This British Film Studio was responsible for my of the best horror films of the  50's, 60's and early 70's. I remember spending hour upon hour watching many of their classic films Saturday afternoon on "Creature Double Feature." Their success went well beyond remaking many of the Universal Monster Movie (in fact their Dracula series of films starring Christopher Lee and Peter Crushing far exceeded their American counterpart). In the 50's, horror was dying a slow painful death as my studios were now putting the money they used to use making horror film onto sci-fi arena. What a great way to exploit the "Red Scare". Millions of paranoid American not only feared a Soviet attack, but an invasion from outer space as they packed the theaters to see such great films as "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" or "The Thing from another World". Although Hammer did dip into the Sci-fi genre with "The Quatermass Series", their mainly focus was to make horror films and can directly be credited with keeping the genre alive and kicking during this time.

Hammer, along with AIP and Amicus, can be sited for spearheading the new Goth cinema. This was a new era for horror.  America was beginning to lose footing in the genre as their European counterparts pushed the envelope throughout the early and mid 60's. It was only at the end of the 60's with "Night of the Living Dead" and "Rosemary's Baby" that the American efforts began to re-establish its' presence in the genre.

So "God save the Queen" and Hammer Studio for their outstanding dedication to the genre we all love. Hammer last feature film release in the theater was "To the Devil... A Daughter" in 1976. Throughout the 80's I hear they did numerous things on British TV such as "Hammer House of Horror" and "Hammer House of Mystery". One encouraging thing that I have read is that Hammer still owes the right to all its movie.  I also heard that Hammer may go back into production and I only hope this is true.

On this page I will give reviews of my "favorite" Hammer Films as I begin to revisit them. If anyone has an suggestions where to turn next for a viewing, please email me. Enjoy the fabulous World of Hammer.

 

Curse of Frankenstein

A raving madman, hours away from being executed, calls for  a Priest.  Is he hoping to clear his conscious, crying for spiritual cleansing or still loudly proclaiming his innocence?  Fearing for his life, the Priest reluctantly agrees to listen  as Baron Victor Von Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) begins to weave this tale of terror.

Many years before, a young man has just inherited his family fortune and is searching  for a private tutor to help continue his studies while he assumes responsibility for the family's affairs.  In steps his new teacher Paul Kempe (Robert Urquhart) , who quickly becomes his companion and friend.  As the young Baron quickly grows into a manhood, his ambitious begin spiraling out of control as he searches to unravel the secrets of life.  After years of experimenting, success finally comes when they are able to reanimate a dead  puppy.  Overflowing with happiness, Paul urges Victor to publish his findings for all the world to see, but the Baron doesn't plan to stop there and Paul reluctantly agrees to join him on his dark journey.  

When word comes that criminal has been hanged in the gallows, Frankenstein realizes that he now has the building blocks for his creature, but agonizes over his creations having the "knowledge of a lifetime".   It is this thirst that leads the good doctor to murder one of his colleagues, Dr. Bernstein (Paul Hardtmuth) for his brain which is later damaged in a struggle.  While Victor continues his experiments in secret, Paul tries unsuccessful to convince Victor's finance, Elizabeth (Hazel Court) to leave the castle.  Later a stray bolt of lighting accidentally bring the creature to life to reek havoc on all who gets into its' way, but the burning question of this film is "who is the real monster"?

 

The Curse of Frankenstein

1957

 

After several success years of making sci-fi films like: "The Quatermass Xperiment", "X: The Unknown", and "Quatermass 2", Hammer had  foreseen the downward turn the genre way heading in and decided that horror was the next logical step.  "Curse of Frankenstein" had originally been envisioned as a vehicle for Karloff , but Hammer quickly shied away when Universal threaten to sue if their interpretation in any way, shape, or form mimicked their own.  Director Terence Fisher, whose vision gave birth to Gothic Horror, was brought in to helm Hammer's most important film to date. He was later joined by  Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing who were working together for the first time.  This partnership, which would play out for over 15 years,  forever changing the horror landscape as we knew it.  Furthermore, Cushing's interpretation of Frankenstein was a far cry from that of Clive Colin back in 1931, here we knew who truly was the monster; Dr. Frankenstein himself.  On the other hand, Lee's Monster/Creature was purely animalistic in nature and form, a blank slate of pure uncontrollable violence which helped to deliver a much darker version of Mary Shelley's story.   Finally,  "Curse" marked the first time that the Frankenstein legend had been brought to the silver screen in blood rich color and Hammer didn't skimp on the gore. The audience responded by making it a box-office smash around the world grossing back well over 70 times it production cost .

