Category Archives: Hammer-Amicus-Tigon
Hammer Volume Four: Faces of Fear | Four classic chillers arrive on Blu-ray for the very first time in the UK
Four classic Hammer chillers arrive on Blu-ray for the very first time in the UK from Indicator: The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll (1960), Taste of Fear (1961) and The Damned (1962). Accompanied by a wealth of new and archival extras – including exclusive new documentaries, audio commentaries, alternative versions, new and archival cast and crew interviews, a series of appreciations of their female stars, analyses of their composers’ scores, and extensive booklets – this stunning limited edition box set is strictly limited to 6,000 units. Out on 25 November 2019. Expect some individual reviews very soon.
THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958)
• New 4K restoration
• Original mono audio
• Audio commentary with film historians Marcus Hearn and Jonathan Rigby (2019)
• Audio commentary with authors Stephen Jones and Kim Newman (2019)
• Back from the Dead: Inside The Revenge of Frankenstein (2019, 22 mins): new documentary, featuring Alan Barnes, Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
• Hammer’s Women: Eunice Gayson (2019, 8 mins): actress profile film historian Pamela Hutchinson
• A Frankenstein for the 20th Century (2019, 27 mins): video essay by film historian Kat Ellinger and Dima Ballin
• Arpeggios of Melancholy (2019, 13 mins): appreciation of composer Leonard Salzedo’s score by David Huckvale
• Outtakes reel (1958, 12 mins, mute): rare, unseen on-set footage
• Super 8 version (8 mins, b&w, mute): cut-down home cinema presentation
• Original theatrical trailer
• Joe Dante trailer commentary (2013, 2 mins)
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• 36-page booklet with essays the film, Hammer’s unrealised Tales of Frankenstein TV series, plus promotional materials and film credits
THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL (1960)
• High Definition re-master
• Original mono audio
• Audio commentary with film historians Josephine Botting and Jonathan Rigby (2019)
• Identity Crisis: Inside The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (2019, 19 mins): documentary, featuring Alan Barnes, Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
• Hammer’s Women: Dawn Addams (2019, 11 mins): actress profile by British cinema expert Laura Mayne
• Interview with Paul Massie (1967, 10 mins): archival audio recording
• Now and Then: Wolf Mankowitz (1968, 28 mins): archival interview
• Mauve Decadence (2019, 11 mins): appreciation of composer Monty Norman’s score by David Huckvale
• The Many Faces of Dr. Jekyll (2019, 7 mins): an overview of the film’s censorship history
• Original theatrical trailer
• Sam Hamm trailer commentary (2013, 3 mins): short critical appreciation
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• 36-page booklet with essays, promotional materials, reviews, and film credits
TASTE OF FEAR (1961)
• High Definition re-master
• Original mono audio
• Two presentations of the film: Taste of Fear, with the rarely seen original UK title sequence, and Scream of Fear, with the alternative US titles
• Audio commentary with Kevin Lyons
• Body Horror: Inside Taste of Fear (2019, 23 mins): documentary, featuring Alan Barnes, Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
• Hammer’s Women: Ann Todd (2019, 12 mins): actress profile by Melanie Williams
• The BFI Southbank Interview with Jimmy Sangster (2008, 68 mins): archival audio recording
• The BEHP Video Interview with Jimmy Sangster (2008, 117 mins): archival video recording
• The BEHP Interview with Douglas Slocombe, Part Two: From Hammer to Spielberg (1988, 82 mins): archival audio recording
• Fear Makers (2019, 9 mins): interviews with camera operator Desmond Davis and assistant sound editor John Crome
• Anxiety and Terror (2019, 25 mins): appreciation of Clifton Parker’s score by David Huckvale
• Super 8 version of Scream of Fear (20 mins): original cut-down home cinema presentation
• Original US theatrical trailer
• Sam Hamm trailer commentary (2013, 2 mins): short critical appreciation
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• 36-page booklet with essays, an archival on-set report, promotional materials, reviews, and film credits
THE DAMNED (1962)
• 2K restoration
• Original mono audio
• Alternative presentations of the complete 96-minute version, playable as either The Damned or These Are the Damned
• Box-set exclusive presentation of the rarely seen original 87-minute UK theatrical cut of The Damned
