Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Yutte Stensgaard (*May 14, 1946)

Yutte Stensgaard is a bit of a one hit wonder. Her main claim to fame is the main part in Hammer’s second Karnstein movie, Lust for a Vampire, but what a part that is! Although the film has generally been reviled, it is well worth checking out for its cheese factor alone. The photo of a nude, blood soaked Stensgaard rising out of a coffin has rightly become an iconic image.

Lust was the highlight of her short movie career but Stensgaard also has some other films well worth watching. Her part in Tigon’s so dreadfully awful, you may as well enjoy it Zeta One can arguably also be considered a leading role for which she may not have given but sure showed everything.

Any excuse is a good excuse to (re)watch Scream and Scream Again, so even though she may only have a tiny part in it (some of her scenes ended up being cut out of the finished movie), her torture scenes remain a memorable part in a very off beat movie.

Her last movie role was in Burke and Hare but for mainstream TV viewers of a certain generation she may best be known for her subsequent 24-week stunt as a hostess for The Golden Shot, a UK game show. And let’s also not forget her guest roles in TV series such as The Saint, Jason King or The Persuaders.

She appeared in a Christmas panto in 1970 in RED RIDING HOOD and re-appeared again in theatre in 1971 for a production of the comedy BOEING, BOEING.

Yutte Stensgaard was born Jytte Stensgaard in Denmark. She moved to Swinging London at the age of 19 to become a stenographer and then did the usual round of au pair and modelling jobs before being discovered as a budding actress. It probably didn’t hurt to be married to Amicus Art Director Tony Curtis – no, not *the* Tony Curtis (although she was later to act alongside *that* one) - who was the son of her acting teacher. After the marriage failed she was involved with lyricist Leslie Bricusse (Goldfinger, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) – who had temporarily split up from wife Yvonne Romain  - and married to NBC Executive and Producer John Kerwin.

Although that marriage would also ultimately fail, it was instrumental in Stensgaard’s move to the US. There for years she kept a relatively low profile and became a Born Again Christian. She is now the successful National Account Director for Premiere Radio Networks, one of the largest radio networks in the US and home to the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, owns several pieces of property and is an active supporter of the Republican Party.

After being MIA for a considerable numbers of years, Stensgaard was rediscovered by chance in 1988 in Los Angeles when she walked into (Little Shoppe of Horrors correspondent’s) Gary Smith’s travel agency. She initially was very uncomfortable combining her previous modelling career and nude shots with her strong Christian beliefs and refused to talk about her past life. Lately, however, she appears to have been more relaxed about it and even started attending conventions where she is surrounded by fans grateful to discover the re-appearance of one of Hammer’s most seminal Glamour Starlets.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Careless Suffragette

I am making my way through my Sherlock Holmes box set. I love this 1954/55 TV series far more than I probably should but it's a great little time waster and at about 25 minutes never overstays its welcome. My cheapo set has the eps in random order and after the Michael Gough show I have now discovered one with another Hammer personality: Dawn Addams stars in The Case of the Careless Suffragette.

This is an absolute howler with lots of hohumming about women's liberation. Unfortunately, for some strange reason neither nor YouTube are carrying this one but if you're based in the US you can see it on Dailymotion (via Hulu).

If you're not based in the US.... well, then you have some tinkering to do. (Little hint: Proxy server. But shhh, don't tell anyone I said so.)

I also just noticed that the US has the only complete set of this series. My Region 2 set only has 25 of the 39 episodes. Guess I'll need to fork out the $6.99 to make sure I have the whole lot.

Fear in the Night

A young couple moves into a new school where the husband (Ralph Bates) has taken up a new position. The wife (Judy Geeson) is slowly driven mad by mysterious but unconfirmed attacks. Can this be the work of the bonkers headmaster (Peter Cushing) and what does his wife (Joan Collins) have to do with it?

Been meaning to watch Hammer's Fear in the Night forever and a day but given the bad rep that this picture has I always managed to push it a bit further down my To-Watch pile and give preference to other pictures instead.

Now I finally caught up with it and – Wow! - surprised how much I enjoyed it.

