Archive for the HAMMER FILMS Category

The Ultimate Hammer Collection – She

Posted in HAMMER FILMS, hammer horror, peter cushing on 06/13/2013 by vincentstark

hammer_ultimateThis is the first film in Hammer’s massive 21 movie box set, The Hammer Collection –  this 1965 movie was by Hammer’s standards big budget with a lot more location shooting than was usual for the studio. This results in a lavish looking movie that looks particularly good thanks to the DVD remastering.

she004The movie plays as a boy’s own adventure and is far removed from the horror pics Hammer were known for during this period, mind you Hammer’s two biggest horror stars, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee lead the cast, which includes support from the beautiful Ursula Andress as She Who Waits, John Richardson and the always wonderful Bernard Cribbings providing light comic relief.

Hammer take a lot of liberties with  Haggard’s original novel but in doing so they do manage to provide a pretty enjoyable, if a little daft adventure movie.  the story is updated to post-First World Wae Palestine, its explorers recast as demobbed soldiers uprooted by the war.

An enjoyable enough romp then but the opening titles  tell us that this film was shot in “Hammerscope” which means 2.35:1 . However this edition suddenly converts to Anamorphic 16.9.

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Countdown to Halloween – The Horror of Sherlock Holmes

Posted in halloween, halloween countdown, halloween movies, HAMMER FILMS, hammer horror, HORROR MOVIES on 10/15/2012 by vincentstark

Hammer’s Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

So suitable for the British horror studio was Conan Doyle’s, The Hound of the Baskervilles that it could have been written with Hammer Films in mind. Indeed following their success with revamping the Dracula and Frankenstein franchises Hammer turned to the most famous fictional detective of them all, Sherlock Holmes for this movie which was intended to be the first in a new series with Peter Cushing in the title role. Alas the movie didn’t perform as well at the box office as expected and plans for the series were scrapped while Hammer concentrated on more gothic material. Pity really – I would have loved to have seen Hammer tackle The Giant Rat of Sumatra.

The film looks like a Hammer movie – the colour is excellent, garish in places with all that over saturated red and the gothic elements that the studio did so well, are brought out in Doyle’s story like never before. Of course they were always there, even in the original story but Hammer emphasise these parts of the storyline without really altering the original. There are some differences to the original story – Stapleton’s webbed hands for one thing, the tarantula attack for another but these work well within the story and indeed the  webbed hands carried by one line of the Baskerville clan is inspired and is a nice little macabre touch.

Peter Cushing here gives an excellent performance as Sherlock Holmes – the actor was a Sherlockian himself and he brings his knowledge of the character to the role. Andre Morell is a more than suitable Watson. It is also nice to see Christopher Lee playing a romantic lead role and one wonders what would have happened had he played more such roles. He is certainly convincing here. All in all this is a great Sherlock Holmes movie and under the direction of Terence Fisher the ponderous middle section so obvious in most productions of this story moves along at a great pace.

Why wasn’t it a big box office hit then? Well the blame for this lies with Hammer themselves. They promoted the movie as a big horror flick in the style of their successful Dracula and Frankenstein movies, with hardly any mention that this was in fact a Sherlock Holmes movie. The advertising posters suggested a kind of werewolf but when we see the hound on screen it is nothing more than an over sized Great Dane. Movie fans back in the day may have been disappointed – after all, they were going to see a film starring Hammer’s two biggest horror icons with a large slavering hound in the advertising posters and what they got  Sherlock Holmes adventure. A damn thrilling one nonetheless but word of mouth could have harmed the movie after its strong opening weekend.  SEE THE ORIGINAL CINEMA TRAILER EMBEDDED BELOW TO SEE HOW THE FILM WAS MARKETED.

Still the movie’s stood the test of time and this is a great version of the much filmed story – it’s also nice to see the current DVD version showing such an impressive looking cut of the movie. The colours are vibrant and the sound booming. It is only a pity that it is a full frame 4.3 version on the UK release when I believe the American market get a true widescreen version.

Peter Cushing would of course go onto play Holmes for the BBC, but his performance as the detective here is perhaps his definitive stab at the part. Christopher Lee also got a stab at playing both Watson and Holmes in future Holmes movies but the less said about them the better.

