Hammer Films

Looks like the thread hasn’t been touched in a little while, so I’ll post this… I recently purchased an 8 film Hammer Horror set. My wife and I are going to countdown to Halloween by watching the movies through October. I was quite the scaredy-cat growing up, so I did, like, NONE horror films. Can’t claim to be a Hammer O.G. in any sense of the word. But, as an adult, I’ve seen some of the Hammer films through TCM and enjoy them. Now I get excited about this era of the genre. So, yay… :bat:

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Very nice, have fun discovering these!

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With Halloween on the horizon, I was thinking of Hammer and happened upon this article posted a few years back.

The poster for Kali makes it look epic.

I knew of Vampirella and Nessie.

Orson Welles in a Hammer film based on another Dennis Wheatley story, that could have been a kick.

And Zeppelin v Pterodactyls, how could that not find funding? :laughing:

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I could get behind more Hammer adaptions of Dennis Wheatley texts, especially with Richard Matheson doing the screen treatments.

That exploitation version of Wages Of Fear is such an odd choice for Hammer (or anyone, really). I’m not surprised it didn’t get made. But some of the others one could very easily see happening, and it’s a shame they never were.

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HAMMERSTEIN!

Sometimes I get my Hammer movies mixed up, so for Halloween, I’m going to try and clarify their Frankenstein series in my mind once and for all, by going through them in release order.

Course, the first one is very distinct and clear in my memory as it’s my favorite Hammer horror.

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Director: Terence Fisher

Writers: Mary Shelley (story), Jimmy Sangster (screenplay)

Cinematographer: Jack Asher

Composer: James Bernard

Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhart, Valerie Gaunt

Summary: While awaiting execution for murder, Baron Victor Frankenstein tells the story of a creature he built and brought to life - only for it to behave not as he intended.

“Let’s let our friend here rest in peace… while he can.” - Baron Frankenstein

We open the Hammerstein Hammerthon with their first color film, from directorial MVP, Terence Fisher. And it sets up the classic era, with the classic cast and crew quite marvelously.

While the body of Sangster’s adaptation focuses on the relationship between scientists and their differing moral stances, it’s Hammer’s version of the creature that leaves a mark on the mind visually. Christopher Lee’s Frankenstein is a misshapen, scarred rag doll; an idiot man-child; creepy as sin. But there’s also pain, confusion, and struggle etched on Lee’s face.

It goes without saying that Peter Cushing (as the Baron) is incredible as an obsessed SOB. How the classy Cushing could come off so wicked is a testament to his powers as an actor.

The movie was chilling, with scares and mood that crawled right under my skin. And while it outraged many upon its release, it’s now considered a classic.

The BD restoration by Warner Archive looks fantastic, with extras to delight in.

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I loved The Devil Rides Out (which was known as The Devil’s Bride in the U.S.) I read the Dennis Wheatley book later and discovered that the movie changed the ending pretty much totally… for the better. (The book ending was a total deus ex machina.)

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“Yes, what is it, Ro-Jaws?”

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The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)

Director: Terence Fisher

Writers: Jimmy Sangster, with additional dialogue from Hurford Janes and George Baxt

Cinematographer: James Asher

Composer: Leonard Salzedo

Cast: Peter Cushing, Francis Matthews, Eunice Gayson, Michael Gwynn, Oscar Quitak

Summary: Having escaped execution and assumed an alias, Baron Frankenstein transplants his deformed underling’s brain into a perfect body, but the effectiveness of the process and the secret of his identity soon begin to unravel.

Doctor Hans Kleve: [on seeing the Creature for the first time in its tank] Who is he?
Doctor Victor Stein: No one. He hasn’t been born yet.

This fine follow-up has the Baron surviving the last film and setting up shop again. At first, he appears benevolent, less evil than in the previous incarnation, as we see him give care to the poor and destitute. Ah, but soon you discover why he’s placed himself in this position with these people, and it’s pretty twisted.

Michael Gwynn makes for a sympathetic creature (though he doesn’t look creature-like). Your heart breaks for him as he gets all he wants, only to have mind, body and humanity quickly slip away.

Eunice Gayson, who was nearly Miss Moneypenny, but instead was cast as Sylvia Trench in the first 2 Bond films, plays a woman with a heart of gold. And Matthews gives able support as Frankenstein’s right hand man.

