The ‘don’t’ warnings began back in 1962 when potential British viewers of the witchcraft film Night of the Eagle were warned by Anglo Amalgamated Film Distributors: ‘Don’t see this picture unless you can stand the emotional shock of a lifetime!’
In 1964, Hammer Film’s psycho drama Fanatic – which was re-named for US distribution by Columbia as the more startling Die! Die! My Darling! – was being advertised with the tagline: ‘Don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t dare miss it!’ Yes, eight uses of the word “don’t”, just in case you didn’t get it. But this was more of an (overly repetitive) perfunctory movie warning to patrons that they shouldn’t miss out, rather than a genuine foreboding of the horrors contained therein.
In 1972, Poor Albert and Little Annie was advertised by Europix distributors with a huge tagline bigger than the title itself: “Don’t Open That Door!”
This low-rent film subsequently became better known by its 1974 re-release title, I Dismember Mama, but the “Don’t” warning had already been unleashed and would come to be used by many filmmakers and distributors…
The Bride aka The House That Cried Murder, No Way Out and Last House on Massacre Street was a 1972 American psycho thriller directed by Jean Marie Pélissié, and written and produced by John Grissmer, the director of Scalpel (1976) and Blood Rage (1983). When it was initially released by obscure distributor Unisphere, they used the amusing tagline: ‘Don’t throw rice… just scream your head off!’
Meanwhile, (perhaps alluding to the scene where Nurse Beale finds the bloody corpse of Doctor Stephens?), S.F. Brownrigg’s 1972 Texan-shot sanatorium insanity The Forgotten, was retitled Don’t Look in the Basement by Hallmark Releasing Corp and released via American International Pictures, the granddaddies of exploitation.
Hallmark were, of course, the unsubtle and gloriously gore-fiend purveyors of movie mayhem who had promoted Tombs of the Blind Dead and Mark of the Devil with vomit bags! The infamous “To avoid fainting, keep repeating, it’s only a movie…” tagline used for The Last House on the Left and deliberately generic artwork was already being exploited by this point.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a 1973 TV movie that built up such a cult following it was eventually remade by Guillermo Del Toro in 2011. The film focuses on a young housewife, played by Kim Darby, who unleashes a horde of goblin creatures from within a sealed fireplace in the Victorian mansion that she and her husband are restoring.
Don’t Look Now is Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 beautiful yet tragic story of guilt and the psychic fear of a murderous dwarf. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are superb as the grieving parents and the alleyways and canals of Venice have never seemed so daunting.
Don’t Open the Window was an opportunistic, yet pointless, US re-titling of Spanish director Jorge Grau’s 1974 Let Sleeping Corpses Lie aka The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue. The film’s intended American audience would perhaps have been more ‘open’ to a title that suggested a sequel to Night of the Living Dead, from which it was clearly and – agreeably – inspired.
Don’t Ride on Late Night Trains was a VHS sleeve retitle for a 1974 Italian locomotive-driven rehash of Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left. Aldo Lado’s Night Train Murders is slicker and in some ways even bleaker and nastier than its inspiration, yet it lacks the intensity the former’s low budget brought to the proceedings. And let’s face it, there was only one David Hess!
Although made in 1972, Sisters of Death had to wait until 1977 to receive a theatrical outing with the tagline ‘Don’t bother to scream.’ Audiences probably had no problem with that warning though the film does have some minor moments of morbid satisfaction.
Exploitation specialists The Jerry Gross Organization reissued the psychological thriller The Mafu Cage (1978) starring Carol Kane and Lee Grant in 1979 with three new titles: Deviation; My Sister, My Love and Don’t Ring the Doorbell.
Don’t Go Near the Park (also known as Curse of the Living Dead, Nightstalker and Sanctuary for Evil) is a 1979 American horror film (released September 1981) directed by Lawrence D. Foldes. The film gained notoriety when it was successfully prosecuted in the UK and placed on the video nasty list. It was the fourth “Don’t” film on the list.
It does have the no-no of scenes showing children in peril but its general air of goofiness perplexed hardcore nasty fans looking for full-blooded horror shocks. Apparently, it was also trimmed to avoid an ‘X’ rating for its US theatrical release.
Don’t Open the Door was a 1979 re-title of S.F. Brownrigg’s third film – “a murder-mystery that’s a little less stifling than his prior work” – which had also been known as Seasons for Murder, The House of the Seasons, and somewhat ironically, as Don’t Hang Up.
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