Halloween Countdown – the great directors: Terence Fisher

Posted in dracula, halloween, halloween countdown, halloween movies, HAMMER FILMS, Uncategorized on 10/11/2012 by vincentstark

Terence Fisher is the most famous of the Hammer films directors – he started off directing low budget thrillers such as Colonel Bogey, Stolen Face and Four Sided Triangle and it wasn’t until he helmed Hammer’s first full colour gothic horror, The Curse of Frankenstein in 1957 that he became a superstar. The movie starred Peter Cushing as the devious Baron Frankenstein and Christopher Lee as the sympathetic though horrifying creature. Fisher collaborated with screenwriter, Jimmy Sangster and with producer, Anthony Hinds they became a team that would go onto rule horror cinema for a great many years. They followed up Frankenstein with the even more successful, The Horror of Dracula (1958) which gave is arguably the finest ever screen Dracula.
Fisher’s style can be traced back to the old Saturday Morning cliffhangers that were so popular in the cinema when he was growing up – his sense of pacing is legendary and his films, particularly those done for Hammer, are provide real edge of the seat viewing. In the same year as Horror of Dracula, Fisher also directed  The Revenge of Frankenstein which saw Cushing return as the baron and this time he is a true evil character, driven by his own selfish needs. And then in 1960 Fisher returned to Dracula, this time without Lee for The Brides of Dracula – this time the film made the eroticism, which was evident in The Horror of Dracula, much more explicit. Again the movie is an energetic romp with a widely inventive climax in which Cushing, bitten by a vampire, cauterizes the wound himself before tackling the vampire. The film remains great fun but suffered without Lee as Fisher was pleased when Lee returned as Dracula for Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

 

Given their subject matter and lurid approach, Fisher’s films, though commercially successful, were largely dismissed by critics during his career. It is only in recent years that Fisher has become recognised as an auter  in his own right. His films are characterised by a blend of fairy-tale, myth and sexuality. They may have drawn heavily on Christian themes, and there is usually a hero who defeats the powers of darkness by a combination of faith and reason.

 

Fisher worked on a production line basis, often directing three films in a year, but no matter how flimsy the material his sense of style, pacing and use of bold saturated colours always resulted in an enjoyable picture. Many of the Fisher directed Hammer movies are classics – The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Mummy, The Curse of the Werewolf are all movies that feature the Fisher trademarks. During the mid-Sixties Fisher was offered directing duties on the James Bond movie, You Only Live Twice but he refused and instead remained with Hammer Pictures. And although he continued to work solidly for the rest of the decade he would never recapture the glory of the early films he made for Hammer.

 

 

 

 

 

Dracula V Dracula

Posted in dracula, hammer books, HAMMER FILMS, hammer horror, hammer horrors, Uncategorized, universal creature features, universal monster marathon on 08/06/2012 by vincentstark

There have been many movie versions of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but the two versions of the story that remain most iconic are those made by Universal and Hammer and both have their fans with each camp claiming one is better than the other. Bela Lugosi played Dracula in Universal’s famous 1931 version and Christopher Lee took the part for Hammer’s full colour update of Bram Stoker’s original novel, and fans are also divided over which actor is the definitive Dracula.
The fact is that both films are such classics that it is futile to argue that one is better than the other, because each have their strengths and weaknesses. And although I prefer Christopher Lee in the role, it must be said that Lee’s performance took much from Lugosi’s earlier work and indeed no matter which actor takes the role, and no matter how hard they try and stamp the role with their own personality, there will always be something of Lugosi in their version of the character.  Everything about Lugosi’s performance is carried forward in each and every version of the story since – his looks, his manner, the way the character dresses and the way he used his eyes to suggest some kind of hypnotic influence.

Christopher Lee was a much more menacing character in Hammer’s version but the film benefited from a relaxed censorship system and full colour. When Lugosi’s version was made colour was still a long way off, and indeed sound was only just starting to make an impact. Indeed the opening lines in Universal’s Dracula, spoken by Carla Laemmle are the first words ever spoken in a  Dracula movie. It is worth noting that when Dracula was released not all cinemas had been fitted to provide sound and a silent version of the movie was also released.

