Category Archives: 1966

Blu-Ray News #225: The Hemisphere Box Of Horrors.

You know, anybody can do a 4K scan of some perfectly-preserved studio picture made 10 years ago — or do what little is needed to put last summer’s digitally-shot blockbuster on a silver circle. But to take some cheap little independent, international piece of junk — that’s been beaten to crap wherever it’s been reposing for the last 40 years — and make it look as though it was made yesterday, well, that’s really doing something.

And that’s why I thank God for folks like Severin Films. With their upcoming The Hemisphere Box Of Horrors Blu-Ray set, they take a handful of films from Hemisphere and give them the love and respect few people would say they deserve.

The Blood Drinkers (1964, AKA The Vampire People)
Directed by Gerry De Leon
Starring Ronald Remy, Amalia Fuentes, Eddie Fernandez, Eva Montes
Some of this Filipino vampire picture was shot in black and white, some in color. The B&W scenes were tinted in various shades and promoted as “blood-dripping color. 

Curse Of The Vampires (1966, AKA Blood Of The Vampires)
Directed by Gerry De Leon
Starring Amalia Fuentes, Romeo Vasquez, Eddie Garcia
There’s a woman chained up in the dungeon of a jungle mansion. Turns out she’s a vampire who bites her son — and soon the entire family is on the prowl for blood.

Brain Of Blood (1971, AKA The Creature’s Revenge, The Oozing Skull, The Undying Brain)
Directed by Al Adamson
Starring Grant Williams, Kent Taylor, Reed Hadley, Regina Carrol, Angelo Rossitto
You can always count on Al Adamson for something terrible — and a lot of fun. It’s got everything from brain transplants to torture chambers to chained-up women to sinister dwarfs. Something for everyone. This was Reed Hadley’s last film.

The Black Cat (1966)
Directed by Harold Hoffman
Starring Robert Frost, Robyn Baker, Sadie French, Scotty McKay
This horror picture, shot in Texas, was picked up for distribution by Hemisphere. It was paired with The Blood Drinkers. This is one I’ve been wanting to see for eons.

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The Torture Chamber Of Dr. Sadism (1967, AKA The Blood Demon, The Snake Pit And The Pendulum, Castle Of The Walking Dead)
Directed by Harald Reinl
Starring Christopher Lee, Karin Dor, Lex Barker
Count Regula (Christopher Lee) is executed for killing 12 virgins in his dungeon. Years later, he comes back for revenge. This West German production, co-starring Karin Dor and Lex Barker, is a lot better movie than it’s plethora of lurid titles would indicate. (The Torture Chamber Of Dr. Sadism has to be one of the greatest movie titles of all time.) This one and The Black Cat are exclusive to this set and will not be sold separately.

All these pictures will get the usual Severin treatment with lots of extras — interviews, cut scenes, trailers and more. For those of us who can’t get enough of these things, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1964, 1966, 1967, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray News, Severin Films

Blu-Ray Review: Dracula – Prince Of Darkness (1966).

Directed by Terence Fisher
Produced by Anthony Nelson Keys
Screenplay by John Sansom (Jimmy Sangster)
From an idea from John Elder (Anthony Hinds)
Cinematography: Michael Reed
Film Editor: Chris Barnes
Music by James Bernard

Cast: Christopher Lee (Dracula), Barbara Shelley (Helen Kent), Andrew Keir (Father Sandor), Francis Matthews (Charles Kent), Suzan Farmer (Diana Kent), Charles Tingwell (Alan Kent), Thorley Walters (Ludwig), Philip Latham (Klove)

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Hammer Films’ approach to sequels has always fascinated me. It was smart, it was different. Their Frankenstein pictures followed the doctor, not the monster. Each film saw the good doctor hiding out someplace new, working on his latest experiment. Brides Of Dracula (1960), Hammer’s followup to their Dracula (1958, known in the US as Horror Of Dracula), went in the same direction. Since Count Dracula had been reduced to a nasty pile of dust, they kept their focus on Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing). Makes sense.

But I guess a Dracula movie isn’t a Dracula movie if Dracula’s not in it. So Hammer worked to bring Christopher Lee back. It would be eight years before Lee donned the cape, fangs and bloodshot contacts for Dracula – Prince Of Darkness (1966). Whether it was worth the wait is something Hammer fans tend to debate quite a bit.

Dracula – Prince Of Darkness was one of the first Hammer films I saw (it might’ve been the first), and it made a huge impression on me, particularly the resurrection sequence. The movie’s deliberate pacing and grim tone seems to explode once Klove gets out his knife. And as a kid, that scene pulled the cinematic rug out from under me — after that, anything could happen — and I watched the rest of the film with an odd combination of joy, distrust and absolute dread.

