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Preview: Hammer and Beyond

Hammer and Beyond



All about the World of Hammer movies and the talent in front and behind the camera and what became of them.



Updated: 2017-11-26T12:06:37.139+00:00

 



The Skull (1965)

2014-12-13T20:41:48.085+00:00

“Christopher Maitland sat back in his chair before the fireplace and fondled the binding of an old book. His thin face, modelled by the flickering firelight, bore a characteristic expression of scholarly preoccupation. Maitland’s intellectual curiosity was focussed on the volume in his hands. Briefly, he was wondering if the human skin binding this book came from a man, a woman, or a child. (…) It was nice to have a book bound in a woman’s skin. It was nice to have a crux ansata fashioned from a thigh-bone; a collection of Dyack heads; a shrivelled hand of Glory stolen from a graveyard in Mainz. Maitland owned all these items, and many more. For he was a collector of the unusual.” The Skull is one Amicus’ first horror films. Coming hot on the heals of their first portmanteau flick, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, this is actually a feature length movie though ironically based on a short story, The Skull of the Marquis de Sade, by Robert Bloch, i.e. the kind of material that they would later typically use for the anthology productions.Horror films about obsessive collectors are a fascinating sub-genre that have very rarely been explored outside of Amicus where Robert Bloch appears to have been the driving force behind that niche (see also “The Man Who Collected Poe” segment of Torture Garden).For The Skull Milton Subotsky co-adapted Bloch’s screenplay about an esoteric collector (Peter Cushing) who starts a descent into murder and madness when he is being offered the genuine skull of the Marquis De Sade.Though the movie by and large follows the general plot of the short story to the point where certain lines of dialogue are even lifted verbatim, given the requirements of a feature length production there are added sections that are virtually dialogue free in which the film truly shines.For these scenes director Freddie Francis managed to create some memorable bravura images that clearly demonstrate the cinematographic skill that would ultimately lead to him winning an Oscar. (Official Director of Photography here was John Wilcox.)A Gothic pre-credits scene is bathed in a very Bavaesque light and depictures a silent, moody grave robbing. At one stage everything is filmed from the point-of-view of the corpse. It appears as if the corpse was lying in a glass tomb and could look through it to see the dirt removed from the coffin.The film has lots of those strange angles and we often get to see everything from the perspective of the skull, a type of imagery that Alfred Vohrer was also very fond of in German Edgar Wallace Krimis at the time.Long periods without sound or talk other than musical cues and purely visual imagery dominate this production that is also chock-a-block with little unnerving details such as somewhat distorted mirror reflections or bizarre camera angles.The most famous of these scenes is midway through and could have been taken straight out of TV’s AVENGERS series: Maitland appears to get arrested and is brought to a Kafkaesque location, a large but mainly empty room only presided over by a judge surrounded by demonic statuettes who communicates through mute sign language and forces him to play a game of Russian Roulette, probably the most drawn out one prior to Deer Hunter. Maitland afterwards escapes through a maze of red corridors, and is threatened by gas and crushing walls while the skull is seen floating through the air. It’s a wonderfully filmed surreal nightmarish vision that vastly improves on the short story’s equivalent which features a rather more conventional form of torture by Iron Maiden.The visual opulence of this production is furthermore highlighted by some of the most stunning set designs to be found in a 1960s horror production (courtesy of Scott Slimon and Bill Constable).The characters all live in individually styled surroundings emphasizing their various collecting interests: Maitland’s library; an opulent billiard room with tribal masks; a phrenologist’s apartment featuring a range of masks and dragons as well as lots of books, crystal ball[...]



