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The eeriest year in film.

by Martin Wilson
JUNE 16 – 1960. The release of PSYCHO on this date represents the line – in film and in life – that has been crossed, never to return. The films on this list all have an unusual and unsettling quality that is particularly memorable. As shown on other lists, 1960 was artistically a year without equal, creating a whole new relationship between film and audience. In Europe this new way of seeing is best represented by L’AVVENTURA. Television was also becoming an eerie place. Shows that were peaking in 1960 include – THE TWILIGHT ZONE, ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS,THRILLER and ONE STEP BEYOND. Five of the best and eeriest Twilight Zone episodes… Read more

JUNE 16 – 1960. The release of PSYCHO on this date represents the line – in film and in life – that has been crossed, never to return. The films on this list all have an unusual and unsettling quality that is particularly memorable. As shown on other lists, 1960 was artistically a year without equal, creating a whole new relationship between film and audience. In Europe this new way of seeing is best represented by L’AVVENTURA.

Television was also becoming an eerie place. Shows that were peaking in 1960 include – THE TWILIGHT ZONE, ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS,THRILLER and ONE STEP BEYOND. Five of the best and eeriest Twilight Zone episodes come from 1960. EYE OF THE BEHOLDER, MIRROR IMAGE (with Vera Miles from Psycho), NICK OF TIME, THE HITCH-HIKER and THE AFTER HOURS. A director who really excelled at eerie moods, during this period of television, was John Brahm. Prime example – THE CHEATERS (from Thriller), which is all about seeing in a new way. His MIRROR IMAGE is, for me, the definitive Twilight Zone episode, capturing the essence of eeriness. This mundane sense of the strange, as Vera Miles waits in a bus depot, is what most people mean when they say, “I feel like I’ve just entered The Twilight Zone”.

When you also consider films that were begun in 1960 and released the following year then it is clear – there was definitely something in the air. Films such as – LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, THE INNOCENTS, VIRIDIANA, TASTE OF FEAR, THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, THE KNIFE (Het Mes), THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY, THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, BLAST OF SILENCE, LA NOTTE, DOCTOR BLOOD’S COFFIN, Franju’s SPOTLIGHT ON A MURDERER, the krimi DEAD EYES OF LONDON, MOTHER JOAN OF THE ANGELS. And something truly unusual – BARABBAS. An eerie epic about a dead man walking.

I wonder if the impact of all the films listed here would have been as great without the prevalence of black & white?

Eeriness is not confined to horror or suspense. It can emerge from an atmosphere that is quiet and still. A sense of dislocation pervades. Sometimes, there is black humour. Themes that frequently appear include – alienation, imprisonment (actual and emotional), anxiety, the familiar become strange, old rules that no longer apply, existentialism, madness and unsettling beauty. It’s striking how many of the key directors during this period had such a powerful focus on women. ANTONIONI, HITCHCOCK, BERGMAN, BUNUEL, FRANJU, NARUSE, POWELL, RESNAIS, CLAYTON, BAVA. This was not only a pivotal period in film. It was the moment in history the edifice of patriarchy began to tilt. Its suppression of the feminine and of youth began to weaken and you were left ‘a stranger in a strange land’. You were now seeing the world in a new way.

And where this will lead is…uncertain.

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