the vaults of the legendary Hammer production house come these
twenty-one classic films, the cream of Hammer's Horror, Science
Fiction and Fantasy productions, featuring iconic performances
from Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee among
a host of others. This box-set also includes The Nanny,
a Hammer classic starring the legendary Bette Davies...
Optimum Classic comes this 21-disc collection of British made
Hammer horror films, starring such luminaries as Christopher
Lee, Peter Cushing and Ralph Bates, among many others. Here's
a few words on each title:
A colourful fantasy which was Hammer's most expensive film
up to that time. Ursula Andress from Dr.
No was drafted in to play the immortal She,
the world's most beautiful woman. It was an immediate success
Nanny: Bette Davis gives a powerful performance, reminiscent
of that in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, in this
psychological chiller. The Nanny was Hammer's final
black and white film. The disc contains a commentary by director
Prince of Darkness: Christopher Lee is commanding
as everyone's favourite vampire, in Hammer's second outing
to Transylvannia. Although a solid and enjoyable venture,
which has Terence Fisher return to the director's chair, it's
not the classic that it's predecessor was (1958's Horror
of Dracula, starring Lee and Cushing). This
disc also includes the thoroughly captivating documentary
from 1995, The Many Faces of Christopher Lee.
Plague of the Zombies: If you can avoid seeing
the corny publicity picture for this film's original release,
you'll find Hammer's only zombie feature to be well worth
a look. Planned as a support, Plague knocks spots off
several main features. The potential for silliness is avoided
by careful use of dialogue. This disc contains a trailer.
the Mad Monk: Those used to seeing a certain
calm but chilling performance from Christopher Lee will be
staggered by his amazingly convincing portrayal of the intelligent
but loud and violent Rasputin. He reportedly researched heavily
for the role and it reflects his presence. I've only ever
seen one other solid representation of the character, and
that was from Tom Baker in Nicholas and Alexandra.
This is another favourite, and a bit of a departure for Hammer.
Reptile: This was originally released as a support to
Rasputin The Mad Monk. It's mediocre at best and more
than a little long-winded. The snake make-up proved problematical
and unconvincing. Although acted pretty well the film ends
itself with no ultimate confrontation between the characters
and the creature - just people escaping from a convenient
Witches: Hammer had trouble getting the required adult
rating for this one, and that tells its own tale. Joan Fontaine
was the star (mainly because she owned the screen rights for
the book!), and the script was written by Quatermass
writer Nigel Kneale. The disc contains a trailer.
Million Years B.C.: Most people will have heard of this
one, even if they haven't actually seen it. Rachel Welch in
a fur bikini (it works for me!) is an enduring film image,
much like Ursula Andress emerging from the sea in Dr. No.
Unusually for Hammer, it was filmed on location, taking in
the Canary Islands before returning to Elstree studios. Famous
stop motion wizard Ray Harryhausen handled the dinosaur effects.
This was Hammer's biggest commercial success, and one of its
best remembered pictures. Also on this disc are interviews
with Rachel Welch and Ray Harryhausen.
Viking Queen: This is an historical piece telling the
story of Queen Salina, reportedly based on the Iceni Warrior
Boudica. Even the good looks of Finnish model Carita Jarvinen
couldn't help save this. Let's just pretend it didn't happen.
The disc contains a film trailer.
Created Woman: This one plays second fiddle
Curse of Frankenstein (not included in this
set). Even the great Peter Cushing fails to lift the movie
from the average pile. Inconsistencies in plot and character
further mar what could have been a new twist on the monster.
and the Pit: From the story and script by Nigel
Kneale. Many people have very fond memories of this one, but
I have to say that, although it's very well acted it's also
extremely overrated. It's full of ideas, without anything
of significance really happening for the entire plot. The
disc contains a trailer.
Vengeance of She: Ursula Andress couldn't be
tempted back for this one, and she wasn't a bad judge. Vengeance
is a pretty awful sequel which treads the same plot-lines
as the original, but with considerably less finesse. Nothing
in this film convinces, and the music drives you to distraction.
The disc contains a trailer.
Devil Rides Out: Based on Dennis Wheatley's
best-selling black magic book, this movie was scripted by
one of the best in the business: Richard Matheson. So what
we get is a highly-polished and exciting plot about a demonic
cult attempting to re-baptise a man as a disciple of the devil.
