teenager variety.
5. 'The Birds' (1963)
The black and white masterpiece Psycho is often considered Alfred Hitchcock's best horror movie, but this freaky film is one of the legendary director’s wildest and most eccentric cinematic endeavors. It's an odd and unsettling experience to watch a horror movie that takes place in broad daylight, with creepy creatures of the night replaced by the seemingly harmless songsters we're used to seeing every day. After watching it, it's hard not to be freaked out by our so-called feathered friends' beady little eyes and the inquisitive way that they cock their heads when observing us (it's almost like they're eternally plotting something).
It's not the most terrifying Technicolor movie on this list, but the wild and wacky subject matter just makes it one of those horror movies that you can't resist watching when you happen upon it.
6. 'Suspiria' (1977)
Italian director Dario Argento's beloved cult classic is one of the last horror movies filmed in Technicolor. It's a very vibrant film about a school inhabited by witches, but this isn't Harry Potter Meets Rainbow Brite; every witch here would be one of Lord Voldemort's faithful, sadistic followers. A murderous coven is hiding their secret in a ballet school, and the students there definitely aren't benefiting from their sorcery. Maggots rain from the ceiling; there's a truly terrifying incident involving razor wire that's extremely difficult to watch; and the ending is definitely over-the-top.
Out of all of the movies here, this one makes the best use of Technicolor. Suspiria also features a killer soundtrack by the rock band Goblin that's just as creepy as the movie. The 2018 remake starring the incomparable Tilda Swinton and Fifty Shades of Grey actress Dakota Johnson got a lot of attention because so many people walked out of the theater during its debut at the Venice Film Festival, so if you're really squeamish, you might want to use the slightly less gruesome original as a stepping stone to get you ready for that disturbing gore-fest.
While Technicolor horror movies might not have the same spooky look as films that are full of dark shadows and desolate gray landscapes, you've got to appreciate the innovative ways that the filmmakers on this list have managed to go bright while still giving audiences quite a fright.