The Halloween Horror Fest Bride

OK, time is running out and there’s quite a few films to be covered.  Let’s go!

The Wicker Man (1973)

British horror classic, starring Edward Woodward as the policeman who travels to the remote Scottish island of Summerisle to search for a missing girl.  His investigations are fraught and the locals unhelpful.  Soon it becomes clear that the islanders are pagans, and totally at odds with the devout investigators beliefs. wicker

There is an air of sinister dread that pervades this film, and builds slowly to the shocking, yet inevitable climax.  Though there are no shocks, blood and gore, The Wicker Man creates a believably strange and foreboding world.

Excellent performances from Woodward and Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle make the whole experience all the richer.  A film that gets better with every viewing.

9/10

The Corpse Bride (2005)

Beautiful animated wonder from Tim Burton, with the voice talents of many of the usual suspects, make this film a success on every level. cb

A marriage of convenience for Victor (Johnny Depp) and Victoria (Emily Watson) turns out to be a perfect match, until it all goes wrong and Victor finds himself married to Emily, the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter).  The tangled situation is complicated by trickery and treachery, as our hero tries to escape his situation and make wrongs right.

A superb voice cast and fabulous music enhance the spellbinding visuals, and not a moment is missed to dazzle the viewer.  In particular the scenes in the underworld are vibrant and thrilling, especially compared with the dull land of the living.

The Corpse Bride is great fun for Halloween and a film to enjoy again and again.

9/10.

The Halloween Horror Fest That Dripped Blood

The House That Dripped Blood (1971)

First off, The House That Dripped Blood is not a Hammer film.  It was, in fact, produced by rivals Amicus – though the film does share some familiar faces.  This is an anthology film, comprising of four short stories, wrapped up in to an overall narrative, concerning the spooky abandoned house of the title. thtdb

The first segment sees Denholm Elliott portray a writer, who slowly begins to lose his sanity whilst staying in the house.  Elliott gives a solid performance as he starts to crumble under the fear that his murderous creation has come to life.

Next up we have the story of two men – the always fantastic Peter Cushing and Joss Ackland – both obsessed with a waxwork dummy that resembles a lost love.  Both actors are great to watch, in a tale that seems fairly unbelievable but is probably the most gruesome of the four.

In the third instalment, the house is occupied by the legend that is Christopher Lee.  He lives with his young daughter and hired teacher (Nyree Dawn Porter).  The father’s strange, strict manner masks his daughter’s true heritage, and interest in witchcraft.  This is probably the best of the stories, with a stern Lee beginning to let fear get the better of him.  Genuinely creepy.

Finally, we have Jon Pertwee as a somewhat pompous horror movie actor, who acquires a cloak that bestows him with vampiric powers.  There’s a touch of comedy with this segment, plus some divine glamour in the form of Ingrid Pitt.  It’s all very enjoyable, and helps conclude the overall narrative in a suitably scary manner. ip

The House That Dripped Blood features a great cast and a fine writer in Robert Bloch, creator of Psycho.  On viewing, it’s surprisingly lacking in blood – however there are enough chills in each story to provide some frightful entertainment.  One of the best Amicus anthology movies, and well worth watching.

8/10.

Halloween Horror Fest 2016

Welcome to this year’s Halloween Horror Fest!  All through the month of October, I’ll be watching horror movies, monster flicks and general B-movie nonsense, and then sharing a short revue on this here blog.  Hope you enjoy!

First off this year it’s…

Countess Dracula (1971)

Loosely based on the true story of Countess Bathory, who bathed in the blood of virgins, this Hammer tale is suitably lurid and macabre.  It deals in all the classic (or stereotypical, if you prefer) Hammer traits, with gore and a dash of nudity – not to mention horse drawn carriages in the woods, castles and intrigue. countess

Here the widowed Countess is played by the legendary Ingrid Pitt, who makes a startling transformation from ancient crone to voluptuous young beauty when she discovers the restorative powers of virgin’s blood.  With this knowledge, the Countess embarks on a mission to ensnare her younger lover and keep the supply of comely wenches flowing.

There’s also plenty of plotting within the castle walls, leading to some duplicitous goings on and dastardly actions.  Chief amongst these scoundrels is Nigel Green as Dobi, keen to take the place of the Countess’s suitor (Sandor Eles).

Countess Dracula is one of the great Hammer films I remember seeing years ago, inded it was one of the first I ever bought – on VHS – for my collection!  It’s an entertaining film, aided by the deceitful twists and turns of the characters, that stops the film from becoming too run of the mill.

Unlike the real Countess Bathory story, and with this being Hammer, there is of course a supernatural element to the proceedings.  The Countess is magically rejuvenated; Ingrid Pitt at first made up to look old becomes miraculously young and seductive.  But this isn’t a historical docu-drama, it’s Hammer horror – and it’s all about entertainment.

Great fun and a worthy start to this years Halloween Horror Fest!

8/10 ingrid

Hammer Glamour

Through out its illustrious career, the Hammer film studio became synonymous with two things: horror and sex.  The studio’s reputation encompassed both the lurid Technicolor gore; and the heaving cleavages of its female stars.

To say that’s all Hammer movies were does them a great disservice, yet the two key elements of horror and glamour have become the trademarks for which the company was known.  Alongside the great Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, numerous beauties also  graced these fine films. raquel-welch-one-million-years-de

There’s a great book, “Hammer Glamour” by Marcus Hearn (Titan Books, 2009).  If this topic is of interest to you, I recommend you pick it up.  I’ve been lucky to meet some of the female stars of classic Hammer movies at fan events, and they’ve been kind enough to autograph my copy of the book for me.

It’s no easy task, but here are my favourite ten Hammer actresses.  It’s been a pain-staking process analysing the contribution of each of these ladies, but my selection is below.

10. Martine Beswicke

Appearing in three Hammer movies (One Million Years BC, Prehistoric Women and Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde), Martine Beswicke’s career with Hammer covered both gothic horror and dinosaur movies.  Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde is her greatest contribution, where in a novel twist on the traditional tale, she plays the evil “sister” transformed from Dr Jekyll (Ralph Bates).  She also appeared in two Bond movies – From Russia with Love and Thunderball. I’ve met Martine and she happily signed my copy of “Hammer Glamour”.

9. Barbara Shelley

The lovely Barbara Shelley appeared in more Hammer movies than anyone else on this list.  Her films include The Gorgon, Rasputin the Mad Monk and Quatermass & the Pit.  Barbara’s best role, however, was in Dracula Prince of Darkness, where she is transformed from Victorian lady to vampiric creature of the night.  She also appeared in the great Village of the Damned.  Again, Ms Shelley has signed the book, I’m very happy to say – she was extremely nice, for a vampire.

8. Stephanie Beacham

I remember Stephanie Beacham from numerous television appearances growing up, notably Dynasty.  She appears in Dracula AD 1972 as Jessica Van Helsing, granddaughter of Peter Cushing’s Professor.  A great camp classic, this is one of my favourites, and Stephanie looks ravishing.  I’ve yet to meet Stephanie to ask her to sign the book, I’ve got my fingers crossed.

7. Veronica Carlson

Starring in three Hammer horror films, Veronica holds the distinction of having starred alongside two different Baron Frankensteins: Peter Cushing (in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed) and Ralph Bates (The Horror of Frankenstein).  She also appeared in Dracula Has Risen From the Grave – all great films.  Ms Carlson was lovely when I met her not too long ago. proxy

6. Valerie Leon

Although she appeared in just one Hammer film, Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb, Valerie Leon makes a fantastic impression in it.  A great film and a beautiful actress.  She also appeared in Carry On and Bond movies, making her a true 70’s film sensation.  You can read more here.  Very charming and another welcome signature for the book. Countess-Dracula

5. Ingrid Pitt

No-one encapsulates Hammer Glamour more than Ingrid Pitt.  She seems synonymous with horror movies.  Classic films she starred in include the brilliant The Vampire Lovers and Countess Dracula, alluring as the evil Countess.  She also starred in genre classics for other studios, such as The House That Dripped Blood and The Wicker Man.  Sadly, Ingrid passed away in 2010.  A true legend. HAMMER GLAMOUR CARLSON OMARA 10

4. Kate O’Mara

Gorgeous Kate O’Mara appeared in The Vampire Lovers and Horror of Frankenstein.  Prim in the former and sexy in the latter, Kate’s contribution to Hammer is excellent.  Her exotic looks have been a regular on-screen ever since, I remember her well in Dynasty.  I’ve not met Kate, but would love her to sign my Hammer Glamour book.

3. Madeline Smith

madeline-smith-hammer-horrorAppearing very briefly in Taste the Blood of Dracula, Madeline Smith looks absolutely dazzling in The Vampire Lovers and Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell.  She also appeared briefly in Theatre of Blood and was a Bond girl in Live and Let Die, as well as numerous other film and TV credits.  Ms Smith has signed the book and was very nice too.

2. Raquel Welch

Possibly the most beautiful woman to ever walk the planet, Raquel Welch became a screen icon when she appeared in One Million Years BC.  Unfortunately, she never appeared in any more Hammer movies (hence she only reaches number two in this list).  Raquel has made many other great films in a pretty fabulous career, since her debut in that “silly dinosaur movie” (her words, not mine!). caroline-munro-dracula-a-d-1972-publicity-shot

1. Caroline Munro

The stunning Caroline Munro appeared in two of my favourite Hammer films, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter and Dracula AD 1972.  She’s also appeared in many other cult classics – try At the Earth’s Core and Starcrash, for starters.  Ms Munro is probably most famous for her role as Naomi in The Spy Who Loved Me.  With her beautiful, long brunette hair, I’ve been smitten with Caroline for a long time.  She’s also a very lovely person with plenty of time for her fans, as I found out when I met her.  Caroline Munro is a Queen of classic cult cinema, and top of the Hammer Glamour list!

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Meeting Caroline Munro at NEC Memorabilia

A special mention should be made to some of the lovely ladies who didn’t make the top ten, including Joanna Lumley (Satanic Rites of Dracula); Catherina Von Schell (Moon Zero Two); Julie Ege (The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires) and Ursula Andress (She).  There are many more, of course.

If you’d like to buy a copy of “Hammer Glamour”, you can find it here.

www.hammerfilms.com

The Bride of Hallowe’en Horror Fest

The Vampire Lovers (1970) THE-VAMPIRE-LOVERS

It’s Hammer time!  And though it might not be a popular opinion to express, this film is, for me, classic Hammer.  With the dawn of the 1970’s the studio started to put out films that featured more explicit gore and nudity.  In The Vampire Lovers, there are some fairly gruesome decapitations and some totally gratuitous nakedness.  Brilliant.

Based on Sheridan Le Fanu’s novel Carmilla, The Vampire Lovers stars the late, great Ingrid Pitt as Mircalla/Carmilla.  She charms her way into the houses of well-to-do families and seduces their daughters with her vampiric powers.  Peter Cushing – total hero – makes a cameo appearance and we even get to see George (Minder) Cole in a substantial role.  vampirelovers2

The sets are quite lush and the atmosphere is archetypal Hammer Gothic fare.  But the real stars here are the lovely ladies – Ingrid, plus Kate O’Mara and one of my all time favourites, the beautiful Madeline Smith.  Maddy looks wonderful in this film and plays the doe-eyed innocent perfectly.

The Vampire Lovers ticks all the Hammer boxes.  And with a line-up that includes Pitt, Smith and O’Mara, offers possibly the greatest Hammer Glamour cast for a single film of all.

9/10

Alien (1979)

Alien isn’t a horror film – it’s science fiction!”  Nonsense.  Despite the sci-fi setting, this film is pure horror – and one of the all time greats.  It still has the power to shock all these years later, not to mention some very gruesome scenes.  Gripping and shit-your-shoes off scary.

The design is faultless – both H. R. Giger’s creature and the lived in space ship sets.  The film looks great and the viewer is totally immersed in the world on-screen.  I don’t need to add more, just watch it and be mesmerised.

9/10