As for its star, critic David Parkinson wrote… “In one of his best performances, Cushing plays on the ambiguity of the central character, so that the Baron becomes a kind of Wildean martyr, alternating between noble defiance and detached cruelty.”

Theirs irony in the ending - viewers often point out that Frankenstein was the name of the creator, not the creation. But here that line is removed, and we see his theories, all his work, bear fruit. So the titles wrong, as it’s not revenge he gains, but something all together more satisfying, though not in the way he planned.

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Fun Fact: For the first Hammer Frankenstein, Bernard Bresslaw (who was Harry the dull-witted lackey in Moon Zero Two as well as the Cyclops in Krull) was on the short list of actors considered for the role of the Monster.

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HAMMERSTEIN! Part 3

The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)

Director: Freddie Francis

Writer: Anthony Hines

Cinematographer: John Wilcox

Composer: Don Banks

Cast: Peter Cushing, Peter Woodthorpe, Duncan Lamont, Sandor Elès, Katy Wild, Kiwi Kingston

Summary: Upon returning to his home village to continue his experimental research, the destitute Dr. Frankenstein revives his old creature, but a hypnotist wants the monster to control for himself.

Baron Frankenstein: [finding a hanged effigy of himself inside his ransacked home] “Why can’t they leave me alone? Why can’t they ‘ever’ leave me alone?”

Frank enters the '60s, though this picture has its origins as a story synopsis that Peter Bryan submitted in May 1958 for the aborted television series, Tales of Frankenstein. 5 years later it was reworked into a feature.

Freddie Francis (Tales From the Crypt (1972), MSTs The Deadly Bees) takes over the director’s chair for this reboot of the series, which taps into the Universal vein, though not all that successfully.

With a new director comes a new writer (Anthony Hinds, Curse of the Werewolf), composer, and cameraman. Thankfully we get good old reliable Peter Cushing as the doctor.

Evil is not a bad flick, but it doesn’t have the sophistication or intelligence of the Fisher/Sangster Frankenstein features. Plus, the monster makeup was sad-looking (and called to mind a favorite MST3K quip, “You see, I stopped a car with my face once. My forehead’s all Bondo”).

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Kiwi was not as strong an actor as Lee or Gwynn, while his monster is curious and tormented, he doesn’t reach the same levels of heart, or soul, or terror.

All 'round, it’s just a lesser effort - direction, script, score, creature. Aside from Cushing and some decent supporting work, it’s doesn’t stand out.

Finally, once again we are given a misleading title, the Baron is not as evil as he was in the previous movies, and is more the harassed scientist, bedeviled by small-minded folk and opportunists, like the hypnotist.

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HAMMERSTEIN! Part 4

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

Director: Terence Fisher

Writer: Anthony Hines

Cinematographer: Arthur Grant

Composer: James Bernard

Cast: Peter Cushing, Susan Denberg, Thorley Walters, Robert Morris, Duncan Lamont

Summary: After being reanimated, Baron Frankenstein transfers the soul of an executed young man into the body of his lover, prompting her to kill the men who wronged them.

“Bodies are easy to come by, souls are not.” - Baron Frankenstein

A tragic, dark romance, where cruelty and injustice is answered with death.

This is one of Scorsese’s favorites, and another whose origins can be traced to the unmade television series. Here, Cushing’s doctor deals with matters of the soul. (Apparently, you can suck out a dead man’s spirit using a pair of heat lamps and a tuning fork). And while that’s pretty goofy, the story is actually quite intriguing (the metaphysics, the idea of a soul having its revenge).

Fisher and composer James Bernard are back, and that helps right the Frankenstein ship. Hinds original screenplay is thoughtful and much more a grabber than what he gave us in Evil.

Thoughtful also describes Fisher’s Hammer movies in general - they have more philosophical, psychological, sociological weight than you’d expect. He brings elegance to nightmares, where others would simply wallow in exploitation.

I also like the patience in this film, it takes time with its set-up, it doesn’t rush it, and allows the story to progress naturally. Some folks find Hammer films a bit slow to get going, but I’ve come to appreciate that quality. Establishing an “emotional connection” was paramount to Fisher, and the film succeeds there. And that’s what keeps it grounded, even if it’s seated in the realm of the unreal.

The acting is aces - despite her voice being obviously dubbed, Susan Denberg is very good as Frankenstein’s creation - going from sweet, to shattered to possessed and vengeful. Cushing and Walters are a joy, and their characters share a nice rapport. There’s a kind of warmth between them, despite the Baron’s single minded and dark pursuits. It’s a delight to listen to these pros deliver their lines.

