The Psychological Age (1960-1968)

The horror boom of the late 1950s continued into the 1960s, where it reached new heights. However, the teenagers who made horror so popular at the drive-in were now adults whose fears were more deeply rooted in reality. In a rapidly changing world, the monsters of the 50s seemed silly. Also, since there had not been a nuclear holocaust in the years following World War II and aliens had never landed (that we know of), moviegoers looked inward, focusing on its own psyche rather than on external threats.

The 1960s began with the B-movies of William Castle and Roger Corman, but one movie soon changed the entire landscape forever: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), which ushered in an era of intense psychological horror. Other movies also took a minimalist approach compared to those of the past. They featured characters, usually women, who don’t believe what is happening to them until the end, at which point the forces of evil usually win. Examples of these psychological horror movies include:

Peeping Tom (1960, directed by Michael Powell)
Homicidal
(1961, directed by William Castle)
Carnival of Souls (1962, directed by Herk Harvey)
The Haunting (1963, directed by Robert Wise)
Strait-Jacket (1964, directed by William Castle)
Repulsion (1965, directed by Roman Polanski)

Popular during this age were Roger Corman’s decreasingly faithful adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe stories for American International Pictures, most of them featuring Vincent Price:

House of Usher (1960)
Pit & the Pendulum (1961)
Premature Burial (1962)
Tales of Terror (1962)
The Raven (1963)
The Masque of the Red Death (1965)
The Tomb of Ligeia (1964)

Although Dead of Night (1945) is considered one of the earliest examples of a modern horror anthology, the subgenre exploded during the Psychological Age. Examples of movies that contain several short stories within a larger wraparound story include:

Twice-Told Tales (1963, directed by Sidney Salkow)
Black Sabbath (1963, directed by Mario Bava)
Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965, directed by Freddie Francis)
Torture Garden (1967, directed by Freddie Francis)

The last two were early entries in the portmanteau films of Amicus Productions from England, which would become popular in the 1970s.

Also in England, Hammer Films continued to go strong through most of the 1960s until late in the decade when it took the same route as Universal in the 1940s and began making multiple sequels for its signature monsters. In this decade, Euro Horror rose and the United States was exposed to unique genre movies and directors from other foreign countries: Mario Bava from Italy and Jess Franco and Paul Naschy from Spain, for example.

With all the changes happening in the 1960s, social stability was gone: The Vietnam War and the anti-war movement, the Sexual Revolution and the feminism movement, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the civil and gay rights movements. Collectively, the turmoil produced an underlying counterculture movement that would provide ample opportunity for horror movies to explore new ways of exploring sex and violence.

The turmoil and social upheaval of the decade may best be demonstrated by the fact that there were four assassinations of important public figures: President John F. Kennedy in 1963, Malcolm X in 1965 and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. At the end of the decade, two events occurred that couldn’t have been any more different. In August of 1969, “3 days of peace & music” was celebrated at Woodstock, while only a week earlier, the Manson Family murders had occurred on the other side of the country.

The state of the horror movie at the end of the Psychological Age may best be demonstrated by the release of three landmark films in 1968: Night of the Living Dead, Targets, and Rosemary’s Baby, all terrifying reflections of the 1960s. Rosemary’s Baby concludes this era as well as launches the next.

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Below is a list of movies featured on this blog or mentioned on one of our social media channels.  We will update it regularly.

At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1964)
The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962)
The Aztec Mummy Against the Humanoid Robot aka The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy (1965)
Berserk (1967)
The Birds (1963)
Black Sabbath (1964)
Blood and Black Lace (1964)
Blood and Roses (1960)
Blood Feast (1963)
The Bloody Pit of Horror (1965)
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)
Brides of Blood (1968)
The Brides of Dracula (1960)
The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966)
Bunny Lake is Missing (1965)
Cape Fear (1962)
Carnival of Souls (1962)
Cash on Demand (1961)
Castle of Blood (1964)
Children of the Damned (1964)
The City of the Dead aka Horror Hotel (1960)
The Comedy of Terrors (1963)
Countdown (1967)
Crypt of the Vampire aka Terror in the Crypt (1964)
Curse of the Doll People (1961)
The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)
Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2050 (1966)
The Day of the Triffids (1962)
Dead Ringer (1964)
Dementia 13 (1963)
The Devil-Ship Pirates (1964)
Diary of a Madman (1963)
Die! Die! My Darling aka Fanatic (1965)
Dr. Goldfoot & the Bikini Machine (1965)
Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)
Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1965)
Eye of the Devil (1966)
Eyes Without a Face (1960)
The Face of Fu Manchu (1965)
Fantastic Voyage (1966)
The Fearless Vampire Killers (1966)
First Men in the Moon (1964)
Five Million Years to Earth aka Quatermass & the Pit (1967)
The Flesh Eaters (1964)
Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965)
The Ghastly Ones (1968)
Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
The Gorgon (1964)
The Haunted Palace (1963)
The Haunting (1963)
Hillbillies in a Haunted House (1967)
The Horror of Party Beach (1964)
Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)
The Hypnotic Eye (1960)
Hysteria (1965)
The Innocents (1961)
Invasion of the Neptune Men (1961)
Island of Terror (1966)
The Kiss of the Vampire (1963)
Konga (1961)
The Last Man on Earth (1964)
The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Maniac (1963)
Mars Needs Women (1967)
Mothra (1961)
Mothra vs. Godzilla aka Godzilla vs. the Thing (1964)
Mr. Sardonicus (1961)
The Mummy’s Shroud (1967)
Munster, Go Home! (1966)
The Nanny (1965)
Never Take Candy from a Stranger aka Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (1960)
Night Creatures aka Captain Clegg (1962)
The Night Walker (1964)
Nightmare (1964)
Nightmare Castle (1965)
One Million Years B.C. (1966)
Onibaba (1964)
Paranoiac (1963)
Peeping Tom (1960)
The Phantom of the Opera (1962)
The Pirates of Blood River (1962)
The Pit & the Pendulum (1961)
The Plague of the Zombie (1966)
Prehistoric Women aka Slave Girls (1967)
Psycho (1960)
Queen of Blood (1966)
Rasputin, the Mad Monk (1966)
The Raven (1963)
The Reptile (1966)
Reptilicus (1961)
Repulsion (1965)
Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964)
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
The Satan Bug (1965)
Scream of Fear aka Taste of Fear (1961)
The Shadow of the Cat (1961)
She (1965)
Shock Corridor (1963)
The Skull (1965)
The Sorcerers (1967)
Stop Me Before I Kill! (1960)
Strait-Jacket (1964)
Suspiria (1977)
A Taste of Blood (1973)
The Terror (1963)
The Terror of the Tongs (1961)
The Time Machine (1960)
The Tomb of Ligeia (1964)
The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1961)
These Are the Damned aka The Damned (1962)
Torture Garden (1967)
Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)
The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967)
Viy (1967)
Village of the Damned (1960)
Wait Until Dark (1967)
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
The Whip & the Body aka The Whip & the Flesh (1963)
The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die (1964)
The X from Outer Space (1967)
X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963)
Yongary, Monster from the Deep (1967)

See also:

The Day of the Triffids (1981)
The Day of the Triffids (2009)
The Haunting (1999)