• Audio commentary with film historians Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan
• On the Brink: Inside The Damned (2019, 27 mins): documentary, featuring Alan Barnes, Kevin Lyons, Nick Riddle and Jonathan Rigby
• Hammer’s Women: Viveca Lindfors (2019, 15 mins): profile by film historian Lindsay Hallam
• Looking in the Right Place (2019, 10 mins): actor Shirley Anne Field on working with Oliver Reed and Joseph Losey
• Children of The Damned (2019, 24 mins): interview with David Palmer, Kit Williams and Christopher Witty
• Something Out of Nothing (2019, 7 mins): interview with screenwriter Evan Jones
• Smoke Screen (2019, 12 mins): interview with camera operator Anthony Heller
• Beneath the Surface (2019, 26 mins): interview with filmmaker Gavrik Losey, son of director Joseph Losey
• Beyond Black Leather (2019, 15 mins): academic IQ Hunter discusses The Damned
• No Future (2019, 26 mins): appreciation by author and film historian Neil Sinyard
• The Lonely Shore (2019, 21 mins): appreciation of James Bernard’s score by David Huckvale
• Isolated music & effects track
• Original US theatrical trailer
• Joe Dante trailer commentary (2013, 4 mins)
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• 36-page booklet, includes Joseph Losey on The Damned, a look at the US pressbook, reviews, and film credits
Written by Robert Bloch, the 1971 Amicus horror anthology, The House That Dripped Blood, stars Denholm Elliott, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Jon Pertwee in four tales of terror that unfold as a Scotland Yard Inspector Holloway (John Bennett) investigates a mansion with a ghoulish history…
To celebrate Second Sight’s Limited Edition UK Blu-ray release, I’ve embarked on my own investigation — into the campy, colourful men’s neckwear worn by the film’s leading male stars. Here’s what I unearthed…
Method For Murder
In this first tale, Denholm Elliott’s horror novelist Charles Hillyer rents the old mansion with his wife (Joanna Dunham) but becomes haunted by visions of Dominic (Tom Adams), the murderous, psychopathic central character of his latest novel.
As he’s working from home for most of the time, Elliott’s hack writer doesn’t really need to dress up – so we only see him wearing a dashing little brown cravat on the day of his arrival to the house.
Our second story features Peter Cushing as Philip Grayson, a retired stockbroker who gets a surprise visit from his old friend Neville (Joss Ackland). But after they visit a local wax museum, the two men become fixated on a statue of Salome, that appears to look like the woman they once knew and fell out over…
While relaxing in his new abode, listening to Franz Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14 in D minor (aka Death and the Maiden – and director Peter Duffell’s preferred title for the movie), Cushing sports a classy red smoking jacket with black lapels, white wide collar shirt and a white cravat with a naval motif tied with a toggle. He also matches this white shirt and cravat with a cream sports jacket while out strolling through the local pond, graveyard and high street – where he happens upon Jacquelin’s Museum of Horror.
He also favours a lovely burgundy and gold cravat which he pairs with a pink shirt and his red smoking jacket while lounging, and its this ensemble that he wears when Ackland’s Londoner arrives flourishing a flowing green and pink silk number (how very Ossie Clark).
The next morning Cushing is back in his white shirt, cravat and cream jacket; while Ackland has ditched the Ossie Clark number for a too-long blue tie (the kind that Boris Johnson favours). Why ditch the silk scarf? I suspect Neville thought it a tad too ginger beer to wear down in the village. After all, this isn’t hip and happening London
But there are two more neckties to admire before this one ends – a paisley cravat worn by Wolfe Morris’ waxworks proprietor and one with what looks like a Mexican theme worn by a customer (as seen in our first picture above) who gets the shock of his life – a terrible dummy head on a plate that’s suppose to be Cushing’s Grayson.
Sweets to the Sweet
In this one, Nyree Dawn Porter plays a private tutor who is perturbed by the severe way Christopher Lee’s widower treats his young daughter (played by Chloe Franks), even forbidding her to have a doll. The teacher feels like a helpless bystander, but his daughter is not everything that she seems…
Given Lee’s role here as the uptight puritanical father, there’s nothing colourful or fanciful on display here – just a rather dull Houndstooth suit… roll on the next tale.