The ever-changing faces of Victoria Vetri

2014-12-07T16:49:03.786+00:00

Or should I call this: The ever-changing hairstyles of Victoria Vetri?Either way, I just happened to come across two of Vetri’s TV appearances this weekend:THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.’s The Indian Affairs Affair still features her under her alternative nom-de-plume Angela Dorian.The episode is the series’ Season Two finale and with its exaggerated “Cowboys’n’Inchuns”-imagery already gives a taster for the campy madness that was to follow in the subsequent season.All of the Native Americans on display may be American but they’re hardly native. Even Illya Kuryakin joins in and dons a dark wig and a fake accent.Dorian/Vetri plays Charisma Highcloud, the daughter of an Indian Chief (played by familiar in face if not in name, Ted de Corsia) held captive by Indian hating L.C. Carson who intends to drop a hydrogen bomb and apparently needs the Indian’s reservation for his schemes. (Don’t ask.)Seriously, whatever happened to the hydrogen bomb? Isn’t it time we get a decent hydrogen threat again? Atomic warfare is so lame in comparison!Much to her father’s annoyance, Vetri’s character sustains her student’s lifestyle by becoming a Native go-go dancer in New York.For MISSION IMPOSSIBLE’s Squeeze Play she is back again to her more paler real self. This Season 5 episode is one of the shows with Leonard Nimoy and Leslie Warren in its line-up, both of which also have prominent roles infiltrating the hide-out of a dying Mafia don (Albert Paulsen, who had previously also appeared in a variety of other roles for MISSION IMPOSSIBLE) with the intention of obtaining his secret list of heroin distributors and causing an internal struggle in its ranks. Vetri again plays a “Chief’s” younger family member, this time the grand-daughter who is pretty much innocent but has inklings of the nefarious activities of all those sharp-suited men in sunglasses around her.Truth be told if the mention of “Angela Dorian” hadn’t triggered something in my memory I may never have connected her with the blonde-haired bewigged cavegirl of Hammer’s WHEN DINOAURS RULED THE EARTH. Strange that someone who has become something of an iconic figure in Hammer Fandom, should ultimately be so unrecognizable in most of her other performances but such is the fate of Brunettes who briefly become famous as Blonde Bombshells.The MISSION IMPOSSIBLE episode is currently available on YouTube or Netflix US. THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. may be on YouTube for some…. but not for my region. I watched this courtesy of my fab U.N.C.L.E. box set.Now I better be off trying to come across some more of Vetri’s TV work. It seems that due to her looks she was often hired for more “ethnic” roles and therefore featured in a number of Western series as well, not just 1960s Spy shows. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/b7Pz_osInyE" width="420">[...]



Four Sided Triangle (1953)

2014-10-25T13:31:11.964+01:00

Given that Hammer’s official YouTube channel has made some of their lesser known and previously only difficult to get a hold off early black & white productions more readily available, it is pretty pathetic that I haven’t spent a few sleepless nights yet in front of the screen in my endeavor to plug a few more of my holes in my Hammer filmography.Time to change this…..(Spoiler Alert: Please continue reading only after watching the film first.) FOUR SIDED TRIANGLE was Terence Fisher’s first Sci Fi movie and some of its concepts indeed seem to predate some of their later Frankenstein flicks (e.g. CREATED WOMAN).In a pastoral English village, Robin (John Van Eyssen who is better known as (HORROR OF) DRACULA’S Jonathan Harker) and Bill (Stephen Murray), two friends since childhood, are collaborating together to create what was apparently going to become a prototype for Star Trek’s replicator. They are assisted by Lena (Barbara Payton), a childhood sweetheart who has just returned back from a stint in the States, and makes up the third (and later on also forth) side of their triangle.Payton’s character is potentially the most interesting one in this movie as she is so decidedly off-centre, yet the film seems to treat most of her later decisions with the utmost normality.We first see her in a flashback playing knights and lady with the boys and clearly already favouring Robin. Following a lengthy stay in the States she meets up with Dr Harvey (James Hayter), the narrator of this film, and proudly proclaims that she intends to spend all her money and subsequently “die in some reasonably unmessy fashion”.This is quite possibly one of the most casual suicide declarations ever filmed and even more shocking as we never seem to get a proper idea why she considers herself such a failure and disappointed with life. What a way to get introduced to a character!Meeting her old friends again, however, seems to give her a fresh purpose in life and she acts as their assistant and quickly rekindles her mutual infatuation with Robin, leaving Bill just longing after her.Most of the research work is depicted as taking place in a laboratory that could easily have also been used in both the Universal or Hammer Frankenstein productions. Where at first the goal was to replicate inanimate objects, duplicating life is the obvious next step, especially given that Bill comes up with a plan to copy Lena giving him at last a chance for some quality time with her artificial twin but leading the viewer with a few more choice head-scratch moments with regards to her dubious decision making skills.Not only does she readily agree to volunteer without batting an eyelid for this untested replication process. Her artificial twin (called Helen) is a carbon copy even down to her emotions for Robin yet out of some misdirected sense for – yes, for what exactly? it is never clear - , she decides to marry Bill, only to attempt to drown herself. To make things even worse, she subsequently believes that getting her memory wiped just so she can forget about her real true love is indeed a good idea (“an empty mind and a new beginning”).And never during any of this do we get a feeling that this is anything else but common sense decision making! Any single one of those decisions is actually beyond creepy so not emphasizing that creep factor in the movie and making all those actions appear downright normal is in the end an awfully wasted opportunity and a missed chance.This could have become a proto-Cronenbergian Mind Fuck but just ends up being a very average and mercifully short production based on a preposterous idea. Even a potentially disturbing surprise ending is solved amicably, unlike the literary original that appears to have gone just this extra bit further with regards to the final outcome.William F. Temple’s original story was adapted to the screen in collaboration by both Terence Fisher and Paul Tabori, a Hungarian author who on top of writing some English langu[...]



