Category Archives: Terence Fisher

Happy Birthday, Frankenstein.

Saw the other day that Frankenstein is 200 years old, with Marry Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, Or The Modern Prometheus first published in 1818.

The great Boris Karloff.

So here’s to Dr. Frankenstein, his monster, the monster’s bride, and anybody who ever helped bring the many Frankenstein movies to the screen — particularly the Universal and Hammer films.

Peter Cushing sits while his monster (Christopher Lee) hangs around.

It was a very shrewd move for Hammer to focus their series on the doctor and his misadventures rather than inviting strict comparisons to the Universal classics, which would be very hard to top. And, of course, casting Peter Cushing in the role was simply inspired.

So happy 200th, Frankie. You’re holding up pretty well.

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Filed under Abbott & Costello, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Glenn Strange, Hammer Films, Jack Pierce, James Whale, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher, Universal (-International)

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 #166: Hammer Vol. 3 – Blood And Terror.

Indicator has announced their upcoming boxed set Hammer Volume 3 Blood and Terror. It gathers up four non-horror pictures from Hammer’s glorious do-no-wrong period. The set includes —

The Camp On Blood Island (1958)
Directed by Val Guest
​S​tarring Carl Möhner, André Morell, Edward Underdown, Walter Fitzgeral​d, Barbara Shelley, Michael Ripper

Yesterday’s Enemy (1959)
Directed by Val Guest
Starring Stanley Baker, Guy Rolfe, Leo McKern, Gordon Jackson

The Stranglers Of Bombay (1959)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Guy Rolfe, Jan Holden

The Terror Of The Tongs (1961)
Directed by Anthony Bushell
Starring Geoffrey Toone, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Monlaur

POWs, firing squads, Thuggee cults, Chinese crime families — this set’s got something for everyone.

Chung King (Christopher Lee): “Have you ever had your bones scraped, Captain? It is painful in the extreme I can assure you.”

As a kid, The Terror Of The Tongs haunted me for days after catching it on TV. Yesterday’s Enemy is one of the best films Hammer ever did. The Camp On Blood Island and The Stranglers Of Bombay (in Strangloscope!) are both wonderfully exploitive. Coming in July. It’s gonna be great.

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Filed under 1958, 1959, 1961, Christopher Lee, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Terence Fisher, Val Guest

Blu-Ray News #131: Island Of Terror (1966).

Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Edward Judd, Carole Gray

More 60s British horror coming to Blu-Ray. I’m all for it, especially when it’s another teaming of Terence Fisher and Peter Cushing — and a really solid one like this.

Island Of Terror (1966) has cancer research gone horribly wrong on Petrie’s Island, with weird creatures injecting victims with a bone-dissolving enzyme. Its pseudo-science seems somewhat plausible (to me, at least — I’m a real bonehead when it comes to scientific stuff) and it has a pretty cool open ending. Shout Factory promises a new transfer from an interpositive, along with a number of extras. Can’t wait. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1966, DVD/Blu-ray News, Peter Cushing, Shout/Scream Factory, Terence Fisher

Blu-Ray Review: Hammer Films Double Feature Volume 2 — The Revenge Of Frankenstein/The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb.

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Mill Creek’s Hammer Films Double Feature Volume 2 presents a couple more hi-def Hammer horror films — one a classic, one not so much, but both looking great.

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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 (then he went and did a little thing called Star Wars).

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.

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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.

One thing: why didn’t Hammer put the tattoo on Cushing’s right arm in the later films? What a cool touch that would’ve been throughout the series.

For some reason, The Revenge Of Frankenstein has never looked very good on video. Shot in Technicolor and 1.66:1 by John Asher, it should really pop off the screen, the way The Gorgon (1964) does in Volume 1. But it’s always seemed grainy and a bit blown out, with the color too muted to match the typical late-50s Hammer esthetic. Though not a thing of great beauty, Mill Creek’s Blu-Ray is a huge improvement over the old Columbia DVD. The grain is there to remind you this was once on film, but it’s not a distraction; the color is a lot closer to what it must’ve looked like in theaters back in ’58.

This, folks, is a really good movie.