Horror film actor and occult specialist Paul Henderson (Jon Pertwee) moves into the house, which we discover is located very near the studio where his latest film, Curse of the Bloodsuckers, is being shot (In reality, the house used in this film was actually an old cottage used for storage on the Shepperton studio lot before it got torn down to make way for an ugly council block).
Furious about the poor production values, cheap sets and crap costumes, he buys a black cloak from a shopkeeper (Geoffrey Bayldon channelling Ernest Thesiger’s Dr Pretorius in The Bride of Frankenstein) to use as his film character’s costume. Unfortunately, the cloak turns its wearer into a vampire, something his co-star (Ingrid Pitt) quickly discovers…
This final tale is an all-out campfest and the best of the bunch – especially in regards to men’s attire. Pertwee chews the scenery as the preening peacock horror star and has a nice line in fashionable clobber – from trendy scarves, ties and cravats to white ruffle shirts and the titular vampire cloak – all of which wouldn’t look out of place between the pages of The Chap.
But let’s not forget the film’s director, script supervisor and art director all decked out in the latest fashions from Carnaby Street. This scene sees Paul vent his anger, asking the director ‘Since leaving the depressing confines of television, how many films have you made?’, to which he replies, ‘Well actually this is my second’. ‘But your first horror film,’ Paul retorts, ‘Well let me tell you, I’ve made hundreds!’ No doubt this scene spoofs the real-life altercation between Vincent Price (who was originally approached to play Pertwee’s part) and his Witchfinder General director Michael Reeves.
This is one of Amicus’ most entertaining horror anthologies with a terrific cast, smart direction, funny (in-joke) script and great production values (especially those costumes sourced by Laurel Staffel), and it all looks terrific in the new Blu-ray release from Second Sight, which has some superb extras (check them out below), some great new artwork from Graham Humphreys, and a collector’s booklet. Apologies for the quality of my screen grab, but I do assure you that the Second Sight print is amazing.
• Audio commentary with director Peter Duffell and author Jonathan Rigby: This is the definitive take on the making of the movie from the man who made it.
• Audio commentary with film historian and author Troy Howarth: I loved all the background info on Shepperton, the actors and crew. Very well researched.
• Interview with Second Assistant director Mike Higgins
• A-Rated Horror Film: Fang-tastic vintage featurette featuring interviews with director Peter Duffell and actors Geoffrey Bayldon, Ingrid Pitt and Chloe Franks
• Radio Spots
• Stills Gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS FOR EACH RELEASE
• Rigid slipcase featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys
• 40 page booklet with new essays by Allan Bryce, Jon Towlson and Kat Ellinger
• Reversible poster featuring new and original artwork
In 1951, Hammer Film Productions took up residence at Down Place, a derelict country house on the banks of the Thames outside Windsor, and over the following decade turned it into the most unique film studio in England. This exciting new tome from Hammer historian Wayne Kinsey and Peveril Publishing traces the studio’s history from Hammer and beyond, to its closure with plans to develop the site into housing.
Over 344 pages packed with hundreds of behind-the-scenes photos, plans and drawings, you get a virtual tour of the studio, showing how Hammer’s skilled technicians turned Down Place into a working studio, complete with a backlot of building sets that became iconic in eyes of Hammer fans. The last Hammer production made at Bray was The Mummy’s Shroud, which wrapped on 21 October 1966, but the story does not end there as an incredible amount of film, TV and music work has also taken place there since Hammer left on 19 November 1966.
It practically reinvented itself as a centre for stop motion and special model effects over the next 20 years, with Jim Danforth working on When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth there, while Gerry Anderson’s sfx team set up camp in Stage 2 for Space 1999 and Terrahawks, where lots of model and miniature work was created for Ridley Scott’s Alien. But the other stages continued to be used for for a host of genre favourites, including Trog and Rocky Horror Picture Show, which were filmed almost exclusively at nearby Oakley Court, and this book includes a complete list of the films and TV shows shot here, which, for a film location nerd like me, I found most illuminating.
There’s also three separate chapters on the 1998, 1999 and 2007 Bray Open Days that were organised by Donald Fearney and Simon Greetham with some great photos, many sent in by fellow fans, of what has now become something quite historic and never to be repeated, especially since the passing of many of those who worked at the studio.
Kinsey concludes his tour with the sad demise of the studio showing evidence of the chronic damp damage that destroyed the interior of Down Place and the redevelopment plans to save it by converting into housing. Currently, the studio has reopened to a handful of productions as the redevelopment plans are finalised, but a part of the studio has already had to be demolished because it was beyond repair and the jury is still out on the future of the main house.
On Saturday 26 May 2018, I spent a wonderful day in the coastal town of Whitstable in Kent to celebrate Peter Cushing’s 105th birth anniversary and see the handover of the legendary actor’s handprints to the Whitstable Community Museum & Gallery by long time fan Chris Hassell.
Peter’s secretary Joyce Broughton provided some great anecdotes about her dear friend, whom she always called ‘Sir’, while the museum’s volunteers put together a mini exhibition of Peter’s personal artefacts and memorabilia from some of the many items that they have in storage.
Lunch followed at the Peter Cushing pub – a former cinema where many of Peter’s classic Hammer films were shown; followed by a walk to Peter’s former home and his bench at Cushing’s View.
Interestingly, the plaque which has been missing for a while was recently returned to the museum, and Joyce was over the moon – as it was she who had organised to have it made in the first place. She is now hoping to have it reinstated on the bench very soon. Let’s just hope no-one vandalises it again.
Courtesy of the Peter Cushing Association, here’s a copy of the press release which tells the story of the handprints long journey to the museum.
At the end of the post, I have included a video that I made of the museum exhibition, which was mounted in 2013 to mark Peter’s centenary. The museum is now looking at redevelopment plans, which enable more of Peter’s personal items to go on permanent display.
THE TALE OF THE PETER CUSHING HANDPRINTS
Peter Cushing was one of the most beloved and important actors for the genres of horror and fantasy films. He began in British Theater before making a name for himself in Hollywood with such films as The Man in The Iron Mask and A Chump at Oxford. Cushing returned to his native England during World War II and soon after became a television star with such hits as Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Creature and Beau Brummell. To his fans however, Mr. Cushing is recognized mostly for his work with Hammer Films. He began to star in many of Hammer’s horror and fantasy films starting in the late 1950’s, which consequently breathed new life and energy into the nearly forgotten genre of classic horror films.
These films gained such favor and popularity with the public that Mr. Cushing was quickly catapulted to international stardom. Such classics included The Curse of Frankenstein, Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas, Horror of Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed plus many more. He also appeared in films for Amicus – Hammer’s rival. Some of these classics included Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, Dr. Who and the Daleks, Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., I Monster, Asylum, and Tales from the Crypt. Mr. Cushing capped off his career in the late 1970’s with Star Wars.
From then on, he made only a handful of films with Biggles being his last in 1986. Still very active in retirement, Mr. Cushing wrote two autobiographies, received the O.B.E. (Officer of the British Empire) in 1989, helped in raising money for cancer research, along with painting, collecting books, and bird watching in his spare time.
The Peter Cushing framed handprints you now see displayed at the Whitstable Museum were almost lost to history if not for the diligent actions of Peter Cushing Association member Chris Hassell. Peter Cushing had his hands cast in plaster in 1992 at Leicester Square in London. The plaster prints were framed and eventually displayed at the Prince Charles Cinema in London.
Years later a member of the Peter Cushing Association informed the group about the prints in their fanzine ‘The Cushing Courier’ which immediately struck the curiosity of Hassell who, finding no information about them in Cushing’s own autobiographies, wrote to the Prince Charles Cinema explaining about the Peter Cushing Association and inquiring about the prints.
Little did he know the events he would set in motion but weeks later Hassell received a postcard from Ben Freedman, owner of Robins Cinemas, who asked if he would like to come to London to collect the handprints! The Prince Charles was originally owned by the Cannon group and Robins Cinema had taken it over. Freedman wanted the prints to be housed in a suitable location relevant to fans of Peter Cushing.
Amazed at the response, Hassell reached out to Freedman who explained to him that the Cinema would consider donating the handprints to the Peter Cushing Association, so it could be displayed at a final resting place for all fans of Peter Cushing to view. Hassell worked with the first president of the Peter Cushing Association, Brian Holland, to send an issue of ‘The Cushing Courier’ with a letter outlining the plan for the handprints. On July 27, 1999, Robins Cinemas called Hassell to inform him they would be happy to donate ‘The Relic’ (the nickname Hassell gave the handprints) to the PCA.