Bringing Lee back in Prince Of Darkness sent the series down a path of killing Dracula off in one picture, then bringing him back in the next. But they never got it better than this one. With Van Helsing (and Peter Cushing) missing, we get the vampire hunter Father Sandor (Andrew Keir). He’s terrific, but Cushing is missed — his mixture of obsession and morality makes a good backbone for a picture like this. One of Dracula’s victims is Barbara Shelley, whose performance — going from repressed rich lady to sexed-up vampiress — is really something.

Dracula was a model of efficiency — it looks like it cost much more than it did, its pacing is perfectly tight, and it works wonders with a very small cast. For Dracula – Prince Of Darkness, Terence Fisher and his team spread things out a bit in terms of both pace and space — this is one of the few Hammer horror films in ‘Scope, Techniscope, to be exact.

That Techniscope is one of the things that makes the new Blu-Ray from Scream Factory so important. Techniscope used far less frame space than an anamorphic process like CinemaScope or Panavision, so sharpness and graininess become an issue. But they’re not a problem here, and we get two different versions of the picture to choose from. The British cut is a bit shorter, and its color leans toward green — but it’s sharper. The US version is longer by about 12 seconds, its color is much better, but it’s a bit softer and the blacks are very dense. Of course, Hammer horror films are all about their color. Scream Factory was wise to give it to us this way. Combining the two wouldn’t have worked (the mismatched color would have driven us all nuts), and there would’ve been complaints about one vs. the other. (Personally, I prefer the US version.) The sound is terrific, giving James Bernard’s score the power it deserves.

There’s a coffin-full or great extras, from a short documentary to some behind the scenes home movie footage. All in all, this is an outstanding package — and a terrific opportunity to rediscover a film that has spent way too much time under the shadow of its predecessor. It’s time for its own resurrection. Highly, highly recommended.

Dracula – Prince Of Darkness played theaters paired with John Dilling’s The Plague Of The Zombies (1966), a smaller picture that’s a real knockout. It’s available from Scream Factory, too, and it’s essential.

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Filed under 1966, Barbara Shelley, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Shout/Scream Factory, Terence Fisher

DVD News #218: Cold War Thrillers.

If you like your international intrigue filled with miniskirts, Walther PPKs and loads of Cold War paranoia, then this Mill Creek set is for you. Cold War Thrillers brings six 60s spy movies in from the cold — at a price even cash-strapped socialist nations can afford.

Man On A String (1960)
Directed by Andre De Toth
Starring Ernest Borgnine, Kerwin Mathews, Alexander Scourby, Colleen Dewhurst, Glenn Corbett, Ted Knight, Seymour Cassel

Ernest Borgnine stars in this 1960 spy picture based on the life (and autobiography, Ten Years A Counterspy) of Boris Morros, a Russian-born musical director in Hollywood (John Ford’s Stagecoach, 1939) who was first a Russian spy, then a counterspy for the FBI. Andre de Toth focuses on the double-crosses that stack up like cordwood.

The Deadly Affair (1966)
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Starring James Mason, Maximillian Schell, Simone Signoret

Sidney Lumet directs a picture from a book by John Le Carré, with James Mason in the lead. How can it miss? It doesn’t .

Otley (1968)
Directed by Dick Clement
Starring Tom Courtenay, Romy Schneider, Leonard Rossiter

Tom Courtenay is mistaken for a spy and murderer in swinging London.

Anthony Mann, Mia Farrow and Laurence Harvey on the set of A Dandy In Aspic

A Dandy In Aspic (1968)
Directed by Anthony Mann
Starring Mia Farrow, Laurence Harvey, Tom Courtenay, Peter Cook

While shooting this in Berlin, Anthony Mann had a heart attack and died. Laurence Harvey climbed into the director’s chair and finished it. It’s a solid spy picture  with Mann’s incredible use of Panavision giving it a real edge.

Hammerhead (1968)
Directed by David Miller
Starring Vince Edwards, Judy Geeson, Peter Vaughan, Diana Dors, Tracy Reed, Veronica Carlson, David Prowse

This is one I’ve been wanting to see for some time. The cast is great and David Miller’s usually worth paying attention to — after all, he did Flying Tigers (1942) and Lonely Are The Brave (1962).

The Executioner (1970)
Directed by Sam Wanamaker
Starring George Peppard, Joan Collins, Judy Geeson, Charles Gray

Here’s Judy Geeson again, this time with George Peppard in a spy picture packed with maybe too many double-crosses.

Open up a newspaper from 1966, and you’ll see there are enough 60s spy movies (or James Bond ripoffs) to do several volumes of these things. Which would be fine with me.

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Filed under 1960, 1966, 1968, Andre de Toth, Anthony Mann

Blu-Ray News #195 UPDATE: Dracula – Prince Of Darkness (1966).

Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Andrew Keir, Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer

It took Hammer almost 10 years to do a sequel to their Horror Of Dracula (1958). They shot it in Techniscope, which is really cool — one of the few Scope horror films Hammer did. And while some of the later Dracula pictures got pretty tired, if not downright stupid, this one’s terrific. Barbara Shelley’s great, but Peter Cushing is missed as Van Helsing. It had a huge impact on me as a kid.

