Category Archives: Hammer Films

Cash On Demand (1961).

Directed by Quentin Lawrence
Screenplay by David T. Chantler & Lewis Greifer
Based on the teleplay The Gold Inside by Jacques Gillies
Director Of Photography: Arthur Grant
Film Editor: Eric Boyd-Perkins
Music by Wilfred Josephs

Cast: Peter Cushing (Harry Fordyce), André Morell (Colonel Gore Hepburn), Richard Vernon (Pearson), Norman Bird (Arthur Sanderson), Kevin Stoney (Detective Inspector Bill Mason), Barry Lowe (Peter Harvill), Edith Sharpe (Miss Pringle), Lois Daine (Sally), Alan Haywood (Kane)



What’s better than a heist movie? A heist movie starring Peter Cushing, from Hammer Films. Cash On Demand (1961) is another Hammer picture that’s eluded me over the years, and I’m so glad I finally caught up with it.

It’s a couple days before Christmas, and Harry Fordyce (Peter Cushing) is running the Haversham branch of City And Colonial Bank as coldly and efficiently as ever. Then Colonel Gore Hepburn (André Morell) comes in, announcing that he’s an insurance investigator. But once he’s in Fordyce’s office, Hepburn reveals that he’s actually a bank robber, he has Fordyce’s family hostage and that he fully expects the branch manager to help him clean out the vault.

From there, it gets very tense. Cash On Demand proves that when you have a good script to work with, along with a strong cast and crew, you don’t need much money. (They say Hammer spent just £37,000 on this thing.) The entire picture takes place in the bank or in front of it (Morell’s Maserati parked out front is nice to see).

The performances here are top-notch, and I think that’s the key to the film’s success. André Morell is charming as the robber, but we completely believe him when he threatens Fordyce’s family. Peter Cushing is incredible here. We don’t care much for the bank manager, he’s the ultimate cold fish, but Cushing makes us sympathize with him over the course of the film. For his sake (and his family’s), we want the heist to succeed. Cushing plays his rather Scrooge-ish redemption at the end just perfectly.

The US prints run 80 minutes, while the UK theatrical cut is just 67. As tight as the longer version is, I’d love to see how the shorter version plays. The Indicator Blu-Ray gives you both, by the way.

Richard Vernon has a good part in this. I’ve been aware of him for ages, thanks to movies I watched constantly as a kid: A Hard Days Night, Goldfinger, The Tomb Of Ligeia (all 1964) and The Satanic Rites Of Dracula (1973). Both Morell and Richard Vernon were in the television play this was based on, The Gold Inside, and Morell played Watson to Cushing’s Holmes in Hammer’s The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1959). Norman Bird was in The League Of Gentlemen (1960), Maniac (1963) and The Wrong Box (1966).

Director Quentin Lawrence worked largely in television, but he also did The Crawling Eye (1957). And, of course, cinematographer Arthur Grant’s work is as masterful as ever. Editor Eric Boyd-Perkins excels here, putting the pieces together to really ramp up the suspense.

How’d that vault get backstage at the London Opera House?

Another familiar “face” is Bray Studios. I recognized some of the bank sets from other Hammer films, namely The Phantom Of The Opera (1962).

My Peter Cushing bias is splattered all over this blog — he’s one of my absolute favorites, and I’d list him as one of the greatest, and most under-appreciated, screen actors of them all. Cash On Demand is yet another picture that supports my lofty claims. But from one end to another, this is an excellent film, one where everything — script, cast, direction, etc. — comes together perfectly. Highly, high recommended.

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Filed under 1961, 1964, Arthur Grant, Columbia, Hammer Films, Indicator/Powerhouse, Peter Cushing

Blu-Ray News #367: Two Psycho Rip-Offs From Hammer Films And Freddie Francis.

In the early 60s, Hammer invested heavily in the Psycho ripoff industry. And while those investments didn’t pay off like their Dracula or Frankenstein pictures did, they were pretty solid movies. Scream Factory is bringing a couple of them to Blu-Ray soon (each is a standalone release). Both were written and produced by Jimmy Sangster and directed by Freddie Francis. 