After an unforeseen circumstance, Hassell was unable to pick up the handprints at Robins Cinema on October 22 at the Prince Charles Cinema. As described by Hassell, “Picture, if you will, a shallow wooden tray about four inches deep, eighteen inches square with sides almost one-inch-thick, filled to the brim with heavy and hardened years-old plaster. Inset into the plaster, a pair of hand-prints, above which is etched a very familiar signature and a date (‘92). Unfortunately, the middle finger of the left hand-print shows some slight damage but, otherwise, the plaster is perfect. Between, and slightly below, the two hand-prints is embedded a five-pointed golden star. In the middle of this star are engraved two words: ‘PETER CUSHING’.”
After the pickup, the PCA was awaiting a decision on whether the Whitstable Museum or the Theatre Royal, Chatham would become the final resting place for the Peter Cushing handprints. Unfortunately, the Theatre Royal closed-down and the PCA went through changes in leadership which delayed the final decision. The Whitstable Museum, with its permanent display of some of Peter Cushing’s personal items, was chosen as the final resting place of the handprints and Hassell was once again tasked with arranging the final trip. On May 26th, 2018, Peter Cushing handprints will finally be on display at the Whitstable Museum in town he called home.
Anyone interested in joining the Peter Cushing Association to enjoy and discuss his films and legacy (no dues to join, just request to join us on Facebook) please visit us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/petercushingassociation/
1960’s Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (aka Never Take Candy from a Stranger in the US) was one of Hammer’s bravest ventures: an earnest precautionary tale with its intentions in the right place that never really got a chance on its original release. But its now ripe for rediscovery as it joins Indicator’s second volume of Hammer classics: Criminal Intent.
Adapted from a 1953 play, The Pony Cart, by Roger Garris, it follows a British family settling into a small Canadian town where the father, Peter Cater (Patrick Allen) has been appointed the new school principal. When daughter Jean (Janina Faye) claims that the town’s respected patriarch, Clarence Olderberry Sr (Felix Aylmer), offered her and her friend Lucille (Frances Green) sweets in exchange to seeing them naked, Jean’s horrified mother Sally (Gwen Watford) demands an investigation. But the ensuing trial sees Jean coming under some brutal cross-examining and the elderly Olderberry being found not guilty… a verdict that results in murder!
Hammer’s social drama boasts great turns from Allen and Watford as the concerned parents, while Janina Faye gives a career-best performance as Jean (in a role that she also played on the West End). As the elderly paedophile, knighted stage and screen actor Felix Aylmer must be one of Hammer’s most chilling monsters (with or without makeup), and the fact he never utters a word only makes his performance all the more unnerving – as you never know what’s really going inside his sick mind.
Cinematographer Freddie Francis adds a touch of cinéma vérité to the nerve-wracking courtroom sequences, which were all shot in a single take at Bray Studios, and he makes atmospheric use of some of Hammer’s favourite locations – Oakley Court (standing in for a sanatorium) and Black Park, as well as Burnham Beeches and a housing estate in Slough. The suspenseful score is from idiosyncratic composer Elisabeth Luytens, while director Frankel brings a tremendous amount of suspense to the proceedings (he would later helm Hammer’s The Witches in 1966).
Hammer purposely plays down the sensationalism to craft an insightful message movie which explores both predatory behaviour and how power and privilege can shield dangerous people from proper justice. Applauded by critics of the day, the film was quite ground-breaking – especially as child sexual abuse was still a taboo subject. But the film was denied a certificate that would have allowed children to see it, as it was deemed too upsetting. Even the film’s star Janina Faye did not see her fine performance for many years. While promoted as a warning for parents, the film was not a commercial success and quickly disappeared – becoming one of Hammer’s most elusive titles in their back catalogue.
Watching it afresh, it is a stark and impressive piece of cinema that continues to send a chill down the spine with its authentic exploration of a very real grim subject that refuses to go away. Brave, intelligent and way ahead of its time – this is Hammer at its most sincere.
• HD restoration with original mono audio and new improved English subtitles.
• Two presentations: Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (UK); and Never Take Candy from a Stranger (US).
• New documentary: Conspiracy Theories: Inside Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (The film’s background and production are retraced by Indicator’s stable of Hammer experts, plus there’s some great archive audio interview excerpts from director Frankel).
• Appreciation of Gwen Watford by British cinema expert Dr Laura Mayne.
