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The Devil Rides Out

A Tribute To George Romero

My Opinion

Hammer Films plays an integral part in the history of horror cinema, and also in my own history with horror cinema. Along with AIP, and to a lesser extent Tigon, Hammer Films were my favorites when I was young. It is true that some of the stuff I liked as a kid hasn’t held up too well, but almost all Hammer movies hold up. They were almost always able to churn out a quality product on a modest budget. The acting and directing was always top notch as were the sets. But more importantly, with the exception of their Mummy films, Hammer could almost always put a good spin on an old story, basically remaking the entire Universal catalogue, but with their own original spin on the tales. You could say I’m a die hard Hammer fan. (Of course this pertains to their horror movies, when I look at some of the titles below I'm guessing there are some terrible flicks in that list!)

Bio

from: Wikipedia.org/

Hammer Film Productions is a film production company in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1934, the company is best known for a series of Gothic "Hammer Horror" films produced from the late 1950s until the 1970s. Hammer also produced science fiction, thrillers and comedies - and in later years, television series. Hammer films were cheap to produce but nonetheless appeared lavish, making use of quality British actors and cleverly designed sets. During its most successful years, Hammer dominated the horror film market, enjoying worldwide distribution and considerable financial success. This success was due, in part, to distribution partnerships with major United States studios, such as Warner Brothers.

During the late 1960s and 1970s the saturation of the horror market by competitors and the loss of American funding forced changes to the previously lucrative Hammer-formula, with varying degrees of success. The company eventually ceased production in the mid-1980s and has remained in effective hibernation since. In 2000 the studio announced plans to begin making films again after being bought by a consortium including advertising guru and art collector Charles Saatchi, but no films have been produced since. In May 2007 the company behind the movies was sold to a group headed by Big Brother creator John de Mol. At least $50m (£25m) will be spent on new horror films after Hammer Film Productions was sold to Dutch consortium Cyrte Investments. The new owners have also acquired the Hammer group's back catalogue.

The term "Hammer Horror" is often used generically to refer to other films of the period made in a similar style by different companies, such as Eros Films, Amicus Productions and Tigon British Film Productions.

Early history (1935 to 1937) - Hammer Productions

In November 1934 William Hinds, a comedian and businessman registered his own film company - Hammer Productions Ltd.- based in a three-room office suite at Imperial House, Regent Street, London. The company name was taken from Hinds' stage name, Will Hammer.

Work began almost immediately on the first Hammer film, The Public Life of Lucy Pinder at the MGM/ATP studios, with shooting concluding on 2 January 1935. During this period Hinds met Spanish émigré Enrique Carreras, a former cinema owner, and on 10 May 1935 they formed a film distribution company Exclusive Films, operating from a single office at 60-66 National House, Wardour Street. Hammer produced a further four films distributed by Exclusive:
The Mystery of the Marie Celeste (US: The Phantom Ship) (1936), featuring Bela Lugosi
The Song of Freedom (1936), featuring Paul Robeson
Sporting Love (1937)
The Bank Messenger Mystery (1936)

A slump in the British film industry forced Hammer into bankruptcy and the company went into liquidation in 1937. Exclusive, however, survived and on 20 July 1937 purchased the leasehold on 113-117 Wardour Street, and continued to distribute films made by other companies.

Resurrection (1938 to 1955) - Hammer Film Productions

James Carreras (son of Enrique) joined Exclusive in 1938, closely followed by William Hinds' son, Anthony. At the outbreak of World War II, both James Carreras and Anthony Hinds left to join the armed services and Exclusive continued to operate only in a limited capacity. In 1946, James Carreras rejoined the company after demobilisation. He resurrected Hammer as the film production arm of Exclusive with a view to supplying 'quota-quickies' - cheaply made domestic films designed to fill gaps in cinema schedules and support more expensive features. He convinced Anthony Hinds to rejoin the company, and a revived 'Hammer Film Productions' set to work on Death in High Heels, The Dark Road, Crime Reporter and Dick Barton Special Agent (an adaptation of the successful Dick Barton radio show). All were shot at Marylebone Studios during 1947. During production of 1948's Dick Barton Strikes Back, it became apparent that the company could save a considerable amount of money by shooting in country houses instead of professional studios. For their next production - Dr Morelle - The Case of the Missing Heiress (another radio adaptation) - Hammer rented Dial Close, a 23 bedroom mansion next to the River Thames, at Cookham Dean, Maidenhead.

On 12 February 1949 Exclusive finally registered "Hammer Film Productions" as a company with Enrique and James Carreras, and William and Tony Hinds as company directors. Hammer moved into the Exclusive offices in 113-117 Wardour Street, and the building was rechristened "Hammer House".

In August 1949, complaints from locals about noise during night filming forced Hammer to leave Dial Close and move into another mansion, Oakley Court, also on the banks of the Thames between Windsor and Maidenhead. Five films were shot there: The Man in Black (1949), Room to Let (1949), Someone at the Door (1949), What The Butler Saw (1950), The Lady Craved Excitement (1950). In 1950, Hammer moved again to Gilston Park, a country club in Harlow Essex, which hosted Black Widow, The Rossiter Case, To Have and to Hold and The Dark Light (all 1950).

In 1951, Hammer began shooting at its most famous home, Down Place also on the banks of the Thames. The company took out a one year lease and began its 1951 production schedule with Cloudburst. The house, a virtual derelict, required substantial work, but it did not have the kind of construction restrictions that had prevented Hammer from customising its previous homes. A decision was therefore made to turn Down Place into a substantial, custom-fitted studio complex. Its expansive grounds were used for almost all of the later location shooting in Hammer's films, and are a key part of the "Hammer look".

Also during 1951, Hammer and Exclusive signed a four-year production and distribution contract with Robert Lippert, an American film producer. The contract meant that Lippert and Exclusive effectively exchanged products for distribution on their respective sides of the Atlantic - beginning in 1951 with The Last Page and ending with 1955's Women Without Men (AKA Prison Story). It was Lippert's insistence on an American star in the Hammer films he was to distribute that led to the prevalence of American leads in so many of the company's 1950s productions. It was for The Last Page that Hammer made one of its most significant appointments when it hired film director Terence Fisher, who went on to play a critical role in the forthcoming horror boom of the 1950s.

Towards the end of 1951, the one-year lease on Down Place expired, and with its increasing success Hammer looked back towards more conventional studio-based productions. A dispute with the Association of Cinematograph Technicians, however, blocked this proposal, and instead the company purchased the freehold of Down Place. The house was renamed Bray Studios after the nearby village of Bray and it remained Hammer's principal base until 1966.

1952 brought the first of Hammer's science fiction films: Four Sided Triangle and Spaceways.

The birth of Hammer Horror (1955 to 1959)

Hammer's first significant experiment with horror came in the form of a 1955 adaptation of Nigel Kneale's BBC Television science fiction serial The Quatermass Experiment, which was directed by Val Guest. As a consequence of the contract with Robert Lippert, American actor Brian Donlevy was imported for the lead role, and the title was changed to The Quatermass Xperiment to cash in on the new X certificate for horror films. The film was an unexpectedly big hit, and led to an almost equally popular 1957 sequel Quatermass 2 - again adapted from one of Kneale's television scripts, this time by Kneale himself and with a budget double that of the original: £92,000. In the meantime, Hammer had produced another Quatermass-style horror film, X the Unknown, originally intended as a full part of the series until Kneale denied them the rights. At the time, Hammer voluntarily submitted its scripts to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) for comments before beginning production. Regarding the script of X the Unknown, one reader/examiner (Audrey Field) commented on the 24 of November: "Well, no one can say the customers won't have had their money's worth by now. In fact, someone will almost certainly have been sick. We must have a great deal more restraint, and much more done by onlookers' reactions instead of by shots of 'pulsating obscenity', hideous scars, hideous sightless faces, etc, etc. It is keeping on and on in the same vein that makes this script so outrageous. They must take it away and prune. Before they take it away, however, I think the President [of the BBFC] should read it. I have a stronger stomach than the average (for viewing purposes) and perhaps I ought to be reacting more strongly."

