Friday, May 11, 2007

Hammer Films rises from the grave

Hammer horror films set to return

At a Horror con, I remember hearing Clive Barker talking about the problems he encountered trying to interest a studio in producing his film "Hellraiser". One producer who declined (but appreciated Clive's script) lamented that the story was just the sort of thing a little studio like Hammer would produce. Unfortunately, Hammer had folded tent years earlier, and there were no longer any studios interested in ensemble piece horror.

Horror fans everywhere are rejoicing in the news that the Studio may soon be making movies again. From BBC News:

...Cult Hammer horror films will return to the big screen after the company behind the movies was sold to a group headed by Big Brother creator John de Mol."...Hammer horror films will return to the big screen after the company behind the movies was sold to a group headed by Big Brother creator John de Mol...At least $50m (£25m) will be spent on new horror films after British company Hammer Film Productions was sold to Dutch consortium Cyrte Investments...

Hammer left an indelible mark in the horror genre, and made Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing into international stars. The history of the studio has best been covered by Scarlet Street magazine (the site maintains a forum dedicated to Hammer.) True, one can take some swipes at Hammer. Some people feel Hammer films to be somewhat conservative/reactionary. (However, I feel that analysis is a bit severe; a fan of SciFi and Horror is at least giving a partial nod to anarchy and alternative lifestyles.) On the other hand, Hammer's brand of movie making had a characteristic charm, featured good acting and direction, and the studio made a significant contributed to the evolution of genre film. Hammer's Dracula and Frankenstein movies were the bread and butter of late-night TV in the 1970's, cultivating a fan base which thrives today.

If you are new to Hammer and would like some great additions to your DVD collection, here's some suggestions:

"The Abominable Snowman". Peter Cushing plays a British scientist, Forest Tucker an American showman, on a surreal hunt for the Yeti. This film features a good dose of Tibetan mysticism. What's particularly to Hammer's credit is the sympathetic treatment of the scientist. Although obviously intelligent and highly educated, Cushing portrays the character as gentle, selfless, tolerant, and even handed. It's nice to see a scientist as 'the good guy'. Tucker, as the publicity seeking showman, is manipulative, racist, and willing to do anything for a buck.

"Kiss of the Vampire". This film features the first vampire party! There's also some interesting spirituality, as the vampires follow some form of Paganism. Not only that, but the vampire hunter in the "Van Helsing" role actually casts a circle and uses high magic to battle the vampires.

"The Curse of the Werewolf". Perhaps one of the best werewolf films, staring the always impressive Oliver Reed. What sets this film apart is that it tries to offer an explanation for lycanthropy.

Both "Kiss..." and "The Curse..." are now available together in a box set called 'The Hammer Horror Series". This collection is a great introduction to the Hammer films.

(Pic: Peter Cushing demonstrates the scientific method in "Frankenstein Created Woman")

No comments: