Archive for Hammer Studios

AWESOME-tober-fest 2016: Hammer Studio’s The Mummy (1959)

Posted in Genres, horror, monsters, movies, mummy, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , on October 14, 2016 by Paxton

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Okay, I’m doing a more popular monster, so I get to visit a Hammer film this year!  In 1959, one of the more prolific Hammer directors, Terence Fisher, as well as one of the more prominent writers, Jimmy Sangster, tackled Hammer’s version of The Mummy.

The-Mummy

It starred the usual Hammer all stars, Peter Cushing as John Banning and Christopher Lee as the mummy.  As in the other Hammer monster movies, their mummy movie was based on Universal’s version, but maybe not the one you’d think.  Instead of re-adapting Universal’s 1932 The Mummy, starring Boris Karloff, this movie takes it’s story from two of the later Universal mummy sequels; The Mummy’s Hand (1940) and The Mummy’s Tomb (1942).  With a little bit of the climax from The Mummy’s Ghost (1944).  And while the Karloff version is held in higher regard, I feel the sequels have a bit more fun with the subject.

So, how did Hammer do?  I love the Hammer aesthetic.  Check out my reviews for Horror of Dracula or Curse of Frankenstein.  When Hammer works, it’s dynamite.  When it doesn’t, you get well meaning missteps like Curse of the Werewolf.

I won’t say this particular movie was a misstep.  But it wasn’t a favorite.  It just seemed to drag a lot, especially in the middle.  But while the story was lacking, the other Hammer touches where there.  The set design is GREAT.

The tombs look great and are set designed in that spectacular way that Hammer usually does.  I mean check out the above picture of the recently opened tomb.  It’s not been opened in thousands of years but the green lights apparently still work.  Amazing.

Also, Cushing and Lee are great as always.  I just love watching Cushing be gentlemanly and awesome.

And Lee’s mummy looks just incredible as well. Especially when he’s getting shotgunned in the chest by Peter Cushing.

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And check out this “ancient scroll” that is the basis for much of the plot of this movie.

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Looks like it was printed last Thursday at Kinkos.  That being said, it’s beautiful looking.  Take a look at the inscriptions on the left picture (click it).  That’s some wonderfully detailed imagery for just a few seconds of on screen footage.  That’s Hammer for you.

Here’s where I think the problem lies.  The mummy, as a monster, is essentially boring.  He’s too passive.  Much like my issues with traditional zombies, I don’t really enjoy watching mummy movies.  And that’s my  main problem with this movie.  The mummy is used as “muscle”, the second banana if you will. It’s probably why I like the Brendan Fraser mummy movies a bit more because I feel like that mummy was in charge. He actually felt dangerous.  While it was fun to watch Cushing and Lee, the overall story was a bit boring, but that’s a problem with most mummy movies for me and not necessarily a problem with Hammer’s movie.


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Hammer’s Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

Posted in Genres, horror, monsters, movies, nostalgia, pop culture, werewolf with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2015 by Paxton

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Today I’m journeying back to the heady days of October 2010 when I covered werewolves for Halloween. My intention that year was to actually watch and review Hammer’s 1961 werewolf film, Curse of the Werewolf. It was supposed to go right there during that last week after I covered Universal’s Wolf Man movies. However, plans got away from me and I was not able to cover it that year.

Now, I have that chance back. Plus, I haven’t had a Hammer movie review on AWESOME-tober-fest since 2013’s review of The Plague of the Zombies. So, let’s do this.

Curse of the Werewolf poster

Hammer’s Curse of the Werewolf starred Oliver Reed and Catherine Feller.  It was the only werewolf movie Hammer ever made.  It’s very gothic and tragic, lots of sexual subtext and, kind of all over the place.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

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Title cards for this movie. Not quite as cool as the Horror of Dracula cards.

Marques and wife
This is the Marques Siniestro and his new bride. In this opening scene the movie goes out of its way to show you how mean and cruel this Marques can be.  Even his wife is looking at him like, “You’re such an asshole.”

Chef 01 Chef 02
The chef brings out some roasted goose for the newlyweds.  The Marquesa says she doesn’t like goose, so the Marques actually gets up out of his chair, yells at the chef for not knowing the Marquesa doesn’t like goose and throws the entire tray of goose on the floor. Then while the chef cleans up the mess the Marques pushes the chef down into the mess.
ASS. HOLE.

Beggar 01 Beggar 02
After the chef debacle, a lowly beggar comes to the Marques’ table to beg for food and drink.  The Marques offers him a handful of gold to be the Marquesa’s pet.  Then, he completely humiliates the beggar by making him dance in front of everyone for some food and wine.  Then the beggar is sent to the dungeons anyway.

Marques leering
Here’s the Marques leering at his wife before sending the beggar to the dungeons. He just informed her it’s time for them to “retire”. Ugh, shivers went up my spine the way he said it.  She’s clearly re-thinking her life choices at this point.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2013: House of Hammer magazine #13 (1977)

Posted in Genres, horror, magazine, movies, nostalgia with tags , , , , , , , on October 22, 2013 by Paxton

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Comic editor Dez Skinn had conceived of a horror fan magazine called Chiller.  He worked right next to the production offices of Hammer Studios, and after walking past the front door one day he decided to talk to Hammer about licensing their name to use on the magazine.  In the 70s, Hammer Studios was a giant in the horror movie industry.  Their Frankenstein and Dracula franchises were huge hits.  They thought this new Hammer fan magazine was a great idea.  They changed the name from Chiller to The House of Hammer.  The magazine covered new releases as well as old.  Originally it was only going to cover Hammer movies, but it became clear that there would not be enough content so they opened it up a little bit to cover new genre pictures currently in release.  Sort of a prototype Fangoria.  The first issue was published in 1976.