The Curse of Frankenstein

As production began on Quatermass 2, Hammer started to look for another U.S. partner willing to invest in and handle the American promotion of new product. They eventually entered talks with Associated Artists Pictures (AAP) and its head, Eliot Hyman. During this period, two young American film-makers, Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky, submitted to AAP a script for an adaptation of the novel Frankenstein. Although interested in the script, AAP were not prepared to back a film made by Rosenberg and Subotsky, who had only one film to their credit. Eliot Hyman did, however, send the script to his contact at Hammer.

Anthony Hinds was unsure about the script, as Universal Pictures had already made a series of successful Frankenstein films. Although the novel by Mary Shelley was long since in public domain, Subotsky's script adhered closely to the plot of the 1939 Universal film Son of Frankenstein, featuring a second-generation Frankenstein emulating his father, the original monster-maker. This put the project at risk of a copyright infringement lawsuit by Universal. In addition, a great deal of polishing and additional material was needed as the short script had an estimated running time of only 55 minutes - far less than the minimum of 90 minutes needed for distribution in the UK. Accordingly, comments on the script from Hammer's Michael Carreras were less than complimentary:"The script is badly presented. The sets are not marked clearly on the shot headings, neither is DAY or NIGHT specified in a number of cases. The number of set-ups scripted is quite out of proportion to the length of the screenplay, and we suggest that your rewrites are done in master scene form." - Michael Carreras' letter to Max Rosenberg.

Further revisions were made to the script, and a working title of Frankenstein and the Monster was chosen. Plans were made to shoot the film in Eastmancolor - a decision which caused further worry at the BBFC. Not only did the script contain horror and graphic violence, but it would be portrayed in vivid colour.

The project was handed to Tony Hinds who was even less impressed with the script than Michael Carreras, and whose vision for the film was a mere black and white 'quickie' made in three weeks. Concerned that Subotsky and Rosenberg's script still had too many similarities to the old Universal films, Hinds commissioned Jimmy Sangster to rewrite it as The Curse of Frankenstein. Sangster's treatment impressed Hammer enough to rescue the film from its place on the 'quickie' treadmill and restore it as a colour shoot.

Sangster submitted his own script to the BBFC for examination. Audrey Field's report on the 10 October 1956 read,"We are concerned about the flavour of this script, which, in its preoccupation with horror and gruesome detail, goes far beyond what we are accustomed to allow even for the 'X' category. I am afraid we can give no assurance that we should be able to pass a film based on the present script and a revised script should be sent us for our comments, in which the overall unpleasantness should be mitigated."

Regardless of the BBFC's stern warnings, Hinds supervised the shooting of a virtually unchanged script.

The film was directed by Terence Fisher, with a look that belied its modest budget. Peter Cushing's performance as Baron Victor Frankenstein, and Lee's as the imposingly tall, brutish monster provide the film with a further veneer of polish. With a budget of £65,000 and a cast and crew that would become the backbone of later films, Hammer's first Gothic horror went into production. The use of colour encouraged a previously unseen level of gore. Until The Curse of Frankenstein horror films had not shown blood in a graphic way, or when they did it was concealed by monochrome photography. In this film, it was bright red, and the camera lingered upon it.

The film was an enormous success, not only in Britain, but also in the USA, where it inspired numerous imitations from, amongst others, Roger Corman and his American International Pictures. It also found success on the European continent, where Italian directors and audiences were particularly receptive.

Dracula

The huge box office success of The Curse of Frankenstein lead to the inevitable desire for a sequel in The Revenge of Frankenstein, and an attempt to give the Hammer treatment to another horror icon. Dracula was yet another successful film character for Universal, and the copyright situation was even more complicated than Frankenstein. A full legal agreement between Hammer and Universal was not completed until 31 March 1958 - after the film had already been shot - and was 80 pages long.

Meanwhile, the financial arrangement between AAP and Hammer had broken down when money promised by AAP had not arrived. Hammer began looking for alternatives, and with the success of The Curse of Frankenstein signed a deal with Columbia Pictures to distribute the sequel The Revenge of Frankenstein and two films from the defaulted AAP deal The Camp on Blood Island and The Snorkel. Hammer's financial success also meant the winding down of the parent film distribution company Exclusive, leaving Hammer to concentrate solely on film-making.

Work continued on the script for Dracula, and the second draft was voluntarily submitted to the BBFC. Audrey Fields, 8 October 1957, "The uncouth, uneducated, disgusting and vulgar style of Mr Jimmy Sangster cannot quite obscure the remnants of a good horror story, though they do give one the gravest misgivings about treatment. [...] The curse of this thing is the Technicolor blood: why need vampires be messier eaters than anyone else? Certainly strong cautions will be necessary on shots of blood. And of course, some of the stake-work is prohibitive."

Despite the success of Curse of Frankenstein, the financing of Dracula proved awkward. Universal was not interested, and the search for money eventually brought Hammer back to AAP's Eliot Hyman, through another of his companies, Seven-Arts. Although an agreement was drawn up, the deal was never realised and funding for Dracula eventually came from the National Film Finance Council (£32,000) and the rest from Universal in return for worldwide distribution rights.

With an eventual budget of £81,412, Dracula began principal photography on 11 November 1957. Peter Cushing starred as Van Helsing and Christopher Lee as Count Dracula, with direction by Terence Fisher and set design by Bernard Robinson that was radically different from the Universal adaptation - so radical, in fact, that Hammer executives considered paying him off and finding another designer. Many consider Dracula to be Hammer's finest film.

Dracula was an enormous success, breaking box-office records in the UK, the United States (released as Horror of Dracula), Canada, and across the world. On 20 August 1958 the Daily Cinema reported, "Because of the fantastic business done world-wide by Hammer's Technicolor version of Dracula, Universal-International, its distributors, have made over to Jimmy Carreras' organisation, the remake rights to their entire library of classic films".

The Mummy

With the agreement in place, Hammer's executives had their pick of Universal International's horror icons and chose to remake The Invisible Man, The Phantom of the Opera and The Mummy. All were to be shot in Technicolor at Bray Studios, by the same team responsible for Dracula, Curse of Frankenstein and Revenge of Frankenstein. The Mummy was made in 1959, The Phantom of the Opera followed in 1962, but The Invisible Man was never produced.

Principal photography for The Mummy began on 23 February 1959 and lasted until 16 April 1959. It starred both Peter Cushing (as John Banning) and Christopher Lee (as the Mummy, Kharis), and was again directed by Terence Fisher with a screenplay from Jimmy Sangster. The Mummy went on general release on 23 October 1959 and broke the box-office records set by Dracula the previous year, both in the UK and the U.S when it was released there in December.

During the period 1955-1959 Hammer produced a number of other horror and non-horror films, including The Hound of the Baskervilles starring Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes, and comedies such as Don't Panic Chaps!. Nevertheless, it is the three films, The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy that set the direction and provided a template for many future films, and for which the company is best known.

Sequels (1959 to 1974)

Frankenstein: Hammer consolidated their success by turning their most successful horror films into series. Six sequels to The Curse of Frankenstein were produced between 1959 and 1974:
The Revenge of Frankenstein (1959)
The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)
Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)
The Horror of Frankenstein (1970)
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)

All starred Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein, except The Horror of Frankenstein (not a sequel, but a tongue-in-cheek remake of The Curse of Frankenstein), where Ralph Bates took the title role. The Evil of Frankenstein stars Cushing but has a re-telling of the first film in flashbacks and a Baron Frankenstein with a very different personality and thus it isn't really a sequel.