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The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb (1964)
Directed by Michael Carreras
Starring Terence Morgan, Ronald Howard, Fred Clark, Jeanne Roland

While Hammer knocked Dracula and Frankenstein out of the park, they had a harder time with the Mummy. The Mummy’s a difficult monster on the whole — cool-looking and creepy for sure, but not all that scary. In the Universal Mummy pictures, women have to trip and fall for the Mummy to catch them. Hammer’s The Mummy (1959) was pretty solid, but they seemed to have a hard time figuring out how to work the Mummy into the plots of the later movies. All that said, The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb (1964) still works pretty well.

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A group of Egyptologists bring an exhibit to London, backed by an American showman named Alexander King (Fred Clark). King is determined to exploit the artifacts for maximum profits, which doesn’t sit too well with the revived Mummy. The usual havoc follows.

This is an odd Hammer film. It wasn’t shot at Bray Studios, and there are very few of the regulars among the cast and crew. And while it suffers from the same limitations other Mummy films have (What do you do with this guy?), it has some nice atmospherics here and there. And it’s a thousand times better than the next one, The Mummy’s Shroud (1967).

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It’s easy to sing the praises of how The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb fares on Blu-Ray. It looks fantastic. The Technicolor is nicely presented and the Techniscope framing’s perfect. A big improvement over the DVD. And as with the first volume, you can’t beat the price.

The Revenge Of Frankenstein alone is worth the price of admission — it’s one of Hammer’s best, and it looks far better than previous releases. Think of The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb as a bonus. Recommended. And I hope Volume 3 isn’t too far behind.

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Filed under 1958, 1964, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Mill Creek, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher

Blu-Ray Review: Hammer Films Double Feature Volume 1 — The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll/The Gorgon.

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With a string of terrific Blu-ray releases, this Fall is really turning into a hi-def trip down Memory Lane — so much of the stuff that rotted my brain when I was a kid has been announced for release on Blu-ray. One of the first to make its way to my mailbox and Blu-ray player is Mill Creeks’ Hammer Films Double Feature Volume 1.

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The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll (1960; US Titles: House Of Fright)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Paul Massie, Dawn Addams, Christopher, 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. This has never been held up as a prime Hammer picture, but it’s well made and Christopher Lee’s in it.

Shot in MegaScope, The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll was released in the UK in Technicolor. No such luck in the States — AIP went with crappy Eastmancolor prints. Lucky for us all, Mill Creek offers up a gorgeous transfer from original, longer British material, with the proper title and the kind of eye-popping color these films are known for.

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The Gorgon (1964)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Richard Pasco, Michael Goodliffe, Barbara Shelley, Prudence Hyman

The Gorgon (1964) was the first Hammer film I remember seeing (during one of those local-station all-night Halloween marathons), and it had a huge impact on me. From the Technicolor to the blood to Cushing and Lee to the Gorgon herself, I absolutely loved this thing. And I still have a soft spot for it, even though the studio certainly made better films.

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It still has one of my favorite Hammer moments, as Professor Heltz (Michael Goodliffe) writes the letter while turning to stone. (That’d be a fun poll, wouldn’t it — “What’s your favorite single scene in a Hammer horror movie?”)

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On Blu-Ray, The Gorgon won’t turn anybody to stone. It’s beautiful. The color’s appropriately saturated, the 1.66 is spot-on and James Bernard’s score sounds great (and as eerie as ever). Some folks have been harsh on these Mill Creek Hammers, but I don’t get it. There are no complaints here. I’d love to have every horror movie the studio ever made looking as good as The Gorgon does here.

gorgonmummy-adBy the way, The Gorgon played theaters in a twin bill with The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb (1964), which is is included in Mill Creek’s Hammer Films Double Feature Volume 2, which we’ll get around to soon.

With these Blu-Rays in your collection, you might end up with some duplication from some of your other Hammer sets. But the improved picture quality and terrific price make it worth the double dip. For Hammer fans out there, this set (and Number 2) is highly recommended. Thanks, Mill Creek, and keep ’em coming!

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Filed under 1960, 1964, AIP, Christopher Lee, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Jerry Lewis, Mill Creek, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher