Sunday, April 29, 2018


Numerous visual elements are used to set the scene and mood in monster movies and other supernatural horror films. The most successful of these are those that are less noticeable and natural, sometimes even subliminal. That's why art direction, set design and lighting are oftentimes taken for granted -- especially when they are done well -- because they have done their job by creating the atmosphere, that visual space where the actors make their characters come to life, in such a way as to help make the scene come alive without detracting from the action. I like to call this art form as it applies to horror movies, "atmos-fear".

And, what better way to introduce the subject of atmos-fear than with images of a beautiful woman in a nightgown and a fog-drenched graveyard? Pretty Nina Foch, playing Nicki Saunders, has been sinisterly ensorceled by the vampire Armand Tesla (Bela Lugosi) in RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE (Columbia Pictures, 1944). Art Direction was by Lionel Banks and Victor Greene. Banks also contributed art direction to two other genre films for Columbia in 1944, CRY OF THE WEREWOLF (also starring Foch), and THE SOUL OF A MONSTER. Set decorations were handled by Lous Diage, who later went on to work on many well-known TV shows of the sixties, including THE MONKEES, THE FLYING NUN, and I DREAM OF JEANNIE. The person with the fog machine was no doubt special effects man Aaron Nibley or an assistant.


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