Paranoiac (1963)
Directed by Freddie Francis
Starring Janette Scott, Oliver Reed, Sheila Burrell, Alexander Davion

His older brother dead, his sister declared insane, Oliver Reed is all set to have the family fortune all to himself. Then, the brother turns up again. Or is an imposter? 

Nightmare (1964)
Directed by Freddie Francis
Starring David Knight, Moira Redmond, Jennie Linden

Technically, this is probably more of a riff on Diaboliques (1955) than Psycho (1960). A girl witnesses her mother kill her father. Mom is sent to an asylum, while years later, at a finishing school, the daughter starts having nightmares of stabbings. But are they dreams, or are the bodies really piling up?

In both the UK and the US, Nightmare played theaters with Evil Of Frankenstein (1964), also directed by Francis.

These are cool, stylish pictures with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing who’s real, who’s dead and who’s gonna be dead. They were both in black-and-white Scope, which looks terrific in high definition. If these get the usual treatment Scream Factory lavishes on their Hammer releases, with stellar transfers and lots of nice extras, these will be very nice indeed. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1964, DVD/Blu-ray News, Freddie Francis, Hammer Films, Oliver Reed, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International)

RIP, Barbara Shelley.

Barbara Shelley
February 13, 1932 — January 4, 2021

I grew up watching Barbara Shelley in pictures like Dracula – Prince Of Darkness (1966) and Quatermass And The Pit (1968). She was always terrific. She passed away today at 88.

Miss Shelley was one of those actors or actresses that didn’t look down on material like this, and her performances were as good as the genre ever saw. I’d have a real hard time picking a favorite — so I guess I’d recommend you watch ’em all. Which is what I plan to do.

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Filed under 1966, 1968, Barbara Shelley, Christopher Lee, Hammer Films, Terence Fisher

Blu-Ray Review: The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957).

Directed by Terence Fisher
Produced by Anthony Hinds
Screenplay by Jimmy Sangster
Based on the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Director Of Photography: Jack Asher
Production Design: Bernard Robinson
Makeup Artist: Phil Leakey
Music by James Bernard
Film Editor: James Needs

Cast: Peter Cushing (Baron Victor Frankenstein), Melvyn Hayes (Young Victor), Robert Urquhart (Paul Krempe), Hazel Court (Elizabeth), Sally Walsh (Young Elizabeth), Christopher Lee (The Creature), Valerie Gaunt (Justine), Noel Hood (Aunt Sophia), Paul Hardtmuth (Professor Bernstein)

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With its first color film, and first foray into Gothic horror, Hammer Films created a brand that would change their direction, launch the horror careers of a couple of iconic actors, and ultimately change the horror movie itself. That’s accomplishing quite a bit, especially when you’re talking about a little company in the UK with a $250,000 monster movie — and working out of a house, not a proper studio.

Of course, we’re talking about is The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957) starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. And it’s just been given an incredible restoration and Blu-Ray release by Warner Archive.

While it varies quite a bit from the Shelley novel, it’s right in line with the cinematic Frankenstein story. A brilliant, obsessed doctor (Peter Cushing) assembles a man (Christopher Lee) from parts of dead bodies and brings it to life — with less than the desired result.

Seen today, it’s still a nasty little movie. Victor Frankenstein isn’t just an overly-driven medical researcher, he’s a manipulative lech. Actresses seem to have been chosen, and costumes designed, to highlight the female form. And every gruesome opportunity to dwell upon a lopped-off head, a severed hand or an eye in a jar is taken with relish. And remember, this is the first time audiences had ever seen such gore in color!

But what’s really important, and what makes this new Blu-Ray so essential, is we get to see the level of craft that went into Curse Of Frankenstein. Bernard Robinson’s sets are incredible, especially when you consider he was working in such tight spaces. Jack Asher’s cinematography, his first time working in color, uses shadow and light to draw  the eye to exactly what he wanted us to see and making those tiny sets look as big, as opulent, as possible. His experiments with color and light would continue with each film, making watching these early Hammer horror pictures in order of release a fun exercise.

Phil Leakey touches up Christopher Lee’s hairdo.