The Deadly Bees (1967)

2014-10-21T13:18:13.521+01:00

A contemporary Amicus horror film directed by Freddie Francis, starring Suzanna Leigh and a wild eyed, over-the-top and eccentric Frank Finlay, also featuring Michael Ripper as a publican, with songs by Elkie Brooks (dubbing Leigh) and The Birds on screen with Ronnie Wood and a screenplay co-written by Robert Bloch based on H.F. Heard’s bestselling Holmes pastiche A Taste for Honey.So what could go wrong? Actually not all that much at first glance.Though mainly known for their anthology horror concepts, these always were a bit hit and miss and it’s therefore good to see one of Amicus’ proper feature length forays into horror. Not making this a Gothic horror production wisely set them apart from Hammer while at the same time securing some of Hammer’s key personnel guaranteeing a certain recognition factor.Suzanna Leigh plays a popular singer on the verge of a mental breakdown who is sent off to a remote island for some respite. (The doctor who diagnoses her is played by a blink and you’ll miss him Michael Gwynn.) The vibes of Swinging London are represented by Swinging Cameras going back and forth while capturing a performance by The Birds (and the bees… nudge nudge). In contrast rural England is frequented by merry publicans, cheerful lasses, eccentric characters and a dysfunctional couple, the husband (Guy Doleman, best known as SPECTRE agent Count Lippe from Thunderball), a brooding farmer/bee keeper who keeps his raging emotions only barely under control and whose venomous, chain smoking wife (Catherine Finn, Michael Ripper’s wife in real life) never lets him forget who it is that has the money in the relationship and out of spite never even bothers answering the phone even when she sits right next to it.Watching this kaleidoscope of 1960s genre characters is a joy but of course this is the first killer bee movie ever made and based on a popular Sherlock Holmes pastiche, so how does this fare as either a horror or mystery movie?Not that well, is the short answer……The only thing frightful about the killer bee attacks is how awful they look. Given that Freddie Francis was a future Academy Award winning cinematographer it is surprising how bland the production looked. The bee attacks in particular are badly process shot in slow motion while the actors were flailing wildly with plastic insects of a kind stuck to their faces.And for a mystery there really is very little of that. We only ever have two suspects for being the mastermind behind the bee attacks and one of them is so blatantly obviously suspected by just about everyone that the real killer simply must be the other one.Given that this is an adaptation of a popular book it is surprising to see how much Amicus didn’t even bother with the novel’s main attraction: the fact that its hero, Mr Mycroft, is a very thinly disguised Sherlock Holmes enjoying his retirement as a rural bee-keeper!In the movie there is no reference to either Holmes or Mycroft or indeed the male Watson substitute and book’s narrator. It appears that in Bloch’s original version of the screenplay these references were much clearer. Bloch had seemingly envisaged Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff in the main parts. Amicus and/or Freddie Francis, however, took a dislike to Bloch’s concept and changed it further on leaving only the barest hints of its initial source idea.Still, this may be both a failed mystery and horror thriller and at the time those aspects may have been the primary reason for it being critically dismissed. Nearly 50 years after the movie first hit the cinema screens, however, the then current horror flick has started carrying a patina that easily masks its short comings.For me it will always be a pleasure to watch Michael Ripper behind a bar and encountering a range of off-beat English characters as well as 1960s starlets, a trip back in time to a mythical England where animals attack and civil servants wear bowler hats. Freddie Francis may just be a journeyman direct[...]