Christopher Lee is cast against type as the good guy and Charles
Gray plays the evil bad egg. It works wonderfully. This is
one of the best Hammer films you will see. The disc includes
Women: Also known as Slave Girls or Slave Girls
of the White Rhino, the sole purpose of this film seems
to have been to reuse the sets and costumes from One Million
Years B.C. They shouldn't have bothered, because the audiences,
quite wisely, didn't. A trailer is included on the disc.
of Dracula: This is perhaps the bloodiest of
the Christopher Lee Dracula films, but not necessarily the
best. Still, it has some nice ideas such as Dracula's coffin
being in a walled-up room which can only be accessed via the
outside sheer wall. There's some great names in Scars:
Patrick Troughton as Dracula's manservant, Dennis Waterman,
Jenny Hanley, and a very beautiful young Kate O'Mara. An enjoyable
film. This disc contains a commentary with Director Roy Ward
Baker and Christopher Lee, a stills gallery and trailer.
Horror of Frankenstein: This film is sometimes
referred to as a departure into comedy horror. I would venture
to disagree. The only quirkiness comes from the loveable rogue
character of the young Frankenstein. All of the characters
are well-defined; particularly the grave robber and his wife,
and the scheming maid (another excellent appearance by the
lovely young Kate O'Mara). This is a horror gem. Ralph Bates
plays Frankenstein (he flopped horribly playing Dracula) and
Prowse (of Darth Vader and Green Cross Code fame)
plays a rather humanised creature who becomes a monster through
its actions. Extras include a commentary with Jimmy Sangster,
an interview with Veronica Carlson, and a poster and stills
From the Mummy's Tomb: Lots of running around
but not too much excitement describes the structure of this
mummy movie, which follows the attempt to resurrect an Egyptian
queen using the body of a present day woman. Not one of the
best examples of Hammer's output. In fact, the production
was plagued with misfortune. Peter Cushing withdrew to care
for his dying wife, and then director Seth Holt died before
the film was in the can. This disc includes interviews with
Valerie Leon and Christopher Wicking, a stills gallery and
on Till Morning: This one and Fear in the Night are
low-budget thrillers which were originally planned as TV movies.
It's perhaps significant for having been directed by The
Italian Job's Peter Collinson, but is nothing special.
Novelty value only.
in the Night: This suspense thriller had been on the cards
for several years with Hammer, and ended up being the last
contribution for them from director Jimmy Sangster. This one
is definitely worth a look, being considerably better than
its reputation. The disc includes a commentary by Jimmy Sangster
and a trailer.
of the Mind: They say we live in enlightened times, but
I can't believe that even a film made in 1971 and set in the
1830s can have such a simple and corny plot as this. It's
billed as a psychological thriller and I suppose it is in
the loosest sense. It all boils down to a man's new wife bleeding
during first time sex. The shock makes him impotent, and his
inability to have sex sends her mad. See what I mean? A couple
of promising moments, but not a good lesson in scriptwriting.
There's a commentary on the disc by director Peter Sykes,
writer (!) Christopher Wicking, and actress Virginia Weatherall,
and also a trailer.
the Devil a Daughter: Christopher Lee plays
the excommunicated Father Michael who seeks to create a living
devil using the innocent seventeen year old Catherine. John
Verney, a novelist on the occult, is charged with keeping
her safe. Richard Widmark (who was apparently a pain on set)
stars alongside Lee, Denholm Elliot, Anthony Valentine, Francis
De La Tour, and Nastassja Kinski among many more. This is
a well structured film until the final scene, which seems
rather disjointed. Dennis Wheatley, on whose book this was
loosely based, was reportedly appalled by the film. Nevertheless,
it stands as one of Hammer's strongest, and was commercially
successful. There are some nice extras on this disc: To
The Devil... The Death of Hammer documentary, an interview
with stunt man Eddie Powell, and a film trailer.
It was easy for the uninitiated to brand the company Hammy
House of Horror, but the truth is that Hammer Productions
turned out very few turkeys and a great many classics. I must
admit that I'm confused by the choice of films in this set.
Where is the first and best Hammer Dracula film, Horror
of Dracula? Where is The
Mummy, The Curse of Frankenstein, and
Must Be Destroyed?
there are some fine films here to be savoured. This a welcome
- if expensive - release. Hammer stalwarts will already possess
at least half of these films on single-release DVD, and are
perhaps unlikely to fork out £150 for a few films which are
not in their collection. Completists or anyone else with a
nostalgic nose for horror but new to these films will be pleasantly
only received check discs for review I can't comment on the
packaging, but I believe the discs are presented in a black
and red box displaying a cross, and includes a colour booklet.
This set might have gained another point or two had the picture
and sound been remastered for each disc. A couple are particularly