Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Mutations

I finally caught THE MUTATIONS on Sky Sci Fi/Horror the other day. It’s been eluding me for half an eternity, though it has been on repeatedly, but always late at night and as I don’t videotape stuff anymore, but also don’t own a DVD recorder and am still a bit more than a week away from getting Sky Plus installed I depended on being up at the time when the film was shown in order to watch it. Kind of gave it a 1970s viewing experience when you just had to view stuff when it was shown, not when you wanted it. A quick look at the program guides also shows that it was just as well I watched it this week as it doesn’t appear to be on again anytime in the foreseeable future and I may just have caught the last screening for the time being.

Also known as THE FREAKMAKER, this is a pretty notorious example of Brit Horror 70s style. It’s effectively a hodge podge of every good genre idea there ever was and contains mixtures of FRANKENSTEIN, DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS, FREAKS, THE ISLAND OF DR MOREAU, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, BURKE AND HARE, THE BODY SNATCHERS as well as FUN HOUSE (admittedly a later movie) and a bunch more.

It’s the kind of production that you would not see made in this day and age: Donald Pleasance plays a scientist who believes it is not only possible to clone entire species, but that you could produce a plant/human creature that would make the world a better place. (Yep, every home needs a guy who’s also a Venus Flytrap.) Pleasance’s character lovingly caresses rabbits before throwing them into the mouths of his giant meat eating plants. Future Dr Who Tom Baker - unrecognisable under tons of make up as the world’s ugliest man - assists Pleasance by providing him with new victims to experiment on. Unfortunately he has all of London at his disposal, yet the only victims he seems to catch are students from Pleasance’s college classes. Julie Ege - beautiful, but at times hard to understand with her Scandinavian accent (at least she wasn’t dubbed as usual) - is one of his students and enjoys lengthy baths. Bodybuilder and Peplum star as well as Kommissar X hero Brad Harris plays an American scientist visiting the Professor’s alma mater.

The reason for this film’s notoriety are neither the appalling plant/human monster effects nor the nudey operation scenes nor the occasional moments of gore, but the fact that one of the sub plots involves the members of a travelling “freak” show that involves dwarves as well as a number of real side show entertainers such as the Alligator Girl, Pretzel Boy, The Human Pincushion, Frog Boy and Popeye, a guy who can, well, pop out his eyes at will. The biggest gasps, however, will come when the Skinny Lady, a highly anorexic girl, puts her body on display. The word “exploitation” was created for those kinds of moments, however, the freak community is actually often shown in a very loving and caring light and, politically incorrect or not, those guys give the production a lot of memorable moments and some proper heart and soul.

Also watch out for lengthy scenes of macro photography of plant life that’ll make you want to become a mad scientist.

No idea whether this film really killed director Jack Cardiff’s career, but this would prove to be his last film in that capacity, though he is still very successfully working as a cinematographer up to this day. Not bad for a Nonagenarian.

Anyway, if you haven’t watched the film yet, go and check it out. It is oodles of fun and Julie Ege gets a lot of screentime to make it worth the while for every Hammer horror aficionado. Don’t listen to the naysayers: This is one of the best British Horror movies of the 1970s!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Victoria Vetri

I just finished a new Hammer Glamour site update with a small Victoria Vetri Biography. Check it out and also feel free to follow the links to her Filmography and a little Bibliography about her as well as some links to other Vetri related pages of interest online.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cult Sirens

I was always a great fan of the Cult Sirens website so upon my last visit was pleased to discover that they now also have a separate blog that is worth checking out, so, well, check it out.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Well, what can I say? After four years being online with my current site I have finally registered a domain name. I had initially not bothered with registering a domain as they used to be pretty dear and this was just meant to be a hobby and I am a tight SOB, but over the years the prices have dropped and you can now get a .com from GoDaddy for as little as $9.99, so you can now locate my Topcities site more easily under

What irks me is that
a) as well as were already given away to sites with absolutely no content whatsoever and that
b) those sites now show up much higher on Google despite the fact that there is nothing at all of any interest on them.

In actual fact even this blog that I started just a short while ago as an accompanying sister site now ranks higher for Google searches for the terms “hammer glamour” than the long established main site! (All the other search engines like Yahoo or Ask, on the other hand, display the web site very prominently.) A few years ago when I had sweet eff all on my site you could easily find me on Google’s first page, now that I have much more relevant info I am nowhere to be found which can really be frustrating at times.

Over the last few weeks I have quietly and behind the scenes tweaked my site according to some search engine optimisation tips that I found online and as a result I have moved up the ranks a little bit and rather than being on the bottom of the eighth Google search page, I am now on the bottom of page 7. Woohoo! (Yet, still too far down to be noticeable for any casual surfer. No wonder I get most of my hits through links from other sites or through Google’s image search.)

So, I am hoping that this domain registration will ensure that I gradually climb up even higher amongst the all important Google ranks.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Some Irish Hammer News

For years you hear nothing about Irish Hammer connections of sorts, then within 24 hours I am receiving two news items primarily for my Irish readers. (Anyone? Raise your hands if you're out there!)

They say that good news comes in threes (or is that deaths?), so I wonder what's next on the horizon for the Irish Hammer Connection.

Robert Simpson has just published an article for the current edition of Film Ireland about the seldom discussed short documentary films of Hammer and more specifically the Hammer films shot in Ireland.

And the Irish Film and Television Network reports the following:

Veteran horror actress Ingrid Pitt (Countess Dracula, The Wicker Man) has joined the cast of October Eleven Pictures upcoming horror movie ‘Urban Creep’.

The Polish born actress rose to fame in the 1970’s when she played a female vampire in Hammer Film’s horror thriller ‘The Vampire Lovers’. The box office smash led to her donning the fangs again for roles in ‘The House That Dripped Blood’ and ‘Countess Dracula’

Special effects expert and puppeteer Michael McCormick (Return Of The Jedi, The Muppet Show) has also signed up to provide special effects for the movie.

Produced by Jonathan Figgis, the movie tells the tale of the citizens of Sewark City, who have succumbed to a viral infection that ignites in them a desire to consume living flesh. A small band of un-infected civilians reside at the northern tip of the city, amongst them an elderly Polish lady (Pitt) and her granddaughter Katya, to be played by Maria Manton. The group join forces, bracing themselves for inevitable assault, with one common purpose: survival.

The script will be co-written by British horror writer Shaun Hutson, whose novels include ‘Exit Wounds’ and ‘A Necessary Evil’, and October Eleven’s Jason Figgis, who will also direct.

‘Urban Creep’ will begin filming in Summer 2008, on location in Wicklow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Den of Geek

I have recently been approached by Den of Geek as to whether I would like to contribute a little piece about Hammer's new movie and the challenges the company faces in the new century. The piece is now online , so go and check it out.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

This and That

Bits and pieces that I had previously not reported on:

*Four of Hammer's Dracula movies have now been released in a cheap Region 1 box set containing Horror of Dracula, Dracula Has Risen From the Grave, and Taste the Blood of Dracula and Dracula A.D. 1972. All the films had previously been released before.

*Also just released, and a little something that I really want to have (Hint, hint.): Hammer Horror Vampire Terrortory, an interactive Hammer Vampire DVD game (Region 2) presented by Ingrid Pitt.

*A good place to be in is currently Scotland as a Hammer exhibition is taking place at the Falkirk Wheel until November 11. I really wish someone would visit, take some pictures and write a report. More info available here.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Rosemary's Baby

I re-watched Rosemary’s Baby (1968) again right in time for Halloween and always get a kick out of the Hammer film connection of sorts:

What I mean is when Mia Farrow’s character meets Terry Gionoffrio (played by Angela Dorian) in the launderette and tells her that she looks just like actress Victoria Vetri… who we of course all know as the blonde bomb shell from Hammer’s pre-historic epic When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970, i.e. produced two years after Polanski’s master piece).

The joke is of course that Angela Dorian (who was that year’s Playmate of the Year after being the September 1967 Playmate of the Month) is none other than Vetri herself!

The actress/model was born Victoria Vetri, though for the first part of her career had decided to choose a pseudonym based on the ill fated liner, until she gradually moved over to her birth name.

As for other cameos: Also watch out for producer William Castle who turns around in the telephone scene where Mia Farrow believes him to be Dr Sapirstein (played by Ralph Bellamy).

As for the film itself: What’s there to say? It’s just one of the great and influential horror movies that just have to be checked out.