In total, Woman is equal parts preposterous and poetic. And despite the rather hurried final act (weird, considering the pacing of the set-up) it’s a goodie.

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HAMMERSTEIN! Part 5

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)

Director: Terence Fisher

Writer: Bert Batt and Anthony Nelson Keys

Cinematographer: Arthur Grant

Composer: James Bernard

Cast: Peter Cushing, Veronica Carleson, Freddie Jones, Simon Ward, Thorley Walters

Summary: Baron Frankenstein, with the aid of a young doctor and his fiancée, kidnaps the mentally sick Dr. Brandt in order to perform the first brain transplant operation.

“I have become the victim of everything that Frankenstein and I ever advocated. My brain is in someone else’s body.” - Professor Richter

The one with the rape - no one liked it, everyone protested its inclusion, from cast to director and writer, but the studio insisted. Somehow they thought it would be a selling point to viewers, who have instead universally rejected and been repulsed by the scene. Good job studio dinks!

So I self-edit, that scene is gone, and now I can focus on the positives, like the psychological layers, and pathos in relation to the creature.

This is one I get mixed up with the Revenge of Frankenstein, due to that pathos, the creature here is pitiful, it’s cruel what happens to him, and it hurts to see his anguish, especially in those scenes with his wife. Freddie Jones is incredibly moving in the role.

Cruel also describes Dr. Frankenstein, he hasn’t been this much of a bastard since Curse, and damn, Cushing is so, so brilliant at being horrible. His tongue is as sharp as a scalpel, he’s calculated, ruthless and even violent. A tormentor who ruins the lives of everyone he comes into contact with. He’s totally and sufficiently evil without that garbage scene being tacked on.

And yes, he MUST be destroyed!

You feel for the couple he blackmails, and the man he pushed into madness. In fact, the picture would be unbearably bleak, if not for the inclusion of Thorley Walters, who provides some comedic relief as a blowhard inspector, whose always several steps behind.

And that ending, what a harrowing yet poetic justice. FMBD stands with Curse as Hammers finest Frank. The insanity is palpable, the story nail biting, its telling intense, and the darkness fathomless.

Damn good Halloween fare.

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If you have HBOMax, in the Turner Classic Movies Hub they have a three pack of Hammer films starring Christopher Lee. Includes: Horror of Dracula, Dracula has Risen from the grave, and Dracula AD 1972. They have an entire horror section highlighted currently.

Sweeeeeet!

christopher lee GIF by Warner Archive

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Just happened to see “Evil of Frankenstein” last night and agree it’s not one of better Hammer efforts, although it’s not Peter Cushing’s fault. He’s watchable in nearly anything. The Monster here kept reminding me of the version of Frankenstein’s monster from “Assignment Terror” - not scary so much as stoned or sleepy.

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HAMMERSTEIN! Part 6

The Horror of Frankenstein (1970)

Director: Jimmy Sangster

Writers: Jimmy Sangster and Jeremy Burnham

Cinematographer: Moray Grant

Composer: Malcolm Williamson

Cast: Ralph Bates, Kate O’Mara, Veronica Carlson, Jon Finch, Dennis Price, David Prowse

The tagline read… “New Thrills! New Faces! New Horror!”

It should have said… "No Cushing! No Fisher! No Good!

So it’s Hammer in the 70s - the decade where the studio is struggling to stay relevant - a studio that is both rehashing old plot lines, and yet is also trying out new styles and talents. Some of it works, some of it fails miserably, which takes us to Horror, which is a horror, the worst Frankenstein by miles. It revisits the original Hammer-Stein picture (with a spin into his early days) but does it as a spoof, a laugh… but it’s a bad joke played on the audience.

It’s not sexy enough, or clever enough nor as creepy as Hammer’s first Frank-film. Ralph Bates and Dennis Price (in a small role) give entertaining performances… that are wasted in this big yawn. Darth Vadar plays the monster, none too interestingly

Next…

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That photo. I never knew Brent Spiner played Frankenstein.