Personally, I’m a big fan of Hammer Studios.  Their gothic horror films are classics.  Especially, like I said, their classic Dracula series with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

In October 1977, The House of Hammer #13 was released. House of Hammer #13 cover As you can see, the cover story was Hammer’s 1966 zombie flick, Plague of the Zombies. There was also a preview of Star Wars as it wouldn’t premier in Britain until Dec 1977. One of the cool things this magazine did was to feature comic adaptations of some of Hammer’s classic movies.  In this issue they adapt Plague of the Zombies.  It’s actually really well done.  The adaptation was written by Steve Moore with artwork by Trevor Goring and the awesome Brian Bolland of Killing Joke and Watchmen fame. Below are the first four pages.  The entire adaptation is about 13 pages, so you’ll have to click through to my Flickr set to see the entire thing.  If you click the first page below (with the movie title), you can read it full size on Flickr then just click the right arrow to move to page two.

Plague of Zombies pg 1 Plague of Zombies pg 2

Plague of Zombies pg 3 Plague of the Zombies pg 4

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2013: The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

Posted in Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, pop culture, zombies with tags , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2013 by Paxton

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I am a huge fan of Hammer’s gothic horror movies so I try to incorporate them in every one of my AWESOME-tober-fest celebrations.  This year, I get to include their one crack at a zombie movie, The Plague of the Zombies.

By the mid 60s, Hammer Studios had run out of Universal horror movies to remake, so they had to start coming up with their own stuff.  Hammer decided to do a movie based on the voodoo concept of the zombie.  They took inspiration from the 1932 Bela Lugosi movie, White Zombie.  So, in 1966, two years before Romero’s genre defining Night of the Living Dead, Hammer released The Plague of the Zombies. Plague of the Zombies Hammer’s zombies, like most zombie movies before it, were created through voodoo and black magic. They are the undead, but they aren’t quite the cannibalistic walking dead you’re familiar with. They are just, “the walking dead”, period. No brain/flesh eating whatsoever.  They are animated by black magic to do the bidding of the witch who resurrected them.

Here are the title screens.

POZ 00 POZ 01

The movie starts with with a voodoo ceremony. We see the grand wizard there in his royal getup. The scene is underscored by this rhythmic drumming that is being performed by actual natives. Presumably from Haiti, as we learn later that this is where our movie’s particular voodoo comes from. Check out that drummer. He is COMMITTED to this role. Get used to this Haitian drummer. He and his friends (there are about three of them) will show up throughout the movie.

POZ 02 POZ 03

An elderly doctor summoned by one of his former students to a small town to help him diagnose and help stop a rash of people dying with odd symptoms.  It seems people have been dying and no one can figure out why.  Least of all the young doctor.

So the old doctor’s daughter convinces him to travel to the village to help and at the same time they visit an old friend of the daughter who happens to be married to the young doctor.  Things and people seem strange in the village, which they discover is run mostly by a wealthy squire.  The doctor and pupil investigate the deaths and uncover many crazy goings on all tied to the enigmatic squire.

That’s the basic setup.  Two doctors investigating strange deaths in a small town.  Not much else going on.  The actors are fairly good, but none of the Hammer regulars are in attendance (ie Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, David Prowse).

Let’s take a look at a few screenshots from the movie.

Here are the good doctor and his former pupil during their investigations of the town.

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The only attractive woman in the movie is the young doctor’s wife who dies very early on.

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The squire in charge of the town looks an awful lot like Guy Pearce.

POZ 06

Here’s another shot of the voodoo zombie ritual including the gussied up Grand Wizard. Oh, and there are those drummers again. And they are a-drummin’. Hammer Studios must have gotten a good deal on them.

POZ 13 POZ 07

The young doctor’s wife turns out to be a victim of Guy Pearce up there. So she dramatically returns from the dead. I like the zombie makeup they use. Looks pretty creepy.  Very similar to the Exorcist makeup (scratch that, reverse it.  This movie came first).

POZ 09 POZ 11

I read in a few places where the 1985 movie Return of the Living Dead claims to have originated the “zombie clawing itself out of the grave” shot. However, here in 1966, Hammer did it first.

POZ 12

This was a neat movie. Cool to see this version of zombies two years before Romero released his classic. I like this movie, but I like most all of Hammer’s movies. I like their style and atmosphere. Just something about these Hammer movies are fun and interesting to watch. The colors are always vibrant and the sets are greatly designed.  However, I’m not going to lie, the movie is a bit dull in the middle.  They try to explain the Haiti and voodoo away in some fast exposition and there are other characters showing up that aren’t really explained.  This caused a bit of confusion for me.

However, that aside, while this isn’t as engrossing as either of Hammer’s first Dracula or Frankenstein movies, it’s still pretty good.


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.