Dracula: Hammer also produced eight other Dracula films between 1960 and 1974:
The Brides of Dracula (1960)
Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969)
Scars of Dracula (1970)
Dracula AD 1972 (1972)
The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)

The first four were direct sequels to the original film. Brides of Dracula did not include Dracula himself, but Peter Cushing repeated his role as Van Helsing to battle vampire Baron Meinster (David Peel). Christopher Lee as Dracula returned in the following six films, which employed much ingenuity in finding ways to resurrect the Count. Hammer upped the graphic violence and gore with Scars of Dracula in an attempt to re-imagine the character to appeal to a younger audience. The commercial failure of this film led to another change of style with the following films, which were not period pieces like their predecessors, but had a then-contemporary 1970s London setting. Peter Cushing appeared in both films playing a descendant of Van Helsing.

It is worth noting that while the contemporary films featuring Dracula star both Lee and Cushing, they are not the same series due to the lack of correspondence to the Victorian/Edwardian era films; the first film is set in the 1880s whereas the flashback sequence of the last battle between Van Helsing and Dracula is set in the 1872 - long before the first meeting of Van Helsing and Dracula in Dracula (1958 film).

Christopher Lee grew increasingly disillusioned with the way the character was being taken, and with the poor quality of the later scripts - although he did improve these slightly himself by adding lines of dialogue from the original novel. (Lee speaks at least one line taken from Bram Stoker in every Dracula film he has appeared in, except for Prince of Darkness - in which the Count does not speak at all.) He was also concerned about typecasting. After Satanic Rites, he quit the series.

The Mummy: Further "mummy" movies were unrelated to the 1959 remake and one, The Mummy's Shroud, was relegated to second feature status. The films were

The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (1964), The Mummy's Shroud (1966) and Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971). The latter was a modern day version of Bram Stoker's The Jewel of Seven Stars and featured Valerie Leon as a reincarnated Egyptian Princess, rather than an actual mummy. The same novel also served as the basis for the 1980 Charlton Heston film The Awakening.

From the mid-1960s, the "Mummy" films and some of Hammer's other horror output were increasingly designed for double-billing. Two films would be shot back-to-back with the same sets and costumes to save money. Each film would then be shown on a separate double-bill to prevent audiences noticing any recycling. for example The Plague of the Zombies and The Reptile (both 1965).

Cave Girls: Hammer also made occasional one-off forays into new territory, such as the 'cave girl' series directed by Michael Carreras:

One Million Years B.C. (1966), with Raquel Welch.
Slave Girls (1968)
When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970)
Creatures the World Forgot (1971)

Hammer's briefly fashionable cavewoman genre was parodied in Carry On Up the Jungle (1971)

Psychological thrillers: Running alongside production of the Gothic horror films, Hammer also made a series of what were known as "mini-Hitchcocks" mostly directed by Jimmy Sangster. These very low-budget suspense thrillers, often in black-and-white, were made in the mould of Les Diaboliques, although more often compared to the later Psycho. This series of mystery thrillers, which all had twist endings, started with Taste of Fear (1961) and continued with Maniac (1963), Paranoiac (1963), Nightmare (1964), Hysteria (1965), Fanatic (1965), The Nanny (1965), Crescendo (1970) and Fear in the Night (1972)

Others: Other films include:
The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960), a version of Robert Louis Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde
The Phantom of the Opera (1962), starring Herbert Lom
She (1965), based on the novel of the same name by Rider Haggard
The Anniversary (1968), with Bette Davis

On 29 May 1968, Hammer was awarded the Queen's Award to Industry in recognition of their contribution to the British economy. The official presentation ceremony took place on the steps of the Castle Dracula set at Pinewood Studios, during the filming of Dracula Has Risen from the Grave.

Market changes (early 1970s)

As audiences became more sophisticated in the late 1960s, with the release of artfully directed, subtly horrific films like Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, the studio struggled to maintain its place in the market. It responded by bringing in new writers and directors, testing new characters, and attempting to rejuvenate their vampire and Frankenstein films with new approaches to familiar material.

While the studio remained true to previous period settings in their 1972 release Vampire Circus, their Dracula AD 1972 and The Satanic Rites of Dracula, for example, abandon period settings in pursuit of a modern-day setting and "swinging London" feel. These films were not successful, and drew fire not only from critics, but from Christopher Lee himself, who refused to appear in more Dracula films after these. Speaking at a press conference in 1973 to announce The Satanic Rites of Dracula, then called Dracula is Dead... and Well and Living in London, Lee said: "I'm doing it under protest... I think it is fatuous. I can think of twenty adjectives - fatuous, pointless, absurd. It's not a comedy, but it's got a comic title. I don't see the point."

The film itself also indulges the turn toward self-parody suggested by the title, with more humour appearing in the script, undercutting any real sense of horror.

Hammer films had always sold themselves, in part, on their violent and sexual content. After the release of films like Bonnie and Clyde and The Wild Bunch, audiences were increasingly able to see more explicit gore, more expertly staged, in relatively mainstream films. Night of the Living Dead, too, set a new standard for graphic violence in horror films. Hammer tried to compete as far as possible - Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, for example, features a scene where the Baron kicks a discarded human brain - but realised quickly that, if they couldn't be as gory as new American productions, they could follow a trend prevalent in European films of the time, and play up the sexual content of their films.

The Karnstein Trilogy

In the Karnstein Trilogy, based loosely on J. Sheridan Le Fanu's early vampire novella Carmilla, Hammer showed some of the most explicit scenes of lesbianism yet seen in mainstream English language films. Despite otherwise traditional Hammer design and direction, there was also a corresponding increase in scenes of nudity in the films during this era. The Karnstein Trilogy comprises:
The Vampire Lovers (1970), featuring Polish actress Ingrid Pitt
Lust for a Vampire (1971)
Twins of Evil (1972 )

These three were written by Hammer newcomer Tudor Gates, who was recruited at about the same time as Brian Clemens (creator of The Avengers). Clemens wrote two unusual films for Hammer. Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) featured Ralph Bates and Martine Beswick and Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter, which he also directed, were not successful at the time, but have since become cult favourites. The experimental films of this period represented a genuine attempt to find new angles on old stories, but audiences did not seem interested.

Final years of film production (late 1970s)

In the latter part of the 1970s, Hammer made fewer films, and attempts were made to break away from the then-unfashionable Gothic horror films on which the studio had built its reputation. Neither The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, a co-production with Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers which attempted to combine Hammer's Gothic horror with the martial arts film, nor To the Devil a Daughter, an adaptation of the Dennis Wheatley novel, were very successful. The company did, however, have some surprising commercial success with the film version of the ITV sitcom On the Buses, which was popular enough to produce two sequels, Holiday on the Buses and Mutiny on the Buses. Hammer's last production, in 1979, was a remake of Hitchcock's 1938 thriller The Lady Vanishes, starring Elliot Gould and Cybill Shepherd. The film was a failure at the box office and all but bankrupted the studio.

Critical response

The Hammer Horror films were often praised by critics for their visual style, although rarely taken seriously. "Altogether this is a horrific film and sometimes a crude film, but by no means an unimpressive piece of melodramatic storytelling" wrote one critic of Dracula in The Times (May 28, 1958, p10). Terence Fisher's direction has been praised, however, in, for example, Richard Roud's Cinema: a Critical Dictionary. Critics who specialise in cult films, like Kim Newman, have praised Hammer Horror more fully, enjoying their atmosphere, craftsmanship and camp appeal.

Television series (1980s)

In the early 1980s Hammer Films created a series for British television, Hammer House of Horror, which ran for 13 episodes. In a break from their cinema format, these featured plot twists which usually saw the protagonists fall into the hands of that episode's horror. These varied from sadistic shopkeepers with hidden pasts, to witches and satanic rites. The series was marked by a sense of dark irony, its haunting title music, and the intermingling of horror with the commonplace. Notable episodes include:
"The House That Bled To Death", in which a young couple and their daughter move into a new home, unaware that its previous tenant murdered his wife. Achieved mild notoriety for a children's birthday party scene during which blood gushes from the overhead pipes.
"The Silent Scream", in which Peter Cushing plays an apparently personable pet shop owner working on the concept of "prisons without walls" whilst harbouring a dark secret. Brian Cox, later the first actor to play Hannibal Lecter in Michael Mann's Manhunter was the guinea pig.
"The Two Faces Of Evil" - a surreal episode, featuring forced camera angles, stylized sets, bizarre perspective shots and a plot revolving around dopplegangers and malevolent twins.
"Charlie Boy", in which an African fetish exerts a fatal influence and leads to several deaths.
"Carpathian Eagle" - Anthony Valentine stars as a police detective struggling to solve a series of gruesome, ritualistic murders undertaken by (Suzanne Danielle) Sian Phillips co-stars, and a young Pierce Brosnan makes a brief appearance playing "last victim."
"Rude Awakening" - Denholm Elliott stars as an estate agent whose increasingly strange but realistic dreams give him serious trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality.
"The Children of the Full Moon" - Diana Dors plays a kindly bumpkin with an extended family, but no husband. When a recently married couple stumble upon this unusual situation, the truth is gradually revealed.
Episodes were directed by Brian Gibson, Peter Sasdy and Tom Clegg, among others.

A second television series, Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense, was produced in 1984 and also ran for 13 episodes. The stories were originally to have been the same 1-hour length as their previous series, but it was decided to expand them to feature-length so as to market them as 'movies of the week' in the US. The series was produced in association with 20th Century Fox and as such, some of the sex and violence seen in the earlier series was toned down considerably for US television. Each episode featured a star, often American, well-known to US viewers.

2000s

In the 2000s, although the company has seemed to be in hibernation, frequent announcements have been made of new projects. In 2003, for example, the studio announced plans to work with Australian company Pictures in Paradise to develop new horror films for the DVD and cinema market.

On May 10, 2007, it was announced that Dutch producer John De Mol had purchased the Hammer Films rights via his private equity firm Cyrte Investments. In addition to holding the rights to over 300 Hammer Films, De Mol's company plans to restart the studio. According to an article in Variety detailing the transaction, the new Hammer Films will be run by former Liberty Global execs Simon Oakes and Marc Schipper. In addition, Guy East and Nigel Sinclair of L.A.-based Spitfire Pictures are on board to produce two to three horror pics or thrillers a year for the U.K.-based studio. The first output under the new owners is Beyond The Rave, a contemporary vampire story which will premier free online as a 20 x 4 min. serial.

Tribute and parody

The initial success of the Hammer Horror series led to a number of parodies:
Carry On Screaming pays tribute to the Hammer Horror films in particular as well as satirising the horror film genre overall
Bloodbath at the House of Death uses Hammer Horror films as inspiration for its setting
The British TV series Dr. Terrible's House of Horrible (2001) featured spoofs of Hammer Horror films. Particularly noteworthy in this regard was the episode entitled "Lesbian Vampire Lovers of Lust".
Singer Kate Bush immortalised the range of films in her song, "Hammer Horror", referencing The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dracula and Frankenstein.
British rock band Maxïmo Park paid tribute to the series with their song "Hammer Horror", from their B-sides collection Missing Songs.
The dark feel of the Hammer Horror films were the inspiration for the atmosphere used in the comic-horror, Dracula: Dead and Loving It
In the DVD commentary of Sleepy Hollow, director Tim Burton credits Hammer horror films as a primary influence for the film. Sleepy Hollow featured Hammer veterans including Michael Gough and Christopher Lee.
The faux trailer for Don't featured in Grindhouse was intended to be a spoof of the Hammer Horror series.
Tom McLoughlin claims that Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives was heavily influenced by the Hammer films.

From Wikipedia

Filmography

1930s

Polly's Two Fathers (1935)
The Public Life of Henry The Ninth (1935)
Mystery of the Mary Celeste (1936)
The Bank Messenger Mystery (1936)
The Song of Freedom (1936)
Sporting Love (1937)

1940s

Candy's Calendar (1946)
Cornish Holiday (1946)
Crime Reporter (1946)
Old Father Thames (1946)
Bred to Stay (1947)
Death in High Heels (1947)
Material Evidence (1947)
Skiffy Goes to Sea (1947)
We Do Believe in Ghosts (1947)
Dick Barton, Special Agent (1948)
It's a Dog's Life (1948)
River Patrol (1948)
Tale of a City (1948)
The Dark Road (1948)
Who Killed Van Loon? (1948)
Celia (1949)
Dick Barton Strikes Back (1949)
Doctor Morelle - The Case Of The Missing Heiress (1949)
Fight For Life (1949)
Fight To The Finish (1949)
Foiled Again! (1949)
Jack of Diamonds (1949)
Plan for Revenge (1949)
Sudden Death (1949)
The Adventures of Dick Barton (1949)
The Fiendish Experiment (1949)
The Poison Dart (1949)
The Smugglers' Cove (1949)
The Tower of Terror (1949)
The Wail of Fear (1949)
The World at Stake (1949)
Trapped in the Snake House (1949)
Yellow Peril (1949)

1950s

Dick Barton at Bay (1950)
Meet Simon Cherry (1950)
Monkey Manners (1950)
Room to Let (1950)
Someone at the Door (1950)
The Adventures of P.C. 49 (1950)
The Lady Craved Excitement (1950)
The Man in Black (1950)
What the Butler Saw (1950)
Yoga and You (1950)
A Case for P.C. 49 (1951)
Chase Me, Charlie! (1951)
Cloudburst (1951)
Keep Fit with Yoga (1951)
The Black Widow (1951)
The Dark Light (1951)
The Rossiter Case (1951)
The Village of Bray (1951)
To Have and to Hold (1951)
Yoga and the Average Man (1951)
Death of an Angel (1952)
Never Look Back (1952)
Queer Fish (1952)
Stolen Face (1952)
The Lady in the Fog (1952)
The Last Page (1952)
Whispering Smith Hits London (1952)
Wings of Danger (1952)
Four Sided Triangle (1953)
Mantrap (1953)
River Ships (1953)
Sky Traders (1953)
Spaceways (1953)
The Flanagan Boy (1953)
The Gambler and the Lady (1953)
The Saint's Return (1953)
Blood Orange (1954)
Face the Music (1954)
Five Days (1954)
Life with the Lyons (1954)
Mask of Dust (1954)
Men of Sherwood Forest (1954)
The House Across the Lake (1954)
The Mirror and Markheim (1954)
The Stranger Came Home (1954)
Thirty-six Hours (1954)
A Body Like Mine (1955)
Break in the Circle (1955)
Cyril Stapleton & His Showband (1955)
Murder by Proxy (1955)
The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)
The Eric Winstone Band Show (1955)
The Glass Cage (1955)
The Lyons in Paris (1955)
The Noble Art (1955)
The Right Person (1955)
Third-party Risk (1955)
A Man on the Beach (1956)
An Idea for Ben (1956)
Barbara's Boyfriend (1956)
Chaos in the Rockery (1956)
Copenhagen (1956)
Dick Turpin - Highwayman (1956)
Dinner for Mr. Hemmingway (1956)
Eric Winstone's Stagecoach (1956)
Just for You (1956)
Moving In (1956)
Parade of the Bands (1956)
The Round Up (1956)
Women Without Men (1956)
X the Unknown (1956)
Clean Sweep (1957)
Quatermass 2 (1957)
The Abominable Snowman (1957)
The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
The Steel Bayonet (1957)
A Man with a Dog (1958)
Dracula (1958) [US title: Horror of Dracula]
Murder at Site 3 (1958)
Sunshine Holiday (1958)
The Camp on Blood Island (1958)
The Enchanted Island (1958)
The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)
The Seven Wonders of Ireland (1958)
The Snorkel (1958)
Up the Creek (1958)
Further up the Creek (1958)
Danger List (1959)
Day of Grace (1959)
Don't Panic Chaps! (1959)
I Only Arsked! (1959)
Operation Universe (1959)
Ten Seconds to Hell (1959)
The Edmundo Ros Half Hour (1959)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959)
The Mummy (1959)
The Ugly Duckling (1959)
Ticket to Happiness (1959)
Ticket to Paradise (1959)
Yesterday's Enemy (1959)

