Thursday, 7 February 2013

Hammer Horror - Part 3

It's been a while. After a month in which my internet was down, and a month where I moved house, not to mention a detour into short fiction, I thought it was time to resurrect this. Especially as this contains my favourite one so far - and the worst one. Enjoy! And whatever you do, do NOT watch Vengeance Of She without a buddy and a safe-word.


The Ultimate Guide to The Ultimate Hammer Collection!

Film #11: Quatermass and The Pit

Summary and Review: While extending an underground station, workers discover a skeleton of a prehistoric human. They also uncover what at first appears to be an unexploded bomb. Except surely the skeleton should have been crushed by the bomb when it landed...

Words cannot describe how much I love this one. Andrew Keir plays Quatermass here, a kindly scientist who nevertheless Doesn't Suffer Fools Gladly. This film combines some of my favourite tropes - the military who remain obstinate and ignorant until, it's too late, Quatermass yelling at them that they are fools, fools I tell you!, workmen getting knocked off like redshirts in Star Trek. It's all good. Out of all the films in the box, this was the only one I had seen before I started this and the only one I would recommend completely without caveats or a tongue in my cheek. Amazing.    

Best Moment: An exceptionally creepy moment when a man goes back to collect his equipment. At this point, it's almost impossible to guess what happens next.

Hammer Glamour: Barbara Shelley, playing Quatermass' assistant. Fairly low key, compared to say, Dracula: Prince of Darkness. Plus she actually gets to do stuff!

Unintentionally Funny Moment: Some of the model work is somewhat less than convincing.

Bonus cameo: Duncan Lamont, who played the doomed astronaut in the BBC's original Quatermass  Experiment way back in 1953 - pretty much the first sci-fi shown on TV.

Film #12: Vengeance Of She


Summary and Review: From the sublime to the ridiculous. Actually, screw ridiculous, this film sucks. A remake/sequel (can't tell which) of She, minus Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Bernard Cribbens, Ursula Andress, most of the budget, the sense of fun and the awesome costumes. Possibly one of the worst films I have ever seen.

Best Moment: The credits.

Hammer Glamour: Replacing Ursula Andress with Olga Shoberova is not a good trade. Especially when poor Olga looks kind of confused throughout most of this mess.

Unintentionally Funny Moment: Kilikrates has adjusted well to being an immortal ruler, considering how bitter he was about it.

Bonus cameo: Pink Panther Strikes Again fans might remember Colin Blakely as the British detective who has to deal with Clouseau.

Film #13: The Devil Rides Out

Summary and Review: Great fun, this one. Two friends discover a third friend is getting in too deep with an Evil Cult (tm) and endeavour to rescue him from their nefarious grasp. It all culminates in a siege where Christopher Lee (in a good guy role for once) pitches his wits against Charles Gray, who smirks throughout. Amazing effects, fun plot, well paced. An extremely enjoyable hour and a half - despite some bizarre plot holes. This is also one of Christopher Lee's favourites and one he'd like to see remade with modern effects. I'd be on board.

Best Moment: The entire siege sequence, which is basically the latter third of the film, is inventive and relentless. Also this - "The Angel of Death has been summoned. He cannot return empty-handed..."

Hammer Glamour: Nike Arrighi. Nope, I haven't heard of her either

Unintentionally Funny Moment: The couple who make sure they are perfectly safe and protected from the evil goings-on completely forget they have a daughter upstairs. The moment they realise is priceless.

Bonus cameo: Paul Eddington, playing Neglectful Parent #1. Now I just need to spot Nigel Hawthorne to have the full Yes, Minister set.


Film #14: Prehistoric Woman

Summary and Review: After the success of One Million Years BC, Hammer quickly re-used the sets and Martine Beswick. In this, one blond haired tribe is oppressed by a dark haired tribe (this is all sounding suspiciously familiar) and there's also something, something legend of the White Rhino. It was around this point I remembered that OMY BC had no dialogue, and I was grateful. It also had the benefit of not being like anything I'd ever seen before and Ray Harryhausen creature effects. This doesn't. No ball.

Best Moment: The appearance of the actual white rhino.

Hammer Glamour: Martine Beswick is no Raquel Welch.

Unintentionally Funny Moment: This was originally called Slave Girls in the UK, because 1967 was a very different time.

Bonus cameo: Steven Berkoff. As in the cantankerous playwright. OK...

Film #15: Scars of Dracula

Summary and Review: Awesome. Drac's back (again), terrorising the locals, sucking blood and generally being awesome. Two things are different. Firstly Christopher Lee actually talks this time round, which is always nice, with him hypnotising people to do his bidding, bidding them welcome to his castle (mwa ha ha) and all the stuff you really want to see him do. The second is that this film is gory as anything.  People have their faces bitten off, they are impaled, stabbed, set on fire and thrown off cliffs, and burned with hot metal. This film is nasty. Would I have it any other way? Nope. 

Best Moment: My real favourite is a bit of a spoiler, so I'll just the fate of one poor git's wife.

Hammer Glamour: Jenny Hanley, who went on to present Magpie.

Unintentionally Funny Moment: The angry peasants make violent speeches about taking down the evil in their midst, light torches, march on the castle shouting and praying, and then knock on the door. Scars of Dracula may be the most English film I've ever seen.

Bonus cameo: Is, is that Dennis Waterman?


So that was that. This box had some crushing lows and exceptional highs, seemingly alternating. Now all I need to do is watch the last box.

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