Well, I’m terribly sorry to disappoint, but I didn’t get a chance to view many classic monster movies for Halloween.
We did finally get to the original Frankenstein (1931) and (the slightly superior) Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and I enthusiastically recommend them both, for kids about nine and up; they are beautiful, and I’d forgotten how expressive Boris Karloff managed to be as the monster – with virtually no dialog but rather lots of body language, facial longshots and closeups. There are moments in both that might be slightly scary for the younger set; don’t discount the possibility just because these are old, or black and white, films. In fact, I vaguely remember seeing Frankenstein when I was just about nine, I think, and found it a little scary myself, but mostly pretty compelling. The whole concept of “mob mentality” registered deeply with me at the time, too.
Anyway, I’d say you’re safe with kids in the age range mentioned above on these classics.
Just to let you know how hard I’ve been working for you, I did manage to get my hands on a weird, Canadian TV show I’d stumbled on, called The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, and a Vincent Price classic film, House on Haunted Hill.
Verdict: You can pass on both of these! Um, for the kids, anyway. House on Haunted Hill is a lot of fun for the grown-ups, as creepy dinner party host Price pays his guests to spend the night in a haunted mansion (maybe you can throw back a highball everytime the guests do for the heck of it). UPDATED: I wrote originally that the movie is "actually too scary for younger kids and there are a lot of mature themes, such as adultery and drunkenness, that would make your kids’ grandmother frown at your entertainment choices." I hereby amend that to say that older kids may get a kick out of it, probably won't find it too scary and -- compared to what they see in current movies -- the PG-feel of the movie is probably ok.
The Canadian TV series, The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, is just plain weird, and if you came across it for free at the library or for a quarter at a yard sale, and your kids are young enough to appreciate completely goofy humor they won’t understand, then you should go for it. Otherwise, let’s just say that it was done in 1971, it shows its age, and its creator was no doubt a big fan of the American TV show "Laugh In." The costumes and characters will probably entrance the kids, but the one-liners and the dated lingo (“I’m going to lay a heavy one on you now!”) will just perplex them. I watched two episodes after K left the room mumbling about how dumb it was, just because I couldn’t figure it out. There were educational segments (live animals and factoids), flat jokes and good jokes, appearances by Vincent Price, and kaleidoscope effects set to Sly & the Family Stone’s “I Wanna Take You Higher,” which just had me laughing out loud.
What the heck?
Ok, so I enjoyed it. Don’t tell anyone. (Aw, come on, it had a cooking segment with Grizelda the Ghastly Gourmet!)
Have a happy and safe Halloween everyone, and don’t be surprised if we get to some classic vampire and werewolf movies in the spring.