Horrorfest 2017/It’s Hammer Time! Presents: The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973, Alan Gibson)


Perhaps viewing a subpar copy on Tubi back in October 2017 negatively affected my viewing of The Satanic Rites of Dracula (woof what a title!) yet I don’t think so. I liked this movie, however it pales in comparison to some of the better entries in the series. I did prefer this over Taste The Blood of Dracula, however I even liked Dracula A.D. 1972 over this one and people usually hate that flick. In fact The Satanic Rites of Dracula felt as if it was cribbing a bit too much from that one, and the last act of this movie was more of a Doctor Who episode than a Hammer Studios film. Too bad since this was the last time Christopher Lee faced off against Peter Cushing, although I still enjoyed certain elements and I don’t feel that the movie is a complete waste. Dracula has decided to make more vampire brides and also unleash a plague upon England, which makes him more of a super villain this time so that’s neat, I guess.

Both Lee and Cushing elevate some fairly weak and flimsy material, and I honestly don’t even recall any of the younger actors in this movie which is a bad sign. I know I saw it back in 2017 yet I should at least remember what the other actors did. If it wasn’t for Wikipedia I wouldn’t even be able to name them, which is a bad sign. Honestly if you’re a completist such as myself, watch this movie and you might get something out of it like I did. If you’re looking for something better vampire movie wise, skip this and watch The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires instead, which followed this movie and is a much better and more satisfying conclusion to the Dracula series even if it only has Cushing.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: The House That Dripped Blood (1971, Peter Duffell)


Even though this movie has a cool title, The House That Dripped Blood is a bit of a lie. Still that’s a title that will grab your attention and make you want to watch it, which is what I did. I liked all of the stories except for one, and while maybe only one or two were really great this is still a very enjoyable Amicus Productions movie from a studio famous for its anthology movies. Oh and of course both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee show up in this one, although believe it or not they weren’t in every British horror movie. Just most of them.

Also Robert Bloch was responsible for all of the stories, which of course surround a giant old mansion that a local real estate agent insists is cursed and ruins people’s lives. The first story is Denholm Elliott thinking he is going insane, and has a wonderful twist that I actually did not see coming. The man supposedly haunting him looks wonderfully creepy. Even though I liked the second tale I expected a bit more from one featuring Peter Cushing, although it does stick the landing.

The Christopher Lee one has a cool title yet I was bored by that one. Easily the weakest of the bunch. Luckily the last tale starring Jon Pertwee and Ingrid Pitt is the best of the bunch, and feels wonderfully meta for an early 1970s horror movie. The wrap around tale is enjoyable and has someone breaking the fourth wall, a bit that is eye rolling these days but was fresh back then. Amicus has done better ones, yet The House That Dripped Blood is an enjoyable and solid effort from a fun studio during the heyday of British horror films.

Someone has to clean that up…

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 2014 Presents: Amicus Double Bill-Tales From The Crypt (1972, Freddie Francis) and The Vault of Horror (1973, Roy Ward Baker)


In the 1970s the Amicus Studio emerged as a rival to Hammer Studios, although they featured more anthology movies than Hammer Studios ever did. Thanks to my public library I was able to view two films from them in a double bill package, as these films were the result of EC Comics, although Tales From The Crypt (1972) only had two stories from those comics. Both films are quite good and really entertaining, although I prefer Tales From The Crypt over Vault Of Horror (1973), even though Vault has the better cast. Each film has ghoulish tales that focus on wicked people paying for their sins in horrible ways, all powered by the supernatural or at least suggested as being the work of some evil power. Tales From The Crypt was directed by Freddie Francis, while Vault of Horror was directed by Roy Ward Barker. Both men also did work for Hammer Studios, and Francis also famously worked on the horror classic The Innocents (1961).

Just like many anthology movies Tales From The Crypt opens with a group of people brought to a certain place by a mysterious person for reasons unclear until the end of the film. The Crypt Keeper is such a person in this case, and he tells each of the people in the group how they died. The first tale is .”..And All Through The House,” which was later featured in the Tales From The Crypt TV series and is one of the best segments in the film. The killer Santa is really creepy, and this tale is well crafted and very freaky. Easily the stuff of nightmares, and starring famous actress Joan Collins as a woman trapped by her crime and deserving of her awful punishment. “Reflections of Death” on the other hand is a tad dull, even though the twist is a good payoff. Still after following the first great segment this episode left a little to be desired.

