Thursday, August 19, 2021

German lobby cards for SCARS OF DRACULA (1970)

This is one of the few Hammer Draculas I hadn't watched multiple times. I remember not taking to it first time round, found it tacky and that those early 1970s hair styles were jarring and had turned me off the movie. 

And jar they do indeed and yet, despite this, some dodgy bats and having both one of the lamest resurrection and destruction scenes, as a whole this film was actually a lot of fun and giving Lee (in whiter, sicker looking make-up than usual) considerably more lines than in any of the previous productions outside the very first one. 

It also had more gore than normally associated with Hammer until then and some wonderful performances. I particularly enjoyed Anouska Hempel's impatient "Love me!" seduction spiel. 

Directed by Roy Ward Baker, shooting took place in Elstree from May 07 - June 23. The film then premiered on November 08 on a double bill with Horror of Frankenstein

 For appearing in this film Lee would receive £10.000 plus a 10% share of the profits. Unfortunately this production would prove to become the least successful of all Hammer Draculas. Lee himself considers it to be “the weakest and most unconvincing of the DRACULA stories”. 

Jenny Hanley remembers that his singing had drowned out the music from Bread, the rock band she was listening to at the time. When requested to turn down his voice a bit, he asked to be introduced to what she listened to and promised to sing this instead. 

 Lee suffered from back problems during the production and had to rely on stunt double Eddie Powell for some of the heavy lifting required when carrying Hanley to her bed room.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Face the Music (1953)

A jetlagged and overworked Jazz musician discovers a fascinating singer. They go to the best spaghetti house in town: her place! There they exchange cheesy quotes from songs about girls who lie and men who cheat. When he leaves the place, he forgets his trumpet and ends up being one of the main suspects when she is discovered killed. He turns amateur sleuth in order to find the real killer. 

This very noirish thriller is one of Hammer’s best quota pictures from the early 1950s before they turned into a horror power house. Alex Nichol from South Pacific was Hammer’s American star du jour and was also used as the lead in Hammer’s next movie, The House Across the Lake. Terence Fisher directs and Michael Carreras manages to instill his love for jazz into the production. He can even briefly be glimpsed as one of the Band members in Kenny Baker’s Dozen. 

 Jazz permeates the entire movie and is the narrative thread that ties it all together: It introduces the main characters who are also repeatedly seen playing it. Jazz records are leads and red herrings in this mystery and Jazz instruments are even seen as potential murder instruments. 

The screenplay was adapted from his own novel by Ernest Borneman, a fascinating character, jazz critic and musician, crime fiction writer, dedicated socialist and – most (in)famous of all – well known sexologist. Jimmy Sangster at that stage had not been elevated to writer status yet and acted as Assistant Director. Watch out for Geoffrey Keen who would later appear in many a Bond movie as Sir Frederick Gray. 

There is one annoying plot hole when we discover that only two copies of an important demo record were ever pressed yet we can clearly see three copies making the round. Nevertheless the film overall is quite enjoyable especially given the novel jazz twist. 

 Oh yeah, in the US the film is also known under title The Black Glove, although it completely beats me as to why.