 

Incredibly Lugosi wasn’t first choice to play Dracula, indeed the actor wasn’t even in the running and Lon Chaney was the actor originally cast but his death from cancer meant the studio had to find another actor. Paul Muni, Conrad Veidt and Ian Keith (who?) were all considered before Lugosi was cast for the small fee of $3,500.
It is true that Hammer’s version is easier to watch than Universals, but that doesn’t hide the fact that Lugosi’s Dracula remains an important cinematic landmark.

Lee made more Dracula films than Lugosi’s and became the character for an entire generation, but it is only his first Horror of Dracula that can stand comparison with Lugosi’s iconic movie.

So which is best? Well, dude you need to see them both.

The Woman in Black

Posted in ghost stories, HAMMER FILMS, hammer horror, the woman in black, Uncategorized on 06/20/2012 by vincentstark

I saw this movie during its original cinema run and was mighty impressed, but I wanted to watch it in more intimate surroundings and so I picked up the Blu-Ray which was released earlier this week. And I found it even better the second time around. Of course there’s no blood and gore and the movie relies on storytelling and atmosphere to create the scares, which away from the shared audience experience of the multiplex, really hit home. It’s a quiet film, a slow burner and it needs the viewers full concentration to get the most out of its cleverly told and acted story.

The plot should be known by the world and his dog but to recap = Harry Potter plays a single father who is still grieving the death of his wife during the birth of their baby son. He is sent to a remote coastal village to put the affairs of a deceased woman in order, before her house can be put on the market, but the house is haunted by the woman in black, a malevolent spirit who is revenging herself on the villagers who she feels failed to save her son from drowning in a mud pond. The film is visually rich and impressively atmospheric, harking back to the Hammer movies of yore. The viewer’s nerves are kept taught throughout, with wind-up dolls springing suddenly to life and the light glinting off the eyes of a toy monkey giving every impression of a malign supernatural force at play. It is to the director’s credit that none of this feels too hackneyed and the eponymous woman in black (Liz White) is played with unforgettable menace.

The movie has been a big success for the  resurrected Hammer Films and will hopefully set off a cycle of period horror movies, which was always something that Hammer did best. I’m not too sure that Harry Potter holds the  gravitas required to carry the part, and he does seem far too young to play a tortured widower with a four year old son, but it was probably his name which lured the hordes into cinemas to see this low key ghost story so his casting was likely a masterstroke.  In fairness though Harry Potter does well with a challenging role and often his youth serves as a reminder that he is an outsider in the village, but he does seem to downplay the scares and often comes across as oddly emotionless.

There are many changes from the novel but for the most part they improve on Susan Hill’s original story, but the ending is something of a let down  – Hill’s original story  had an ending that haunts you long after turning the final page, but the movie  wraps it all up quite neatly. Still  the film deserves kudos for proving that  a defiantly British, old-school horror movie devoid of sex, violence and profanity can be box office gold.

Bang Bang, the bloodstained hammer

Posted in hammer books, HAMMER FILMS, hammer horror on 02/09/2012 by vincentstark

Hammer are to make three new movies a year including a new Dracula –  Don’t get too excited because that information comes from a 1980 press release from the company who had recently bought Hamden House which they intended to convert into another Bray Studios. None of that came to fruition, well apart from the new studios and a TV series, and it was a while longer before Hammer finally got back into feature film production but the golden days of the studio are now long behind us. That proposed new Dracula film would have brought Christopher Lee back to the role and would have been set in contemporary times because Hammer felt that gothic films had had their day. Alas none of this was to be and until the recent revival the last Hammer horror film was 1976’s To the Devil a Daughter which wasn’t really a financial success.

