Category Archives: Terence Fisher

Blu-Ray News #329: The Eurocrypt Of Christopher Lee Collection (1962-72).

Severin Films has announced The Eurocrypt Of Christopher Lee Collection, an exhaustive eight-disc set coming out May 25.

The Castle Of The Living Dead (1964)
Directed by Warren Kiefer
Starring Christopher Lee, Gaia Germani, Philippe Leroy, Mirko Valentin, Donald Sutherland
Lee plays a 19th century Count who lets a theatrical troupe spend the weekend in his creepy castle. As you’d expect, it would’ve been better if they’d turned down his invitation. 4K restoration from the Italian negative; English audio.

Challenge The Devil (1963, AKA Katarsis)
Directed by Giuseppe Vegezzi
Starring Christopher Lee, Giorgio Adrisson, Vittoria Centroni
One of Lee’s most obscure films. He turns out to be the devil. 2K restoration from the Italian negative; Italian audio.

Crypt Of The Vampire (1964, AKA Terror In The Crypt and Crypt Of Horror)
Directed by Camillo Mastrocinque
Starring Christopher Lee, Adriana Ambesi
Another adaptation of Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, with Lee as Count Karnstein. 2k restoration from a fine-grain 35mm master print; Italian and English audio.

Sherlock Holmes And The Deadly Necklace (1962)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Christopher Lee, Thorley Walters, Senta Berger
Lee and director Terence Fisher follow Hammer’s The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1959) with Sherlock Holmes And The Deadly Necklace, giving Lee and chance to play the world’s greatest detective. (It was Peter Cushing in Hound.) Written by Curt Siodmak, based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Valley Of Fear. 2K restoration from the German negative; English & German tracks.

Theatre Macabre (1971-1972)
Christopher Lee hosts an anthology TV series, providing and intro and wrap-up for each episode. 24 surviving episodes have now been scanned in 2K from the original negatives.

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. 4K restoration from from the original German negative; English and German audio.

Relics From The Crypt
A collection of interviews with Lee over the years and other related horror featurettes.

In addition to the Relics From The Crypt disc, each disc is packed full of extras, from commentaries and interviews to trailers and still galleries. There’s a CD of Angelo Francesco Lavagnino’s score for The Castle Of The Living Dead, and an 88-page illustrated book by Lee biographer Jonathan Rigby. This is really gonna be something. Highly, highly recommended.

1 Comment

Filed under 1962, 1963, 1964, 1967, 1971, 1972, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray News, Karin Dor, Peter Cushing, Senta Berger, Severin Films, Sherlock Holmes, Terence Fisher

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.

9 Comments

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)

__________

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.

Leave a comment

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!

Leave a comment

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

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)

Stranglers of Bombay ad.jpg

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

Terror Of The Tongs HS.jpg

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.

4 Comments

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 #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.

2 Comments

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.

2 Comments

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

Blu-Ray News #285: The Evil Of Frankenstein (1964).

Directed by Freddie Francis
Starring Peter Cushing, Peter Woodthorpe, Duncan Lamont, Sandor Elès, Katy Wild, David Hutcheson, Kiwi Kingston

Scream Factory’s Hammer series continues with The Evil Of Frankenstein (1964), the only picture in Hammer’s Frankenstein cycle not directed by Terence Fisher. Freddie Francis did this one.

Hammer went a different route with Frankenstein, following the doctor (Peter Cushing) instead of the monster. This let them come up with a different creature for each film. Since The Evil Of Frankenstein was done in collaboration with Universal, they could approach that studio’s “classic” look for the monster. (You know, the Boris Karloff/Glenn Strange sort of thing.) I’ve always found the results a bit, um, odd.

Nevertheless, this is a most welcome addition to the Scream Factory lineup. So far, the extras have not been announced, but the disc has a release date in mid-May. Highly recommended.

2 Comments

Filed under 1964, DVD/Blu-ray News, Freddie Francis, Hammer Films, Peter Cushing, Shout/Scream Factory, Terence Fisher

Blu-Ray News #279: Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell (1974).

Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Shane Briant, David Prowse, Madeline Smith, John Stratton

The last of Hammer’s Frankenstein series, Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell (1974) was also the final picture from Hammer’s terrific director, Mr. Terence Fisher.

Cut quite a bit, sitting on the shelf for a year or so and given a lame release in the States by Paramount, Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell has always gotten a bad rap, though it’s enjoyed a bit of a reappraisal in recent years. When Shout Factory kicked off their Hammer series, I was hoping they’d end up with this one — it deserves their level of attention.

