This is now a little bit old, but just for the record:
Hammer has been sold… yet again, this time to a consortium that includes Big Brother creator John de Mol. They intend to spend an initial $50m on new films. Yes, we’ve been there before, so let’s wait and see. Good news is that this new company at least has a track record in producing stuff.
The Hammer’s Columbia films will now also be released. This back catalogue includes the likes of The Camp On Blood Island, Cash on Demand, Creatures the World Forgot, The Damned, Don’t Panic Chaps, The Gorgon, Maniac, Never Take Sweets From a Stranger, The Stranglers of Bombay, Sword of Sherwood Forest, Taste of Fear, The Terror of the Tongs and Watch it Sailor.
Ingrid Pitt to star in a new film with Robert Quarry! Fangoria reports that “Countess Dracula will meet Count Yorga when Ingrid Pitt and Robert Quarry star in a new feature version of THE TELL-TALE HEART for writer/director Mark (DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE) Redfield, who passed on some production art (see more below). Scheduled to shoot in LA and Baltimore in late July, the feature is Redfield’s second film inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, following his darkly surreal take on the author’s last week, THE DEATH OF POE.”
With Kiss of the Vampire and The Curse of the Werewolf I finally finished off the Universal series of Hammer movies that came out about two years ago and made up “The Hammer Horror Series – The Franchise Collection”. I am certainly not the fastest movie viewer in the world and this is one of the main reasons I never pre-order anything.
I also just added a paragraph or two from my Flixster Evil of Frankenstein review for the first set of capsule reviews that one of these days I intend to expand to more in depth reviews for the Hammer Glamour site.
Still to go: Brides of Dracula and Captain Clegg (Night Creatures).
Much has been written about the faults that some of the discs had. Some films were only playing on certain players, but not on others, but I was fortunate enough not to have experienced any of that. My films were in perfect condition and looked better than I am ever likely to see them again. In actual fact during Don Fearney’s event in January I did have a chance to view Kiss of the Vampire on the big screen and was shocked to see how reddish the print was, far from the print available on those discs. Yes, it would be great if the DVDs had some extras, but at least those films did finally become available to the general public.
If you’re a Hammer Fan and haven’t yet purchased the set, there really is no excuse for it. What are you waiting for?
Unlike the two earlier Hammer Frankenstein movies (The Curse of Frankenstein, Revenge of Frankenstein), Hammer now got permission from Universal to use a variation of Karloff's classic Monster make up. Given the fact that for their first two Frankenstein entries, not having the monster make up ended up a blessing as the company was properly able to concentrate on the character of the scientist, rather than the monster, this was a bit of a mixed blessing.
Now they had some monster recognition factor, but not a Karloff (or even Christopher Lee) in it, but a wrestler from New Zealand called Kiwi (sic!) Kingston.
The result is a bit of a mixed affair: There are some ingenious moments in it: It is not Frankenstein but a hypnotist who manages to eventually revive the creature and then uses him to seek revenge on people who done him wrong (traces of Caligari here). The production is well photographed: Little wonder as the director is Oscar award winning cinematographer Freddie Francis.
But for every great element, we have at least an equal amount of duds: Frankenstein is seen acting incredibly foolish insisting he can't afford to be recognised by his peers, then throwing a fit in public that nearly gets him arrested. One moment the castle is unapproachable for him, the next he walks in and out seemingly unobserved.
So it's definitely not one of Hammer's finest, but it is a pleasure to watch and Cushing's acting is absolutely superb.
The Curse of the Werewolf was one of the first Hammer movies I ever saw at a tender age and that got me hooked on Hammer. I had watched it repeatedly over a couple of years, though admittedly this was a good while ago and it was more than time for a re-evaluation. Lately I had read about it being overrated and lacking in action, so when I finally put the disc into my player I was somewhat reluctant. Would I still feel the same about the film as in my youth? Or would it be yet another one of those memories that were better left untouched and simply kept as nostalgia.
I shouldn’t have worried. Curse still satisfied my lycanthropic cravings and remains an excellent film.
What is quite obvious is its very distinct three act structure. Act 1: The scenes at Count Siniestro’s (Anthony Dawson) court, the incarceration of the beggar (Richard Wordsworth), the rape of Yvonne Romain’s character and birth of Leon, the character doomed to become a Werewolf. Act 2: Leon’s childhood, the discovery that he is indeed a werewolf. Act 3: Leon as an adult played by Oliver Reed, his involuntary killing spree and final death.
Of those three acts the first and the last are by far the most memorable and horrific. The scenes of debauchery at the court, the humiliation and animalisation of the beggar and the rape of the mute servant girl still don't pull any punches. And the werewolf transformations and killings are classic iconic scenes. True, some may think that the second act may be dragging a bit, yet the scenes in it are ultimately essential in making us getting to like Leon and his family and thereby creating a more tragic climax.
Though it takes nearly an hour until Oliver Reed appears in his first proper starring role, he does give his all and it is a tremendous, haunting performance by the young actor that clearly put him on the map.