1960s

The Brides of Dracula (1960)
Hell is a City (1960)
Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (1960)
O'Hara's Holiday (1960)
Sands of the Desert (1960)
The Stranglers of Bombay (1960)
Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960)
The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960)
Visa to Canton (1960)
Taste of Fear (1961)
A Weekend with Lulu (1961)
Highway Holiday (1961)
The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
The Full Treatment (1961)
Shadow of the Cat (1961)
The Terror of the Tongs (1961)
Watch It, Sailor (1961)
Captain Clegg (1962)
Land of the Leprachauns (1962)
Sportsman's Pledge (1962)
The Phantom of the Opera (1962)
Pirates of Blood River (1962)
Cash on Demand (1963)
Maniac (1963)
The Damned (1963)
The Scarlet Blade (1963)
Nightmare (1964)
Paranoiac (1964)
The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (1964)
The Devil-Ship Pirates (1964)
The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)
The Gorgon (1964)
The Kiss of the Vampire (1964)
The Old Dark House (1964)
Fanatic (1965)
Hysteria (1965)
She (1965)
The Brigand of Kandahar (1965)
The Nanny (1965)
The Secrets of Blood Island (1965)
Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
One Million Years B.C. (1966)
Rasputin, the Mad Monk (1966)
The Plague of the Zombies (1966)
The Reptile (1966)
The Witches (1966)
Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
Quatermass and the Pit (1967)
The Mummy's Shroud (1967)
The Viking Queen (1967)
A Challenge for Robin Hood (1968)
Do Me a Favour, Kill Me (1968)
Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)
Eve (1968)
Jane Brown's Body (1968)
Matakitas is Coming (1968)
Miss Belle (1968)
One on an Island (1968)
Paper Dolls (1968)
Slave Girls (1968)
Somewhere in a Crowd (1968)
The Anniversary (1968)
The Beckoning Fair One (1968)
The Devil Rides Out (1968)
The Girl of My Dreams (1968)
The Indian Spirit Guide (1968)
The Lost Continent (1968)
The New People (1968)
Vengeance of She (1968)
A Stranger in the Family (1969)
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)
Moon Zero Two (1969)
Poor Butterfly (1969)
The Killing Bottle (1969)
The Last Visitor (1969)
The Madison Equation (1969)
Wolfshead (1969)

1970s

Crescendo (1970)
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)
The Horror of Frankenstein (1970)
Scars of Dracula (1970)
The Vampire Lovers (1970)
When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970)
Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971)
Countess Dracula (1971)
Creatures the World Forgot (1971)
Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971)
Hands of the Ripper (1971)
Lust for a Vampire (1971)
On the Buses (1971)
Twins of Evil (1971)
Demons of the Mind (1972)
Dracula AD 1972 (1972)
Fear in the Night (1972)
Mutiny on the Buses (1972)
Straight on Til Morning (1972)
Vampire Circus (1972)
Holiday on the Buses (1973)
Love Thy Neighbour (1973)
Man at the Top (1973)
Nearest and Dearest (1973)
That's Your Funeral! (1973)
Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter (1974)
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)
Man About the House (1974)
Shatter (1974)
The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires (1974)
The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1974)
To the Devil a Daughter (1976)
The Lady Vanishes (1979)

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Hammer_films"

My Reviews

Quatermass Xperiment (1956)- Quartermass, a rocket scientist, (apparently pronounced "Quoitamus") launched a rocket with 3 astronauts on board. He had no one's permission to do this and things then go awry. The rocket crashes into a farmer's field and two of the 3 astronauts are gone and the 3rd is in shock. He is put in the hospital for observation and convinces his wife to help him escape. She does and he turns into a monster that begins killing. Meanwhile the police try and figure out what is going on while Quartmass is all cocky and kind of a dick. At the end, despite the death and destruction he has caused, Quartermass is ready to start all over. This was Hammer's first 'horror' film (although it was kind of an combo sci-fi/horror) and is an obvious influence on the plot of "Alien". It was based on a TV series and had 2 sequels ("Quatermass and the Pit" being my personal favorite as I saw it at the theatre when I was a kid during the PTA Summer Movies). There's nothing great about this one, I guess I would call it 'efficient'. B-.

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)- Hammer's first foray into horror and already they got it right. Peter Cushing is the overly ambitious Victor Frankenstein who inherits a fortune at a young age and hires a tutor who eventually becomes his lab assistant. They dabble in resurrecting the dead and then come across a way to make it work. And of course, Frankenstein goes too far and Christopher Lee as the Monster is created. Ego, edginess, science, and insanity are explored in this effective rewrite of the story. Hammer also set the standard for use of color, great sets, costumes, directing, writing, and acting in horror movies with this flick. If you like the Frankenstein story and dig Hammer films and haven't seen this one then it is a must see. Plain great old school story telling. A+.

Abominable Snowman, The (1957)- Peter Cushing in a pretty stereotypical monster/horror flick for the era; basically a King Kong tale. Cushing is a scientist in the Himalayas studying plants, or so he told his wife; he’s actually going on an expedition to try and capture the yeti. And things go from bad to worse as loud mouthed know-it-alls show up to capture the yeti more for fun and profit than science. Lesson learned. Overall not a bad flick, a tad dated but fun none the less. I’ll give it a B.

The Horror of Dracula (1958)- By modern horror movie standards this is a slow mover but remove genre tags and look at this as just the telling of a story (which we should do with all movies anyway), and I think you have a really good one. Apart from the battle between Dr. Van Helsing and Dracula (good and evil) this movie follows little of Stoker's original novel. It's not a retelling but a rewriting of it and it comes across as being a very original and fresh interpretation of the story. Jonathan Harker goes to Castle Dracula as a librarian, there to sort and check Count Dracula's massive collection of books, or so we are told. We soon realize that Harker is undercover and knows who, or what, Dracula really is. When his plans go awry and Dracula begins looking for revenge, Dr. Van Helsing enters the fray. This was one of Hammer's early horror movies and it again showcases the great Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing who were both on their way to horror movie infamy. Hammer proved that you could have a great story, great direction, great sets, and great acting, all on a budget. A-.

Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)- Classic sequel to Hammer’s "Curse of Frankenstein", here we find the good doctor about to be executed. Of course he has made a deal with one of the executioner and heads off to continue his work under the name Dr. Stein. He helps the poor (for spare parts of course), and takes a young eager doctor in as his assistant. The man who helped him escape needs a new body, and he gets one as the doc won’t back out of a deal, but the man’s eagerness to try out his new digs gets everyone in trouble. Peter Cushing is great again as Frankenstein, sitting somewhere between evil and sympathetic he pushes the doctor’s ambition to new lengths, and Hammer’s original take on the story works really well. The look and feel of these Hammer flicks is just great. Some of the lab scenes are goofy, like the eyes floating in the aquarium (check it out to see what I mean), but I’m pretty sure that was done tongue in cheek anyway. A

The Mummy (1959)- In the late 50s Hammer was making a name for itself redoing Universal Monster movies from the 30s. They weren't just re-filming them though they were rewriting them as well. After a pretty creative take on Dracula and a very creative remake of Frankenstein they tackled The Mummy. Christopher Lee was again the monster and Peter Cushing again the hero, and despite this it didn't feel formulaic. The indoor sets and the color of these early Hammer films is second to none (the 'outdoor' sets leave a little to be desired except maybe the swamp scene) and again the story is very creative. An Egyptian priest is having an affair with a princess; when she dies during a journey he ignores protocol and has her buried where she died rather than where she reigned. He is then caught attempting to revive her and is sentenced to be buried alive with her and protect her for eternity. 4000 years later English archeologists have the unfortunate luck of finding her tomb and being the first to disturb it. Lee and Cushing always take their roles very seriously and deliver whatever dialogue is asked with them like the professionals they are. If you like Mummy movies, and I don't, you'll like this one. B.

