Once upon a time there was a small UK studio which made B
movies and TV adaptations, such as big screen versions of
the BBC Quatermass series, that shot to international
success with its interpretations of classic Hollywood horror
movies, in the process creating many of the conventions that
still epitomise the genre more than 40 years on. That studio
was Hammer, and the blood it spilt, often on the smallest
of budgets, helped create a movie legend. And what better
way to introduce Hammer than with its first three monster
hits, The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula and The
early, and arguably best, Hammer's works paired up the horror
double bill to end 'em all: Peter Cushing and Christopher
Lee. Between them, the two actors largely carried the studio's
output for over a decade. And even when the movies were bad
- and they often were - Lee and Cushing would still emerge
victorious. But there was nothing wrong with The Curse
The classic James Whale adaptation for Universal of the Mary
Shelley novel helped create the iconography of the classic
monster movie, but it was Hammer that imbued the story with
bloody sadism - in the process turning a misguided man of
medicine into a monster as revolting as his creation. The
Curse of Frankenstein is every bit as potent today as
it ever was.
- or Horror of Dracula as it was called for its US
release - is just as good, albeit for very different reasons.
Here, for the first time, the vampire Count is portrayed as
charming and erudite which not only surprised audiences at
the time of its release, but also still helps to heighten
the tension leading up to his first act of bloodsucking evil.
Make your baddie interesting and he becomes harder to resist.
this DVD release the box says Dracula although the
version of the movie, and its trailer, are both taken from
a US print and therefore carry the title Horror of Dracula.
And while this is not really a problem, this is a UK film
getting a UK release so why not the UK version? That minor
quibble aside, this is simply fantastic stuff.
third, and final, of the original classic trilogy is The
Mummy. And once again Peter Cushing is fighting ancient
evil - Lee bandaged up as a mummy brought to life to avenge
the desecration of an ancient tomb. And although it's not
as good as the previous two films - it does sag in the middle
- it is still a very enjoyable romp that once again turns
convention on its head by making the monster sympathetic.
And it is Lee's ability to impart pathos that makes his final
destruction that much more powerful.
simply, if you are a fan of the horror genre then this set
of three discs is nothing short of essential. And for those
new to Hammer, don't watch 'em alone.
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