The first color horror films

Well, two-stick Technicolor is red AND green, but you get the idea.

Doctor X

By Meg Shields · Published on October 10, 2022

Welcome to The queue – your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from around the web. Today we watch a video essay looking at the first color horror films.


Before we get to today’s video essay, let’s talk about what a “color film” actually is.

If you’re a fan of historical horror films, you might have still images of Max Schreck as Nosferatu jumping around in your head. Aren’t parts of that film pink, blue, green and yellow? do to turn FW Murnau’s 1922 classic into an early color horror film? Well, no really. The solid colors are the result of a process known as film tilting, which was actually a popular way in the late 19th century to protect against early film piracy (yes, that was a thing). Dyeing was often used in connection with films toning (which colors the “blacks”, while toning focuses on the “whites”). Pre-dyed film stock was also available.

Hand painting and stencil color processes were also available to filmmakers and are exactly as cumbersome and idiosyncratic as they sound.

The difference between the aforementioned methods and what would (in my opinion) properly counts as “early color film” is the difference between adding color to film and to catch color on film.

While there were earlier documented attempts to create color film systems (including Kodachrome and Kinemacolor), two-tone Technicolor system is generally considered to be kicked in the door.

And this brief history lesson finally brings us to today’s video essay: a look at two of the earliest color horror feature films to survive the ravages of history. Take a look:

Watch “The First Color Horror Movies – Doctor X (1932) & Mystery Of The Wax Museum (1933)”:


Who made this?

This video essay on early color horror films is by Andrew J. Wright (aka dr urdu), a Canadian video essayist dedicated to horror history. The channel aims to shed light on the deeper intricacies of an often mocked genre by presenting these films as more than just cheap thrill rides. You can subscribe to Dr. Urdu on YouTube here. You can follow Wright on Twitter here.

More videos like this

Related topics: History, Horror, The queue

Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns on FSR: The Queue, How’d They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also the curator of One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman’s ‘Excalibur’ on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She her).

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