For Christopher Lee’s Creature, the makeup had to steer clear of the classic Universal/Karloff look, and Phil Leakey went in an effective stitched-up, patchwork direction. The Blu-Ray’s restored color really aids our appreciation of the look of the Creature, and we can see that Lee’s wounds seem to “heal” as the film goes on. 

James Bernard’s score is kinetic and dynamic, creating a signature sound (with an obviously small orchestra) that instantly IDs a Hammer film. A friend and I had dinner with Mr. Bernard in the early 90s. What a nice, charming man — and so humble.

Terence Fisher, Hazel Court and Peter Cushing on the set.

Terence Fisher’s direction brings all these elements together, beginning to set the tone for what Hammer would make into the mid-60s. He gets pitch-perfect performances from his cast. His camera rarely moves, but when it does, it’s always to great effect. But what probably makes the biggest difference is that he makes sure no one, from the cast to the cameraman to the caterer, looks down on the material. That made all the difference.

Warner Archive has done a remarkable job bringing Curse Of Frankenstein back to life. It’s sharp, the color is a huge improvement over anything I’ve seen before. (This one was shot in Eastmancolor.) We also get the original aspect ratio(s) — from the UK’s 1.66 to the 1.85 seen in the US to the 1.33 we saw on TV and videotape. (I recommend the 1.66.) The supplemental stuff is a real home run — a casket-load of commentaries, documentaries and a trailer. I was particularly happy to see James Bernard and Jack Asher singled out, with a short video on each. They’re key to the lasting impact of these films. 

While Horror Of Dracula* (1958) may get a lot of the glory, Curse Of Frankenstein is where it all began. It’s an important film, and a really cool one. As essential as they come, both as a movie and as an upgrade to whatever format you might currently have it in. 

* Also available (and stunning) on Blu-Ray from Warner Archive.

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Filed under 1957, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Hazel Court, Jack Asher, Terence Fisher, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray News #319: The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957).

Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhardt, Christopher Lee

Boy, this is going to be great! You get The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957), the first of Hammer’s Frankenstein series three different ways (on two discs), restored from preservation separations — the 1.66 UK aspect ratio, 1.85 as it played in the States and 1.37 as we saw it on TV for years and years. There will be commentaries, documentaries and a trailer. And if you’re familiar with what a lot of Warner Archive’s stuff has been looking like lately, you can only imagine how stunning this one would be. Essential!

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Filed under 1957, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Hazel Court, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

A Universal Halloween?

I’ve been thinking about a classic Universal monster movie for Halloween night, but there are a lot of them — and they’re all so great? (They’re represented by this wonderful ad for the Aurora monster model. Click on it and it gets, well, monstrous!)

What are your thoughts? Mummy? Frankenstein? Dracula? The Wolf Man? The Creature? Or a one-off like The Invisible Ray (1936)? Or, maybe a different direction, like something from AIP or Hammer?

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Filed under 30s Horror, Abbott & Costello, Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Hammer Films, James Whale, Lon Chaney Jr., Peter Cushing, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #308: Hammer Films – The Ultimate Collection (1958-1971).

I’ve been really impressed with Mill Creek’s Hammer releases. They don’t have the extras we get from someone like Scream Factory, but they look good, they’re often in double bills or sets (with us DVD/Blu-Ray collectors, shelf space is always a concern), and the price is certainly right. 

Mill Creek’s newest Hammer project is the 20-picture Hammer Films – The Ultimate Collection. It’s got some great stuff — some are repeats from previous MC releases, some not. It focuses on Hammer films that were distributed by Columbia in the States. Here’s the lineup:

The Revenge Of Frankenstein (1958)
The Snorkel (1958)
The Camp On Blood Island (1958)
Yesterday’s Enemy (1959)
The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll (1960)
Never Take Candy From A Stranger (1960)

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The Stranglers Of Bombay (1960)
Cash On Demand (1961)
Scream Of Fear (1961)
Stop Me Before I Kill! (1961)

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The Terror Of The Tongs (1961)
The Pirates Of Blood River (1962)
These Are The Damned (1962)
The Old Dark House (1963)
The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb (1963)
Maniac (1963)
The Devil-Ship Pirates (1964)

The Gorgon (1964)
Die! Die! My Darling (1965)
Creatures The World Forgot (1971)

I can’t wait to get my hands on this thing. These films are essential stuff. A few of these I haven’t seen in quite a while — and never on Blu-Ray. It’s coming in November.

