Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Looking back at 2009

I am really looking forward to 2010, not so much because I am looking forward TO something but to leave the last two years behind that on a personal level have been very traumatic for me. Those of you who know me well know what I am referring to. Those of you who don't, well, let's just say I am not going to winge publicly.

But what did 2009 bring with regards to Hammer.... and Beyond? Let's have a look at the last 12 months.


I started the year with the 999 Challenge: Watch 9 movies from 9 categories in 2009 and blog about them. And soon made a hames of it.

I still think it was a fab idea, but for whatever reasons I never really got around to it much. A bunch of others also attempted this challenge, none more so than Mermaid Heather who took to it like, ahem, a mermaid takes to water. At this time she is just a handful of reviews short of finishing the challenge and I have no doubt that by end of this year she'll have concluded it. Damn, I'm so proud of that girl. Well done, Heather!

Wayne Kinsey's Hammer Films: A Life in Pictures came out at the end of last year. My review was up in January.

The British TOTAL FILM magazine put this blog forward for their Annual Blog Awards in the Horror Category. I didn't quite make it to first spot, but was equally delighted to take a proud second place.

Guest posts:

Been writing regularly for the Den of Geek, but my overview over the Top 10 Lesbian Vampire Movies was by far the most fun to write. I wonder why.....


I started another blog dedicated to Krimi movies and offloaded some short reviews that I had written over the years. I haven't done much with it since but plan on revisiting it again sometime. After all this is one of my favourite genres.

February also marked the month when I joined Twitter. It was a bit of rough start. Didn't initially “get it” and didn't tweet much, but then got hooked. The rest, as they, say is history.

Guest posts:

Den of Geek:
Man of Rock – Joe Kubert Biography book review
Watch Me When I Kill review


I may not have won the Total Film blog award, but I did end up winning the Premio Dardos Award, a truly amazing concept: a non existing award handed out in virtuality by real life bloggers. It doesn't get more post modern than that.

Dick Klemensen managed to publish not just one, but two editions of his excellent Little Shoppe of Horrors magazine this year. Issue #22 came out in March and was dedicated to Hammer's modern day Draculas. Even better: Hammer Historian Denis Meikle is now offering this magazine (as well as a number of others) from his new store in England thereby saving all us Europeans some of the postage fees that were usually associated with ordering it from Dick directly.


Guest Posts:

I started participating in DVD Trash's Weekly (or not so weekly) Roundtables. Come to think of it: What happened to those?
Den of Geek: Stone review


My favourite month by far. I had the chance to not only review Shane Briant's latest novel Worst Nightmares, but also to ask the Hammer actor a couple of questions. How cool is that? Being able to communicate not just with all you guys but also with some of the leading stars and the creative talent behind the old Hammer movies is a wonderful opportunity that makes this blog so much fun for me to run.

Guest Posts:

Den of Geek:
Baba Yaga Review
Boogeyman 3 Review
Hit and Run Review


The month for Christopher Lee related news: First his Dracula cape got auctioned off, then he receives a well deserved Knighthood and is announced as one of the stars in Hammer's new movie, The Resident, that is due to come out in 2010.


On July 25 Don Fearney staged another one of his fabulous Hammer events, this time dedicated to John Carson. I wasn't there, but I heard it was great.

Guest Posts:

DVD Trash:
The Hostess also likes to Blow the Horn
Reflections of Light


Guest Posts:

Den of Geek: No Man's Land Mystery DVD review


The kind of book I always dreamed about when I first started writing for the Internet, setting up Hammer Glamour related websites etc has finally come out: Marcus Hearn's Hammer Glamour was published for Titan Books and it is a good, but not great addition to the ever growing pile of Hammer literature available.


Little Shoppe of Horrors #23 became available, dedicated to Hammer's Cornish horror movies. How do I spell “Must Have” again?

Guest posts:

Contributed the Twitter related question for Den of Geek's interview with Greg Grunberg.
Groovy Age of Horror: Review of Brad Mengel's Serial Vigilantes of Paperback Fiction


November 2009. Otherwise also known as the month the Internet imploded under the combined weight of Frankensteinia's Boris Karloff Blogathon. More than 100+ blogger contributed and produced hundreds of Karloff related blog posts in the week of his birthday. A massive achievement. And here's my entry.

Guest posts:

Den of Geek: One Man and His Dog Mystery DVD review


I nice end of the year when I received some private and rare photos of Imogen Hassall on holidays and in a ballet. That's the kind of stuff I love showing up on this blog.

Guest Posts:

Den of Geek: Silent Night Deadly Night review

Anything I forgot? Likely.... I haven't even mentioned the various DVD releases yet, mainly because I am always the last to buy them.