The Peter Cushing Scrapbook

2013-12-20T17:29:02.148+00:00

Ever since I got my Kindle a little bit less than two years ago my reading and book buying habits have changed quite a bit. Whereas previously I was a regular client with the local bookstores and often purchased normal paperbacks at normal prices, this has now nearly completely gone down the river. Unless I receive a book voucher, I generally don’t spend any money on bog standard paperbacks anymore.I quickly learned that I can easily get the classics for free and when I want a current novel or non-fiction book I get them cheaply and often at a great discount in an eFormat.I am also a great fan of classic pulp fiction, easily get bored with the cover design for most modern editions and regularly frequent the Second Hand book stores, again getting my regular reading fix from discounted second hand books.On the other hand, however, I have over the last few years spent a crazy amount of money on some exclusive edition coffee table books that may cost an arm and a leg but that truly deserve a special place on my shelves.Especially us Hammer Fans have over the years been able to reserve some of our shelf space for beautiful tomes on all aspects of Hammer. Wayne Kinsey is one of the most prolific authors in this field and when his Hammer Films on Location failed to find a regular publisher he simply set up his own publishing house, Peveril Publishing.The Peter Cushing Scrapbook is his second venture and limited to 2000 copies.Printed landscape in an oversized scrapbook format this is a beautiful accumulation of Cushing memorabilia and a celebration of the life and career of the Gentleman of Horror who would have turned 100 this year.The material is published on a film-by-film basis with short introductions provided by co-author Tom Johnson. None other than George Lucas has provided the foreword; the afterword is by Janina Faye.The heart and soul of this work, however, are a myriad of pictures accompanying each chapter and generously provided by his secretary Joyce Broughton or on loan from a range of collectors worldwide.These range from often rare and previously unpublished private and on-set photos to theatre programs, snippets of newspaper publications and most importantly countless reproductions of Cushing’s own copiously annotated scripts and sketches for costume suggestions as well as cartoons and phonetic rhymes created for his beloved wife Helen and other friends and colleagues. More than any written word can do, these give a wonderful insight into the true nature of Cushing, the man, and his vast range of interests and talents. Yes, we of course also get a good idea of all those scarves he designed, his toy soldiers, dollhouses and watercolours. And if you ever wondered what his well-travelled passports looked like, then wonder no more.The most amazing insight into his professionalism as an actor comes from noticing the extent of notes he prepared in advance of any film shot, regardless how big or small the production may have been. Even lesser works such as The Uncanny or Hitler's Son had his full attention. No wonder he was incapable of ever providing a bad performance.Those coffee table publications stand and fall with the quality of their printing and the reproductions here are faultless. I had no issue deciphering any of the script pages or other written material. The binding also appears to be made to last. The landscape format is unusual but ultimately a good choice for the subject matter.This book is exclusively available through Peveril. When ordering it is also possible to purchase an additional DVD-R with some of the pictures in the book as well as a few others that didn’t quite make the cut. That DVD-R is not really essential but a nice extra to have.As long as Wayne and some of the other authors will continue with their sterling efforts in creating those visual master-pieces, my book shelves will find a welcome space for those. No fear of me ever wanting to have these in anythi[...]



New Hammer to remake THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN

2013-11-21T21:47:59.872+00:00


Over the last couple of years New Hammer has risen from the grave and started producing a range of excellent horror movies that by and large were quite effective but didn't really share much of a link with the classic Hammer films.

True, THE WOMAN IN BLACK, probably their best new production, was a Gothic horror film and THE RESIDENT featured a cameo by Christopher Lee but overall the connections to the older films were tenuous.

This, however, will soon change.....

There have been rumours about Hammer reviving some of their older franchises before but today's press release (full text below) confirms that they are now going to remake their own ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN production.

When it comes to remakes, this is quite an excellent choice as they are approaching a movie that has its share of fans but that isn't widely recognised yet and features a monster that has not yet been done to death. As such they can explore new angles and approaches without being steeped too deeply in preconceived lore.

