Something Hammer This Way Comes!

Now, for something completely different!

I've always had a fascination with horror films. Even when I was a little kid, and Lou Ferrigno could scare the hell out of me wearing green body paint, I still would peek my head above the covers and steal a peek. When I found out about a little film called Fright Night my cousin was going to see, I knew one day I would watch it. When I grew a little older, my parents got cable TV, and I saw Jim Hendricks as Commander USA, on the USA Network as he presented his "Groovie Movies." And thence, though I knew it not then, was instilled in me a love of that terrific subgenre called...Hammer Horror!

This poster hung on the wall in my dorm. No lie!
Fast forward a few years to college, and after having named Fright Night one of my favorite movies of all time, plus watching an incredible amount of horror films and TV series, I finally happened upon these films anew, and an obsession was born. I vaguely remembered the "Groovie Movies" I watched, like Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell, Vampire Circus, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, and the rare classic Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter. I don't remember the exact time it happened--I remember starting to collect the films on VHS, but have since converted and expanded the collection to DVD and now Blu-Ray--but collecting the films got me through a difficult time with my health and emotional well-being. (Sounds trite, I know, but there are reasons I don't get into the details.)

During my junior and senior years, I voraciously watched Hammer film after Hammer film, even as I took a few film classes. I'd discuss some of the films with my professors outside class, although I never really had the chance to put my Hammer expertise to use in any class papers or projects. I remembered bits and pieces of various films, seldom the whole, but my knowledge grew and grew. I was amazed that my professors acknowledged the films, noteworthy for being the first major horror films from any studio released in full color. Also, I'm told they were among the first vampire films to do more than hint at the fangs piercing victims' throats. The films were scary in parts for what horrific bits they left to the imagination, which seems quaint by today's gory standards.

From the nine films in the Dracula cycle (six of which starred Christopher Lee, and five of which starred Peter Cushing), to the seven in the Frankenstein cycle, to the Mummy tetralogy, to the Karnstein trilogy, these are fine, if not award-worthy, films. The stars turned in terrific performances, from the well-recognized greats like Cushing and Lee, to lesser-known stars like Clifford Evans and Andrew Keir, to bit players like Michael Ripper, to the lusty Hammer women like Barbara Shelley, the Collinson sisters, Ingrid Pitt, and my personal favorite, Madeline Smith (whose visage adorns the cover of Marcus Hearn's book, Hammer Glamour). I can really say it's been a treat having watched all these films, and I have even more I haven't been able to watch (but am slowly getting to, bit by bit).

I do want to devote future entries of this blog to specific movies from Hammer, but for now I'd like to cut this bit short and turn the floor over to you, my followers! I know I mainly attract the comics crowd, but I do want to start to expand my demographic a little. Are you familiar with Hammer Horror? If so, feel free to share your stories! What are your favorite films by The Studio That Dripped Blood, and why? Which features would you like to see me devote some blog entries to? Which actors or actresses deserve my attention? Is Hammer the second coming of horror films after the Universal features of the '20s through the '40s? It's all up for grabs--I'm just throwing it out there for you to pick up!

And hey, in case you haven't heard: Hammer Films is back with the recent DVD/Blu-Ray release of 2010's horror smash, Let Me In. Take a look!


1 comment:

  1. I'm a HUGE Hammer horror fan, and especially love the Dracula series. Christopher Lee will always be the definitive Dracula in my eyes... Bela Lugosi being a close-second (due to only playing the infamous Count twice on screen). Lee's screen presence in those films is only rivaled by the great Peter Cushing... both of whom I class as two of my favourite actors (along with the great Vincent Price).
    Another all-time favourite is the classic Curse of the Werewolf starring Oliver Reed. As much as I love Universal's Wolf Man, Reed's werewolf is one of the best on-screen Werewolves I've ever seen on film (and I really believe that the Wolfman remake took some inspiration from it as well).
    Great write-up Gary... you have great taste in films as well as comics! :o)


I can never tell if two comments from "Anonymous" are really by the same person, so please, especially if I know you from other websites, leave a name or alias or something! Thanks!