I have occasionally used this series of posts to step outside the realm of books and discuss other media, such as movies. I generally avoid doing this for a number of reasons, chief among them being that it's long been my contention that old school D&D's primary inspirations were literary in nature and indeed literary within a specific sub-set of books and authors.
That said, it's also true that D&D wasn't written to emulate the works of any particular author or literary series. Furthermore, an important ingredient in the creative alchemy that brought forth the game was its ability to draw on ideas from a wide variety of sources and incorporate them into itself, in the process producing an entertainment that was greater than the sum of its parts.
A good example of this is the monk class introduced in Supplement II, Blackmoor, inspired by a variety of sources (ranging from Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir's The Destroyer series to the 1972-1975 TV series Kung Fu to Carl Douglas's hit single "Kung Fu Fighting.") but nevertheless transcending its roots in order to become a unique element of D&D. The same is, of course, true of the cleric, which by most accounts was inspired by Peter Cushing's portrayal of Dr. Van Helsing in numerous Hammer horror films watched by Dave Arneson in the late 60s and early 70s.
Hammer Film Productions was (and is -- the name has apparently been revived in recent years) one of the most prolific and influential creators of horror films during the late 1950s through early 1970s, producing dozens of films that firmly established a particular approach to horror as definitive. This approach combined tight scripts, clever direction, and superb casting to create moody, suspenseful films that punched far above their weight when it came to budget. It's also worth noting that Hammer's films were extremely daring when it came to gore and sexual content, which likely contributed to their success, although, by today's standards, the films are (mostly) quite tame. Indeed, having spent the last couple of weeks watching many of these films, I'd argue that the tension between the filmmaker's desire for greater explicitness and the censors' concerns created films that are more satisfying than both the more sanitized films made by Universal Studios a generation earlier and the no-holds-barred style of the 1970s and later.
Though called "horror" films and filled with many horrific and disturbing ideas and images, what's most notable about Hammer's best films is that they are, with few exceptions, adventure films, in which representatives of "the realm of Law" venture forth into a Chaotic stronghold and do battle against its minions. Watching The Brides of Dracula or The Devil Rides Out or Quatermass and the Pit, it's easy to see what exactly what so inspired Arneson and how these films had an impact on early gaming. Indeed, for all their breaking of societal taboos, the Hammer films (generally) have a very conventional morality at their hearts: good triumphs, evil is defeated, and life goes on -- until the next time Chaos again enters the world. They're great models for roleplaying adventures in terms of structure, characterization, and mood, not to mention the terrific characters.
Ravenloft takes a lot of licks on this blog and rightly so, I still feel. But, leaving aside its worst excesses, it's the very model of a Hammer horror movie turned into a D&D adventure. I've often thought that, stripped of its heavy-handed central melodrama, it could have served as an ideal bridge to the prehistory of the hobby, a reminder of some of the genuine cinematic antecedents of D&D. I still think this is a worthwhile endeavor, one I toy with from time to time in the midst of my other projects. Of course, lots of gamers fervently believe that "D&D can't do horror" and, I suppose, they're right if one's view of horror is overly psychologized and personal, but then I don't think this "defect" is unique to Dungeons & Dragons.
On the other hand, as the Hammer films show us, horror isn't just something one can feel on a personal level; it can be something broader, such as the revulsion Paul Krempe feels as his friend Victor von Frankenstein presses on with his mad researches, disregarding the laws of both God and man. Or the danger posed by Dracula, as his lust for blood creates yet more of his kind. Or even the dark reflection of human nature seen in the prehistory of Mars discovered by Professor Quatermass. It's all terrific stuff and great fodder for gaming. I heartily recommend tracking down a couple of Hammer films and setting aside some time to watch them. They're well worth the time and I daresay that viewers whose primary experience of horror movies stems from films made since the 1970s are in for a treat.