What's planned for 2010?

No idea yet. Following the 999 Challenge I am reluctant to make any predictions or plans. I am, however, contemplating an episode by episode guide to Hammer's rare Journey to the Unknown TV series.

I also wouldn't mind taking on guest posts from other folks or even signing on regular new contributors to this blog. Anyone interested in writing about Hammer or Brit Horror in general? Just give me a holler. You know where to find me.

Not sure if I'll manage some more blog posts before the end of the year (probably not), so I let me take this opportunity to wish all my readers

a Very Merry Christmas and a Fabulous New Year!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Pleasure Girls (1965)

I managed to get a hold of the rare Swinging London flick The Pleasure Girls starring a young Suzanna Leigh next to the always watchable Klaus Kinski in a morality play that I probably enjoyed more than I should have.

Francesca Annis plays a young country girl visiting London to start a new job with a model agency. She has one weekend free prior to starting her new assignment and together with her other female housemates immerses herself in all that London has to offer, but soon needs to learn about the dangers inherent in mixing with the wrong bohemian crowd.

Given that this is meant to come across as a warning to the curious it is amazing how easily the girls generally get off. If anything it is the guys in their lifes who get punished, beaten, threatened by loan sharks and generally left for dead.

The girls mainly come away with a few life lessons and one baby on the way. (Certainly not the big shocker these days than it may have come across at the time.) Annis' character even gets a boyfriend, Ian McShane in one of his first roles. He plays a dodgy photographer who realises that he can really fall for the right girl if only she refuses to go to bed with him. Aaaahhhhhhh.......

Suzanna Leigh and Klaus Kinski are the most interesting couple of them all: Kinski playing a ruthless gangster and gambler with a wife in one home and Leigh as his moll in a different luxury apartment. His character secretly aims to go straight and to find a way out of the criminal way of life. He genuinely seems to be fond of Leigh's character and his performance is excellent. Often relegated to short but memorable bit parts, this is one of his longer and most memorable supporting roles. He manages to beautifully convey the two sides of his personality, the ruthless gangster and the caring private man.

Suzanna Leigh has a brief but welcome topless scene in his luxury bedroom and overall holds herself well against Kinski, an actor known to easily drown all other performances around him.

The most amazing WTF moment comes when a character who from the start is introduced as being openly gay and camp and without any apparent interest in the girls outside of a friendship level eventually gets outed as being, well, gay. Shock, gasp, who'd have thunk?

Overall this is a flawed but enjoyable production that never quite seems to be able to figure out what message it is trying to convey, but that regardless makes for an entertaining way to pass a quick hour and a half courtesy primarily of future Hammer Girl Suzanna Leigh and Germany's most interesting character actor.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Merry Christmas

I just received this wonderful eCard that I just had to share. It's so good.

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Some more rare Imogen Hassall photos

Following up on my last post with rare holiday photos of Imogen Hassall when she was only around 18, Bryan Lawrence sent me some more photos from the actual Swan Lake performance they both appeared in. Lawrence (at the left of the photos) danced the role of Prince Siegfried, Hassall (at the right) performed as his mother.

I am very grateful to Bryan for sharing these special photos with us. Although for a while Hassall was something like the Queen of Tabloids, her early career has not been covered very in depth yet, so those pics go a long way to demonstrating that she should never be reduced to being just eye candy, but actually had a lot of talent to go with it as well.

As for the actual performance Brian writes: "This was only for one performance and it was the Royal Ballet School performance. This was only the second year that the school put on a performance. The first one was Coppelia. Imogen was well cast in the role though."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Imogen Hassall holiday photos

You gotta love the serendipitous synchronicity of online networking. (I always wanted to write that.)

Ballet Dancer Bryan Lawrence contacted me through Facebook over the weekend as we are both in a small (very small!) group of Friends of Imogen Hassall. I had also previously written about her on my old Hammer Glamour site.

Bryan was wondering whether she may have been the same Imogen he knew from the Royal Ballet School in London around 1960. I checked Dan Leissner's biography and was able to verify that Imogen Hassall was indeed at the Royal Ballet School during that period in question.

Bryan wrote that he “actually went on holiday with her, her boyfriend at the time and a group through France and Italy. She was a stunning girl.” He goes on to say that: “Imogen was going with Richard Farley at the time I knew her. Richard always got the beauties! I didn't actually get to know her that well. In the Royal Ballet School performance of Swan Lake at Covent Garden in 1960 she played the part of my mother. I was Prince Siegfried.”