I for one am looking forward to it and am planning to revisit the original again over the next couple of months plus maybe review its literary background and other Yeti movies. Let's see.....

HAMMER TO RE-ENVISION THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN

London – 21st November, 2013:  President & CEO of Hammer and Vice-Chairman of Exclusive Media, Simon Oakes, announced today that Hammer, an Exclusive Media company, will produce a new version of The Abominable Snowman. The project is being developed by Hammer in association with Ben Holden (The Quiet Ones, The Woman in Black: Angel of Death).

In this modern take on the Yeti myth, a scientific expedition’s illegal ascent up an unclimbed peak of one of the World’s most formidable mountains accidentally awakens an ancient creature that could spell a certain end for them all.

The original screenplay by Matthew Read (Pusher, Hammer of the Gods) and Jon Croker (The Woman In Black: Angel of Death, Desert Dancer) will put a modern twist on the 1957 iconic original film from Hammer’s extensive canon of work. The project marks a continuation of Hammer’s ongoing campaign to maintain their heritage of producing enduring British horror films which are original, current and relevant for modern audiences, following on from The Woman in Black which became the most successful British horror film of all time.

Simon Oakes said of the project: "The success of Let Me In and The Woman In Black has shown that there is an appetite for quality horror films so it is exciting to draw on Hammer’s unparalleled source material in this genre which can be reimagined and updated for a new audience”.

Ben Holden is currently collaborating with Hammer on The Woman in Black: Angel of Death, which is in production in the UK now.  



I. Have. Returned.

2013-10-20T17:33:30.707+01:00

Well… kind of.After too long a time spending far too many hours working too many jobs, I have now simplified my life, quit the corporate world and am focusing entirely on my own projects, meaning predominantly working away as a private German tutor in Cork. If you want to pick up some tips and tricks on learning German, please feel free to visit my Facebook page. Oh, and I also give lessons through Skype.What that means is that I should also finally have more time at hand to again focus on this dangerously abandoned blog of mine. I am not putting any undue pressure on me as to how often I might post again, but you should definitely see an upsurge in new posts over the coming weeks and months.And for starters I would like to draw your attention to Flesh and Blood, Book 3.If you remember, I was quite ecstatic about the first issue of this new 4-part horror comic series and had also featured an interview with the creators, Neil Vokes and Bob Tinnell, who had succeeded in creating a unique Gothic induced comic book world that was obviously influenced by the imagery of Hammer’s classic production without ever resorting to a simple rip-off of their tropes and themes. BOOK 2 had finished with a tantalizing hint of a time travelling Victor Frankenstein and BOOK 3 kicks off about half a century into the future in the late 19th century, a period of more than a passing familiarity for us Hammerheads.Rather than being an all-encompassing demon slasher monster mash, the current issue focuses predominantly on Frankenstein and his attempts to regenerate a certain Dr Jeckyll who passed away while being possessed by his evil Alter Ego. He transfers Jeckyll’s persona into that of his final female victim and, hey presto, Frankenstein Created Woman and Dr Jekyll becomes Sister Hyde!Just like in the previous parts, Tinnell and Vokes both manage to create a slice of genre comic that is clearly inspired by the magic of the Hammer Horrors, yet do it in such a unique way that this remains a genuinely new and unique piece of story telling.With its new focus on the Jekyll & Hyde story and moving away from the Carmilla/Dracula/Werewolf angle of the first two books, BOOK 3 could easily be read independently by those readers who are not yet familiar with the FLESH AND BLOOD universe.And a proper universe this is soon becoming as theoretically nothing should now be able to stop Mssrs. Vokes and Tinnell to further expand on these topics and set them up with any new monster and at any possible period of time. Kind of like what CAPTAIN KRONOS may have become had that film turned into a series.In addition to the main graphic novel, we also get the continuation of two other far shorter comic books stories written by Tinnell (Baron Frankenstein drawn by Adrian Salmon and Operation Satan by Bob Hall). Tom Savini provides the foreword and with it one of my current favourite quotes: “The more you do, The more you get to do!” And an article by Michael H. Price with an overview of horror comics rounds up the entire oeuvre.What can I say? It's good to be back. frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="http://rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?t=theworldofham-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=0983640521&ref=tf_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;"> [...]