• An interview with Janina Faye, who looks back over her career with Hammer and recalls her role in the film.
• The Perfect Horror Chord: David Huckvale explores composer Elisabeth Lutyens’ ‘eerie weirdy’ musical compositions for Hammer (if you are musically inclined, this is a must).
• Actor and film-maker Matthew Holness explores the film’s message, intentions, cast and crew.
• Trailers From Hell commentary with Brian Trenchard-Smith, who succinctly does the same.
• Advertising and Publicity Gallery
• Press Material
• Exclusive booklet
Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (1960) can be found on Indicator’s Limited Edition Box Set, Hammer Volume Two: Criminal Intent, which includes three other classic thrillers from the vaults of Hammer Films (all world Blu-ray premieres): The Snorkel (1958), The Full Treatment (1961) and Cash on Demand (1961) .
I’m finally dipping into Indicator/Powerhouse’s fantastic box-set Hammer Volume One: Fear Warning, in which a quartet of classic chillers get their first-ever HD restorations (region free) with a host of exclusive extra features. Here’s my look back at 1964’s The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb.
In 1900 Egypt, a team of archaeologists, including John Bray (Ronald Howard) and his Egyptology expert fiancée, Annette (Jeanne Roland), unearth the tomb of the Ra-Antef.
When Annette’s father is murdered, the expedition’s main backer, Alexander King (Fred Clark), hatches a plan to have the treasure and sarcophagus shipped back to England for a luridly sensational tour. But when the seals are cut during the exhibition’s opening night – the coffin is found to be empty.
Soon the beat of cloth-wrapped feet begin to sound in foggy Victorian London as the ancient avenger (Dickie Owen) pursues all those who defiled its tomb…
What happens next is entirely predictable: the mummy goes on the rampage as Annette gets herself involved in a love triangle with her wimpy fiancé John and charismatic arts patron Adam (Terence Morgan), before ending up in the sewer system with the lumbering bandaged evil.
This 1964 horror sequel is a far cry from Hammer’s original 1959 classic; with pretty lame sets (especially the desert scenes) and suffers from some middle of the road casting (and sadly lacking Hammer favourites Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee), but US import Fred Clark certainly makes up for it as Alexander King, a PT Barnum meets William Castle showman with a heart of gold. A great comic actor, Clark would go onto co-star alongside Frankie Avalon in the Vincent Price spy spoof Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine the following year.
Burmese-born actress Jeanne Roland tries her best to present her educated Annette as an independent, modern (Victorian) woman, but ends up being little more than an alluring decoration.
This was Roland’s only starring vehicle for Hammer (she also suffered the same fate as many a Hammer scream queen – being dubbed), and later popped up in You Only Live Twice as Bond’s masseuse.
Hammer stalwarts George Pastell and Michael Ripper also appear – albeit too briefly, and future Virgin Witch director Ray Austin gets into a punch-up with Morgan’s Adam.
With its scenes of head crushing and severed hands, it’s surprisingly violent, and there’s a neat twist in the final act. Originally released in the UK and the US on a double-bill with The Gorgon, it actually proved a big success for Hammer despite its flaws.
• Blood and Bandages: Inside The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (very informative and illuminating anecdotes)
• An appreciation of Jeanne Roland by Diabolique editor-in-chief Kat Ellinger
• Interview with Michael McStay (2017): the British film and TV actor looks back at his time working for Hammer (his deaf person’s story is a hoot)
• Interview with composer Carlo Martelli on the use of sourced music for the film
• Super 8 Version: original cut-down home cinema presentation
• Trailer and Image Gallery
Heading into black comedy horror territory, Hammer screenwriter Jimmy Sangster made his directorial debut with 1970’s The Horror of Frankenstein, a revisionist remake of the studio’s stylish 1957 Gothic horror classic The Curse of Frankenstein – which he also wrote. But it’s quite the disappointment – even to die-hard fans.
With Hammer eyeing up a hipper, younger crowd, Taste the Blood of Dracula’s Ralph Bates takes over the title role of the monster-making Baron from Peter Cushing (who had played it four times) and he portrays him as a psychopathic serial killer and arrogant womanising misogynist who prefers tight breeches to show off his ‘average’ manhood.