 

Horror of Dracula

T
rivia question, "Who is the most portrayed horror villain in cinema history"? If you guessed "Count Dracula" you would be correct. As a credited character, "Count Dracula" has appeared in more than 60 films. Second trivia question, "Who has portrayed "Count Dracula" the most times on the silver screen"? If you guessed Christopher Lee, you would be correct again. Christopher Lee has played "Count Dracula"  ten times to date with seven of those being in Hammer Films. So where did it all start?  In the film "Horror of Dracula" , Christopher Lee assumes the role that will forever change his life. Although his performance may not be accepted as the definitive standard for the role (that honor would have to go to "Bela Lugosi"), he was able to give him more depth. This film also marked Peter Cushing's first-time duties as legendary vampire hunter,  Dr. Van Helsing. Cushing, a mainstay at Hammer, went on to play the good Dr. opposite Lee's "Dracula" in three films (and also in a few other Hammer films), but Baron Von Frankenstein was role he reprised an amazing six times. 

This is your standard retelling of Bram Stoker's classic novel "Dracula", with a definite Hammer twist. It is probably my favorite film version of Stoker's novel, although I thoroughly enjoyed Francis Ford Coppala version, as well as, that of Tod Browning's. My favorite part is the end battle between Cushing and Lee. It is one of the best  all-time classic clash in the history of horror, ranking right up there with "The Exorcist's"  conclusion. 

 

Horror of Dracula

1958

 

Terence Fisher, the director of this film and other classics such as "Dracula: Prince of Darkness", "Curse of the Werewolf" and "The Devil Rides Out", did a wonderful job  with the vision and atmosphere of the film. This film marked his emergence as one of Hammer's prominent directors.  He, along with Lee an Cushing, went on to firmly established "Dracula" as a British commodity for the next 20 years. Whereas Cushing's portrayal of  Dr. Van Helsing, vampire hunter,  was just as memorable as his counterpart (Lee) and thus the lines were drawn for these two stars to combat each other on the silver screen for many years to come, while in the real world, both men were the best of friends. The musical undertones  were deliver by James Bernard and really added to films' eerie atmosphere. 

 

The Mummy (1958)

Egypt 1895.  As British archeological team begins to enter the lost tomb of Princess Ananka, high priestess of Carnic, when they receive a warning for a local (George Pastell), "He who robs the graves of Egypt dies".  Brushing it off as mere superstition, they enter anyway. While inside, Stephen Banning (Felix Alymer) reads from the "Scroll of Life" bringing to life the mummy, Kharis. Now frozen in a state of delirium, Banning is sent home and his son, John (Peter Cushing) is left behind to seal the tomb.

Three years later while recovering in a mental institute, the elder Banning awakens from his nightmares and warns that the mummy will be coming for revenge. Passing it off as delusions of a sick man, John neglects his father's warnings. He finally realizes the truth when he witnesses the mummy murdering one of his father assistants, Joseph Whemple (Raymond Huntley) and now knows that he is next.      

While studying Ananka, John discovers that Kharis (Christopher Lee) had been her servant and lover. He had been buried alive when he was  found trying to bring the Princess back from the dead. At the same time, he realizes that his young wife Isobel (Yvonne Furneaux), is the living incarnate of Princess Ananka. Could this be the weakness that John needs to defeat the indestructible MUMMY???

 

The Mummy

1959

 

When Hammer acquired the rights to remake the classic monster movies from Universal, they quickly jumped on the Dracula and Frankenstein franchises. In 1959, they decided that "The Mummy" would be the next film to go before the camera and handed the reins over to their masterful director Terrance Fisher. This film succeeds on all levels and is rich in color, atmosphere, music and story. Hammer was able to take the best parts from the original film and mixed in the mythos of Kharis from the sequels to make a highly entertaining film. Both Lee and Crushing are excellent as always, and Hammer makes "The Mummy" a real winner!!!!

