October Hammershow: The Phantom of the Opera (1962)

Hammer’s version of The Phantom of the Opera may not look it at first, but it is a very significant film in the history of cinema. There have been many, many adaptations of Gaston Leroux’s Le Fantôme de l’Opéra — the most famous being the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical from 1986. But this film, from two and a half decades earlier, was the first Phantom adaptation to feature the phantom playing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. That simple decision on the part of the filmmakers to have the phantom banging away on an organ in one scene was the birth of a trope that has crept up in movies, television, and even videogames on a regular basis. Whenever a viewer sees a shadowy figure hunched over an organ and it spits out Bach, it’s all because of this movie. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: The Phantom of the Opera (1962)”

October Hammershow: The Horror of Frankenstein

So long, Peter Cushing! After five films over 12 years, Hammer decided to go in a different direction with 1970’s The Horror of Frankenstein, replacing the iconic, and aging, Cushing with Ralph Bates, who was an entire generation younger. Hammer also decided not to continue the jumbled and confused continuity of the previous films, going for a complete reboot of the franchise. That phrase, ‘reboot of the franchise,’ is decidedly anachronistic when applied to a film from almost fifty years ago, but it is an accurate description of what Hammer did. It’s just a new term for a practice as old as film itself. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: The Horror of Frankenstein”

October Hammershow: The Curse of the Werewolf

The Curse of the Werewolf, from 1961, is the tragic tale of a beggar who is imprisoned by a cruel marquis. Then it is the tragic tale of a mute servant girl. Then it is the tragic tale of a young boy who grows up in a rich household with the loving attention of a pair of surrogate parents. Then it is the tragic tale of a young man attempting to make his own way in the world, who falls in love with a woman he cannot have. Then, finally, it is the tragic tale of a man cursed with lycanthropy. I have seen some films with long setups, many of them this month, but the setup in this film is so long and rambling compared to the promise of the title that I was wondering at times if I was watching the wrong movie. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: The Curse of the Werewolf”

October Hammershow: Scars of Dracula

These Hammer Dracula films are showing serious signs of franchise fatigue. Scars of Dracula is the sixth film in the series, and I can’t be sure that anyone involved cared one whit about the project. Unlike the Frankenstein films, which had their ups and downs, there was still great care in producing a viable film. But Scars of Dracula looks and feels cheap. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: Scars of Dracula”

October Hammershow: The Man Who Could Cheat Death

Terence Fisher directing, Jimmy Sangster writing, and Christopher Lee in a supporting role. The Man Who Could Cheat Death, one of Hammer’s efforts from 1959, should have been among the best films in this month of reviews. But it’s not, and that’s because while three of Hammer’s top names appear in the credits, a fourth, Peter Cushing, does not. He had been set to star in this film, but the lead role instead went to Anton Diffring, who was not equal to the task. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: The Man Who Could Cheat Death”

October Hammershow: Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed

The title of this film is apt. The character of Frankenstein has gone through many metamorphoses from film to film in the Hammer series. In the first two, The Curse of Frankenstein and The Revenge of Frankenstein, he was an obsessive driver, unable to see that his experiments were beyond the bounds of ethics. He wasn’t an evil man, but nor was he good. He was somewhat sociopathic, oblivious to the offenses his work caused. In The Evil of Frankenstein he was a weak copy of the Frankenstein from the Universal films, which was no coincidence, as Universal distributed the film. In Frankenstein Created Woman, Frankenstein was almost benevolent, using his experiments, though twisted, to restore life to a pair of unfortunate lovers. But in today’s film, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, Frankenstein is evil to the core. He extorts, kidnaps, imprisons, murders, and rapes the poor people whom he encounters. Indeed, a person like that needs to go. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed”

October Hammershow: Taste the Blood of Dracula

What a title. Taste the Blood of Dracula. That’s a pretty good start for today’s horror film, before a single frame even goes by. From 1970, Taste the Blood of Dracula was written by Anthony Hinds, directed by Peter Sasdy, and features Christopher Lee returning to play Dracula. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: Taste the Blood of Dracula”

October Hammershow: The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll

Before I began watching The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, I thought that the film was probably going to be analogous to one of Hammer’s Frankenstein films, only the monster and his creator never share screen time. If one were to describe this film with broad strokes, such a description is accurate, to a point. Hammer horror films are all kin to one another. They were made quickly, cheaply, and often back to back. Developing an overarching style that applies from one film to the next was an outgrowth of that. So, yes, The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll does bear similarity to any of the Frankenstein films, as do those films to the Dracula films, et cetera, et cetera. It’s in the details where each of these films, including today’s entry, are given the opportunity to stand out. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll”

October Hammershow: Frankenstein Created Woman

Baron Victor Frankenstein is back. At the end of the previous film, The Evil of Frankenstein, the series’ antihero was dispatched along with his box-headed creation. It was a scene of ultimate finality, even if there wasn’t a shot of a dead Frankenstein putting an exclamation point on his story. But death is never permanent in film should the producers wish it. I don’t just mean the death of a character, either, but the actor who plays the part. This film’s star, Peter Cushing, finds his character resurrected for further use in this film, but Cushing himself was resurrected digitally, more than twenty years after his death, to make an appearance in the latest Star Wars flick. It won’t be much longer before actors find themselves under the same threat of obsolescence as the rest of us in the workforce. But I digress… Continue readingOctober Hammershow: Frankenstein Created Woman”

October Hammershow: Dracula Has Risen from the Grave

It is now the halfway point of this year’s Horrorshow, and I’m enjoying watching all these classic Hammer horror flicks. But, watching them all close together like this means I’m more aware of when they are repeating themselves compared to watching them on a normal release schedule. For example, the three Mummy flicks I’ve reviewed so far this month have basically been the same film. There is still a good film to be made from the idea, but by The Mummy’s Shroud, I’m not sure the filmmakers were trying. Today’s film, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, suffers from some of the same sort of creative malaise that doomed The Mummy’s Shroud. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: Dracula Has Risen from the Grave”