Horrorfest 2019/It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Hands of the Ripper (1971, Peter Sasdy)


The Hands of the Ripper was one of the non franchise movies that Hammer Studios put out while they were still one of the top horror studios in the world. I rather like this one as it has nasty kills, good characters and a plot that works despite being kind of ridiculous. Eric Porter stars as the kind psychiatrist who takes in the young daughter of none other than the infamous Jack the Ripper! Yet, he finds out all too quickly that some behaviors cannot be cured.

Angharad Rees is great as Anna, the poor young lady who doesn’t realize that she’s a killer. Things become even more dramatic as everytime Anna falls under a spell she acts out her father’s deadly wishes. One murder is particularly brutal (and quite sharp) while another is highly unexpected. While this movie works better as a slasher movie than a melodrama, I rather enjoyed it. The Hands of the Ripper might not one of Hammer’s best, however it was a solid effort from one of my favorite horror studios.

Horrorfest 2019/It’s Hammer Time Presents: Vampire Circus (1972, Robert Young)


After years of making vampire movies that conclude with the heroes killing the vampire plaguing their home town, Hammer Studios decided to make a film that shows what happens after the townspeople win. Vampire Circus is a fairly solid picture, one that lives up to its own expectations. I liked that the townspeople are still haunted by the memory of the evil Count Mitterhaus, and that they fear his return. Into the midst of a disease that is tormenting the village a circus arrives, and of course they bring trouble because this is a Hammer film. Even the circus is evil, and in this case is hiding secrets that will all be revealed in due time, viewers.

As a big fan of Doctor Who it was fun to see Lalla Ward playing one of the circus people, and Thorley Walters playing the mayor, as he was in multiple Hammer movies as well. I like that Hammer Studios often used the same actors in different films, and naturally Vampire Circus has a good amount of gore. One particular stand out kill is a cross being thrown onto a vampire, and also a crossbow is used to rather gruesome effect. Even though Vampire Circus is not top tier Hammer, it is still worth a look as being an entertaining vampire movie. These kinds of films have a quality that is lost in this day and age.

Horrorfest 2019/It’s Hammer Time Presents: Twins of Evil (1972, John Hough)


Twins of Evil has a few things in it’s favor, most notably Peter Cushing being Peter Cushing, although in this Peter Cushing is burning women alive after accusing them of being witches, and not trying to kill Dracula or bring monsters to life. The real hero of this movie is a guy named Anton, which is an odd name for a good guy in this type of movie. Also this is part of a series of films surrounding the evil Karnstein family, who are all vampires one way or another and love to serve the Devil. Because I guess that is what you do in these movies if you are rich and love to conduct human sacrifices in your creepy old castle. Plus this film has a pair of twins, one who is good and the other who is naughty, and if you think the film makes you guess which one is which at one point, well have a cookie and a gold star.

Having Mary Collinson and Madeleine Collison, real life twins, actually play twins is a nice touch, and I liked how John Hough provides the usual mayhem and sexuality that most Hammer films were known for by the 1970s. Also the Karnstein family series breathed new life into Hammer and gave them a bit of a short reprieve that unfortunately was short lived. I dug some of the wonderfully outrageous one liners (Peter Cushing actually utters “They have brought me twins of evil!” while keeping a straight face), and Hough delivers a solid flick that is never boring. Recommended even though it falls short of being as good as The Vampire Lovers or some of the best Dracula entries.

Horrorfest 2018/It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Curse of the Werewolf (1961, Terence Fisher)


Oliver Reed appeared in many Hammer Films over the years, and The Curse of the Werewolf, the third film I viewed on Halloween, was one of his towering performances. Reed goes from being sympathetic and likable to a horrifying beast, giving us, the audience, reason to root for and also be repulsed by him. As typical of many Hammer productions this one touches upon class issues, and of course features a prior evil that leads to the main evil, a plot element that many slasher films incorporated later on as well. Also I had no idea that a child born on Christmas Day would become a werewolf, something that I have never heard of before in any horror movie that I can think of, although perhaps it is based in some old myth or legend. It is too bad that Hammer Studios only made one werewolf movie, as this is one of their best films and it was made by their premier director, Terence Fisher.

Catherine Feller is also great as Cristina, who Reed’s Leon falls in love with despite the fact she comes from wealth and he is unable to marry her, and Martin Matthews is likable as Leon’s friend, Jose. I really dug the werewolf transformations, and the creature effects are properly freaky for such a film. Featuring a well rounded cast, surprising amounts of gore for a 1960s movie, and anchored by Reed’s excellent performance, The Curse of the Werewolf is a must for both horror and Hammer fans.