The Peter Cushing Scrapbook - A Centenary Celebration

2013-03-22T19:52:28.530+00:00

There are two types of people.One, let’s call them: Me, who lead a busy life and barely manage to write a measly blog post.Two, let’s call them: Wayne Kinsey, who lead an even busier and more demanding professional life – I doubt that being a forensic pathologist is for slouches – and in the time that it takes me to write a few lines manage to publish yet another high quality book.Wayne is one of only a small number of authors who have managed to set themselves up as a true authority on Hammer films and have helped us all to expand our shelves with books and magazines covering just about any aspect of Hammer’s extensive history and filmography.So much so that it is virtually impossible to come up with a Hammer related topic that has not been covered yet and that doesn’t stray into the niche-niche market area.Following up on last year’s Hammer on Locations, Wayne’s (and Peveril Publishing’s) next oeuvre strays from the general Hammer overviews and is dedicated to a topic that appears so blatantly obvious as a fan’s delight that it’s surprising it has never been covered before. Outside of his numerous acting roles, Peter Cushing has also become well known as a wonderful artist in his own right. He meticulously sketched character aides in the copies of practically all his screenplays, designed scarves and jewellery for his wife, drew cartoons in correspondence with friends, designed model theatres, painted water colours etc. Yet despite the fact that some examples of this vast output have been reproduced elsewhere, there has never been a proper overview over this aspect of Cushing’s portfolio.Until now.Very shortly we will be able to glance over The Peter Cushing Scrapbook - A Centenary Celebration. Brought together with the help of Cushing’s longtime secretary Joyce Broughton the book promises to be yet another keeper.As for order information, Wayne writes:“Full colour limited numbered edition (A4 landscape; 328 pages) with over 1800 photographs ONLY available from www.peverilpublishing.co.uk Keep watching the website and Peveril Publishing Facebook site for details of when sales go live late April/early May. Cover price £35, postage costs yet to be verified. We are not taking pre-orders but email peverilpub@aol.com or follow contact link on website to register your interest. Wayne will reply to these emails just before sales go live to ensure you get an early signed number.” [...]



Mountain of the Cannibal God (IT, 1978)

2013-02-01T19:40:17.255+00:00

I recently discussed this film with an online buddy and wanted to point him towards my little blog review here, just to notice that I had a review online on my older, now-defunct Hammer Glamour site but that I hadn't actually transferred it over yet. The review is a few years old and I haven't done anything in touching it up.Amongst the general public horror movies have a pretty bad reputation. Splatter movies are considered even worse. Italian Splatter productions will raise more than just a few eyebrows, but admitting to watch Italian Cannibal movies with their ultra-gory effects scenes and real-life animal slaughter will have you hounded by PETA and is considered by most to be just one step ahead of a snuff enthusiast. God only knows so what caused real stars such as Ursula Andress and Stacy Keach to appear in one of these oeuvres but I guess we all have our bills to pay. Both actors could hardly have hoped to expand their fan audience by making a film clearly aimed at a very niche market.Andress plays the wife of a researcher who went missing in the jungles of New Guinea. She goes in search of her husband with the help of adventurer Stacy Keach and under background tunes of Italo Pop musicians Guido & Maurizio De Angelis ("Oliver Onions"), stumbling across the occasional tribe or two of cannibals along the way. Not much in the line of surprises so but then again a decent story was usually the last thing on cannibal fans’ minds.What is on most cannibal fans’ minds, however, is the quality of the gore scenes. Though most of the natives seem to happily munch away any chance they get, it is usually animals they eat. The actual cannibalism occurs mainly towards the end of the movie. One especially nasty sequence that is often cut from available prints is a very realistic castration scene.Director Sergio Martino leaves no stone unturned when it comes to showing animal snuff: Throughout the entire film we are constantly reminded that this is a dog-eat-dog kinda world and get to watch natives ripping apart a lizard or a snake slowly suffocating a monkey. In an Anchor Bay DVD Martino was asked about the latter scene and commented that this scene happened naturally while walking past the snake, and that he in actual fact did nothing but hold the camera in order to film nature at play. Following this claim the interviewers then presented Martino with clips of film that clearly showed that the monkey was thrown at the snake for dubious entertainment’s sake. Somehow Natural Geographic never had to resort to these means for their documentaries. Needless to say after that stunt Martino will hardly be available for future interviews of the kind.Looking at the bright side: Andress does have two nude scenes. In the second one she is covered in white paint by some of the tribe women. Much to the male viewers’ delight, Bo Derek a few years later suffered a similar fate in her husband's, John Derek's, adaptation of Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981). Andress had also been one of Derek's wives at one stage, so I wonder whether he closely followed her films and was actually inspired by Andress' stunt in this production.Another scene that is quite memorable – though, of course, on an altogether different level - is seeing the lost researcher’s corpse with a Geiger counter instead of his heart. Andress’ "surprise" character twist, however, towards the end of the movie comes as no surprise whatsoever to anyone familiar with staple Italian horror fare. And Stacy Keach’s character comes to an untimely death, probably caused by budgetary restraints.Overall, this is a film that finds it hard to please anyone: Too tame for cannibal gorehounds, it is still too heavy to please the average cinema audience who may have expected to watch a run-of-the-mill adventure story when comin[...]



