Best Horror Shows of the 60s
As a storytelling medium, television truly came into its own during the 1960s. We could stay here all day listing the great TV shows which were produced during this decade, but what we are concerned with are the shows which scared us.
The Twilight Zones: Submitted for your approval the series that set the gold standard for genre storytelling. Creator Rod Serling served as the presenter in each episode, welcoming viewer to tales of the strange, scary, cerebral and fantastical courtesy of himself and a number of other great writers including the legendary Richard Matheson. What sets the Zone apart from the the multitude of other anthology shows was Serling’s use of the genre to explore very real world issues which resonated even more with audiences. Even those who have never seen this show are familiar with chilling iconic episodes like “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “It’s a Good Life” but there are plenty of hidden gems out there like “In Praise of Pip” and “The Encounter”. Many have tried to duplicate Serling’s original formula but none have come close to the original Twilight Zone.
Dark Shadows: During the sunny hours of daytime, soap operas ruled the airwaves. Producer Dan Curtis wanted to leave his mark on this movement, but had no time for jilted lovers and the other tropes. Instead, his soap opera focused on the supernatural in the historic mansion of Collinwood and the Collins family who call it home. Initially the series focused on Victoria Winters, the young governess hired by the family, but Dark Shadows became appointment television when the 200 year old vampire Barnabas Collins entered the picture. At its height, the writers of this show fired on all cylinders with story arcs delving into the dark and gothic world of Barnabas and his family.
The Outer Limits: “There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling the transmission”……so begin one of the best intros in TV history. Combining pulp science fiction and gothic horror, the Outer Limits was perfect televised nightmare fuel. Debuting with one of the most startling monsters seen on the small screen with “The Galaxy Being” the Outer Limits established from the start their intention to terrify viewers. In 1963, they even produced an episode many affiliates deemed too scary for the masses with “The Architects of Fear”. While the series may have run from 1963-1965, it left an impact on pop culture still felt today.
Thriller: When you need a host for your thriller anthology series you can not get much better than horror legend Boris Karloff. Initially the focus of Thriller was suspenseful crime and mystery stories, but inevitably horror elements began to creep in. For a run of 67 episodes, this acclaimed series rarely missed a beat as one of the most terrifying shows on TV featuring a host of A-list talent in a number of episodes, including Karloff himself occasionally popping up. Most notably, starring in the highly acclaimed season 2 episode “The Incredible Doktor Markesan”.
The Munsters: It was during the 1960’s the archetype for the TV sitcom family was cemented. But creators Allan Burns and Chris Hayward decided that the formula could be improved upon by making the family monsters. TV favorite Fred Gwynne led a solid cast of Yvonne DeCarlo and Al Lewis in a hilarious twist on the sitcom for the Monster Kid crowd. Settling in a comfortable home on Mockingbird Lane the Munsters handle situations that would not be out of place on Father Knows Best but handled with a fun horror spin to make things vastly better.
Great Ghost Tales: Short lived but powerful, this anthology series fell between Bachelor Father and You Bet Your Life to bring a needed dose of terror to a block of fun. Adapting gothic literary classics from the likes of Edgar Allen Poe, MR James, and Conrad Aiken, Great Ghostly Tales had a suitably dreary and moody style. Though it only lasted 12 episodes over the course of the summer of 1961, Great Ghostly Tales is definitely worth seeking out for horror fans. If nothing else it holds the distinct record of being the final TV drama to be distributed in the now extinct style of being shot live for broadcast.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: During this Golden Age of television, viewers knew how lucky they were that one of the greatest filmmakers ever turned up on the small screen every week to bid them a “Good evening”. By the time of the show’s premier Alfred Hitchcock had clearly established his reputation thanks to works like The 39 Steps, Foreign Correspondent, Rope and Dial M for Murder but his reputation was taken to the next level when he brought his penchant for suspense and terror to the small screen. Assembling an embarrassment of A-list talent both behind the camera and in front of it, Hitchcock served as the perfect host with the perfect combination of grand presence and sardonic wit.
The Addams Family: With a wicked sense of humor and just a dash of commentary on what is “normal” this adaptation of Charles Addams’ cartoons brought the Addams Family into the mainstream. The chemistry between Carolyn Jones and John Astin as Morticia and Gomez popped with energy and passion heading up a cast full of memorable characters like Uncle Fester, Lurch, Grandmama, Pugsley and Wednesday. While the laypeople see them as strange, spooky and macabre, they are nothing short of a strong family unit with a zest for life. To this day I defy anyone to not snap their fingers upon hearing the theme song for this show cue up.