From Beyond The Grave (1974 Britain)

A four part story film with more resonance than its predecessors. The success of this Amicus portmanteau is the unusually strong and well-integrated story, with a Yorkshire – voiced Peter Cushing enjoying himself as the sinister proprietor of ‘Temptations Antiques.’ Situated between a cemetery and a nearby demolition contractor this is a most curious of curiosity shops. Cushing’s duffel coat and cloth cap appearance seems like just another part of the shop’s antiquated décor. But mind how you treat him if you want to buy some of his object d art. Even the one honest customer who goes in has to endure a highly unpleasant experience! [Read more…]

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The Blood Beast Terror (1968 UK)

A Hammer imitation from Tony Tensor’s Tigon films, only made on a lower budget and with noticeably less enthusiasm, this is actually a lot more entertaining than it really ought to be. The film is obviously made on a lower budget than Hammer had to play around with at the time and this occasionally shows through, particularly in the creature’s costume. However, a fine British cast do the job and veteran director Vernon Sewell puts in a solid if unremarkable job. The script is literate, the locations good and the movie well-filmed. A load of old mothballs this may be, with too much dialogue, but I had low expectations beforehand. [Read more…]

Twins Of Evil (1971 Britain)

A typically stylish period vampire tale from Hammer, one of the J. Sheridan LeFanu trilogy. The difference here is a nifty gimmick that makes great use out of Madeleine and Mary Collinson, real life twins who make for a voluptuous pair indeed. Hammer Horror were at their best when they just tweaked classic stories. Throw the classic elements up in the air and let them fall where they may. And that is what is done here, in a very camp and over-the-top manner. Director John Hough has also given the film a very heavy handed score, which although gets a little silly, increases the camp value of the film and is therefore beneficial. [Read more…]

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969 United Kingdom)

Following a long period of cheap-looking productions designed to play as double-features on their home turf, Hammer returned to premium quality with Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. This is Peter Cushing’s definitive portrayal of the Baron. For once a Hammer Frankenstein doesn’t need an actual monster, but lets the baron himself become “more monstrous than the monsters he created”, as the advertisements proclaimed. And for a horror film, you’d have to agree that the locations used for filming were really quite elegant and ornate. The Spengler boarding house and Brandt’s home were exquisitely appointed and furnished, and all the while I kept thinking that they would have been a pretty nice place to live.  [Read more…]

And Now The Screaming Starts (1973 Britain)

This period horror film has all the right ingredients to be a success. It’s got atmosphere, nice sets, Peter Cushing, an experienced horror director, a severed hand with a mind of it’s own…but despite all this, it just doesn’t work as it should. One of the studio’s rare non-anthology movies, it suffers from a very uncertain script. The opening narration suggests a gothic melodrama along the lines of `Rebecca’, but it all-too quickly goes over the top. Familiar genre faces such as Patrick Magee pop up only to fall foul for a disembodied hand (a left over from the studio’s `Dr Terror’s House Of Horrors’) and the whole thing falters. [Read more…]

Dracula A.D. 1972 (United Kingdom)

(I dedicate this post to Peter Cushing, who always maintained his dignity even when his hands were full.) Moving on…no prizes for guessing which year this baby was released. T’was a leap year in horror. A vintage year for being a vampire trapped in St Bartolph’s churchyard, London. Although it feels slapdash, with its day-as-night shots, total lack of continuity and sloppy script, this film succeeds as a comic masterpiece. A bit like the Beatles disastrous Let It Be sessions, Hammer’s Dracula run-at-the-top was also nigh. Right nigh. And there was little Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee could do to stop the rot except to throw as much middle aged, Anglo-Saxon gravitas at the latest concotion they had found themselves roped into. [Read more…]

Dr Terror’s House Of Horrors (1965 Britain)

The first Amicus anthology movie was a sizeable hit on release, and was also liked by the critics. Producer Milton Subotsky dusted off some scripts he’d had knocking around since the late 1940s, but he didn’t make much of an effort to update them for the swinging 60s.  The linking story sees five seemingly ordinary travellers board a train. A sinister sixth traveller boards the train at the last moment. He carries with him a deck of tarot cards. Each traveller taps the cards three times and their fortunes are told. Unlike later entries in the series where everyone would willingly, without objection, subject themselves to such commitments, this opening film shows characters who have doubts or ridicule the whole thing. [Read more…]

The Gorgon (1964 United Kingdom)

The Gorgon should be viewed more as a doomed love story featuring a legendary horror character. To call this a horror film is just wrong, and marketing it as such has done the movie few favours over the years. Director Terence Fisher always thought of The Gorgon as one of his best films, and he was right to do so for it’s a hauntingly beautiful piece of work. Definitely one of Hammer’s most visually accomplished efforts. And if anyone dares laugh at the special effects they will be turned to stone! And if you are a connoisseur of facial hair, this one’s for you, Grandma. There are plenty of hairy men on display, frowning impressively. [Read more…]

The Mummy (1959 Britain)

hammer_classics_1This was the third time a visceral contest between Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee had been crafted for an ever increasing box office audience. And yes, there is much dignified violence and spectacle, but there is a melancholy undertow as well. Hammer’s Mummy is less a remake of Karloff’s 1932 version, more a re-imagining. And, like its Dracula and Frankenstein bedfellows, it’s a cracker. Do not let the PG rating put you off. Or the obvious studio backlot that has to convince you its a swamp. This was part of the low budget charm of Hammer. There is enough colour and elegance to The Mummy to off-set the weaknesses. [Read more…]

The Brides Of Dracula (1960 United Kingdom)

brides-of-dContinuing the theme of bloodsucking from my previous post, (and before they made a deal with the Fox/Seven Arts mafia distributors) Hammer’s artists and technicians were still carefully keeping the camera lens focused on the best aspects of their productions when this sparkling gem was conceived – in this case a most lovely Yvonne Monlaur, well-dressed Bray Studios interiors, a memorable exterior windmill set-piece, and yet another unforgettable protagonist courtesy of the great Peter Cushing. Hammer’s best films are a model of efficiency and economy, and this film definitely looks a lot better than it should. [Read more…]

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