Hammer Films had their horror movie hayday in 1950-1970s. Cannot be denied they produced their best output in the late 1950s to 1960s with those films centred round the iconic horror figures of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and the like.
Fast forward to 1980, the horror movies had dried up but the HAMMER name was still popular in people’s minds. The movie to TV went with the times, and a modern day anthology series came about.
Modern setting = reduced productions costs for a series taking new characters to the screen each week.
The standard of story is fair, but it is just as fair to say that the series is quite dated and an obvious product of the times. Often touching on the horror trope of a descent into madness.
Peter Cushing makes an appearance in just one episode THE SILENT SCREAM, and that is a welcome addition to the series.
Despite quite a cast of greats including the aforementioned Peter Cushing, Diana Dors, Denholm Elliott, Brian Cox and Sian Phillips the biggest draw to this series is the nostalgia element. The series is nearly 40 years old and without an ongoing arc or characters it is actually good thing that the series didn’t persist into a second series.
It bears the name HAMMER so is a must have for the completest, and any Hammer fan that hasn’t seen this series before should check it out, but not expect too much.
This Blu Ray is the first time the complete series is available in High Definition restoration from the original film elements. The Blu Ray keeps the fullscreen (4:3) aspect ratio from the original transmission, though I suspect there was a temptation to release these as wide screen. As it is just the one episode, Guardian of the Abyss, is presented in widescreen.
The Woman in Black set for release from 10th of February
While British audiences continue to enjoy The Woman in Black on stage, horror institution Hammer Films alongside Momentum Pictures is releasing the theatrical version from the 10th of February. Directed by James Watkins, written by Jane Goldman, and starring Daniel Radcliffe the film-version of this horror classic is set to frighten and disturb audiences all over the world. Here, let?s take a look back at some of the classic Hammer horror films that laid the pavement for British horror stories.
Missed your favourite Hammer Horror – please comment below, or tweet @scifind.
One of the most iconic vampire films ever made, Hammer’s first foray into vampire lore has become one of the most recognisable and famous of the cinematic adaptations of Stoker’s novel.? Hammer made seven sequels, and as explicit as the censors would allow in the day, Dracula was a groundbreaking and subversive punctuation in the neck of horror cinema. And not mention Van Helsing’s memorable trick with the cross improvised from candlesticks.
The Devil Rides Out (1968)
Based on a Dennis Wheatley novel, Hammer’s first foray into the realm of satanism proves to be a thoughtful and serious attempts to realistically portray the practice of magic. Containing large doses of action and horror, the film is a constant battle of wits between good and evil resulting in a satanic tour de force wherein the heroes must survive a night of devilish oppression by satanic followers, a giant tarantula and the Devil himself atop a hellish steed. The Devil Rides Out remains a genuinely chilling occult thriller, even after more than four decades.
The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Curse provides the perfect pairing of the dream team ? Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. While Americans were under attack from wild teenagers and atomic monsters, the Brits usher in the return of gothic horror (and in graphic color, no less) with this indisputable masterstroke.? The role of the duplicitous and brutal Baron is played masterfully by Cushing and Christopher Lee as the creature is shocking and brilliant.
Curse of the Werewolf (1960)
Considering the main focus of the movie resulted from a rape of a mute servant girl by a half man, half animal beggar, the censors objected to the visualization of both bare flesh and fangs onscreen simultaneously. Leon?s only hope for redemption is true love, and we all know it?s not easy finding a girl who will put up with his type of moonlighting.? Excellent performances, especially from Reed, help to make this a fascinating character study that shares little in common with most of its counterparts – aside from the requisite silver bullets.
The Mummy (1959)
Hammer’s first stab at the shuffling Egyptian shambler sees Chris Lee undertake the role of the creature again and plays him as a far more pitiable monster and one that moves in a more hasty fashion. The story is essentially the same as the Universal entries only with the addition of color and some brutal violence some of which was trimmed before the film was released.
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
Not completely horror, but close enough. This Sherlock Holmes entry contains enough elements of dread and terror to qualify as a horror film. Peter Cushing truly delivers a whole heartedly memorable performance rife with self assurance and witty banter. A classic since the 1980s, this brilliant series can still be timelessly enjoyed today. A most unusual Hammer film, it would be the company’s only Sherlock Holmes picture.
Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971)
You know what a great idea would be? To retell the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde, only instead of turning into a child-beating monster, Jekyll would turn into a hot and murderous lady who liked to wear halter tops all over Victorian England! A gender switching storyline lends the film some relevance and Ralph Bates shines as Dr. Jekyll who not only battles with leading something of a normal existence, but also with suppressing the murderous tendencies of Hyde, his evil half, here played with sexual glee by Martine Beswick.
Quartermass and the Pit (1968)
Hammer had already enjoyed success with two Quatermass films (in 1955 and 1957), based on the BBC TV serial, and returned to the sci-fi subject a decade later, with Andrew Keir as the subversive scientist of the title. Here he gets involved with an excavation in a London Underground station, where he uncovers evidence of an alien spaceship and ancient satanic powers. It’s a tense film, with an unrelenting pace and plenty of suspense.
With the release of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor this weekend scifind.com presents a glimpse into the mind of director Rob Cohen.