Peter Cushing is as terrific as ever as the obsessively obsessed Dr. Frankenstein, his experiments hampered by all the physical damage he underwent in the previous films, namely burns from Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969). David Prowse is a much better monster here than in the unfortunate Horror Of Frankenstein (1970, not part of the Cushing Frankenstein saga). Of course, these two would be reunited a few years later in Star Wars (1977) — Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin and Prowse as Darth Vader. As the innocents pulled into Frankenstein’s madness, Shane Briant is quite good, while Madeline Smith isn’t given enough to do. Why make her a mute?

Terence Fisher doesn’t disappoint. His direction is as assured as ever, though the tone of Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell is certainly darker than the previous ones — which were plenty dark already. The cinematography this time comes from Brian Probyn and its color is more muted than Arthur Grant’s work on the two previous Frankenstein films. It certainly matches the tone of the film.

I’m curious to see what Shout Factory will be able to bring to this one in May. Highly recommended.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1974, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Peter Cushing, Shout/Scream Factory, Terence Fisher

Blu-Ray News #257: Hammer Volume 4 – Faces Of Fear.

The folks at Indicator have done a terrific job with their Hammer Blu-Ray sets — and I expect just as much from this one.

Scream Of Fear (1961; UK title: Taste Of Fear)
​Directed by Seth Holt
​Starring Susan Strasberg, Ronald Lewis, Ann Todd, Christopher Lee

Hammer made a string of Psycho-inspired thrillers in the early 60s. One of the best of the bunch is Scream Of Fear, which borrows more from Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques (1955) than it does from the Hitchcock picture. Susan Strasberg is terrific as the handicapped young woman who is being systematically scared to death by a conniving couple. Jimmy Sangster’s script, Seth Holt’s direction and Douglas Slocombe’s black and white photography are all top-notch.

The Revenge Of Frankenstein (1958)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Eunice Grayson, Francis Matthews, Michael Gwynn

The Revenge Of Frankenstein (1958) is the second entry in Hammer’s Frankenstein series, coming after The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957). Hammer went a different route than Universal — they follow the Doctor, not the Monster, which lets the stories go in all sorts of different directions. And more important, it established Peter Cushing as a leading horror star through the 70s.

Revenge picks up where Curse left off. Frankenstein escapes the guillotine, flees to Carlsbruck and builds a successful practice under the name Stein. Of course, he’s conducting his usual experiments on the side — and they go horribly wrong. Frankenstein transplants the brain of a willing assistant into the newly constructed monster, giving the crippled young man a stronger, straighter body. Or that’s the idea anyway.

This, for my money, is one of Hammer’s finest films. Cushing is terrific as the brilliant doctor completely taken over by arrogance and misguided ambition (making it quite appropriate during this Presidential election). Eunice Grayson and Francis Matthews are good as the nurse and young doctor caught up in Frankenstein’s mayhem. Michael Gwynn is really superb as the monster, perfectly balancing the sympathy and horror the part requires. His performance is what makes the movie work as well as it does. Jimmy Sangster’s script is more disciplined than usual, free of the diversions that can lead his films astray. And Terence Fisher’s direction is as assured as ever.

The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll (1960; US Title: House Of Fright)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Paul Massie, Dawn Addams, Christopher Lee, David Kossoff, Oliver Reed

Hammer always put their own spin on the horror standards they tackled, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde is no exception. Their Dr. Jekyll (Paul Massie) is rather boring, but his potion transforms him into the suave, yet lecherous and murderous Mr. Hyde. Minus the murder part, this seems like a precursor to Jerry Lewis’ The Nutty Professor (1963). This framework provides ample opportunity for everything from rape and murder to snake-charming — the kind of stuff censors pounced on, resulting in a cut-up American release from American International.

The Damned (1963; US Title: These Are The Damned)
Directed by Joseph Losey
Starring MacDonald Carey, Shirley Anne Field, Viveca Lindfors, Oliver Reed

Fleeing the harassment of a motorcycle gang (lead by Oliver Reed), a couple (MacDonald Carey, Shirley Anne Field) winds up in a cave occupied by a group of children — the product an experiment to create a race of radiation-friendly humans.

Hammer sat on this one a while before releasing it, and in in the States it was cut to just 77 minutes. It’s never been given its due, though it’s cherished by fans of Joseph Losey. Indicator, of course, is offering up the original cut, not the chopped-up American thing.

Coming November 18, this Region-Free set loads each picture up with extras — from interviews and trailers to commentaries and photo galleries. Highly, highly recommended.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1958, 1960, 1961, 1963, AIP, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Indicator/Powerhouse, Oliver Reed, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher