Friday, September 16, 2016

HAMMER FILMS DOUBLE FEATURE VOL. 2 - THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958) & THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB (1964)

HAMMER FILMS DOUBLE FEATURE VOL. 2:
THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN /THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB 

Label: Mill Creek Entertainment

Region Code: A
Duration: 90 Minutes I 81 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen 1.66:1)I1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Terence Fisher I Michael Carreras 
Cast: Terence Morgan, Ronald Howard, Fred Clark, Jeanne Roland, George Pastell, Jack Gwillim I Peter Cushing, Eunice Gayson, Francis Matthews, Michael Gwynn I Peter Cushing, Francis Matthews, Eunice Gayson, Michael Gwynn, Lionel Jeffries, Oscar Quitak, Charles Lloyd Pack, Richard Wordsworth, George Woodbridge 

THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958) 

In Hammer's Revenge of Frankenstein (1958) Peter Cushing reprises his famous role as Baron Victor Frankenstein, whom at the end of the last film had been sentenced to death by the guillotine. He escape the edge of the blade with the help of his devoted crippled assistant Fritz, It is revealed that in his place an poor priest has been beheaded. Frankenstein has now relocated to Carlsbruck, Germany under the alias Dr. Victor Stein where he now runs a hospital for the poor and wretched, a convenient place to carry on his mad scientist ways. 

The local doctor's in Carlbruck don't much care for Dr. Stein who m has refused to join the local physician's board, but a young doctor named Hans Kleve (Francis Matthews) figures out than Stein is really the reportedly now dead Baron Frankenstein and blackmails his way into an apprenticeship with the doc, who is continuing his experiments at the hospital where he has been amputating body parts from the poor and creating a new monster from scratch. The monster this time around begins as a somewhat normal looking man, the brain that is to be transplanted belong's to Dr. Stein's crippled assistant Karl (Oscar Quitak), who willingly sacrifices his twisted god-given body for the new healthy one crafted by the doctor.


The transplant is a success at first with the new Karl now transformed into a more handsome and able man, now played by actor Michael Gwynn. Kept locked away from prying eyes during his recovery Karl is found by a young nurse named Margaret  who frees him with the help of a scheming orderly. As Karl wanders the hospital corridors he is mistaken for a thief by a janitor and given a beating, with his freshly transplanted brain rattled and damaged the formerly pleasant Karl becomes a flesh hungry ghoul, but he does not amass a high body count, only munching on an unfortunate woman at the park before dying soon afterward. The movie points out that one of the doc's previous transplants involving a chimp and an orangutan ended in the primate becoming a cannibal, foreshadowing the tragic downward spiral of poor Karl, which is something the movie does not exploit as much as I would have liked, I wanted to see the monster in full-on cannibal mode, but it winds down a bit fast and moves onto Frankenstein's own demise and transformation. 

Revenge is a very good Hammer entry and a wonderful sequel to the original Hammer version of the tale with Peter Cushing's mad scientist coming across as a more sympathetic character, as does Michael Gwynn as the monster. Frankenstein begins this movie on a mission of mercy to help his crippled assistant, but at the same time he is exploiting and experimenting on the poor folks at the hospital, whom it should be noted have their just revenge on the mad scientist. I loved Michael Gwynn's performance as the the monster, beginning as a rather handsome fellow before disintegrating into a more feral flesh-eating ghoul, it's a great performance which gives the monster some serious pathos, begging his creator for help before dying at his feet and exposing him for who he really is. 


THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB (1964) 

The Curse of the Mummy has a pretty standard set-up for a mummy movie, an American showman Alexander King (Fred King) unearths the tomb of a disgraced Egyptian Pharaoh. He plans to take the mummy on the roadshow tour which is guaranteed to generate a lot of cash for the exhibitor. When approached by a museum he refuses to allow his discovery to be whisked away to some dusty old museum for display, earning him a few enemies along the way. As expected once they open the sarcophagus the mummified Pharaoh is nowhere to be found and soon enough those who have done wrong by the ancient Pharaoh are found dead with the lurching mummified menace making a mess of things. 

Curse is not the most pulse pounding of Hammer entries and a pale shadow of The Mummy which was directed by Terence Fisher and starring Christopher Lee, who was by far a more threatening mass of moldy bandages, but this one has some nice opulent Egyptian set pieces, the Pharaoh's tomb looks truly fantastic, but the movie is slow cooking and does not payoff.  Thank goodness for actor Freddie King who does a fantastic job as the fast-talking PT Barnum type American Showman, who completely stole the show for me. 


The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb was previously been issued by Mill Creek Entertainment on a 2-disc DVD multi-pack Hammer Films Collection (2015). The HD upgrade for Curse looks very nice, an measured improvement over the DVD release with a crisper, tighter image with more fine detail. The Revenge of Frankenstein also look nice compared to previous DVD incarnation but is also less satisfying in HD than Curse. The source shows quite a bit of white speckling and minor nicks, colors seem muted and the fine detail not as finely resolved. Again Mill Creek have opted not upgraded the audio, we have the lossy English Dolby Digital 2.0 option. As with Hammer Films Double Feature Vol. 1 there is an unfortunate spelling error on the spine of this release which advertises "The Curese of the Mummy's Tomb", which is just embarrassing. Regrettable spelling errors aside more Hammer Horror on Blu-ray is always a good thing, and this budget-minded double-feature is an easy recommend.


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