Taking its narrative cue from Curse, the Gothic horror parody finds Bates knocking off his dad, claiming his Baronic title and fortune, and heading off to medical school. But, after getting the Dean’s daughter pregnant, he returns to the family castle, where he sets up shop with fellow medical student, Wilhelm Kassner (Graham James, wearing a hideous pink cravat), to create human life using a big chart labelled with numbered body parts.
Once assembled and activated, the new Baron’s creature – played by a pec flexing Dave Prowse (aka bodyguard Julian in A Clockwork Orange and the strongman in Vampire Circus) – starts killing all and sundry for no apparent reason – altough the indignity of having to wear an S&M collar, nappy and red lipstick applied stitch marks could be justifiable.
The studio-bound exteriors (except for a shot of Austria’s Hohenwerfen Castle, and a bridge and churchyard scene shot in North Mymms, Hertfordshire), re-used sets (the castle stonework looks like wallpaper), and ‘toilet humour’ does Sangster a real disservice (something he later admitted); but this lacklustre affair is worth watching for the Hammer glamour on display.
The Vampire Lovers‘ Kate O’Mara, sporting a dodgy accent that’s West Country by way of the Emerald Isle, vamps it up as the ‘accommodating’ chambermaid Alys, while statuesque Veronica Carlson (who was so good in 1969’s Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed) tries her best as needy professor’s daughter, Elizabeth, whose designs on the Baron get short shrift – probably on account of her Heidi hair-do of greasy links of bratwurst.
Both O’Mara and Carlson add some real Hammer glamour to the proceedings, and on a personal note, it has been great to have met them on the convention circuit. Sadly, Kate O’Mara passed away on 30 March 2015, aged 74, from ovarian cancer. Veronica, meanwhile, has become quite the artist and lives with her family in the US.
Dennis Price (now there’s someone I would have loved to have met) and Joan Rice (in her last film role) steal the show as a husband and wife pair of body snatchers, while Jon Finch is totally wasted as the Baron’s former childhood friend turned local copper. He did, however, find his stride in Roman Polanski’s The Tragedy of Macbeth the following year, and Robert Fuest’s The Final Programme in 1973.
Carry on… Young Frankenstein this is not! But it should have been!
The Horror of Frankenstein gets its Blu-ray UK debut (on Doubleplay from 29 January 2018) courtesy of Studiocanal featuring a brand new HD restoration (which only serves to accentuate the ‘wallpaper’ scenery, plastic forest trees and garish costumes).
It does, however, include the featurette, Gallows Humour: Inside The Horror of Frankenstein, which includes some interesting comments from Veronica Carlson about her time on the production, as well as some interesting production trivia from a handful of Hammer experts.
Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971) | The Hammer Horror that turned Valerie Leon into a legendary scream queen
After locating the tomb of Tera, Queen of Darkness in the Egyptian desert, archaeologist Julian Fuchs (Andrew Keir) returns to England with her mummy and sarcophagus where he secretly recreates her tomb under his house. But when he gives Tera’s ruby ring to his daughter Margaret (Valerie Leon), the ancient queen’s evil power tempts the young woman into helping her father’s rival, Corbeck (James Villiers), into restoring her to human form…
Based on Bram Stoker’s 1903 adventure novel The Jewel of the Seven Star, this supernatural shocker breathed sexy new life into the old mummy’s revenge plot and has become a enduring favourite amongst Hammer horror fans. It was also the fourth and last time that the company resurrected the ancient Egyptian avenger to join their stable of monsters.
The first, The Mummy, in 1959, saw a bandaged Christopher Lee crashing about Bray Studios; the second, 1964’s The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, found Dickie Owen shuffling about Elstree; and the third, 1967’s The Mummy’s Shroud, meant a return to Bray, where Eddie Powell pulled on the swaddling to take out members of an expedition team.
For Blood, their final Mummy film, Hammer ditched the bandages and got the tall, buxom Carry On actress Valerie Leon to play (rather brilliantly, I might add) the dual roles of Egyptian queen of darkness and professor’s daughter. She’s the best thing about the film, which has one bizarre piece of plotting: the recreation of a tomb in the cellar of a suburban North London house. Now, who constructs something like that without getting any attention from nosey neighbours or the council? Only in Hammer’s fanciful Home Counties horror universe could it exist.
