Thursday, August 27, 2015

HAMMER FILMS COLLECTION VOL. 1 (1960-1964)



HAMMER FILMS COLLECTION VOL. 1 (1960-1964) 



Label: Mill Creek Entertainment 
Duration: 384 Minutes
Rating: Unrated
Region Code: Region 1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1), Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Directors: Terence Fisher, Seth Hout, Val Guest, Michael Carreras
Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Paul Massie, Susan Strasberg, Terence Howard, Claude Dauphin, Tony Bonner, Ronald Lewis


Another fun set of 60's b-movie has arrived from Mill Creek Entertainment! This set of five Hammer horrors comes licensed from Columbia Pictures and sports anamorphic widescreen transfers - you get a lot of bang for your buck with this one.


THE TWO FACES OF DR. JECKYLL (1960) – Color – 89 Mins – Not Rated
Starring: Paul Massie, Dawn Addams, Christopher Lee, David Kossoff, Norma Marla, Francis De Wolff

Synopsis: Absorbed in research directed towards freeing the two natures of man, Dr. Jekyll degenerates in to Mr. Hyde, a vengeful maniac. While Hyde wants revenge against a gambler whom his wife is in love with, Dr. Jekyll, takes steps to do away with his evil self.


A Hammer take on Robert Louis Stevenson's most famous novel stars Paul Massie in a dual-role as both the bearded Dr. Jekyll and the more debaucherous Mr. Hyde, it also notably features Christopher Lee as Jekyll's money-borrowing slimeball friend Paul Allen, who happens to be sleeping with Jekyll's wife Kitty, who is bored by her reclusive husband who would much rather keep himself locked away in his laboratory than attend social parties. When the boring doc injects himself with his potion he becomes the dapper and reprehensible playboy Mr Hyde, who fails to seduce his own wife, but instead hooks up with a steamy snake-dancer Maria (Norma Marla). Mr. Hyde sets into motion a series of events that will pretty much ruin everyone of the players involved, this Hammer entry has some surprising moments of deviancy that might surprise a few people, it certainly did me. Directed by Hammer alum Terrenec Fisher (The Devild Rides Out) the movie has some pacing issues but it an interesting variation of the time weathered story, draped in gorgeous Victorian sets and fashions, this one might be a bit slow but it had some juice to it.

SCREAM OF FEAR (1961) – B/W – 82 Mins – Not Rated
Starring: Susan Strasberg, Ronald Lewis, Ann Todd, Christopher Lee, John Serret, Leonard Sachs

Synopsis: A young wheelchair-bound woman returns to her father's estate to find he's away on business, but she keeps seeing his dead body in various places. Her stepmother and other house guests employ a plan to drive her insane and take her inheritance.


Scream of Fear or Taste of Fear as it was known in the UK is a surprise filled suspense film concerning young Penny Appleby (Susan Strasberg), a wheelchair bound young lady who returns home from school after her best friend dies in a drowning accident, only to discover that her beloved father has gone missing, and her cold step mother Jane (Ann Todd) whom at first seems to be ever so nice might be up to no good. She starts to snoop around for answers with the aid of her chauffeur Bob (Ronald Lewis), and begins to see visions of her father's corpse around the house, particularly in the guest house. Meanwhile her mother's friend Doctor Gerrard (Christopher Lee) visits nightly and suggests the visions are a product of  nervous disorder.


This one is loaded with some very fine suspense and twisty turns, a top notch black and white thriller that makes great use of Penny's wheelchair, a scary accident that plunges her into the mansion pool is a particularly effective scene, loved this one. 


THE GORGON (1964) – Color – 83 Mins – Not Rated
Starring: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Richard Pasco, Barbara Shelley, Michael Goddliffe, Patrick Troughton

Synopsis: In a rural village, a series of murders have been committed where each victim was turned into stone. A local professor investigates and finds an evil Gorgon haunting a nearby castle and in search of more victims.


Back into the realm of Gothic horror we gave The Gorgon directed by Hammer vet Terrence Fisher, set in the German village of Vandorf in 1910 we have a series of unsolved murders in the village, each occurring on the night of a full moon. Paul Heitz (Richard Pasco) arrives in the village after his younger brother is found dead. his body turned to stone, and for some reason Dr. Namaroff (Peter Cushing) is falsifying the death certificates to obscure the truth behind the strange deaths. Heitz calls in friend Professor Karl Meister (Christopher Lee) to help him get to the bottom of things. Meanwhile Heitz begins to form a romantic relationship with Namaroff's nurse Carla (Barbara Hershey) and discovers that the spirit of a fabled snake-haired Gorgon sister may be haunting the nearby castle ruins. 

The Gorgon is laced with vintage Gothic fashion and set dressing, dripping with atmosphere and creepiness, but all is nearly undone when the final scene of the snake-haired Megaera is finally revealed, it's a bit on the cheap side but this doesn't spoil the movie, this is good stuff and worth a watch! 

STOP ME BEFIRE I KILL! (1961) – B/W – 108 Mins – Not Rated
Starring: Claude Dauphin, Diane Cilento, Ronald Lewis, Françoise Rosay, Bernard Braden, Katya Douglas

Synopsis: After a horrific car crash, race car driver Alan Colby goes on vacation to recover, but suffers blackouts and violent outbursts. With his wife by his side, he visits a psychiatrist who promises to cure Alan's suffering but they have now encountered a mind more unbalanced and disturbed.


This was a let down considering the Giallo-esque title of the movie, it turned out that not all Hammer thrillers are of the suspenseful variety, straying far from the superior Scream of Fear we have a story about race car driver Alan Colby (Ronald Lewis) vacationing in France after a near fatal accident, in the aftermath he is inexplicably overcome with the desire to strangle his wife Denise (Diane Cilento), both seek the help of psychiatrist David Prade (Claude Dauphin), but even a touch of nudity cannot save this stale thriller. This is the one movie on the set I would say just Skip it.

THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB (1964) Color - 81 Mins - Not Rated

Starring: Terence Morgan, Ronald Howard, Fred Clark, Jeanne Roland, George Pastell, Jack Gwillim

Synopsis: An American showman and financier disrupts the coffin of a mummified Pharaoh and finds it empty. The mummy has escaped to fulfill the dreadful prophesy and exact a violent and bloody revenge on all those who defiled his final resting place.


The last feature on the two-disc set is The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb, a pretty typical set-up for a mummy movie, an American showman Alexander King (Fred King) unearths a tomb f a disgraced Pharaoh. He plans to take it on the road as a way to print money, he steadfastly refuses to allow the discovery to be whisked away to some dusty old museum, and he makes a few enemies because of his entrepreneurial ways. As expected they open the sarcophagus at some point and the mummified Pharaoh is nowhere to be found, but soon those who have done wrong by the ancient Pharaoh are found dead and the lurching creature starts making quite a mess of things. 

Not the most pulse pounding of Hammer entries and a pale shadow of the Terrence Fisher classic The Mummy starring Christopher Lee who was by far a more threatening mass of moldy bandages, but this one has some pretty opulent Egyptian set pieces, the Pharaoh's tomb looks fantastic, but this is still a bit on the slow side, thank goodness for Freddie King who does a fantastic job as the fast-talking PT Barnum type American Showman.

The Hammer Films Collection from Mill Creek Entertainment is highly recommended, not all of them are upper crust Hammer entries but for under $10 this is a fantastic deal and the movies are certainly entertaining to varying degrees. Now bring on the Hammer Films Collection Vol. 2 and make it a Blu-ray! 2.5/5 

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