Hammer Horror: The Warner Bros. Years (2018)
Directed by Marcus Hearn
Starring Veronica Carlson, John Carson, Steve Chibnall, Joe Dante, Jonathan Rigby, Peter Sasdy, Madeline Smith, Caroline Munro, Christopher Frayling, Wayne Kinsey, Denis Meikle
So…a new documentary on Hammer Studios? I’m there. Simple as that. Add to the fact that when the producers of this documentary started a Kickstarter fund to get this project off the ground, I immediately signed up. Honestly, I don’t remember which level I put in for, but I did get a nice poster print as well as the Blu-ray. Being a huge fan of this famous British studio, this review might be a little jaded, but I will try to be as honest and straight forward as I can.
If you ever wondered just what happened to Hammer Studios, as to why they went under, then this feature length documentary will either answer that, or at least give you some very strong contributing factors that might have caused it. Even though this studio was very successful in the late ’50s and ’60s, by the time the ’60s were coming to a close, things were starting to change. Not with just the audiences, but the ratings boards, other movies the studios were releasing, as well as where Hammer was getting their funding from.
The Twilight People (1972)
Directed by Eddie Romero
Starring John Ashley, Pat Woodell, Jan Merlin, Charles Macaulay, Pam Grier, Ken Metcalfe, Tony Gosalvez, Kim Ramos, Mona Morena, Eddie Garcia,
If you’re a fan of Filipino cinema, then you really don’t need to read any further other than to know that this movie came from Eddie Romero and John Ashley. Those two names alone would get any fan of the Blood Island movies to sit down with this one with open arms. If you’re not familiar with the plethora of titles to come from this little Southeast Asian country, and are a fan of cult cinema, then you now have a chance to experience a whole new sense of wonder when you take a cinematic journey there.
Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1973)
Directed by Brian Clemens
Starring Horst Jansen, Caroline Munro, John Carson, Shane Briant, John Cater, Lois Daine, and Ian Hendry.
Trying to come up with a new series with a different kind of twist to it, Hammer gave us a swash-buckling vampire hunter. This is not your ordinary vampire movie, or vampires for that matter, as Kronos and his faithful companion Prof. Grost, travel the countryside seeking out and destroying vampires, in all of their varying guises. They are called on by an old friend for help. It seems that some of the local girls are being found basically drained of their youth, left dead as an old withering hag. But what is underneath the black cloak that stalks them?
The Black Sleep (1956)
Directed by Reginald Le Borg
Starring Basil Rathbone, Akim Tamiroff, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, Bela Lugosi,
Herbert Rudley, Patricia Blair, Phyllis Stanley, Tor Johnson
Basil Rathbone stars as Dr. Joel Cadman, who is obsessed with discovering the mysteries of the human brain. His wife is in a coma due to a brain tumor, so he is determined to discover a way how to save her, even if this means through un-ethical experimental operations on live patients to find that cure. He saves a fellow doctor, Dr. Ramsey, from the gallows who was wrongly accused. He does this by use of a drug he found in India, which he calls the Black Sleep. Once taken, it makes the person appear to be dead, even to the prison’s doctor. Once another injection is given, the “dead” comes back to life. For this favor, Cadman wants the young doctor to assist him in his experiments. But once Ramsey discovers that Cadman is experimenting on live subjects, he realizes he must find away to escape this madness.
El Caminante (1979)
Directed by Paul Naschy
Starring Paul Naschy, David Rocha, Sara Lezana, Ana Harpo, Blanca Estrada, Silvia Aguilar
Recently released on Blu-ray from Mondo Macabre under the title The Devil Incarnate, this is noted as being one of the writer/director’s favorite films. But for those expecting the usual horror outing from Naschy, with vampires and werewolves, you might be a little disappointed. If you’re looking for a very unusual horror/comedy, one that had a very deep and personal meaning to the writer/director, then you might find yourself very intrigued by it. While I really did enjoy it, I sort of felt sad that its creator was ever in that dark of a period in his life, of not trusting many people in the business around him.
In his autobiography, Memoirs of a Wolfman, he stated “I wrote El Caminante in a very special frame of mind. Life had dealt me several harsh blows and I had gained a pretty negative impression of people. For me personally, friendships had been a lamentable disappointment. I knew all about betrayal and lack of loyalty and apart from my family – my parents, my wife and two sons – I didn’t believe there were many things worthwhile in this filthy rotten world. Later on three people appeared in my life who I consider true friends. However, the cry of anguish from the bottom of my soul which found expression through this movie is still valid today.” This film was made almost 40 years ago, and like Naschy wrote in his book over 20 years ago, the way society is still today, this message still rings true. Which again, is a pretty sad statement.
Directed by John Grissmer
Starring Robert Lansing, Judith Chapman, Arlen Dean Snyder, David Scarroll
Nothing like the ’70s to have a movie with some creepy father lusting after his daughter! And Robert Lansing does a stellar job in the role too! Not sure if that’s a compliment or not.
Lansing stars as a plastic surgeon who has a daughter that has been missing for over a year. She just took off and nobody seems to know where she went. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that she witnessed him killer her boyfriend after he was watching them have a little sexual romp. So right off the bat, we see how seedy this guy is. After his father-in-law dies, leaving his estate to the missing daughter, he comes up with a plan, right after coming across a stripper who’d been beaten beyond recognition. Good thing he’s a plastic surgeon, huh? After a skillful operation, he has changed the face of this poor girl to look just like his daughter. Of course, when the real daughter shows up, things get even more weird.
Basket Case (1982)
Directed by Frank Henenlotter
Starring Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner, Robert Vogel, Diana Browne, Lloyd Pace, Bill Freeman, Joe Clarke
Something amazing seems to happen when Arrow Video and Frank Henenlotter come together for a release of one of his films. When I got their release of Brain Damage (which happens to be my personal favorite of his films), there were so many great extras that those alone make it worth picking it up. And this release of his first feature film is just the same.
Basket Case is the simple story of a two brothers who seek revenge on the doctors that separated them. Okay, so one of them, Belial, is a deformed Siamese twin that never fully developed that was growing out of the side of the ‘normal’ brother, Duane. Belial is kept in a large wicker basket that Duane carries around. They arrive in New York to find the last of the medical team on their list. But of course, everyone reading this already knows the story because you’ve already seen this flick, most likely more than a couple of times, right? If not, then this is one title that is a necessary requirement in your horror education.