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Hammer Films


Nathaniel
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SDG's nod to The Devil Rides Out made me wonder if there were any Hammer fans prowling around this board. I remember being mesmerized as a child by the bold bloodletting of The Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula (and that awful, awful Eastmancolor that made it all so immediate). In the late '50s and early '60s, they had it all going on: literate scripts, excellent photography, inexpensive yet opulent sets, and a repertoire of great English actors. Christopher Lee was their secret weapon, Peter Cushing their beating heart.

Having seen most of the studio's major productions during my misspent youth, I'm beginning to think that The Brides of Dracula may be the jewel in their crown. The spiritual and psychological undercurrents of the film are fascinating, and the collision of buttoned-up Victorian decency and unbridled vampire sexuality creates some interesting creative tensions that director Terence Fisher navigates with confidence. Fisher has been mentioned several times on this board already, and I think his medium-high reputation as a moral storyteller is richly deserved.

Anybody care to share some favorites? I need to geek out here.

Edited by Nathaniel

"A great film is one that to some degree frees the viewer from this passive stupor and engages him or her in a creative process of viewing. The dynamic must be two-way. The great film not only comes at the viewer, it draws the viewer toward it." -Paul Schrader

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I haven't seen The Brides of Dracula, but will definitely make a note to do so.

The Devil Rides Out (distributed stateside as The Devil's Bride) may be my favorite of the few I've seen. I also enjoyed Dracula (aka Horror of Dracula) and Frankenstein Created Woman.

Trivia note: I saw all of the above several years ago via borrowed VHS tapes belonging to Paul Leggett, the Presbyterian clergyman whose Terence Fisher: Horror, Myth and Religion offers a fascinating analysis of Fisher's themes. Leggett lives and preaches just a couple of towns over from me, so one day I just called him up, we chatted awhile, and he left his copies of the films in the church office for me to pick up, along with a review copy of his book (my article). (Actually, my mother-in-law picked them up for me, and returned them to the church after I watched them.)

I also wrote about Fisher (and Leggett) in my recent CT article on Hellboy and spiritual warfare at the movies.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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Back when i was 6 my family and i went to see my dads sister and her 7 kids in Geneva.. my much older cousin had a poster of Christopher Lee he got a head shop or sometwhere, scowling away and doing his fangbest to satisfy his thirst. I could never walk into that room.. and at best i would literally run past the door, eyes tightly shut to get out of the eyeline of the actor... as he gazed out through the doorway and into the hall.

but for me the big bam boom is Fisher's Curse of the Werewolf with the late Oliver Reed...i saw that as a teen and have revisited ever since since ... ... the photography is wonderful...the color of all hammer films are eyecandy - and the magnetism of Reed left contrials that haven't vanished to this day. The look of Hammer films...especially here with the exterior night shots amidst all that "moonlight" really made an impression.

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My five favourites:

1. Curse of the Werewolf

2. Dracula (aka Horror of Dracula)

3. Quatermass and the Pit

4. Plague of the Zombies

5. Kiss of the Vampire

We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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A friend of mine gave me his DVD of Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter a few years back. With IMDB to refresh my memory, I just learned that this was released in 1974, apparently towards the end of Hammer's glory days. Horst Jansen stars as Captain Kronos with his trusty assistant vampire expert. I have to admit I don't remember much from the film except for an exchange between Captain Kronos and Carla the gypsy girl. She offers to join him and bats her eyes at him as she says "... if you'll have me.". With the slightest smirk on his face his answer is "Oh, I'll have you.". I couldn't help but laugh outloud at that and it kind of sums up the film. The perfect mix of cheese and cool.

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I was pleased to find out that some of Hammer's most important titles are finally getting the DVD treatment. Last June saw the release of the Icons of Adventure set, which features a pristine transfer of The Stranglers of Bombay, one of Fisher's most controversial films.

Even better is the Icons of Horror set coming this October, which will allow me to reacquaint myself with The Gorgon. Of all the Hammer films, I think this one had the greatest potential to be a horror masterpiece, but it unfortunately slides into conventionality during the second half. Some beautiful imagery lingers, however. I seem to remember the dusky, black-and-orange lighting and the Gothic castle where the final confrontation takes place.

"A great film is one that to some degree frees the viewer from this passive stupor and engages him or her in a creative process of viewing. The dynamic must be two-way. The great film not only comes at the viewer, it draws the viewer toward it." -Paul Schrader

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  • 2 years later...

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