Brides of Dracula, The (1960)- Pretty classic Hammer material; Great sets, great acting, great use of vivid color, Hammer didn't skimp in those days. Dracula was killed... several times, and is still dead (not undead) throughout this movie (in other words Christopher Lee said "No") so the plot has Cushing's Van Helsing pursuing a vampire who has been chained up in his room by his own mother and kept alive by the blood of young traveling woman, and now has escaped thanks to one of those women. The vampire is so happy that he's asked her to marry him. It's a fairly original take on the legend and it works for the most part. The fight scenes are poorly staged and apparently flying bat special effects technology went nowhere from the 1930s to the 1960s but those are small issues. B-

Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (1960)- This is a suspense thriller in the Hitchcock vein (so no, it wouldn’t be considered horror by most but hey, it’s my page) about a couple young girls who may (or may not) have been asked to do some unseemly things for an old man. The girls are too young to really know the old man crossed a line but when one of them starts having nightmares the parents realize something needs to be done. The problem is the young girl and her family has just moved there and the old man is part of a very powerful very wealthy family in the small town so no one is all that interested in helping them. I think it works really well as the walls are built up around the family, trying to do what is right, it segues nicely into a courtroom drama, but the end becomes sort of a ‘told you so’ payoff which failed for me and the old man is portrayed as very weird, it would’ve been more sinister had he seemed ‘normal’ to begin with. Regardless I’ll give this a very strong B+ as it was pretty far ahead of its time in subject matter and works well despite the weaknesses.

Scream of Fear (1961)- Hammer, like everyone else, wanted to cash in on the success of "Psycho", and this was one of their tries. The story starts with a body being pulled from a lake and then picks up at a mansion on the French Riviera. A paralyzed girl who has been living with her mother since her parents’ divorce is going to stay with her father, who she hasn’t seen in years. She is a sensitive girl who has recently lost her mother and also her childhood companion, who was apparently the girl they were pulling from the lake at the beginning. Soon after arriving she begins to see the body of her father on the grounds, he appears dead, but she keeps getting told that he is away on business. What’s going on here? It’s actually pretty obvious what’s going on, at least at first, then twist number 2 rolls around and I was surprised. This is a very well directed and acted taut little suspense yarn. It won’t hold up under much scrutiny but I won’t get into that as it would ruin it so suffice it to say, just watch and enjoy. A-.

Curse of the Werewolf (1961)- Hammer was so incredibly original in their early days and was always able to put a good spin on an old story. After success with the Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Mummy stories they went after the werewolf and again it worked out very well for them. A beggar while in prison rapes a young woman. A local couple adopts her son and the rage left in him from his dark past has a strange way of venting itself, especially after he falls for a woman he really shouldn't be chasing. These earlier Hammer vehicles don't feel so much like "Horror Movies" as "Movies about Horror". The story always comes first, something many studios (as well as Hammer) soon forgot. This is a great period piece with an original story (based on the book "A Werewolf in Paris" but Hammer had some Spanish sets left from another movie so moved the local). A.

Night Creatures (1962)- Hammer paired two of their favorite actors, Oliver Reed and Peter Cushing, in this tale that basically amounts to moonshiners and country legends, except they're in England back in the day running wine. There's a legend about 'marsh phantoms' that some have used to hide their activities from the revenuers but it won't last for long as the sly Captain is catching on. And why was the notorious pirate Captain Clegg buried as a hero in the church cemetery? Again, the twists at the end were seen miles away but this movie is a nice Hammer production with competent acting and directing and a good enough story. B-.

Phantom of the Opera (1962)- Hammer's take on the classic Universal Monster Movie seems to have a little too much opera and not quite enough Phantom. This is a well-directed and acted movie and seems to have had a generous budget that was well spent, great sets, great costumes, and great music (if you don't mind opera). Over all this is a good movie but definitely leans more towards the romantic side of the story rather than the horror side and the unmasking is very disappointing as the Phantom doesn't really seem all that disfigured, at least compared to Lon Chaney's makeup. Well made but disappointing for me personally. C+.

Kiss of the Vampire (1963)- Hammer loved their vampires more than any other creature. In this one a family of vampires lives in a big ol' castle. They like to initiate pretty women into the cult they've built up in the area by having big masquerade balls and making them vampires during the party. Actually some fairly edgy stuff considering the times and pretty original script (OK, all of these were just 'damsel in distress' flicks but it was an interesting way to do it). It had an original albeit very strange ending that again showed the limits of bat special effects technology. A-.

These are the Dammed (1963)- Oliver Reid at his whiny best, trying (and failing) to channel some Brando circa ‘The Wild One’. Here we have a bike gang that beats and robs tourists; only the tourist they pick out happens to fall for Reid’s sister who seems to like the tourist too but it is all so odd that it is hard to tell. Somewhere in there we realize the government is doing some ‘if I told you I’d have to kill you’ experiments that involve kids. One thing leads to another and the tourist (who is old enough to know better), with Reid’s sister, followed closely by Reid end up in a cave with the kids, which may not be as wise as the now well intentioned weirdoes think. Not a bad Cold War Nuclear Paranoia entry from Hammer, but not particularly good either. It just takes a long time to get going and then once it does the payoff isn’t that great. I’ll give it a C.

Paranoic (1963)- A little black and white Hammer gem. Apparently some filthy rich folks were killed in an airplane crash 11 years before, their oldest son Tony, depressed with the loss of his parents killed himself 3 years later. Now the middle child, son Simon is about to inherit his share of the family fortune, and he may be getting the youngest daughter's share as well as it seems she is going down the insane path Tony went down. Is Simon driving her insane? Did Tony commit suicide? If not where has he been the last 8 years? And what is the aunt trying to hide in the chapel? Weirdness a 'plenty in this examination of bat shit insane rich folk. Yes the plot is a little convoluted and no, it wouldn't hold up to too much examination but this movie still works pretty well. It moves nicely and is very well directed (if possible catch the letter box version) with nice black and white photography, fluid camera work, and interesting use of light and focus. The acting is mostly good (with a few parts a little over the top) too. A-.

Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)- Hammer revisits the mummy legend, this time without Cushing or Lee. It’s basically the same story as pretty much every other mummy story, Egyptologists find a tomb, disturb it, are cursed, die at the hands of a mummy. This time out an American is funding the research. Once the tomb is found he plans on taking the artifacts out on tour with his circus, which doesn’t sit too well with the Egyptians, or the archeologists either. Of course we know that the mummy won’t be having any of that anyway. The twist at the end was a nice change in the story, even though you’ll know pretty early on who the ‘bad guy’ is. This wasn’t a bad entry in the Hammer cycle, a little slow starting and the mummy makeup was effective, but I still kept feeling like I’d seen it all before, which I more or less had since all mummy movies are more or less the same. C

Gorgon, The (1964)- Strange little Hammer film which brings the Greek Gorgon/Medusa myth into more modern times, placing it in turn of the century Germany (I figure Hammer already had the sets and costumes at the ready). A town is plagued by a curse in which some people are found dead, turned to stone. The local doctor just writes the deaths off as heart failure, but that won’t due when some important people start turning up dead. Mainly, an artist whose rich influential father isn’t buying the story his son committed suicide after getting a local girl pregnant. The father shows up, and also dies a mysterious death, but not before writing a letter to his other son. The lid will soon be blown off the town’s secrets. Very little in the way of explanation is ever offered, the lines between good and evil, right and wrong are blurred and everything is played out like a Greek tragedy, which it is more or less based on, as love is what ends up getting everyone in the most trouble. Well acted and directed, the colors and sets and ‘feel’ are perfect early Hammer. This is only for those looking for the subtle atmospheric horrors, despite the subject material this is no monster movie, keeping that in mind I will give this a B+.

