For a brief period in the mid-1950s, America survived Bridey Murphy mania. When a Colorado housewife was hypnotically regressed to her past life as the afore-named 18th-century Irish farm lass, the nation was suddenly hooked on reincarnation. To no one's surprise, movie makers were quick to capitalize on the public's short-lived hypno-fever. But psycho-probing of the subconscious was by no means confined to the films of the fifties:

Honorable mention: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)
German director Robert Wiene helped to revolutionize horror with his surreal manipulation of filmmaking's rudiments. The film's depiction of obsession, its expressionistic sets, and Conrad Veidt's sleepwalking mime from hell changed the way the world looked at scary movies.

10. The Alligator People (1959)
Beverly Garland is a newlywed nurse at her wit's end. It seems her scaly, alligator groom has vanished into the bayou and she's blocked the entire horrific experience from memory. Dr. Douglas Kennedy induces a trance in an effort to unravel the mystery which, he determines, is better left forgotten.

9. Bewitched (1945)
Radio dramatist-turned filmmaker Arch Oboler made a pass at hypno-horror with this strangely subdued story of schizophrenia. Phyllis Thaxter is a homespun girl with an aggressive, man-eating alter-ego (voiced by Audrey Totter). Edmund Gwen is the kindly doc who prescribes exorcising Thaxter's villainous half.

8. The Search For Bridey Murphy (1956)
This "fact"-based film kicked off the reincarnation frenzy of the fifties. Teresa Wright is the well-adjusted homemaker who relives her past in 18th-century Ireland via Louis Hayward's hypnotic rummaging. The sober, straightforward film plays like a documentary with Hayward, on occasion, addressing the audience directly.

7. Horrors of the Black Museum (1959)
This one makes the list by virtue of its recently restored opening prologue wherein the great hypnotist, Dr. Franchel, explains the ramifications of "Hypno-Vista." Anyone particularly susceptible is asked to leave the theater for the ensuing 13 minutes. Hopefully they returned for the feature, which had absolutely nothing to do with hypnotism.

6. The Thing That Couldn't Die (1958)
I'm not entirely sure why I like this film. Perhaps the rustic, western-ranch setting, its crudely atmospheric 16th-century sequences and some near-hysterical performances from its earnest cast won me over. The hypnotic element is well-exploited with the titular disembodied noggin commanding the local yokels to carry out his dirty work.

5. Spellbound (1945)
Hitchcock's classic psycho-drama is hardly a B movie, but its resounding influence on the genre cannot be ignored. Beautiful shrink Ingrid Bergman helps a distraught Gregory Peck to relive the accidental death of his brother, complete with dream sequences designed by Salvador Dali and a knockout Miklos Rozsa score. This one scared the daylights out of me as a child.

4. Curse of the Demon (1958)
One of the most oppressively effective horror films of the fifties utilizes hypnotism as a pivotal plot point. Rand Hobart, an ignorant, hayseed Satanist, has been struck dumb by the unthinkable horrors he's witnessed. Via Dana Andrews' plumbing of his subconscious, he emerges screaming from his trance-like state -- one of the great shock moments in cinema.

3. The Hypnotic Eye (1959)
Shamelessly exploitative and callously sadistic, this classic gimmick shocker is also a heck of a lot of fun. All of smarmy Jacques Bergerac's hypnotic subjects (including pretty Merry Anders) eventually turn up horribly disfigured at the behest of his sinister, scarred partner, Allison Hayes. When originally shown in theaters, the house lights were actually turned on when the time came for Bergerac to demonstrate the wonders of "Hypno-Vision."

2. The Undead (1957)
Roger Corman claims that, by the time he managed to deliver this film to theaters, the Bridey Murphy craze upon which he hoped to capitalize had already passed. Pamela Duncan, as streetwalker Diana Love, is the regressee. Trance-ported back to the middle ages, she encounters Satan himself, not to mention Billy Barty, Bruno Ve Sota and flamboyantly buxom Allison Hayes.

1. Svengali (1930)
The main attraction is John Barrymore's stark-raving scenery chewing in the title role. Lovely Marian Marsh is Trilby, Svengali's tragically entranced protege. Stunning art direction and atmospheric miniatures help make this one of the very best of the early talkies, its clumsy comedic elements notwithstanding.

"Stalking to life from the depths of doom!"
The Mummy's Curse

"Every second your pulse pounds, they grow foot by incredible foot!"
Cosmic Monsters

"Her honeymoon turned into a nightmare of horror!"
The Alligator People

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