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Filed under 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1971, Arthur Grant, Christopher Lee, Columbia, Don Sharp, DVD/Blu-ray News, Freddie Francis, Hammer Films, John Gilling, Kerwin Matthews, Mill Creek, Oliver Reed, Peter Cushing, Stanley Baker, Terence Fisher, Val Guest, William Castle

Blu-Ray News #299: Universal Horror Collection, Volume 6.

I’m really excited about this one, as Shout Factory’s Universal Horror Blu-Ray series moves into the 50s. This is announced for release on August 25.

The Black Castle (1952)
Directed by Nathan H. Juran
Starring Richard Greene, Boris Karloff, Stephen McNally, Rita Corday, Lon Chaney, Jr., John Hoyt, Michael Pate
You could say this was the last of the true Universal-type horror movies, with all the trapping and a few of the actors we associate with such things. It was Nathan Juran’s first time as director. He was on the film as art director, but was moved into the director’s chair when Joseph Pevney walked.

Cult Of The Cobra (1955)
Directed by Francis D. Lyon
Starring Faith Domergue, Richard Long, Kathleen Hughes, Marshall Thompson, Jack Kelly, William Reynolds, David Janssen
This story of a cult of snake worshippers, a deadly curse and the beautiful, deadly snake goddess (Faith Domergue) making their way to New York went out as the second feature behind Revenge Of The Creature (1955).

The Thing That Couldn’t Die (1958)
Directed by Will Cowan
Starring William Reynolds, Andra Martin, Jeffrey Stone, Carolyn Kearney
Running just 69 minutes, shot by the great Russell Metty and with terrific poster art from Reynold Brown (up top), this played with Hamer’s Horror Of Dracula (1958) in the States. It’s about a telepathic head that’s discovered in a box at a dude ranch.

The Shadow Of The Cat (1961)
Directed by John Gilling
Starring André Morell, Barbara Shelley, William Lucas, Fred Jackson
A cat witnesses a murder, then helps both solve it and bring the culprits to their just rewards. Shot in black & white by Hammer’s ace cameraman Arthur Grant.

Scream Factory has come up with some real gold in this one, and it’s good to see these more obscure Universal horror pictures get a chance to shine. They’ll be seen in their original widescreen aspect ratio, with the exception of The Black Castle, which predates the shift to widescreen. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1952, 1955, 1958, 1961, Arthur Grant, Barbara Shelley, Boris Karloff, DVD/Blu-ray News, Faith Domergue, Hammer Films, John Gilling, Lon Chaney Jr., Marshall Thompson, Nathan Juran, Reynold Brown, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #290: The Curse Of The Werewolf (1961).

Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Clifford Evans, Oliver Reed, Yvonne Romain, Catherine Feller

Hammer and Terence Fisher continued their reimagining of the classic monsters with The Curse Of The Werewolf (1961), with the same results they’d had with Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy. It’s the next installment in Scream Factory’s terrific Hammer Blu-Ray series, and I can’t wait to see what a 4K cleanup does to this one. Highly recommended. Coming, loaded with extras, in April.

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Filed under 1961, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Oliver Reed, Shout/Scream Factory, Terence Fisher

Happy Birthday, Terence Fisher.

Terence Fisher
(February 23, 1904 – June 18, 1980)

Terence Fisher, Hammer’s go-to director, was born 116 years ago today. Here he is (with glasses) celebrating Susan Denberg’s birthday on the set of Frankenstein Created Woman (1967). It’s got Fisher and a birthday cake, that’s close enough.

Fisher’s classic, no-nonsense direction was behind great Hammer pictures like The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957), Dracula (1958) and The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1959).

I’d also like to wish my wife Jennifer a happy 22nd wedding anniversary. We didn’t choose the 23rd to honor Mr. Fisher, but it’s a really cool coincidence.

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Filed under 1967, Hammer Films, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher