Little Shop of Halloween Horror Fests

Halloween may be over, but as usual, I’ve still got a few left over Halloween Horror Fest reviews to write.  So don’t get too comfortable, you’re not safe just yet…

The Wolf Man (1941)

Yes!  This is what it’s all about – classic Universal Monsters!  The Wolf Man is one of my favourite movies of this type.  It’s massively influential – most of the folklore we know about werewolves was actually created for this film – and it’s great fun for Halloween.

Larry Talbot (the legendary Lon Chaney Jr) returns to his ancestral home (actually set in Wales, fact fiends!).  He reconciles with his father (an excellent Claude Rains), and tries to find his place in the community.

When defending a friend from a wolf attack, Larry is bitten by the creature.  Of course, there’s no prizes for guessing that the beast was a werewolf (human alter ego played by another horror legend, Bela Lugosi).  Larry is condemned to become a werewolf too, as his life takes a tragic turn.

The Wolf Man boasts great performances, a fantastic score and a story that is pretty much definitive in the realm of cinematic lycanthropes.  Larry Talbot’s story is both thrilling yet sadly ill-fated.  Iconic make-up effects from Jack Pierce also help to create an unforgettable monster movie that’s amongst the best from Universal.  And it’s set in Wales.

9/10

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Geeky plant shop worker Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis) is downtrodden, unsuccessful – and has a crush on his colleague Audrey (Ellen Greene).  Seymour discovers a strange plant which he names Audrey II.  The mysterious plant has an appetite for blood, and flourishes when it feeds on Audrey’s sadistic dentist boyfriend.  Soon the amazing Audrey II becomes a sensation, bringing fame and fortune to Seymour – but at what cost?

Now I’m no fan of musicals, but I’ll make an exception for Little Shop of Horrors.  It has a fun story, some great songs and a quality cast  – including cameos from some comedy greats.  Frank Oz directs, and the whole movie is a gruesome treat from start to finish.  A different, but wholly appropriate, Halloween movie.

8/10

Lust for a Vampire (1971)

The final film for this year’s Halloween Horror Fest is another from my beloved Hammer Films.  Lust for a Vampire forms part of an unofficial trilogy, sandwiched between The Vampire Lovers and Twins of Evil, being loosely based on J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla”.

Beautiful Mircalla (Yutte Stensgaard) arrives at a girl’s finishing school, situated somewhere vaguely Eastern European.  However, Mircalla is actually a reincarnation of  Carmilla – one of the evil, vampiric Karnstein clan.

The school headmaster (Ralph Bates) pledges his unholy allegiance to Mircalla and visiting author turned school teacher Richard LeStrange (Michael Johnson) falls in love with her.  But pupils and local villagers start to die off – and soon suspicion falls on the Karnstein’s and their demonic resurrection.

In Lust for a Vampire, Hammer plunge into more sexually explicit themes, resulting in cheap titillation and camp silliness.  This approach has caused the film it’s fair share of harsh criticism over the years.  Indeed, the story is a little cheesy and predictable, but the boobs’n’blood approach has never been an issue for me, unsurprisingly.

In fact, I found that there’s plenty to enjoy in this movie: terrific gothic sets and atmosphere – always the hallmark of Hammer – are really effective here.  It lacks a Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee, yet the cast have a decent stab at creating a novel tale.

Any cringe worthiness generated by Lust for a Vampire can just as easily be enjoyed as “they don’t make ’em like that anymore” 70’s kitsch.  An entertaining film that whilst not a major shining jewel in Hammer’s crown, is still pretty much unmissable.

8/10

Halloween Horror Fest

Yes, it’s October – which means it’s time once again for Halloween Horror Fest!  Throughout the month on the run up to Halloween, Mrs Platinum Al and I watch some of the horror movies from our creepy collection, and I write a brief review of each for your evil entertainment.

It’s always out and out horror – so long as there’s a general spooky or paranormal element – or monsters! – then the movie is up for consideration.

This is the fifth year running we have attempted this mammoth task.  To keep everyone up to speed, here’s a list of the films that have been viewed over the last few years.

All are listed in alphabetical order.

28 Days Later
28 Weeks Later
30 Days of Night
The Addams Family
Alien
An American Werewolf in London
Big Tits Zombie
Bigfoot Wars
Blacula
Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb
Blood on Satan’s Claw
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter
Carrie
Carry on Screaming
Company of Wolves
The Corpse Bride
Countess Dracula
Creature from the Black Lagoon
Dark Shadows
Day of the Dead
Dead Snow
Dead Snow 2
The Devil Rides Out
Dracula AD 1972
Dracula Prince of Darkness
Ed Wood
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark
Evil Dead
The Fog
Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman
Friday the 13th
From Dusk Till Dawn
From Hell
Ghost Ship
Ghostbusters
Halloween
The House That Dripped Blood
Lost Boys
Night Watch
Oupost
Para Norman
Paranormal Activity
Paranormal Xperience
Pet Sematary
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
The Raven
Rocky Horror Picture Show
Scream
Shadow of the Vampire
Shaun of the Dead
Silence of the Lambs
Sleepy Hollow
Taste the Blood of Dracula
Theatre of Blood
The Thing (1982)
Vampire Circus
The Vampire Lovers
The Wicker Man
The Wolfman (2010)
The Woman in Black
Zombie Strippers

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