Rungs on a Ladder: Hammer Films Seen Through a Soft Gauze
By Christopher Neame
Published by The Scarecrow Press, 2003. 131 pages.
If there is a book published about Hammer Films, more than likely, at some point in time, I will be adding it to my library. I mean, when you have an official Hammer section with over two dozen titles in said library already, it’s kind of a must have. So when I came across this title on Amazon, I added it to my wish list. The problem I had right away was that it was priced from $30 to $50, and it was for a book that was just over a hundred pages. That’s a tough sell, even for a diehard collector like myself. Okay, sure, I bought it eventually anyway, but just saying.
Now, let’s not get this Neame confused with the actor of the same name that appeared in a couple of Hammer titles, Dracula A.D. 1972 & Lust for a Vampire. The author Neame started at the bottom of the business and worked his way up. It was only a matter of time for him, since the film business really was in his blood. His father was Ronald Neame, a director and cinematographer, and his grandfather Elwin, was a director who worked in silent films.
Horror Express (1972)
Directed by Eugenio Martin
Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Alberto de Mendoza, Silvia Tortosa, Julio Peña, Helga Liné, Telly Savalas, George Rigaud, Victor Israel
For any horror fan that is just starting his long journey into the depths of genre, one path that is easy and most followed are the ones that feature certain iconic actors known for their work in the genre, such as names like Karloff, Price, Chaney, Lorre, and of course Cushing and Lee. With the work Cushing and Lee did with Hammer Films, as well as many other genre pics, it gave a young and eager fan plenty of titles to investigate. If you found one of the many films that they both appeared in, then it was an even better deal!
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, just like we have for the last thirteen years, instead of fighting the crowds at the stores, a group of us have gathered together to fight another battle…the Turkey! It is beyond me how this event became just that…an actual EVENT, one that everyone seems to look forward to each and every year. But somehow it has. When you have a group of like-minded movie lovers getting together to not just watch, but really experience some cinema, that at their best are third and fourth class citizens, and we just have a blast. At this year’s T-Day, our crew consisted of a bunch of the usual suspects, and one new victim! Of course, Aaron Christensen was there, never having missed one since he started coming in 2005. Joe Wallace, who started popping in and out around 2010, was here again, bringing his girlfriend Sharon Gissy alone for the ride. Jason Coffman first came in 2011 and has made everyone since then. Brian Fukala started coming in 2012, and I think only has missed one event since then. Mr. Martinez made his T-Day debut last May, doubting the whole point to this event, but was soon absorbed into the collective! Matt Harding makes his return for his second appearance and Tim Palace came for his very first experience. Will he survive?
I know a lot of people spend this upcoming 3-day weekend grilling or spending time outside. But if you’re trying to think of some alternative way to spend your Memorial Day, might I offer up a suggestion? There are three very important figures in the horror genre celebrating birthdays this Thursday and Friday. And even though they have left us, it is just as important now to celebrate their work and remember them as when they were still with us. Of course, I’m talking about Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and Vincent Price.
Okay Hammer Dracula fans, start saving those pennies, because there will be a book coming out this summer that you’re going to want to add to your library. Thanks to the wonderful (and incredibly talented book publishers) people at Peveril Publishing, they will continue to put out amazing looking volumes dedicated to the Studio that Dripped Blood, and that we all love.
After the passing of Christopher Lee earlier this month, there has been a lot of tributes being presented, which I’m grateful to the fact that he is being remembered for his huge contribution to cinema in general, not to mention what he gave us horror fans over the years, that thankfully we will still be able to enjoy for many more years to come.
One of those reasons that we are able to keep the memories alive of these wonderful actors that gave us so many chills over throughout our lives is that even though they have passed on, their movies still remain. And now thanks to Warner Home Video, 3 films that feature the late Christopher Lee will be unleashed in a 4-disc blu-ray set entitled the Hammer Horror Collection. this will feature The Mummy, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, Taste the Blood of Dracula, and Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. Since this is being called Volume 1, we can only hope that there are more to come. Not sure of any extras that might be on these discs, but even if they are just the films alone, I’m sure they will be well worth the price. The set will be released in October, a perfect time too, with a retail price of around $55. Not bad for 4 films if you ask me.
The news of the passing of Christopher Lee today is truly an end of an era. He really was the last of the great icons of horror, following the likes of Lugosi, Karloff, Chaney Jr., Cushing, Price, and Carradine. Lee worked very hard to stay away from being pigeon-holed just as a horror actor, and did an amazing job of it too, appearing in close to 300 films and television appearances in a career that spanned almost seven decades. From playing Scaramanga in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun, as Count Dooku in the Star Wars films, or the wizard Saruman in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, not to mention countless other amazing performances he gave us, he was always a joy to watch. With such a screen presence, he brought his characters to life and always made them memorable.
When he played Dracula for Hammer, he was no longer some foreign aristocrat, but a dominating and powerful presence, one that he gave off in all of his roles. He was the one that made the mummy scary again, when he played the tormented Kharis in Hammer’s 1959 remake. So many roles in so many movies, he gave us horror fans hours upon hours of entertainment. He has now joined the rest of those icons of horror in another place. And like those before him, he will never be forgotten.
Rest in Peace, Sir Christopher.