Director of The Mummy’s third movie installment, Rob Cohen is tired, sitting here in this Soho Hotel. This interview is made in early June when Rob Cohen is in the finishing stages of post-production supervising the scoring for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor with London?s Symphony Orchestra. Rob appears to be enjoying himself, his wife has recently given birth to triplets and he is full of enthusiasm for his vision of the latest instalment of the Mummy franchise.
Q: How?s the scoring going?
Rob Cohen: It?s fantastic, Randy Edelman has done such a great job with the music but having it scored by the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road, you cannot get any better, you cannot do better! It has just been a joy. And I wanted to do some publicity while I was here because now I am a father of 3 new babies, so if I can talk to people while I?m here it will be easier than trying to arrange coming back.
Q: Can you tell us what Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is all about?
Rob Cohen: To unite the themes, it?s about the quest for immortality. But this time, the quest for immortality is uniquely Chinese. And uniquely invested in a real historical personage. This Emperor, the first Emperor of China, was a very complex character. He was a genius of nation building but he was brutal beyond conception. And after he conquered all of China, unified the written language, unified the road system, unified the money, he then turned his entire life force to becoming immortal. And basically from my research, I think, he died prematurely trying to be immortal.
The seed of the script was that this Emperor and the Terracotta Army of Shi Haung were the mummies and if he comes back alive, he?s going to raise the army and conquer the world again. The idea that I could bring the Terracotta Army of Shi Haung up above ground, and back into battle and that they would be the mummies and that Brendan Fraser, Maria Bello, Luke Ford, Isabella Young and Michelle Yeoh would have to find a way to battle them was just too tempting.
And so that?s really what it?s about, plus it has creatures for the first time. Jet-Li plays a shapeshifter and at a certain point in his ?reboot? as a mummy, he gets back the ability to become a three-headed dragon as well as this big pit-bull temple guardian dog! Plus we have the Yeti and all the undead that built the Great Wall of China that were buried underneath. It has 949 visual effects shots, all very complex 3D work, I have 338 to go. It?s a movie that?s different in tone from the others, it?s not so goofy, its got humour but it?s not jokes. Brendan is much more real, he?s struggling with a son and the son is struggling with a dominant dad. Old bull, young bull. It?s got a lot of cool stuff in it!
Q: Did you have any concerns about taking on the franchise and resurrecting it?
Rob Cohen: No, not really. I?ve never done a sequel to my own movies and I don?t like the sequels that have been done to my movies. The point is, I think there is always new and fresh stuff to do. And that?s what made my career, looking for the new thing that would be challenging and exciting trying to figure out. Once I read the script, I knew what I wanted to do with it, which was to change it a lot.
Q: How did you go about changing the script?
Rob Cohen: I went to see the producers, including Stephen Sommers, and I said, ?look, it has to be a movie of mine, not a movie that?s sort of a movie of yours? and I wanted it to be clear on what that would mean. I laid out my 10 talking points about the script and the casting and I said if you like these ideas then we should go to the studio but if you don?t like this then let?s not. They talked and they felt comfortable.
Q: And what was different about the movie you had in mind?
Rob Cohen: I don?t like goofy humour or slapstick. I like adrenaline inducing action, not people making jokes in the middle of the action. I just like there to be jeopardy and tension and I like it to be a ride and fun. I?m not trying to turn it into The Bourne Identity, but it?s got to be closer to the Raiders (of the Lost Ark) model. Everyone was behind that. And that?s when we got going and that?s why I didn?t have any fear because it was basically, ?I?m going to do my version of a Chinese movie about mummies?, as opposed to ?I?m doing The Mummy 3?, and this is why I changed the title to The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor as opposed to The Mummy 3. So it?s its own new thing.
Q: And what were the biggest challenges?
Rob Cohen: Well the special effects were a big thing. But the biggest challenge was to get a script and get a cast and get a story that made you really invest in the people. That?s always the hardest thing. I learned from Stealth, I made a profound set of mistakes. I got caught up of with doing a movie in the air at mach 3 and I worked so hard on solving these impossible technical challenges that seemed so difficult that I lost the people and when you lose the people, the effects just become nothing. If you got great characters and then there?s some flashy action or special effect stuff, then everybody is cool because they are invested in the characters. So I learned, and that was the challenge. Can we tell a family story that actually has emotion in the middle of this big spectacle? I think we did that and I think you will be surprised at the connection you will feel.
Q: There is a wealth of acting talent on show in this movie, what was it like working with such a fantastic cast?
Rob Cohen: We worked our asses off and we suffered through some pretty intense conditions in the deserts and in China. I mean, daily I had to find a new place to use as the bathroom!
It brought us closer together, we lived in a dingy Chinese 2 star hotel at night and it took over an hour and a half to get from the set to the hotel each way ? there were pot holes in the roads to the point that you had to go 1 mile an hour so you don?t break the axles! And these people were with me but never ever complained. Everybody laughed about how tough it was but nobody went, ?I?m calling my agent, I don?t have my double banger trailer!? I mean, Brendan, Maria, Jet, Michelle, there were all out there, Luke, Isabella, Russell and everyone dealt with it and you will feel that in the performances. They are there, you aren?t in some CG green screen world, not Morocco, you are in China. Really in China. And you feel it because China has a very unique energy and it?s very visually rich and I tried to make the film have that cultural richness. The first 10 minutes of the film are in ancient Mandarin with no English.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is released on the 6th August 2008.