 

However given the success of Hammer’s The Woman in Black, a new Dracula movie is once again on the cards but it is extremely doubtful that Christopher Lee will take the role of everyone’s favorite vampire, thought he’d make a cool Van Helsing. These days the company is in the hands of Simon Oakes and are going from success to success under his guidance. Not only are they producing new genre films, and having great success with them, but the classic output is being lovingly transferred to new DVD and Blu-ray editions, and they even have an imprint for publishing horror novels, with Hammer Books. And only this week it was announced that Michael Sheen has been offered the leading role in The Quiet Ones,  unveiled to be the next movie from Hammer Films. In addition, Brit actor Damien Lewis is also said to have been offered a part.Based on a earlier script by Rampart/The Messenger writer & director Oren Moverman that has been re-drafted by John Pogue (Ghost Ship, U.S. Marshals), the horror is described as a ‘poltergeist movie’ by Hammer Films CEO Simon Oakes and which will start filming in May in South Africa.

 

We can’t really tell you much about it but we really are looking at it. I’ve been saying that we’d never remake the films per se, but we would do our own versions of it. Certainly in my time with Hammer we will definitely do a Dracula. We will do a Frankenstein if we can find a route in. It’s about finding a route in that makes it your film.” Simon Oakes

Hammer are healthy again which is a good thing for movie lovers – the studio may have considered its output to be B-movies but they  have become iconic and the very name conjures up images of gothic horror –  This studio may have lost all relevance when it started churning out big screen versions of popular sitcoms like On The Buses and Love Thy Neighbor, but no one really doubted that the studio would one day rise from the dead.

Hammer originally started out in the 1930’s when Will Hammer founded Hammer Productions. He was soon joined by Enrique Carreras and together they formed a distribution company called Exclusive Films. They produced a few comedies during the Thirties as well as a thriller The Mystery of the Mary Celeste which starred Hollywood’s Count Dracula, Bela Lugosi. But by the Forties Hammer were no longer producing films and it wasn’t until the two founder’s sons took control that the Hammer we know and love started to form. Right from the start James Carreras displayed a shrewd business mind and he reckoned that by ensuring none of their films had a budget larger than £20.000 and by making five films a year they could turn over a profit annually of £25,000. Hammer could not afford big name stars and so it was decided to concentrate on the domestic market and produce movie versions of popular radio  shows. They scored some success with versions of PC49 and Dick Barton but it wasn’t until 1955 and The Quatermass Experiment that Hammer really came into its own. And from there it was a hop, skip and jump to 1957’s, The Curse of Frankenstein, which gave Hammer its first real bite out of the lucrative American market. The film also started a cycle of gothic horror films for which the studio have become synonymous.

 

The Hammer Frankenstein and Dracula cycles went on into the Seventies and ended on a high point for the baron with Frankenstein and the Monster from  Hell and an all time low for Drac with The Satanic Rites of Dracula. However the Dracula movies led to an interesting series of films based loosely on the Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla story – The Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire and Twins of Evil, but by now the boom years had ended and Hammer dwindled into a shadow of its former self. They’re fighting fit now, though.

So Hammer is dead, long live Hammer.

 

Hammer Films Website

All set to Hammer the eBook market

Posted in hammer books, HAMMER FILMS, hammer horror, hammer horrors on 01/23/2012 by vincentstark

Hammer Film Studios are on a roll at the moment and now the successful Hammer Books are set to make a big splash in the eBook market with a series of original novels which follow the run of novelizations of classic Hammer movies – To be released on February 2nd, the first book is The Greatcoat, described as “a terrifyingly atmospheric ghost story” from Helen Dunmore. Set in 1954, newlyweds Isabel and Philip Carey move to Yorkshire town of East Riding.There Philip establishes himself as a GP while Isabel tries hard to adjust to the realities of married life. Feeling out-of-place and constantly judged by the people around her, including her landlady, she spends much of her time alone.

One cold winter night when her husband is out on call, Isabel finds an old RAF greatcoat in the back of a cupboard that she uses to help keep warm.Wrapped in the coat she sleeps and is beset by dreams. She wakes to hear a knock at her window.Outside is Alex, a young RAF pilot, waiting to come in. His powerful presence both disturbs and excites her. Her initial alarm soon fades, and they begin an intense affair. But nothing has prepared her for the truth about Alec’s life, nor the impact it will have on hers …

Other titles will follow later in the year as well as more of the novelizations of Hammer classics