It was that performance of Swan Lake that had caused him to research Imogen's name again: “I have just found Imogen on Facebook. I picked her name out of a program of Swan Lake with the Royal Ballet School, in which I danced the role of Prince Siegfried in 1960. I haven't seen her since 1964 when I joined the Australian Ballet. She certainly was very beautiful.” Needless to say he was shocked when he heard about her tragic history.

Bryan was kind enough to publish three of his holiday pictures of Imogen for the Facebook group and kindly allowed me to republish them here. He writes: “The photos of Imogen Hassell and friends in The Royal Ballet were taken by me while on holiday in France and Italy in about 1961.”

I am sure you agree that these photos are not on wonderfully shot but also provide beautiful portraits of Imogen at a very early stage in her career when she was just around 18 years of age.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Terror Street/36 Hours (1953)

Judging from the first 15-20 minutes of Terror Street – or to give it its more appropriate British title 36 Hours – this could be Hammer's best Noir.

A US Airforce pilot (Dan Duryea) secretly makes a trip to England to meet up with his estranged wife. He has 36 hours before he needs to report back and may face a court martial if noticed missing. Needless to say his wife has started mixing with the wrong crowd and is found murdered. All clues point to Duryea who needs to find the real killer in time for his trip back to the States.

One of Film Noir's main themes is that of alienation. And noone gets more alienated than our reluctant hero who had chosen his career over his marriage and now tries putting back the pieces of his messed up private life.

The trouble with this film is that there never is the slightest bit of mystery. The real murderer is shown right from the start. Any potential threats are soon averted as absolutely every single character quickly opts to work together with Duryea and seems to guess straight away who the killer may be. After a tremendously good start to the film this is all very disappointing and overall just makes for a very average Hammer Noir.

Worst of all is the ludicrous 36 hour ultimatum. Duryea's character is in constant fear that his temporary defection may be noticed, but one would think that the fact that he may actually be arrested for murder should be a more serious threat than going AWOL for the first time in his career.

Duryea is a capable hero and cast against his usual type. Also look out for Eric Pohlmann in another welcome appearance for Hammer.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Goodbye Waldemar Daninsky! Paul Naschy R.I.P.

My buddies at the Eurotrash Paradise Group alerted me to this Spanish language obituary. It appears Paul Naschy passed away this morning at the age of 75.

Born Jacinto Molina this Spanish Wrestler over the decades was going to become Spain's most influential cult actor. The fact that he played classic monsters such as werewolves, mummies, Dracula, Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde, The Phantom of the Opera, The Devil, Frankenstein's Monster and many more – often several in one single production – earned him the nickname “the Spanish Lon Chaney”.

Though I must admit that I was never his greatest admirer I always appreciated the enthusiasm he brought into his creations. Whatever his films may have been lacking in production values, he more than made up for it in pure passion. Naschy was first and foremost a fanboy by heart who probably could never believe his luck that he was allowed to make a career out of his admiration of the classic Universal Horror movies. Though clearly influenced by the old black and white Hollywood movies, Naschy managed to create his unique Iberian vision fuelled with blood, gore, frequent nudity and monster mashes that were only too appropriate given the actor's wrestling background.

His most famous character was the tragic werewolf Waldemar Danisky, a part he played in more than a dozen films. Contrary to the classic Universal or Hammer Horror movies those films never really made up a specific Daninsky “universe”. Other than the name of the character there is little that unites those productions that feature a variety of unrelated plots and time lines.

Though a genre director in his own right he often featured in productions directed by Leon Klimovsky. In later years another Fanboy-turned-director, Fred Olen Ray, would take him under his wings, introduce him to US Film conventions and direct him in straight-to-video Tomb of the Werewolf (2004) for a final outing as Waldemar Daninsky.

Top of my list of favourite Naschy movies is Assignment Terror (1970), a madcap monster mash from 1970 featuring aliens reviving a vampire, a mummy, a werewolf (none other than Waldemar Daninsky) and Frankenstein's Monster in order to take over the world. This film also features Michael Rennie in his last production and lovely Karin Dor.

Another guilty pleasure is Howl of the Devil with Caroline Munro, a self indulgent but strangely fascinating film in which Naschy must have broken his own personal record and appeared in eleven different parts playing two brothers as well as Rasputin, Bluebeard, Fu Manchu, Frankenstein's Monster, Mr. Hyde, Phantom of the Opera, Waldemar Daninsky, the Werewolf, Quasimodo and the Devil. Have I missed any?

It will take a bigger Naschy authority than I am to properly do the man and his career justice, but in the meantime I will raise a glass of Rioja, flick through Thorsten Benzel's loving book homage Muchas Gracias Senior Lobo and celebrate the life of Spain's most fascinating Trash movie star.

Thanks for the memories!