Horrorfest 2015/It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Woman In Black (2012, James Watkins)


These days Daniel Radcliffe seems to like being in horror movies. That’s good because he is fantastic in both of the ones he’s done-particularly in The Woman In Black, from Hammer Studios. The famous horror studio returned in time to give Britain a very good, creepy and well crafted horror film. It’s great to see that they haven’t lost a step and thus film is a nice throwback to their glory days. Having famous character actor Ciarán Hinds as the other star is a quality choice, as he brings gravitas to the proceedings.

Radcliffe is a young lawyer who journeys to a small town on business concerning a large estate. The house sits outside the village and is imposing, empty, and possibly haunted, of course. This calls to mind other previous and famous horror films, although James Watkins, the director, does a fine job of not depending on horror cliches or homages.

Also I like that this film doesn’t need jump scares or gore to be effective. Old school ghost films are something I have a soft spot for, and Watkins has a keen eye for unsettling moments. I also like that I was unable to guess the ending, which is always a plus. Whether or not the sequel is worth seeing, I’m not sure. I might check it out regardless. I do look forward to more Hammer films in the future, as I’m a big fan.

It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Phantom of the Opera (1962, Terence Fisher)


Unlike its predecessors, Terence Fisher’s The Phantom of the Opera (1962) is more of a modern style take on the original 1925 classic, which starred Lon Chaney. In this remake Herbert Lom tackles the role, and gives it style, grace, and a tragic flare that was missing from the original film. In fact despite not being as good as the 1925 version one thing I like about the 1962 adaption is that it is more in tune with the book. The Phantom was not a monster at first, but in the end was turned into one because of circumstance-in this case, it is because the Phantom was robbed of his works by an arrogant and selfish individual, leading to him turning into a horribly disfigured man. Also I was a bit reminded of the 2004 musical, especially since there are actually musical numbers in this movie and much of the film is as much a drama as it is a horror movie.

The cast is pretty good here-Hammer Studios regular Michael Gough is wonderfully evil and sinister, Edward de Souza plays a solid and likable hero, and Heather Sears is rather good while doing the thankless job of being the pretty damsel who ends up the object of the Phantom’s desire. Much like Fisher’s other Hammer films the visuals here are stunning, and the set designs are remarkable. Even though it lacks the 1925 version’s high level of creepiness, and Lom unfortunately doesn’t measure up to Lon Chaney’s brilliant and freaky Phantom, who he completely made his own, this is a rather solid remake. Some of Hammer Studio’s most notable efforts included non-franchise movies such as this one, and its a shame that this movie failed at the box office. At least its developed a cult following since.

It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959, Terence Fisher)


Operating as another one of the studios famous mad scientist movies, The Man Who Could Cheat Death has some of Terence Fisher’s usually strong visual style of film making that is the reason why he is the best out of the studios’ stable of directors at the height of its popularity. This film is well made and also is a tad creepy, as the title character turns out to be a monster as a result of his desire to live forever. Georges Bonnet is arrogant, intelligent, murderous and yet utterly charming. Without the parathyroid glands he takes from his victims Georges will finally die after living for over a 100 years. His mentor, Prof. Ludwig Weiss, refuses to help and therefore Georges has to force Pierre Gerard to perform the operation that will enable Georges to continue living forever. A scene that shows what happens to Georges’ victims is rather eerie, aimed at being terrifying and featuring plenty of green. Its almost as if Georges was an alien instead of just a man who thanks to science has found the secret of eternal life. This gift is of course not without a steep price.

Its a bit strange seeing Christopher Lee in a non-monster/evil person role, and he does a fine job here as Pierre, the doctor who unless he aids Georges will suffer the loss of the woman the two men love, Janine Dubois (played by the lovely and talented Hazel Court).  Anton Diffring is fantastic as Georges, giving life to a man who has become evil in his quest to never die. His fate becomes sealed by different forces, and the finale is rather violent and intense, as are most endings to Hammer Studios movies. This film is rather good also for its discussion on what long life, especially possibly living forever, can do to a person. In a key scene Ludwig and Georges argue about the surgery, with Ludwig mentioning that the years have changed Georges for the worse, not for the better. It almost reminds me of some newer Doctor Who episodes where the Doctor’s companions tell him to never travel alone, and how the Doctor often reflects that living so long has turned him into a different man completely.

Some argue that this movie is too heavy on dialogue, yet I like how Fisher sets up his more dramatic elements. Plus the killings are properly horrific and there is plenty of suspense in the final act. I do want to view the original version of this film, titled The Man In Half Moon Street and compare the two films. Hammer Studios was usually quite good at making remarkably entertaining remakes that either channeled the spirits of the originals or offered a new twist on previous material.

It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Terror of the Tongs (1961, Anthony Bushnell)


Previously I realized that having Peter Cushing was not enough to make a Hammer Studios Film good. This holds true in this case for Christopher Lee as well, although its not his fault as he gloriously overacts and plays a Chinese man in a role that is well….racist. The movie itself is racist and doesn’t care, reveling in a plot that involves a sea captain battling the local Tongs gang, which rules things. Lee is their evil leader who, afraid of a list falling into the wrong hands, decides to murder the daughter of the captain, named Jackson Sale (blandly played by Geoffery Toone). Naturally this causes Jackson to go seek revenge, and in the process he is manipulated by those who wish to destroy the Red Dragon Tongs in Hong Kong.

Terror has some of the typical Hammer Films grace notes, such as graphic violence and suspenseful moments. Even though this film is kind of one note and racist its still entertaining at times and there is a few truly great scenes. The part where Jackson has to deal with a drugged up assassin that refuses to die even he shoots him again and again (you would think that he would have tried to aim for the head). Even though its uneven and a bit dull at times The Terror of the Tongs still manages to be watchable at least, partly thanks to its action packed ending as well.

It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Stranglers of Bombay (1959, Terence Fisher)


Although not a horror movie this is still an exciting and thrilling adventure film that clearly had some influence on Steven Spielberg’s and George Lucas’ Temple of Doom (1985). The Stranglers of Bombay deals with a murderous Indian cult known as the religious cult of Kalias, which was run by men known as Thuggees. They terrorized the country until the British finally defeated it, thus reflecting how the English believed that in conquering other countries they were bring order to “Uncivilized” cultures. Fisher doesn’t exactly reflect that in this film however, as the colonial and political subtexts are either pushed aside or not deemed important, while the film’s main purpose is to be a movie thrill ride that entertains the audience instead. Which is too bad, although in the 1950s a movie questioning British colonialism at a time when the British were losing their empire probably would not have been too popular with audiences.

One of my favorite parts is when the young captain, named Henry Lewis (played elegantly by Guy Rolfe) has to be saved from a cobra by a brave mongoose in an exciting and very real fight to the death. The cult leader really lacks any type of personality and therefore isn’t really menacing although he is not actually the main villain. The movie has crisp, clear action sequences and is very straightforward which is not completely a bad thing. While not featuring the main stars that populated most of Hammer Studios films I liked that The Stranglers of Bombay has a cast that I was not familiar with, as it makes things more unpredictable. This is one Hammer Studios film that should have been rewarded with a sequel, as the future exploits of Lewis would have been also fun to watch onscreen. Oh well.

It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958, Terence Fisher)


I’m not quite sure how this film’s title makes any sense, although perhaps Frankenstein achieves revenge by living, I guess? Cleverly escaping being executed for his horrible crimes and for creating a monster that killed people in the first installment, the good Baron takes up a new practice in England. The local doctors are jealous of his talents, so Frankenstein must plan ahead and try to remain a step up above the usual people hounding him, and of course the authorities too. Hans, a long doctor (played by Francis Matthews) figures out who the Baron is and forces him to become his mentor. I actually like Peter Cushing best in this installment, as he expertly goes from being kind to his typical madman, a doctor who treats the poor but is also using them as parts for his experiments. What Frankenstein achieves this time is taking a hunchback, Karl-who helped Frankenstein escape-and transform him into a normal man by transplanting his brain. The experiment is a success, and yet the new Karl (Michael Gwynn) refuses to go along with the main plan, with disastrous consequences.

What surprised me is that this film is equal to the first installment, and that Fisher manages to equal his previous grand achievement, giving birth to a sequel that is one of the best sequels ever made in my opinion. Revenge is creepy, thrilling, and rather dark, as poor Karl becomes a tragic figure damned by man and by the Baron, cheated out of a happy life. In a way he is even more pitiful than the famous creature that Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff previously embodied, for he is a normal looking man and yet due to circumstances beyond his control his life is ruined. The Baron never looks back or shows remorse, and this is aptly showcased in The Revenge of Frankenstein.

How the film ends I will not reveal, but I will say that with this installment Frankenstein becomes something akin to a slasher villain: its not possible to defeat him, even with the authorities in hot pursuit. The final shot is rather chilling, and this film has all the grace marks of a good Fisher Hammer Studios movie. So far I have not viewed any other movies that come close to matching Revenge or Curse of Frankenstein, and I doubt I will. They have style and elegance, proper intelligence and excellent pacing.

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