It Came from 1957
By Rob Craig
Published by McFarland, 2013. 256 pages.
I’m a huge fan of the sci-fi/horror films of the ’50s. In fact, I love them. In 1957, there were a ton of releases during that period, many of them classics. All fifty-seven titles of them are covered within the pages of the book, some in a little more detail and discussion than others, but they are all there. After an extensive introduction discussing the time period and what was going on in the world, we get to read about such films as The Brain from Planet Arous (which is featured on the book’s cover) to Attack of the Crab Monsters, The Unearthly, Invasion of the Saucer Men, to The Thing from Another World and plenty more. Craig really knows his stuff here and is very informative when it comes to discussing these pictures. But therein lies the problem.
As a reference book collector, there are no two words that can fill one with both excitement and dread at the same time as “revised” and “updated” do. The excitement comes because we imagine there is new information that is going to make it worth double-dipping, but at the same time, the dread comes in because we wonder if these ‘extras’ are going to be worth it? Granted, this goes the same for the countless DVD and Blu-ray editions over the years. But this is where I found myself today when I was at the local bookstore and seeing not one, but two volumes that I already had in my library, but both had these words blazing across the top of the front cover.
Wake Wood (2011)
Directed by David Keating
Starring Aidan Gillen, Eva Birthistle, Timothy Spall, Ella Connolly, Ruth McCabe, Brian Gleeson, Amelia Crowley, Dan Gordon, Tommy McArdle
There had been so many times over the years that we’d heard that Hammer Films, the famous British studio, was rising from the grave, like so many of the creatures they put in their movies. So many times in fact, that most serious horror fans didn’t pay too much attention to the latest announcement. And even if the studio did resurrect itself, would it be able to really continue the incredible work that its forefather did before it? But then in 2007, it really did happen. Hammer Films was back. Granted, it really was in name only for the most part, since all of the original members of the studio are long since retired, passed away, or just forgotten. But the new CEO promised to not forget about its heritage and to continue the work they had started. We all know there would be no way to bring back the style and feel of those films from yesteryear. Or could there?
This has been a rough year for horror fans, losing so many people that have given us so much pleasure over the years. And now, news of yet another one. Actress Valerie Gaunt passed away this last Tuesday the 27th. Now Gaunt only appeared in two films in her very short career, but those two made quite the impact in the horror world, not to mention the British film industry.
In 1957, she appeared as Justine, the maid (and more) to one Baron Frankenstein, played by the one and only Peter Cushing. She made the mistake of forcing the Baron’s hand by telling him that she was pregnant, which might be an issue with his fiancée. This leads him to introduce her to his creation. Let’s say that doesn’t end well for poor Justine. The film of course is Hammer’s The Curse of Frankenstein.
The following year, she returned to Hammer to appear in Horror of Dracula, playing Christopher Lee’s vampire slave. She very well might be the very first vampire to show her fangs….in color. But we’re not here to debate that.
So while Gaunt only appeared in these two films, they’re kind of a big deal, so it would be very easy for us to always remember her performances, as either the conniving housemaid, or the luscious vampire woman.As horror fans, it is our job to remember these fine and talented actors who continue to give us pleasure.
Our thoughts go out to her friends and family in this sad time.
Hands of the Ripper (1971)
Directed by Peter Sasdy
Starring Eric Porter, Angharad Rees, Jane Merrow, Keith Bell, Derek Godfrey, Dora Bryan, Marjorie Rhodes, Marjie Lawrence, Lynda Baron
A little girl named Anna, the young daughter of Jack the Ripper, witnesses her mother being murdered at the hands of her father, before he disappears into the night, forever gone and forever burning that memory into her psyche. Over a decade later, something triggers those memories in Anna and she becomes ‘possessed’ with some evil force and power, brutally killing the lady that had taken her in. When questioned by the police, she has no memory of it. Fascinated by her case, Doctor Pritchard decides to take her into his home and family to study her, trying to unlock the secrets in her brain, using the ‘newly’ discovered psychoanalysis techniques from a Dr. Freud. But before he can grasp what is going on inside this young woman’s mind, bodies start to pile up as something keeps triggering those memories and she becomes her father’s daughter again and again.
While this might technically not be a horror movie, even though you do have dinosaurs running (and flying) around trying to eat people, since it is a Hammer Film, I figured it needs mentioning. Next year, on Feb. 14th, Kino Lorber will be releasing a movie that stop-animation fans have been waiting for…in the version they wanted!
When One Million Years B.C. (1966) was released on DVD several years ago, it made a lot of fans very upset, since it was the American version, which as serious fans know, was cut. Even more surprising since it the laserdisc version released was the international cut, which is longer. If you’re a die-hard Ray Harryhausen fan, that was a big deal. But now, thanks to Kino Lorber, they will be releasing it on Blu-ray that has both the International Cut along with the U.S. Cut, both having a 4K restoration, so you’ll be able to see all amazing Harryhausen work, as well as Raquel Welch and Mattine Beswick in all their glory!
Hammer fans have lost another familiar face, that of actor John Carson. He may have only made three appearances in a Hammer Film, as well as one episode of their TV series, every time he came on the screen, he made his presence known. Of course, my personal favorite of Carson’s performances was as the evil squire, Clive Hamilton in John Gilling’s 1966 film The Plague of the Zombies, where he is slowly taking control over this small village. The evilness just oozes from him. With his James Mason-ish voice, his presence is always authoritative and imposing, as well as damn entertaining to watch.