Evil of Frankenstein, The (1964)- Hammer did make Frankenstein out to be one evil cat except in The Evil of Frankenstein where he's suddenly a misunderstood scientist. Frankenstein is again run out of town so this time he returns to the original town he was run out of to start his experiments again in his own castle, which has been looted but good by the locals. Luckily he stumbles across his old monster (this movie has no continuity with the older Hammer Frankenstein movies). This movie has the usual good Hammer productions and Peter Cushing does his usual professional work as the Dr. but it ends up being a let down. The monster is a pale copy of Jack Pierce's Universal make up and never really produces any feelings of horror or sympathy. The Frankenstein mythos is just so much harder to work with than the Dracula/Vampire mythos. C-.

Nightmare (1964)- Little Hammer flick in the vein of "Paranoic". A girl saw her mother kill her father when she was young. Her mother was put in an asylum as she was totally bonkers. The girl, now away at finishing school, is afraid the same thing may happen to her. She is sent home because of her nightmares and inability to fit in at the school. After she arrives home the nightmares actually intensify and just may not actually be nightmares. Is she going insane? Is someone just trying to make her believe she is going insane? A couple twists at the end that aren't really too shocking but over all this movie works pretty well as a well paced well acted suspense thriller. B+.

Die! Die! My Darling! (1965)- Hammer saw the success of "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane" and took the theme of old actresses playing intriguing and bat shit insane parts for this suspense thriller. This flick, obviously inspired by Hitchcock also, is the story of an American, played by Stephanie Powers, who is going to England to marry her fiancée, but first she feels obliged to meet her former fiancée’s mother who lives in what looks like it was at one time a nice house but has fallen into disrepair in the English countryside (her first fiancée has died in what we are told was a terrible manner). After arriving at the old gal’s house, and meeting her help, we learn the old gal is a tad on the religious side, putting it mildly, and a light hearted comedy about the old fashioned and the modern seems to be underway. It isn’t long until things begin to turn sinister though, as we realize that the old gal, along with her help, plan on making sure Powers stays pure for when she is reunited with Steven in the afterlife. This is a very suspenseful movie that works really well and gives great performances by all involved, but especially Tallulah Bankhead in her final role, spouting off religious quotes and talking about how corrupt the rest of the world is (a lesson in hypocritical religiosity very relevant in today’s world). Bette Davis still keeps the reward for insane old lady parts in "... Baby Jane" but Tallulah comes in second in a photo finish. A

Plague of Zombies (1966)- A Hammer Classic. In the scheme of zombie flicks, zombies are still Voodoo slaves but have moved along into scary looking, evil doing folks, not just sleep walking slaves, which is a big leap forward. A man is slowly turning townsfolk into zombies to work his mines. A brilliant young doctor is out of ideas as to why people are dying so he calls in his professor to help out. Some shocking and influential scenes come from this movie including the dropped and broken coffin, mass rising of the dead in the graveyard, and the shovel decapitation. There are some nice camp moments too like the police catching the good doctors digging up graves. Well-directed, written, and acted story when Hammer was still peaking. A.

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)- Another example of pretty goofy material played straight as an arrow by Peter Cushing. Everyone involved knew this was pretty bad stuff. Frankenstein finds a way to trap the human soul and when his assistant is wrongly executed for murder, well, a perfect opportunity to try out his experiment; Couple that with his assistant’s girlfriend committing suicide when she finds out her boyfriend has been executed and you have a fresh place to put the soul. It is an insane take on ‘Romeo and Juliette’ for sure, along with the ‘Frankenstein should stop messing with Mother Nature’ lesson. It is very goofy, and a tad disappointing, but if you must see all things Hammer, then by all means, check it out! C+

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968)- The villagers still won't go to church and why? Because Dracula's Castle's shadow falls on their church in the evening. But Dracula has been killed everyone knows that. Well the monsignor will have no more of this. He forces the local village priest to go with him up to the castle to bless it and place a large cross on the door. Man does that plan backfire. As the title suggests, Dracula rises from the grave and is pretty pissed to find that big cross on his front door. The monsignor must pay for that one. And what better way to do it than take his eye candy niece? Pretty effective Dracula story and Christopher Lee hits his stride as Dracula. B.

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)- The good doctor keeps having his experiments messed up by people and now the police are hot on his trail again. He takes on another alias and moves in a boarding house to lay low, but ego and good fortune (or other's misfortune) get him again and open the door for more experiments. This time he must save a colleague, who was into the same experiments, from insanity and the insane asylum. He must do this by performing a brain transplant. A very original and well-acted extension of the Frankenstein story. It goes without saying that the monster is actually Frankenstein, not, well, The Monster, which isn't in this one anyway. If you like Hammer films you'll really like this one. A.

Horror of Frankenstein, The (1970)- Hammer was trying to restart the Frankenstein series here with a new Frankenstein, a new monster, and a new approach. The camp was quite a bit higher in this one and Frankenstein was a young rebel who liked to surround himself with pretty girls, and wasn’t above getting them ‘in trouble’. He was also a single minded brilliant sadist/scientist. His father refuses to allow him to go to university, so he kills his father and heads off to school, where he gets in some trouble, but also learns enough to move back home and continue his anatomy experiments. Paying highly for fresh body parts from the local grave robber, shacking up with the help, and trying to stay above the slowly building pile of bodies is how he fills his time until he eventually makes his monster, complete with damaged brain (remember Whale’s original?), an almost uncontrollable Hulk-like beast. This is a fun take on the story and kept me interested. It is a tad slow moving at times and we don’t really get a monster until the end and when he does arrive there’s not much development there. Still, the good acting, camp, and black humor worked for me as did the almost goofy ending. B+

Vampire Lovers, The (1970)- Hammer was looking for ways to spice up their horror lineup, which modern audiences were starting to find a bit, well, dated. Toss in some tits and lesbian kissing and wah-la, modern version of a period vampire tale. Yeah, the exploitation is obvious but really this isn’t a bad flick in a retelling of the ‘Carmilla’ story. A vampire gets herself kind of ‘injected’ into different families and starts relationships with the rich people’s daughters and or nieces. She travels around doing this until someone figures out what is up. It’s no masterpiece but the acting, directing, and over-all look do work. B

Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)- Some old pretend to be pious rich guys are getting tired of the limited thrills visits to the local whore house can afford them. They want some real thrills so they enlist the help of the local disowned ex-royal brat who is known to run with some devil worshipping types. He comes up with a great plan, raise the Prince of Darkness himself, Dracula, from the dead. He knows how to do it too. With the help of some stuff from the last movie in the franchise (nice tie in). The old pretend to be pious rich guys bale before the ceremony is completed and the local disowned ex-royal brat dies. Dracula does come back though in a pretty effective scene and is pretty pissed that those guys left his servant to die. How to get back at them. Hhmmm... How about taking their eye candy daughters. That should do it. Actually I thought this was one of the more effective Dracula/Hammer films. Despite the material the participants take their parts very seriously and it all just works for me. Nice Hammer color and sets too. A-.

