For Women in Horror Month, we take a look at the careers of Janet Leigh and 8 other classic leading ladies of the genre.
Janet Leigh starred in what would become the inspiration for many horror films of the 70’s and 80’s, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Although she wasn’t on screen for the duration of the movie, she had one of the most memorable scenes in the history of cinema.
Yes, we are talking about the famous moment where Leigh’s character, Marion Crane gets stabbed by an insane Norman Bates while she is taking a shower. It still terrifies audiences 60 years later!
However, Janet Leigh isn’t the only classic leading lady to venture into the world of scary movies. Some other notable names made the crossover as well. Since February is Women in Horror Month, we are going to celebrate other actresses that have made their imprint on the genre.
Hard to believe that the two-time Oscar winner (Dangerous and Jezebel) appeared in terrifying fare but she did and she excelled at it! One of our favorite performances of Bette Davis is in the frightening Robert Aldrich production, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
In this gothic effort, Davis plays a has-been former child star named Baby Jane Hudson who is clinging to her glory years. Her sister, Blanche (portrayed by Bette’s real-life rival, Joan Crawford) also an actress, received more accolades during her career than Jane did.
This has obviously created a contentious relationship between the two siblings. When Blanche is confined to a wheelchair, Jane has got her where she wants her. The fear factor climbs as Jane’s madness accelerates. One of the more chilling scenes is when she feeds her sister a rat. Yikes!
To find out What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? it is streaming on You Tube, Amazon Prime, Google Play, VUDU and iTunes.
Another actress from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Joan Crawford, who won the 1945 Academy Award for her portrayal of Mildred Pierce, also found herself in genre movies during the 60’s and 70’s. Robert Bloch, the writer of Psycho, penned the script for a William Castle film called Strait-Jacket.
In this flick, Crawford is Lucy Harbin, a woman who was confined to an insane asylum for 20 years after axing her husband and his mistress to pieces. Segue to the present day, Lucy is out and wants to rekindle her relationship with her daughter, Carol.
Unfortunately, Carol is wary of reconnecting with her mother because she can’t forget about the brutal murder of her father that she witnessed when she was a child. On the eve of her wedding, people are getting hacked to death again. Is her mother behind the recent slew of killings?
This is an intense B movie that is fun to watch. It also has an uncredited Lee Majors in the cast!
Strait-Jacket is available on Amazon Prime, VUDU, You Tube and Google Play.
In our opinion, Ms. Black is an original Scream Queen. A graduate of the Roger Corman school of B movies, Karen embraced the horror genre early on. She was also adept at appearing in prestigious films as well like the critically acclaimed, Five Easy Pieces starring Jack Nicholson.
Fans of Rob Zombie know her as Mama Firefly in House of 1000 Corpses. However, we remember her in the awesome tour de force, Trilogy of Terror. Black portrayed three different roles in this Dan Curtis production based on a Richard Matheson story.
The segment that we enjoy the most is entitled, Amelia. Karen portrays a woman who buys a Zuni warrior doll for her boyfriend who is a collector. She is given explicit instructions to never remove the chain around the doll’s neck. It is believed that the idol is cursed with an evil spirit that will run amuck.
Unfortunately for Amelia, the chain falls off and now, she is in a fight for her life against this crazy, little knife wielding doll. This demented figure was Chucky before Chucky. If you haven’t seen this horrific gem, we highly encourage you to do so.
Catch Trilogy of Terror on Amazon Prime.
Dee is another actress like Janet Leigh who can star in a mainstream blockbuster film like ET and also be at home in a horror production like The Howling.
With an impressive resume that encompasses a wide spectrum of genre delights like 3 From Hell, Cujo and Death House it is hard to choose what film to recommend. So, we are going for one that may be off the radar for fans called Red Christmas.
Ms. Wallace portrays a widow who has to defend her dysfunctional family from a murderous stranger. This is a role that you have never seen her in before. Not only does she swear but that wholesome Mom image is foregone for a tough as nails warrior. Definitely, mark this one on your must-see list.
Deck the Halls with Red Christmas at Tubi, You Tube, Amazon Prime, Google Play and VUDU.
Other classic leading ladies in the horror genre:
- Elsa Lanchester: Bride of Frankenstein
- Tippi Hedren: The Birds
- Carolyn Jones: House of Wax
- Betsy Palmer: Friday the 13th
- Vampira: Plan 9 from Outer Space
Is Janet Leigh your favorite classic leading lady of horror? Who else do you enjoy watching? Let us know in the comments.