Interestingly enough we are not given the more traditional reasons for why the transformations occur. There is no other werewolf in the picture who may have bitten Leon or anyone else in his family. Instead any one of a number of possible reasons for his affliction are indicated: Was it the rape by someone who deteriorated to sub-human levels? Or the fact that the mother survived for months alone in the forest by living a quasi-animal life? Or because he was born out of wedlock on Christmas Day? Or maybe because he had to battle strong inner demons? This untraditional approach leaves a very satisfying mystique about the character.
The film was based on a novel by Guy Endore, The Werewolf of Paris, in which the action takes place in France whereas the Hammer adaptation transferred it to Spain.
Hammer Films are probably most famous for their series of Dracula movies starring Christopher Lee, yet when it comes to Vampire films they were at their most original whenever they handled non-Dracula subjects such as Brides of Dracula, Kiss of the Vampire or Vampire Circus.
In Kiss of the Vampire the vampiric threat doesn’t just come from one Gothic anti-hero, but instead we have a veritable coven of Vampires who aim to initiate ever more followers into their cult. The scenes of the cult gatherings with the members in flowing white robes have a very modern feel to it and are in certain ways reminiscent of some of the later real life cults emerging in the late 60s and 70s. They also resemble similar scenes in Hammer’s own The Devil Rides Out.
There is an outstanding and beautifully photographed costumed party scene that again bears resemblance to Roger Corman’s Masque of the Red Death and was certainly inspiration for a similar masked ball scene in Roman Polanski’s Dance of the Vampires.
The acting is also superb: Edgar De Souza is a very convincing lead and is supported by Clifford Evans as one of Hammer’s most fascinating vampire hunters, Prof Zimmer, an alcoholic, obsessed with avenging the loss of his daughter. Noel Willman as Dr Ravna makes for an excellent cult leader and head vampire.
Overall, this is a feast for the eyes and one of Hammer’s best productions and only slightly let down by a somewhat unconvincing climax with a very painfully obvious fake bat attack.
A thread at the Eurotrash Paradise revealed that George Pastell (The Stranglers of Bombay, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb) dubbed Woody Strode in the little known, but apparently watchable Tarzan’s Three Challenges.
A reminder of the times when a lot of actors, no matter how relatively well known they may have been at the time, were always considering themselves to be working actors who didn’t refuse a job, no matter how obscure, and often ended up revoicing other actors for foreign as well as domestic movies.
Incidentally and even more relevant for Hammer Fans is the fact that George Pastell also dubbed Andre Morell’s character Haumeid in Hammer’s version of She.
Earlier on this year Don Fearney, the guy also in charge of those wonderful Hammer at Bray events, arranged a day at the Cine Lumiere in London to present his excellent documentary The Legend of Hammer – Vampires and support the book launch of Wayne Kinsey’s latest oeuvre "Hammer Films – The Elstree Studio Years”. The book is readily available now to buy through Amazon UK and Amazon US and comes highly recommended. Whether or not the documentary is going to be released on DVD is anybody’s guess at this stage, though I would love to watch it again properly as I missed the first half while having lunch with Caroline Munro and later on chatting with Ingrid Pitt. (I am an awful name dropper, I know.)
It was a fun event and over all the excitement of meeting the stars as well as all the fans, some of them I knew from previous events, others I met new, I of course only took a paltry number of photos some of which I would like to share with you now.
The current June 2007 edition of Fortean Times takes the 50th anniversary of Curse of Frankenstein as an opportunity to look at Hammer's history. The magazine features a superb Hammer related cover and an article by genre autor Kim Newman.
Don Fearney will stage another one of his fantastic Hammer at Bray events, this time round to take place on Saturday, August 04, 2007 and celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Hammer's Curse of Frankenstein. Numerous guests are expected as usual and it's a wonderful opportunity to explore the Bray Studios where most of the classic Hammer movies were shot. This will definitely be the last Hammer at Bray event ever and tickets are selling fast. They can obtained for £60 from Don Fearney, 25 High Hill Ferry, Bakers Hill, London, E5 9HG, UK.
welcome to my new blog about the wonderful world of Hammer movies. This blog was created primarily to provide additional information for my World of Hammer Glamour website. That website is dedicated to all the actresses who appeared in Hammer movies.
With this blog I intend to provide the following information:
a) Post updates for what’s been going on in my Hammer Glamour site (admittedly not that much lately, but I hope that this will change shortly) b) Share news and items of interest that may not necessarily feature prominently on the website c) Though I don’t always find the time to regularly write lengthier reviews and biographical data about the ladies, I dare say that I would find the time to post the occasional shorter review for this blog. d) And last but not least for this blog I don’t want to just look at the Ladies of Hammer, but also at all the other talent that was involved with the classic Hammer movies (actors, directors, writers, composers etc). I will not just concentrate on the Hammer movies alone, but also on any other stuff that those people may have been involved in.
I hope you do enjoy reading those posts and I am looking forward to hearing from you.
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