Now “Poetic Justice” on the other hand is the top episode, and is also my favorite as well, especially since it stars legendary horror actor Peter Cushing as a nice sad old man who is ruined by a pair of horrible rich neighbors. What occurs in the end is chilling and rather gory, and a reminder that revenge is a dish best served cold. And being dead is rather cold indeed. This episode and “Reflection of Death” were both taken from the EC Tales From The Crypt comics, while “…And All Through The House” was from The Vault of Horror, another EC Comics release.

Now “Wish You Were Here” is nice and proper creepy, taking from the classic story of The Monkey’s Paw and featuring a gruesome and nasty conclusion. I rather enjoyed this one as well as “Blind Alleys,” each which featured horrible endings. “Blind Alleys” covers the cruel major who runs a home for the blind and discovers what happens when you anger the blind by cutting off their resources and driving them to seek retribution. How they manage to construct a maze of razor blade lined corridors, which reminded me of a trap from the Saw series is a tad curious, yet I suppose when one drives people to rage and anger they are capable of anything. And that a starving dog has no true master….

Overall Tales From The Crypt is a nice addition to the collection of anthologies, and makes me want to view more such films. As does The Vault of Horror, which I also liked and which I will now discuss. Unlike Freddie Francis I am currently unfamiliar with Roy Ward Baker’s work, although I imagine that its more workmanlike and less interesting than Francis’ movies. Still The Vault of Horror is another fun and well made anthology movie, although this one as noted earlier has a much better cast, particularly Tom Baker, who famously portrayed The Forth Doctor on the classic TV series Doctor Who. Also present is Curd Jurgens, who was a Bond villain in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).

Unlike Tales, Vault takes place in an sub basement that five strangers have been forced to go down to, even though none of them choose it. There is no way out, and so the men drink and mention strange dreams each one has been having. Instead of a figure that brings them together these men end up in the same place all by themselves. Most of the film’s tales are from the Tales From The Crypt EC comic save for the second story, “The Neat Job”. None of the stories here are as good as the top two in Tales, although a few come rather close and overall Vault is more consistent in tone and style.

Opening with “Midnight Mess,” Vault begins as strongly as Tales did with an unsettling and eerie story. Harold tracks down his sister over an inheritance, only to discover too late that there is a reason the people do not go out at night in a quiet yet weird little town. This story has some bite to it, if you know what I mean. Followed up by the semi-weak yet still humorous “The Neat Job,” where Terry-Thomas marries a young woman and proceeds to find out that marriage is not all its really cracked up to be. Unfortunately for him, this realization happens only after he’s driven his poor wife beyond mad.

“This Trick’ll Kill You” is a bloody tale of why one does not mess with things they do not understand, as Sebastian (Curd Jurgens) and his wife played by Dawn Addams only figure out to their own horror. The morality of these tales and how people who pay the price for their misdeeds is a strong element of the EC Comics, and is present in every episode. Particularly also in “Bargain In Death,” where Michael Craig’s Maitland’s supposedly foolproof scheme results in treachery, death, and more death. Sometimes money is not worth losing one’s life, or one’s head for that matter.

 

Closing out the film is “Drawn and Quartered,” which stars Mr. Baker as Moore, a painter that is forced to seek revenge on three men who wronged him, one of them being played by Indiana Jones actor Denholm Elliot. Although he achieves what he set out to do, Moore forgets that there in the world of voodoo magic you must be careful that it doesn’t come back to harm you in the process. Something that the painter forgets to his detriment. The Vault of Horror is another good anthology film, and since Amicus created other anthology horror films I’m looking forward to seeing others that they have to offer. Hopefully they are as good as the two I viewed back in August.

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 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.

It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Evil of Frankenstein (1964, Freddie Francis)


Although building on the previous entries in the series, The Evil of Frankenstein is in many ways a stand alone movie. It also feels a bit like a remake since Universal Studios finally gave Hammer Studios the rights to their Frankenstein franchise. Which is why the monster in this film resembles the famous version from the James Whale films. By this point the Baron is in desperate need of funds so he returns home with his assistant Hans in tow, to seek out his home and use what lies within to enable him to continue his research.

While I dug the opening sequence and I found the evil hypnotist, Zoltan, to be a good aspect of the film I was mostly left disappointed. Francis clearly has talent but he isn’t given much to work with here. This entry fails to offer anything new and is saved from being completely dull by Peter Cushing, who by this point was able to play Frankenstein in his sleep. However this is not a bad film, and I liked the ending. It’s just that compared to the other Hammer Frankenstein movies its a pale imitation. I’m not even sure Terence Fisher could have saved this film.

It’s Hammer Time Presents: Night Creatures (1962, Peter Graham Scott)


The original title for this film is Captain Clegg and that sounds better yet in America they went with Night Creatures instead. Peter Cushing shows off his action hero abilities and with Oliver Reed and his loyal sidekick Mipps (played with gusto by Hammer Studios character actor Michael Ripper) he tricks the English while bootlegging to provide for the town he presides over as a seemingly humble priest. Of course Hammer Studios can’t resist putting in gothic horror elements yet Clegg is a famous hero and pirate in English fiction.

I really enjoyed this movie as it has plenty of thrills mystery and adventure. The night creatures are quite cool and it was fun to watch Cushing and his fellow outlaws outwit the English soldiers trying to arrest them. I do wish there had been more time spent on Clegg’s adventures-still this is a most wonderful movie. There is also a large amount of populism and wealth distribution in this film, as Clegg is responsible for the town not being bled dry by the overbearing English government’s taxes. The finale was also rather surprising and even a tad bittersweet, which is different from some of Hammmer Studios’ other movies.

It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Adominable Snowman (1957, Val Guest)


Despite staring Peter Cushing, The Abominable Snowman is one of Hammer Studios’ lesser films, one that would have benefited from the touch of a better director. While Val Guest attempts to set up the film’s atmosphere and make it creepy or at least entertaining, the movie stalls midway through and lacks quality pacing and style. Oh and the Yetis are merely hinted at and never shown, which is puzzling for a movie with “Abominable Snowman” in the title. Which is really disappointing, because Hammer Studios has always been known for wicked cool special effects and creatures that at their best look terrifying and unique. I understand that Guest was going for a psychological supernatural effect yet since the film never really goes anywhere it doesn’t work.

Still this movie isn’t a complete waste, as I liked Forrest Tucker and Cushing’s interactions with each other, presenting gruff harsh individualistic Americanism versus quiet, refined British ideals. Once we actually get to see one of the Snowman its a cool sight, which once again makes me wonder why the film waits so long to present the titular creatures. That would be the equivalent of making a Godzilla movie that only has Godzilla pop up near the end of the movie. Despite being a mixed bag I found this movie watchable at times, and I liked the ending I guess. I almost wonder if this film is a prime candidate for a remake, but there have been plenty of killer Yeti movies over the years so probably not.

It’s Hammer Time Presents: Frankenstein Created Woman (1967, Terence Fisher)


One of the best things about Peter Cushing is how no matter what the movie he appeared in he always gave his all to whatever role he played. The part of Baron Frankenstein suited him rather well, and in Frankenstein Created Woman the Baron is working with an older assistant named Dr Hertz, attempting to isolate the soul of a person. In doing so he will conquer death via a new means, so long as he is able to captain a person’s soul and essence. Finally the brilliant madman is able to achieve his goal without interference from others, yet human nature becomes his new problem.

Like many of the entries in this series there is a ghoulish and cruel opener. A man is the executed, and the repercussions of this action happen years later when his son is framed for murder by a trio of upper class thugs. His beloved, Christina (the lovely and talented Susan Denberg) kills herself in response after seeing her lover brutally executed, and Frankenstein realizes this his chance to prove his metaphysical theories. Of course this leads to that classic scene featuring strange machines at work, resulting in weird science happening.

Frankenstein Created Woman is a film with two halves: one a science fiction Gothic horror tale with tragedy, the other a slasher film. The Baron does create a monster that is beautiful and lovely, and yet due to having the soul of a vengeful man it proceeds to go on a rampage. Unfortunately for Baron Frankenstein and his assistant the authorities of the village come after him per the typical realization that he is responsible, and events come to a head. Particularly after the Baron and Dr Hertz realize what is actually happening.

Despite at times being cheesy and a little slow in the middle, Frankenstein Created Woman is one of the better sequels in the Frankenstein series. The conclusion is both sad and haunting, and this film is rather entertaining and intelligently made. I continue to enjoy viewing these movies, as its amusing to me how Frankenstein continues to survive and work despite everyone being against him.

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