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HAMMERSTEIN! Part 7

Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)

Director: Terence Fisher

Writer: Anthony Hinds

Cinematographer: Brian Probyn

Composer: James Bernard

Cast: Peter Cushing, Shane Briant, David Prowse, Madeline Smith, John Stratton, and in small roles, Patrick Troughton and Bernard Lee

Summary: Dr. Simon Helder, sentenced to an insane asylum for crimes against humanity, recognizes its director as the brilliant Baron Frankenstein, the man whose work he had been trying to emulate before his imprisonment.

End of an era, Hammer’s time is winding down. This will be their final Frankenstein movie, and the last picture Terence Fisher would direct. (BTW: It was filmed in '72, but not shown until '74, and then suffering edits to remove gore).

The great Peter Cushing is in top form, despite looking frail (he was grieving the recent loss of his wife), he remains commanding, elegant, and his Victor is as defiant and resolved as ever. It was the actor’s swan song as Frankenstein and he goes out with his head held high.

Shane Briant, one of Hammer’s new stars, joins him as his assistant (Dr. Helder). Briant was pretty, and that was something filmmakers employed as a contrast to the women he starred with (his boyish sister in Captain Kronos, the plain Wendy in Straight on Till Morning) and he always had this detached way about him, which fit the roles he took. It’s part of his character here, he almost seems amused by it all at the start, but he soon reveals a moral center, and that’s an arc that runs counter to the Baron, whose damned cold.

Madeline Smith as Angel brings the heart and empathy to the picture (though like, Briant, there’s hero-worship when she looks upon Victor… if she only knew what he had planned for her -shudder-), and Prowse is somehow more expressive in his performance as the creature, despite the cumbersome bodysuit and stiff mask that works against him (it’s more around the eyes, as the mouth is immobile)

This was one of the last films composed by James Bernard for the studio (along with The 7 Golden Vampires). Known for their clashing harmonies and percussions, his music could be explosive but also lush and romantic. Bernard was a vital piece of the puzzle that made Hammer, Hammer. he gave the films their distinct sound.

So, a lot of endings here.

While not well-received upon its release, it has found an appreciative audience over the decades. It’s not a bad movie, and in fact, I enjoyed it more on this go-round… though Victor’s man-building skills are at an all-time low (owing to injury and a low budget, but still, why the hairy gorilla-like body? Silly) and the exterior models are awful - nevertheless I liked the setting and the 3 primary characters - and it at least kept Hammer’s Frankenstein from limping off into the sunset with “Horror (1970)”.

Note - many folks complain about the Baron’s obvious wig, but I guess in my head cannon, I assumed it was supposed to look like a wig, that he was covering burns he suffered in the fire from the previous movie (which also scarred and damaged his hands). I’ll stick with that, as it doesn’t make it a bother.

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So that’s it for the marathon, it was a lot of fun and it did a lot to clarify the movies in my mind. I’d highly recommend taking the journey.

My personal rankings?
4.5 out of 5 - The Curse of Frankenstein | Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed

4.0 - The Revenge of Frankenstein

3.5 - Frankenstein Created Woman | Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell

3.0 - The Evil of Frankenstein

2.0 - The Horror of Frankenstein

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Dick Barton: Special Agent! (1948)
Hammer has a channel on YouTube, where they host several of their early features. Dick Barton was a popular radio series, tailored to youngsters, so yeah, its big-screen adaptation is corny and light, reminds of the serials we saw on MST only in 75 min movie form.

It was okay for what it is, more of interest as a historical artifact, as, according to the doc, Flesh and Blood, it was Hammers first produced film, before this they were only in the business of distribution.

They made 3 of them, Special Agent, Dick Barton Strikes Back, and Dick Barton at Bay. A fourth was planned, Dick Barton in Africa , but star Don Stannard died in a car crash after attending the wrap party and Hammer elected not to continue the series.

If you’re a Hammer completest, you can see it here (or click to watch on the YouTube channel, along with the other Barton pictures)

Watched “Curse of the Werewolf” this week… I can’t claim to be a Hammer aficionado. The posters on this Topic are way more knowledgeable than me. And I APPRECIATE that. :slightly_smiling_face: But, I did enjoy this rather slow outing. Something about how the werewolf came to be has really stuck with me since viewing. (Everyone in the film was really a victim of tragedy! Well, except for the dweeds, they were just dweeds. But the protagonists throughout the narrative… sad.) Oliver Reed was a little Shatnerian at times but still very good.

Oliver Reed makes this movie for me. He does go borderline “THESPIAN!” but he’s fully committed in a movie that could easily have been much more dull without him.

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