Scream Factory has recently given us a rundown on what we can expect from their Blu-Ray, coming December 18 — dropping the Prince Of Darkness right in the middle of “merry and bright.” We get the UK and US versions of the film, with a new 4K scan of the US version. There are a number of commentaries, an episode of World Of Hammer, a documentary on the making of the picture, some 8mm behind-the-scenes footage and more.

Around my house, it’d be hard to top the excitement of The Thing (1951) coming to Blu-Ray, but this comes real close. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1966, 20th Century-Fox, Barbara Shelley, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Shout/Scream Factory

Blu-Ray News #197: The Plague Of The Zombies (1966).

Directed by John Gilling
Starring André Morell, John Carson, Jacqueline Pearce, Brook Williams, Michael Ripper

The Hammer horror films and coming fast and furious to Blu-Ray these days — and it’s terrific. The latest news is that Scream Factory is bringing us The Plague Of The Zombies (1966).

It’s been great re-visiting these films in high definition. I’ve been really floored by the cinematography in these things, especially the use of color. Before Hammer came along, horror films were almost always black and white. That was probably a financial decision more than an artistic one — but as has been proven a thousand times, black and white is perfect for horror movies.

Hammer used color as a marketing tool — and the promise of red blood served them well. The Plague Of The Zombies (1966) doesn’t offer up the blood that the Dracula movies do, but it has some really cool, innovative lighting things — particularly in the graveyard and mine scenes — that really set it apart. They liberal use of the fog machine is quite effective, too.

John Gilling’s direction and the cast are excellent. I have a soft spot for Brook Williams (he’s the first of many people who wind up dead in my  favorite movie, Where Eagles Dare). Everything comes together to make The Plague Of The Zombies a really creepy movie (as the stills above make pretty obvious).

Back in 1966, Hammer sent this out with Dracula – Prince Of Darkness, which is also on its way from Scream Factory.

FYI: These are the voodoo-type zombies, not the Romero-type zombies.

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Filed under 1966, Hammer Films, Shout/Scream Factory

Blu-Ray News #195: Three Hammer Dracula Pictures Coming To HD.

With three of the Hammer Dracula pictures on the way on Blu-Ray, the Count’s about to put a real bite on our finances. Oh well.

Dracula – Prince Of Darkness (1966)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Christopher Lee

It took Hammer almost 10 years to do a sequel to their Horror Of Dracula (1958). They did it in Techniscope, which is really cool — one of the few Scope horror films Hammer did. Barbara Shelley’s terrific, but Peter Cushing is missed as Van Helsing.

Both Lee’s resurrection and demise are really effective — this one really knocked me out as a kid. Coming to Blu-Ray soon from Scream Factory.

Dracula A.D. 72 (1972)
Directed by Alan Gibson
Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Stephanie Beacham, Carolina Munro

Bringing Dracula into the 70s turned out to be a better idea than a movie (probably inspired by AIP’s Count Yorga, Vampire), but Dracula A.D. 72 (1972) has plenty to recommend it. Cushing’s back, which helps a lot. Caroline Munro makes her first Hammer appearance (of two). And the period opening is terrific. I can do without Stoneground, who replaced The Faces (that would’ve been cool). Coming to Blu-Ray from Warner Archive.

The Satanic Rites Of Dracula (1973)
Directed by Alan Gibson
Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Joanna Lumley, Freddie Jones

By the time Hammer got around to The Satanic Rites Of Dracula (1973), things were getting pretty tired. Way too much times is devoted to some stuff about the plague, but when Lee and Cushing duke it out, it’s glorious.

At one point, this was distributed in the States by some cheeseball company as Count Dracula And His Vampire Bride. Coming to Blu-Ray from Warner Archive.

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Filed under 1966, 1972, 1973, Barbara Shelley, Caroline Munro, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Peter Cushing, Shout/Scream Factory, Terence Fisher, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #183: Dracula – Prince Of Darkness (1966).

Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Andrew Kier, Frances Matthews, Susan Farmer

Dracula – Prince Of Darkness (1966), Hammer’s sequel to Horror Of Dracula (1958, called just Dracula in the UK), is coming to Blu-Ray from Scream Factory. It’s the only Hammer Dracula picture in Scope (Techniscope), and it should be a real treat in high definition. Plus, you can always count on Scream Factory for some great extras.

This was the first of these movies I saw as a kid. From bringing Lee back to life in the first reel to killing him off again at the end, I was completely mesmerized by the whole thing.

With this, The Vampire (1957), The Tingler (1959) and The Legend Of Hell House (1973), Scream Factory is bringing some of my favorites — the junk that really rotted by brain as a kid — to Blu-Ray in terrific shape. I’m eternally grateful.

Dracula crawls out of the grave this December.

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Filed under 1966, 20th Century-Fox, Barbara Shelley, Christopher Lee, Hammer Films, Shout/Scream Factory, Terence Fisher