 
Brides of Dracula

As the movie begins, we see a coach racing wildly across the country side towards the setting sun. Onboard, Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur) is preparing to start her new job at a prestigious girls school, when her coach unexpectedly stops in a tiny village. While waiting to be off again, Marianne hears her coach racing away in the distance. Now abandoned, a jittery innkeeper explains he has no rooms available and quickly scampers  away trying to secure her an alternative form of transport, but he is too late. Outside we hear a coach pulls up. Who could it be??? It is Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt) whom upon hearing of the women's misfortunate graciously invites her up to the castle for the night.

While staying at the castle, Marianne sees a man attempting to jump off a balcony.  She quickly  races down to stop him only to find out it is the Baroness' son (David Peel). As Marianne approaches him, she notices that he is shackled at the ankle. The Baron explains that his mother has told everyone that he is dead, hoping to keep him locked up so she can control his inheritance. He is finally able to convince Marianne to help free him.  Later when confronted by a hysterical Baroness, Marianne flees the castle.

 

Brides of Dracula


1960

 

She is found passed out on the roadside by Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) who returns her to the village. It seems the good Doctor has been called upon to come and  investigate a strange death. Upon his arrival, he notices that the forces of evil are loose and the hunt begins.

The end sequence marked a terrific conclusion in this ultimate battle between good and evil. This is the second film in Hammer's Dracula series even thought it has nothing to do with Dracula. Originally slated as a follow up project to Horror of Dracula, Christopher Lee declined the role because of fears of being type cast. He would later reprise his mainstay role eight year later in Dracula--Prince of Darkness. Back for this film are director Terence Fisher, screenwriter , and Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing. One, if not, the best vampire film from Hammer.

 

Eighteenth century Spain, the film opens as the Marques (Anthony Dawson) is in the midst of celebrating his wedding. During, the festivities, a knock at the door brings an interruption from hungry beggar (Richard Wordsworth) looking for a little substance. After toiling with his new pet for a few minutes, the Marquis quickly grows irritates and throw derelict thrown into the dungeons, where he remains forgotten by all but the jailer and his mute daughter (Yvonne Romain) for many years.

As the days go by, a decrepit Marques hoping to again sow his wild oats tries having his way with the unsuspecting mute servant girl. When she rejects the Masters’ advances, he has her thrown into the dungeon, where the beggar, who has become a rabid animal, rapes her. Once she is release, she quickly creeps up and viciously does away with Marques. Fleeing for her life, she eludes capture by the authority by living like a wild animal in the woods, until one day when she is taking in by Don Alfredo (Clifford Evans).  

As the girl recovers in the warmth of Alfredo’s home, his servant Teresa (Hira Talfrey) realizes the she is with child, but is fearful that child will be born on Christmas Day. Just as the Christmas bells chime out; the howl of a wolf can be heard followed by that of a crying of a newborn babe. Unfortunately for Leon his mother dies after giving birth. As the years go by, young Leon’s birthright begins to catch up with him, when as a young child he is haunted by strange nightmares of begin a wolf and this coupled along with the death of a flock of sheep sends Don Alfredo to the local parish for guidance. It is there that his worse fears are confirmed; Leon is a werewolf. The Father suggests bathing the child with love and care in hopes of suppressing the spirit of the wolf that now possesses him. 

For many years, the love of his adopted family (Alfredo and Teresa) helps to keep at bay the beast, but now the time has come for Leon (Oliver Reed) to go out in the real world. When he takes up trade as a wine maker, he enters into forbidden love affair with his boss’s daughter Cristina (Catherine Feller). Hoping to steal away with his love, Leon is persuaded to spend one last night carousing at the local bordello, but as the full moon rises high in the night sky, he is transformed once again into a murderous werewolf.  As the touch-bearing villagers search for the monster, only love can save Leon.

 

The Curse of the Werewolf


1961

 

After conquering Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Mummy, the next logical step for Hammer alumni Terence Fisher was the Werewolf. The story for the film came from Guy Endore’s 1933 novel “The Werewolf of Paris” and was originally owned by Universal. In the early summer of 1960, Universal subcontracted those rights to Hammer who quickly moved the film into production. The film was able to take advantage of the set that were abandon from Hammer’s feature “The Inquisitor” which had been cancelled earlier that year, because of fears of condemnation by the Catholic Church. Roy Ashton's outstanding makeup effects couple with Oliver Reed's portrayal of the cursed Leon helped to bring to life a first rate werewolf films. "The Curse of the Werewolf" is easily one of the greatest  lycanthrope films ever to grace the silver screen, done as only Hammer could do it.  

 


 

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