Twins of Evil (1971)- Hammer kept trying, you have to give them that much. So your flicks are falling out of favor with the public? Then add some blood and some tits and watch the profits soar. Well it didn’t quite happen that way. Here we get Peter Cushing trying like Hell to bring the subpar material up to muster, and it almost works. Cushing is an over-zealous witch hunter, who loathes the local count, who is a devil worshipper and maybe a vampire to boot, but can’t do anything about it. When his twin nieces come to live with him he realizes something has to be done as one of them becomes infatuated with the count. But which witch is which. Sorry, anyway, this isn’t a bad flick, simply because Cushing manages to be both horribly evil while wanting to only do good. You hate him, but he may be the only one who can help the village. Nothing is overly black and white in this one and Cushing is able to make that work, so for that I give it higher marks than maybe it deserves. B

Countess Dracula, The (1971)- An old countess is widowed and accidentally discovers that if she gets a virgin’s blood on her she will suddenly look a lot younger. So she needs some dead virgins, of course each time the effect wears off she looks worse and needs more blood. An allegory for drug addiction anyone? Or maybe an allegory for aging gracefully, either way this is a pretty good late entry into the Hammer Horror Pantheon. B

Hands of the Ripper (1971)- Almost forgotten hammer flick about Jack the Ripper’s daughter. Hammer was trying to reinvent itself with reworking familiar tales and this was their stab at Jack the Ripper (sorry). As a young girl Jack’s daughter sees him kill her mother, now as a used and occasionally abused 17 year old she starts stabbing people whenever she sees something that reminds her of her father. A local doctor out to try and prove some of Freud’s latest theories takes the girl in and covers up for her, despite the piling up bodies. Yeah, it gets a tad silly as she goes into murder mode at the drop of a hat and always seems to get away with it, and the good doctor just keeps going along like he can save her (but not the folks she’s offed), but I liked it well enough. The acting is strong, the period look and feel work pretty well, and while not overly original it is written fairly well. This is nothing special, but it’s far from bad. If you like the Hammer period pieces this one holds up pretty well. B+

Vampire Circus (1972)- Hammer was running out of cash and out of ideas by the early 70s. Backers were getting hard to find, distribution was getting hard to get, and their gothic tales were falling out of style. Their solution? Lower budgets, more gore, and more T and A. ‘Vampire Circus’ is standard material; a local count happens to be a vampire and has been stealing the wives and children of the locals. Tired of this they storm the castle, torches in hand; stake the count and burn the castle, but not before the obligatory curse via the count. The count’s lover (who we just saw in a pretty bad early 70s semi-psychedelic love scene), who also happens to be the village teacher’s wife, gets away. Jump ahead 15 years and the village is dying off due to the plague, and is isolated from the rest of the country when a circus comes to town, you can guess the rest due to the name of the movie. As a vampire period piece this isn’t too bad, pretty predictable, some really good, mixed with some really bad acting, but as Hammer flick it falls a little short for me. The varied reviews from ‘underrated masterpiece’ to ‘worst Hammer movie’ are probably over the top too so I’ll drop it near the middle of the pack with a C-.

Demons of the Mind (1972)- Over-the-top Hammer production about a family that is believed to be cursed. A man decides he must marry a ‘peasant’ in order to make sure and end the curse. His plan backfires as his wife kills herself in front of their two kids, so he must now protect his two kids by locking them in the attic. Is he insane? Is the family insane? Is it from so much in-breeding? Are they possessed? Yeah the father is nuts but he wants to cure his kids via leeches and quack psychology, and what’s up with the villagers? This is a weird one, it does manage some good mood and atmosphere, but over acting and general strangeness doom it in my opinion (the nutty priest, the weird locals and their traditions, the ending all just make no sense with regards to the plot unless I guess you go the possession route). Anyway, I love Hammer, and I didn’t hate this, but didn’t much care for it so I’ll give it a weak C-.

Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (1974)- Hammer’s last foray into the Frankenstein character and they bring it to a close on a pretty strong note. Here we find the baron living nicely in an insane asylum. There are plenty of test subjects in a place like that, and luckily, a bright new assistant too. The baron has some dirt on the asylum’s director so he pretty much has the run of the place and has been building a new man, with his usual ‘science first’ completely emotionless approach. Peter Cushing had perfected this part and plays it perfectly straight here for the last time. B+

Satanic Rites of Dracula, The (1974)- I've read so much bad about these later Hammer flicks that my expectations were really low, so naturally I liked it. I think this is an underrated movie. Yeah, the plot is convoluted espionage 70s James Bond hokum and the terribly dated music reflects that angle but it still worked pretty well. Yeah, it is an excuse to get some damsels in distress and for another face off between Dracula and Van Helsing so at the end of the day there is nothing really new but it is an OK take on the characters. Dracula has enlisted the help of some scientists as he has decided to destroy the world with a new and more deadly strain of the black plague. But won't that kill Dracula too since there will be no food? Van Helsing thinks that just may be Dracula's plan. There are some odd senseless devil worshipping scenes complete with naked lady alter, probably to generate some controversy and free hype thrown in for good 70s measure. And another thing you really notice from these Hammer vampire stories. These vampires have a TON of weaknesses. I mean really all you have to do is pick up a couple twigs and hold them up in a cross and DON'T DROP THEM! Or have some silver, or garlic, or sunlight, or holy water, or ... A B+ may be generous but that's what I'm giving it since I expected total crap and got a decent story.

Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter (1974)- Hammer was looking for a way to reinvent itself so it looked for ways to basically rebuild the old mythos with ‘Dr Jekyll and Sister Hide’ and ‘Captain Kronos’, which was supposed to be a series of films and maybe a TV spin off but as it was, there simply was no budget to promote anything so this fell into obscurity until the DVD market brought back from the brink. Captain Kronos, well, hunts vampires, and in his travels he comes across a village in the thrall of a vampire, and as mentioned, much of the old vampire mythos gets thrown out the window, to good effect in my opinion. This is a really good period piece typical of post-decent-budget-Hammer, which is still better than a lot of what was being put out in the early 70s. The acting is a tad stiff compared to some of their other flicks but I’ll give this a B, with a little more effort it could’ve been great.

To The Devil A Daughter (1976)- Christopher Lee gives his all in what would sadly become Hammer Studio’s final film. In the late 50s early 60s Hammer was ahead of the horror game, but by the late 60s, with the release of films like "Night of the Living Dead" and "Rosemary’s Baby" and the early 70s release of "The Exorcist", Hammer’s gothic period pieces seemed pretty out of date. They proved they could make the modern horror film with hits like this, but the writing was already on the wall. Lee plays an excommunicated priest who feels that the devil (or in this case a demon) is the true god, so he’s devoted his life to ensuring the demon a human host in the guise of an eighteen-year-old girl, whose life was signed over to him at birth by her parents. Her father now regrets the decision and enlists the help of a novelist who has written about Satanism and cults. Although dated and slow moving at times this does prove to be a tense and effective horror vehicle, until the end when we get a puppet devil baby and a thrown rock. I’ll just leave it at that but suffice it to say, the ending was a disappointment! I’m compelled to give this a B-, but that might be a little generous.

Let Me In (2010)- Remake of the Swedish vampire flick ‘Let the Right One In’, this pretty much follows that story, and that style, very closely. Not sure why a remake is necessary other than some folks hate reading subtitles I guess. Sad because the original is great, but really, so is this for the most part. It is the story of a 12 year old vampire girl (she’s been 12 a really long time). Her caretaker is getting sloppy in keeping her in a blood supply as she befriends a 12 year old boy who is the subject of much abuse at school. It is a great story, and well done but just check out the original. I am docking this some for its piss poor use of CGI. Why do they have to do that? A-.

Woman in Black, The (2012)- First the bad: No, this isn’t a very original plot, and no the execution isn’t very original. Yes it does move slow at times, with little or no dialogue, and the viewer is often left in the dark as to what is really going on, even after it is mostly explained, there are many things that don’t seem to quite add up. Now the good: If you like slow paced period ghost stories with somewhat intricate but tried and true plots, and enough questions to keep you guessing then this is for you. Notice how I did that, turned the negatives into positives? Like all opinions, it is just a matter of what your expectations are and how you view the way things are put together. So, we have an old mansion cut off from the mainland England twice a day by the tide. The locals are scared of the place as whenever someone goes there children begin to mysteriously die. A young lawyer who lost his wife some years before and is still not coping well is given the job of cleaning up the will and handling the sale of the property, the rest is predictable, but well done. Hammer returns to the gothic tale with this ghost story. I liked it quite a bit with nice atmosphere, great visuals, and good acting so I’ll give it a B+, knocking some off due to the predictability of the plot.


Hammer to the head