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A black-and-white Halloween: Spooky movies from a bygone era
Michael Redgrave, Margaret Lockwood and Paul Lukas in "The Lady Vanishes." (1938) - photo by Elizabeth Reid
Halloween is a time for watching movies dealing with suspense, thrills and ghosts. These five classic films from the 1930s and 1940s can speed up heart rates without offending content-conscious viewers, and each movie listed is appropriate for those 12 and older. As always, films are listed by year, not by spine-tingling potential.

'The Lady Vanishes'

Iris Henderson is a rich, pretty socialite who seems to care only about having a good time. After her vacation in the Balkans, she boards a train for home and meets a sweet little old lady, Miss Froy. Iris dozes off to sleep and awakens to find Miss Froy gone. And not only has she apparently vanished into thin air, but all the other passengers claim there never was a Miss Froy on the train at all. Despite their allegations, Iris is positive some kind of evil plot is afoot. Worried for the safety of her new friend, Iris enlists the help of a cheeky young man, and the two become entwined in a dangerous international plot.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, the ultimate Master of Suspense, "The Lady Vanishes" is a 1938 British suspense film that constantly surprises viewers with its hilarious one-liners. Starring Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave and Dame May Whitty, this film won two New York Film Critics Circle Awards. It can be seen on Amazon Video or iTunes.

'The Uninvited'

Brother and sister Rick and Pamela Fitzgerald are on vacation in Cornwall, England, when they become enamored with Windward House, an abandoned home along the coast. Surprised by its low asking price, they promptly purchase it and move in. But their previous excitement about the home begins to wane when they sense an eerie presence and hear ghostly sobbing.

Stella Meredith, the granddaughter of the previous owner, is upset with the sale of the home and, although she has been banned from entering it, strikes up a friendship with the Fitzgeralds and finds a way in. But it quickly becomes apparent why Stella shouldnt enter the house when she too senses the ghostly presence and seems too close to past happenings that should stay buried and forgotten.

As the three delve into Windward House's not-so-distant history, the ghosts become more apparent. The closer Rick and Pamela get to the truth, the more dangerous life becomes for Stella until her very life balances on the edge of a cliff.

Every Halloween movie fest needs at least one movie with a ghost, and this 1944 supernatural mystery contains more than one ghostly spirit. Starring Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey and Gail Russell, it can be seen on Netflix.


Beautiful Lina McLaidlaw, a rich young woman whose innocence is greater than her beauty, falls in love and marries Johnnie Aysgarth, a charismatic pauper. Deep in wedded bliss, Lina chooses to ignore the blatant warning signs in their relationship. Then she begins to suspect small, seemingly unimportant happenings: Johnnies finances seem shaky, one of his friends mysteriously dies and the authorities have questions for her new groom. As these minor things start to add up, Lina begins to wonder if her husband had more sinister motives in marrying her, and she soon suspects that he values her money more than her life.

Another Hitchcock great, "Suspicion" has the perfect pairing of Joan Fontaine and Cary Grant in the two starring roles, and it won various awards, including a Best Actress Oscar for Fontaine. This 1941 psychological thriller can be seen Oct. 29 on TCM at 11:45 a.m. MDT or on Amazon Video, iTunes or Vudu.

'Double Indemnity'

Walter Neff is an insurance salesman who makes a routine house call to a client. When the clients dazzling wife, Phyllis Dietrichson, answers the door, Walter cant overcome the temptation to flirt with her. Their conversation heats up, and soon Phyllis asks Walter if its possible for her to take out an accident insurance policy on her husband without his knowledge. Suspecting that Phyllis is planning on murdering her husband, Walter tells her he wants nothing to do with her plan and leaves. The only problem is that he cant get the alluring Phyllis out of his mind.

Soon, the two are deep in a plan to kill Phyllis husband. But in order for her to take advantage of the double indemnity clause, in which shell receive twice the payout, they have to overcome several problems. Can the two pull off their plan and trick Walters suspicious boss? Or will their deception overcome them both?

This 1944 film noir stars Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson. After it was released, it was nominated for seven Oscars. Double Indemnity can be seen on Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix and Vudu.

'The Two Mrs. Carrolls'

While on vacation in Scotland, Sally Morton and Geoffrey Carroll, a painter, meet and fall in love. Then, at the height of their happiness, Geoffrey reveals to Sally that hes already married. Fast forward to two years later, and Sally and Geoffrey are married, the original Mrs. Carroll having conveniently died.

At first, it seems Sally and Geoffrey are blissfully happy. Then Cecily Latham, a beautiful woman bent on making Geoffrey her own, enters the picture, and Sally begins to wonder if her husband is as happy with her as she thought.

Sally then becomes ill and discovers her infirmity bears a remarkable resemblance to what led to the previous Mrs. Carrolls death. She suspects that her husband wants only her money and is poisoning her in order to make way for a third wife, Cecily.

"The Two Mrs. Carrolls" is a 1947 film noir thriller with a heart-pounding ending that lasts up until the very last moments. It stars Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck and Alexis Smith and can be viewed on Amazon Video, iTunes or Vudu.

If these flicks have only whetted your appetite for more classic thrillers, here are five classic suspense films.