It's hardly a master piece but it is far better than the dodgy prestige it is currently “enjoying”. Yes, the story may be kind of predicable but the atmosphere is great and the acting superb.

The film is clearly in line with Hammer's other Sangster-penned psycho thrillers but with attacks committed by black gloved one-armed masked strangers this often comes across much more like one of those continental giallos. There is some beautifully haunting imagery in its empty school halls. Watching Peter Cushing have dinner in front of an empty hall of imaginary students or menacingly approach with shattered glasses is bound to put a shiver down anyone's spine.

Money was probably tight so the majority of the plot takes place in the isolation of the school building with only four main actors. A very small number of other speaking parts make a very short appearance but for the most part this is carried by Cushing, Bates, Collins and Geeson. And even then Cushing only ever turns up in scenes with Geeson.

This set up could go badly wrong but is actually saved by the professionalism of the performers and competence of writer/director Jimmy Sangster who successfully focuses on a slightly offbeat mood and regularly throws in tidbits that will keep you on the edge: the image of a strange hanged man at the start of the film that was slightly reminiscent of Fulci's City of the Living Dead; Joan Collins' character mercilessly shooting a rabbit right in front of an adoring Geeson; Collins again making disparaging remarks about Geeson as a child bride when she herself is married to a considerably older man; Cushing's character being named Michael Carmichael; and did I mention those creepy lonely corridors?

A decade or so later Hammer would use those closed sets and smaller ensembles for their TV shows but not a single one of those episodes has ever gripped me as memorably as their last cinematic psychothriller.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

2 Hammer book updates: Hammer Locations, Hammer Fantasy & Sci-Fi

Hammer Book Update #1:

Bruce G Hallenbeck's follow-up to his excellent Hammer Vampire will now be out on August 08. Hammer Fantasy & Sci-Fi will focus on Hammer's lesser known oeuvre and analyse their prehistoric pictures, Nigel Kneale's Quatermass saga, Ursula Andress in She, their crazy Space Western Moon Zero Two and much more.

Pre-orders are now taken through Hemlock Books and provided you place your order before July 31 you can avail of some great discounts: RRP for the book is £17.95 but if booked in advance you will get it for just £14.95. Even better: If you hadn't had the pleasure to read The Hammer Vampire yet you can order both books for just £24.95 in total (and even get the Hammer Vampire with a new and improved cover).

So what are you waiting for?

Hammer Book Update #2:

Over the last couple of years Wayne Kinsey in connection with Tomahawk Press have published some essential Hammer related books: Hammer Films - The Unsung Heroes or A Life in Pictures belong onto the book shelf of any die-hard Hammerhead.

When I first heard about Wayne's latest project dedicated to exploring the locations where the Hammer movies were shot I was all over it as this is a product that combines my three main passions in life: Travel, Films and Books. It now looks as if Tomahawk may need to gauge the general interest into Hammer Locations before it goes ahead with it. On his Facebook page Wayne wrote the following note:

Attention Hammer fans.The market has really bottomed out for books in recent months.The locations book may now not be out for Xmas (but if not hopefully early in the new year).To help us with this, anyone who is interested in this book (Hammer Films - on location) please go to the Tomahawk Press website and express your interest in it. This does not mean you need to buy it from them - it just gives them an indication of general interest in a book and they can then forward you updates. This helps judge commercialbility and size of print runs etc ... So far there's been very little interest and this is how projects can get lost.My co-author Gordon Thomson has done an amazing job and has found and photographed virtually every location used from Quatermass Xperiment to The Devil a Daughter (international ones aside) and more .. We'll be comparing screengrabs to how they look today(some unchanged - others beyond recognition) and details of how to find them yourself.This will be THE comprehensive guide to Hammer locations and I'd like it to be a big 300 page picture book, page size same as Unsung Heroes.But those spex also depend on your interest, so please contact Tomahawk Press now!Thanks,Wayne
Tomahawk Press' Facebook page also suggested you email them with the subject header "Hammer Locations" to express interest in that book and be kept updated on its progress.

Needless to say I would urge anyone with even slightest bit of interest into this work, to make sure Tomahawk are aware of  it. We are not talking about Pre-orders here, just general expressions of interest in this work.

So do your civic duty and let them know.