Keir (who was my favourite Bernard Quatermass in Hammer’s Quatermass and the Pit) does a stalwart job playing the obsessed Fuchs, a role that was originally intended for Peter Cushing. He had to leave the production after one day’s filming to care for his ailing wife, Helen (who died on 14 January 1971). And the seemingly cursed production had another setback five weeks into the six-week shoot at Elstree when the director, Seth Holt, had a fatal heart attack, which forced Michael Carreras into completing the movie.
Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb was released in October 1971 as a support feature to Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, and now is available on Doubleplay (DVD & Blu-ray) from Studiocanal, newly restored in HD, as part of their Hammer Horror Collection. It looks and sounds superb on Blu-ray, even if it does show up how fake those sets look; but the liberal use of Kensington gore is a vivid treat for horror-hounds. Oh, and Leon looks just stunning.
The extras include a trailer and a single featurette The Pharaoh’s Curse: Inside Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, in which a handful of Hammer experts provide insight into the film’s production, while Leon also shares her recollections.
By the way, the motion pictures soundtrack, featuring music by composer Tristam Cary (The Ladykillers, Quatermass and the Pit), was released by GDI Records back in 2002, and having find it just recently myself, it’s well worth tracking down.
Valerie Leon is a fantastic regular on the convention circuit and appears frequently at many film fairs throughout the UK, she even has her own one-woman show. Check out her official website here: http://www.valerieleon.com/
SCREAM With Guests From The “Other World” When You Ring For DOOM SERVICE!
Professor Driscoll (Christopher Lee), is an authority on the occult who persuades one of his students (Venetia Stevenson) to research his hometown, Whitewood, once the site of witch burnings in the 17th century. Booking herself into the Raven’s Inn, she soon learns that devil worship among the locals hasn’t been consigned to the past…
Produced by future Amicus founders Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg, and beautifully shot by Desmond Dickinson (whose credits ranged from Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet to Horrors of the Black Museum), The City of the Dead (aka Horror Hotel) is a wonderfully atmospheric and still shocking slice of horror that stands firmly alongside with its Hammer contemporaries.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• New 4K digital restoration by the Cohen Film Collection and the BFI
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations of two versions of the film: The City of the Dead and the alternative US cut, Horror Hotel
• Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM Audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Audio commentary by film critic Jonathan Rigby
• Newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
• First pressing only: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Vic Pratt
Legendary hellraiser Oliver Reed may be better remembered for his drinking antics than his acting credits, but I think a reappraisal of the spirited thespian’s cinematic roles is long overdue – especially after watching this 2010 release from Eureka Entertainment.
Having made his name in Hammer’s Curse of the Werewolf in 1961 after a string of minor roles – including playing a camp chorus boy in The League of Gentlemen – and five years short of achieving stardom as Bill Sikes’ in Oliver!, Reed gives a terrifically OTT turn in 1962’s Paranoiac! – the third of Hammer’s psychological thrillers to be penned by Jimmy Sangster (The Curse of Frankenstein).
Loosely adapted from a 1949 crime novel by Brat Farrar, this Psycho-inspired chiller sees Reed take on the role of the greedy, egotistical Simon Ashby, the spoilt heir to a family fortune. Janette Scott (of Day of the Triffids fame) is his mentally fragile sister Eleanor, while Sheila Burrell plays aunt Harriett, who acts as the siblings’ guardian following the death of their parents. With the family fortune about to be split, Simon psychologically tortures his sister in a bid to have her declared unfit. But his plans come royally unstuck when his supposedly dead brother Tony (Alexander Davion) returns home…
Twists and turns abound in this gripping chiller that fuses an Agatha Christie-type mystery with gothic horror scares – particularly a ‘what the Hell’ moment involving the family chapel, a wheezing organ and a very creepy masked figure – and adding a dash of fratricide, incest and insanity for good measure.
As the deranged Simon, Reed is a stand out and the scenes where he is drinking and lashing out are weirdly prophetic. Making his directorial debut is Oscar-winning cinematographer Freddie Francis, who has a real eye for creating scenes of suspense – helped greatly by the eerie lighting and the stunning Dorset locations.
Eureka Classics‘ 2010 Blu-ray and DVD release features a stunning restored Cinemascope HD transfer, along with a music and effects track and trailer as extras, and this is a must-have for your Hammer collection – and one to include alongside the Final Cut release of Hammer’s follow-up chiller, Nightmare, which I reviewed here.