Horror and monsters were all over the Academy Awards in 1977, and there was even a bit of controversy attending one of the winners. First and foremost, the now-classic performances by Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie in Brian De Palma’s CARRIE both nabbed nominations, for Actress and Supporting Actress respectively. Notably, it was Laurie’s first acting turn since THE HUSTLER 15 years before, for which she had also been Oscar-nommed.
Also winning a pair of nods was THE OMEN’s Jerry Goldsmith, for Best Original Score as well as Best Original Song, for the malevolent opening-credits Latin chant “Ave Satani.” (It was the first foreign-language nominee in this category in Oscar history.) While Barbra Streisand’s “Evergreen” from A STAR IS BORN wound up beating out not only “Ave Satani” but also the iconic “Gonna Fly Now” from ROCKY, Goldsmith did take the gold for Score—amazingly, his only win out of 17 nominations, also including PLANET OF THE APES and POLTERGEIST.
A further double whammy was achieved by the 1976 remake of KING KONG, which was up for Best Cinematography and Best Sound Mixing. While it didn’t take either of those prizes, it did land a Special Achievement Award for visual FX, along with LOGAN’S RUN. That didn’t sit well with veteran stop-motion animator and two-time Oscar nominee Jim Danforth, part of the committee that voted on this award, which had not nominated KONG. The Academy Board overruled them, allegedly under pressure from powerful producer Dino De Laurentiis, and Danforth (who had done preliminary work on the competing, ultimately unproduced Universal redux THE LEGEND OF KING KONG) resigned in protest—noting quite rightly that the big gorilla in De Laurentiis’ film was largely created not by the visual FX team, but by Rick Baker, who wasn’t part of the awarded team, donning his own ape suit. Here’s Roy “Schneider” presenting the FX awards:
And just for fun, here’s John G. Avildsen at the ’77 Oscars, winning Best Director for ROCKY—not a horror film, but this is likely the only acceptance speech where you’ll ever hear both MANIAC’s Joe Spinell and Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman thanked:
Another, more positive landmark in the Visual Effects category came in 1980, the first time more than two movies received nominations; there were five, which wouldn’t happen again until 2011. Overcoming the heavy competition were the wizards behind ALIEN, including H.R. Giger and Carlo Rambaldi, the latter of whom had also been part of the KONG team, and who took the occasion of his second win to inject a bit of humor into the proceedings:
ALIEN got a nod for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration as well, and the same year, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR was in the running for Lalo Schifrin’s Best Original Score. 1981 saw Ken Russell’s ALTERED STATES also competing for Original Score, as well as Best Sound.
A milestone for horror at the Oscars was achieved in 1982, when the Academy introduced a competitive award for Best Makeup. Special awards had previously been given to THE 7 FACES OF DR. LAO and the original PLANET OF THE APES, and the latter’s Kim Hunter joined Vincent Price at the ceremony to introduce the new category, and award its first winner, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON’s Rick Baker:
Baker would go on to win six more Oscars, by far the most in this area.
1986 was a big year for big-screen terror, and the following year saw four genre films named during the Academy Awards ceremony. Many expected Jeff Goldblum to snag a nomination for his tragic turn in David Cronenberg’s THE FLY, but instead, the performers’ branch gave a nod to Sigourney Weaver in the Best Actress category for ALIENS. James Cameron’s hit sequel grabbed seven noms in all, and won two, including Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Visual Effects. For the latter, hosts Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn introduced a couple of appropriate presenters:
THE FLY did claim a statuette for Best Makeup, awarded to Chris Walas and Stephan Dupuis. Wise guy Rodney Dangerfield announced the nominees and winners:
Despite his crack about the type of film that usually takes this prize, many of the Best Makeup Oscars have in fact gone to character work. Other horror-centric winners: BEETLEJUICE in 1989, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA in 1993, PAN’S LABYRINTH in 2007 and THE WOLFMAN in 2011. Elsewhere in the ’87 Awards, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS was up for Best Original Song and Best Visual Effects, and POLTERGEIST II: THE OTHER SIDE grabbed a Best Visual Effects nod as well.
Over the next few years, scary stuff was scarce at the Academy Awards; beyond BEETLEJUICE’s win, the only noms were PREDATOR for Best Visual Effects and THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK for Best Original Score and Best Sound in 1988. With the coming of the 1990s, however, Oscar went crazy for horror, including the genre’s biggest victory ever…
TO BE CONTINUED