Hammer’s Plague Hits Blu-Ray

plague of the zombies 1

Plague BlurayYeah, I know this was all over Facebook yesterday, but damn if I’m not going to help spread the word a bit more! While I may be a huge Hammer fan, their 1966 film The Plague of the Zombies is one of my all time favorites of theirs. So I am more than thrilled to see this hit Blu-ray, thanks to Shout Factory!

This was Hammer’s only movie that dealt with zombies, though these are the voodoo type, not the flesh-eating type. Maybe because Romero didn’t unleash his until two years later. But this is a prime example of what Hammer did best. They had an great cast with two powerful leads, André Morell as Sir James Forbes and John Carson as Squire Hamilton. Morell is so much fun to watch, being so proper and the whole stiff upper lip, but yet still has a dark sense of humor. Carson, who plays the villain, was born to play this part. Whether it is his voice, which is very similar sounding to James Mason, or his evil stare, that can easily hide behind a smile. Of course, throw in Michael Ripper in a minor role, and it makes it even better!

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Ralph Bates Biography

Ralph Bates BiographyFans of Hammer Horror should be well aware of the name of Ralph Bates. He was one of the next generation stars of Hammer, one to take the lead from the likes of Cushing and Lee and continue the tradition that they started. Unfortunately, Hammer didn’t last that much longer. In that short time though, Bates did appear in a few of their pictures and always turning a memorable performance. He appeared in Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970), The Horror of Frankenstein (1970), Lust for a Vampire (1971), Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971), and Fear in the Night (1972). It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if Hammer would have continued their ran of cinematic terrors.

But now you can learn all about those films, as well as the rest of Bates career and life in this new biography from author Christopher Gullo, entitled simply Ralph Bates: A Biography. Published by Midnight Marquee, it covers the actor’s life from his childhood, where he started to develop an interests in the theater, as well as once he started working with Hammer, and the multiple television appearances that he made.

With 165 family photos, including many never-before-seen ones, as well as getting to hear from over 70 different family, friends, and co-workers that the author sought out for this book, all helps to show the life of this incredibly talented man. Gullo is donating all his personal proceeds from the sale of this book to the Ralph Bates Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund. This was created to honor Bates, who passed away in 1991 from this disease.

To order it from Midnight Marquee, just click HERE.

Peveril Goes Inside Bray Studios

Inside Bray StudiosAny Hammer fan worth their weight in blood knows of the infamous Bray Studios, where the they unleashed countless horrors onto the willing masses. But now with it being gone forever, we can be thankful that Peveril Publishing will be immortalizing it in their new book, Inside Bray Studios, coming early next month.

By Hammer authority Wayne Kinsey, we get a virtual tour of the studio, both inside and out, as well as the history of the place once Hammer took over. We’ll get to see how Hammer used the cramped space in the studio to create some of the most unbelievable movie sets, making these period pictures come to life and jump off the screen.

There is also three separate chapters on the “Bray Days”, back in 1998, 1999, and 2007, where the studio opened its doors to both fans as well as a ton of Hammer alumni, with a ton of photos. I wish I could have made it to even one of those events.

At 344 color pages, this hardcover edition will be another must-have for any fan of this famous British Studio. The price is set at £35 plus postage, but it really is an investment, since most of Peveril’s books go out-of-print quickly and their prices skyrocket shortly there after. So don’t be left out!

Head over to Peveril’s website HERE and sign up for their newsletter so you’ll know when the pre-orders start.

 

Jacqueline Pearce – Rest in Peace

Jacquline Pearce RIPOne of my favorites from Hammer Studios is one of their 1966 “Cornish Horrors”, Plague of the Zombies, made back to back with The Reptile. From the incredible look of the zombies, to the bad-ass villain played by John Carson, to the straight-laced hero played by André Morell, it always delivers the goods, each and every time I watch it. Another one of the reasons is the rest of the stellar cast, including Jacqueline Peace, who plays the doomed Alice. Pearce’s performance gives the viewer such a feeling of dread because we all know what is going to happen to her and we can’t stop it. And then in The Reptile, she gives another performance to draw the audience in with her pathos.

In both of these films, not only did she have to create these characters and grab hold of the audience, she also had to endure quite some time in Roy Ashton’s makeup chair. But she not only played a couple of iconic Hammer characters, she caught the attention of many fans. So we are very sadden to hear of her recent passing.

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Horror History: Barbara Shelley

barbarashelley1Barbara Shelley
Born Aug. 15th, 1933

Barbara Shelley was a staple in the British horror cinema for about 10 years, starting in the late ’50s. The fact that she only made a handful of horror pictures during that time, and is so remembered shows the real talent that she was.

Starting with films like Cat Girl (1957) and Blood of the Vampire (1958), before appearing in one of the genre classics, Village of the Damned (1960). Then she would work with Hammer Films on her next four pictures, which shows some of her best work: The Gorgon (1964), Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966), and Quatermass and the Pit (1967). Her performance in Dracula: Prince of Darkness, as the uptight Helen, once transformed into a vampire is one of the highlights of that film. Her last role for the genre was the 1974 film Ghost Story (aka Madhouse Mansion), and moved to working more in television, even having a small stint in the Doctor Who series.

So the next time you’re in the mood for a British horror film, and maybe even a Hammer Film, think about choosing one of the ones that feature the lovely Shelley and see just what she gave to the genre.

Horror History: Bernard Robinson

Bernard RobinsonBernard Robinson
Born July 28th, 1912 – Died Mar. 2nd, 1970

If you are a fan of Hammer Films, then you are a fan of Robinson’s work, even if you don’t realize it. Robinson was the art director and later production designer that worked on good number of their films, from Quatermass 2 (1957) to Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969). The first actual film that he worked on was as an art director on The Case of the Frightened Lady (1938). Over those early years, he became good friends with Tony Keys, who would later invite Robinson to come work for Hammer.

Robinson could not only create unbelievable sets out of very little money, he also designed sets that could be used over and over again but moving things around and a little re-dressing. In fact, he was a master of his. Director Terence Fisher had stated that with one of Robinson’s sets, he could point the camera anywhere and he knew it would look fantastic.

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Movie Review: Hammer Horror – The Warner Bros. Years

Hammer Horror Warner Bros YearsHammer 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.

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