Category Archives: Barbara Shelley

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

Blu-Ray News #219: Quatermass And The Pit (1967).

Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Starring Andrew Keir, James Donald, Barbara Shelley, Julian Glover

Scream Factory’s run of terrific Hammer releases continues with maybe their best science fiction movie, Quatermass And The Pit (1967). By the time it reached the States, this third Quatermass picture was retitled Five Million Miles To Earth — since we weren’t all that familiar wth Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass stuff for the BBC. Whatever you call it, it’s really good, with great performances from Andrew Keir and the lovely Barbara Shelley.

As if that wasn’t enough, they’re also prepping Quatermass II (1957), with Brian Donlevy as the scientist. They’re coming in May. This is essential stuff, folks.

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Filed under 1967, Andrew Keir, Barbara Shelley, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Roy Ward Baker, Shout/Scream Factory

2018 In Review – Part 2.

When I started doing DVD and Blu-Ray commentaries, it no longer felt appropriate to survey the best DVD and Blu-Ray releases of the year. So, as a substitute (maybe a poor one), here’s a reminder of a few things we were treated to this year. We’ll let all the praise, complaints or ranking come from you in the comments. Part 1 can be found over at 50 Westerns From The 50s.

This was a banner year for old sci-fi and horror movies making their way to Blu-Ray. From what we’re hearing so far, next year might be the same for noir and crime pictures. Anyway, here’s some of 2018’s bounty — a few of which I’m still working on proper reviews of.

The Thing (From Another World) (1951)
This is one of the all-time favorite movies. I find something new in it every time I see it — a line, a look, a particular setup, the music, a new appreciation for the guy who did the fire stunt. It’s always something — and that, to me, is one of the requirements for a Great Movie. Warner Archive worked long and hard on this one, and I’m in their debt for sure.

The Hammer Draculas
It’s like there was some sorta Monster Movie Summit, and it was decreed that the Hammer Dracula series would be given its due on Blu-Ray. Warner Archive did a lot of the heavy lifting with Horror Of Dracula (1958), Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) and The Satanic Rites Of Dracula (1974). In the meantime, Scream Factory came through with Dracula – Prince Of Darkness (1966). Taste The Blood Of Dracula (1970) hit Blu-Ray a few years ago. That leaves Scars Of Dracula (197) as the only Hammer Dracula picture not available on Blu-Ray. Who’s gonna step up to the plate for that one?

The Hammer goodness wasn’t limited to the Dracula pictures. Mill Creek included some Hammer pictures in their twin-bill sets, some of the best values in all of home video. Hammer Films, William Castle, Ray Harryhausen — there’s some good stuff in those sets.

The Creature From The Black Lagoon Complete Legacy Collection
That’s quite a name for a set that only includes three movies. But what movies they are — the first two, anyway. And they’re in both widescreen 2-D and 3-D.

Gun Crazy (1949)
Joseph H. Lewis hit it out of the park with Gun Crazy (1949). So did his cast — and this year, with a stunning Blu-Ray, so did Warner Archive.

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956)
Don Siegel making it to Blu-Ray is always a reason to celebrate, and this is one of his many milestones. Over the years, we’ve all put up with some pretty shoddy-looking stuff when it comes to this incredible movie. Olive Films’ Blu-Ray is a huge improvement.

The Tingler (1959)
It’s hard to pick between this one and House On Haunted Hill (1958) for my favorite William Castle movie. Scream Factory did a wonderful job with this one, and they’ve given us other Castle pictures as well.

Dark Of The Sun (1968)
Warner Archive has been hinting around about this one on Blu-Ray for a while. It’s beautiful — and still one of the damnedest movies I’ve ever seen.

There’s a few that stood out for me. What DVD and Blu-Ray releases knocked you out this year?

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Filed under 1951, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1959, 1970, 1972, 1973, 3-D, Barbara Shelley, Caroline Munro, Christopher Lee, Don Siegel, DVD/Blu-ray News, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Howard Hawks, Jack Arnold, James Arness, John Agar, Joseph H. Lewis, Julie Adams, Kenneth Tobey, Kevin McCarthy, Mill Creek, Nestor Paiva, Olive Films, Peggy Cummins, Peter Cushing, Richard Carlson, Richard Denning, Richarld Carlson, RKO, Rod Taylor, Shout/Scream Factory, Terence Fisher, Vincent Price, Warner Archive, William Castle

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 #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

Blu-Ray News #174: Village Of The Damned (1960).

Directed by Wolf Rilla
Starring George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Michael Gwynn

Warner Archive is bringing one the creepiest movies ever made to Blu-Ray — Village Of The Damned (1960). I’m not gonna go into any detail on this — there might be someone out there who hasn’t seen it, its 1964 sequel (Children Of The Damned) or its (why?) remake.

One quick thing: MGM was gonna shoot this in the States with Ronald Colman, but due to complaints from religious groups, it was shelved. Eventually, the studio brought it back to life as a British picture starring George Sanders (who’s perfect). So glad they made it in the UK.

Warner Archive has scheduled this trip to Creepsville for release later this summer. Can’t wait to see how good this thing’ll look in high-def. Essential.

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Filed under 1960, Barbara Shelley, DVD/Blu-ray News, George Sanders, MGM, Warner Archive