Where is the Ghoul?

2013-02-02T08:43:59.661+00:00

Has it ever struck you that we have no idea where The Ghoul is set?Me neither, until relatively recently. But when you watch a film as often as I’ve watched this equally beloved and maligned Tyburn showstopper (I believe the correct medical term is ‘too often’), it is inevitable that you start to think about it in ways and to degrees that its infrastructure was never designed to reward or uphold.  Now, some films tell you where they are set and some films don’t: no big deal.But The Ghoul is intriguing because it mentions one location and one only: Land’s End, the ultimate destination of the car race that lands the four heroes in so much cannibalistic trouble.But we don’t know if they actually get there, or, if not, how close they get by the time disaster strikes. And we don’t know where they start from either.I had always lazily assumed that it was indeed in the vicinity of Land’s End that they find themselves stranded, but we are never actually told this for sure. The unhelpful local policeman has some kind of a Westcountry accent, but we are not explicitly informed even of the county. I also assumed, even more lazily as it turns out, that they started from London, and was frankly amazed, when I double-checked, to learn that my assumptions are completely unsupported by anything in the film itself. Neither is it at all likely, since the only assistance we are given is the observation that Land’s End is “over a hundred miles” from where they begin, immediately corrected to “more like two.”Land's End, Summer 2012Every year the wife and I spend a week with my parents at an inn just inland of Land’s End, and most mornings I get up at 5 and enjoy the lonely cliff walk to England’s most southerly point as dawn rises.As many of you will know, Land’s End itself is now a giant tourist attraction, a shopping village cum theme park which is, I’m sure, a living hell during the day, when it’s crammed with soggy visitors and you have to pay to get in. But first thing in the morning even this is beautiful: eerily quiet (and who doesn’t love the idea of wandering through a totally deserted tourist attraction?), the whistling wind the only sound, and dozens upon dozens of rabbits the only living things in sight.I’d like to say I spend most of my time on these walks pondering the deep mysteries of existence and the universe, and it’s true, when the first rays of the sun hit those timeless rocks, standing now just as they have through the whole history of human life in this most primitive and inspiring of lands, I do have my moments. But by and large, I’ll be honest, I’m thinking about The Ghoul.There’s a large, somewhat eerie, strangely melancholy white house en route (above), all alone in extensive but featureless grounds, that I always liked to think was the original location of Dr Lawrence and his oddball household. But now it seems unlikely that Daphne, Angela, Billy and Geoffrey ever got this far.Just how near did they get?So, over breakfast one morning I put the matter to my dad, who’s much better at this sort of thing than I am.Here’s the challenge, I explained: Four people in the 1920s are attempting to drive to Land’s End. Let us suppose that they live in a reasonably large town, given their wealth, awareness of fashions in an age of limited media, and the large number of like minds attending their parties. Their destination is between one and two hundred miles from the start point, and somewhere, along the shortest and most reasonable pre-motorway route, they pass through boggy moorland and become stranded. (Since both cars separately end up there, it is reasonable to suppose that neither took a wrong turning.) So where have they probably started from, and where have they probably ended up?The first thing you can do, he told me [...]



Christopher Gullo: The Films of Donald Pleasence (Review)

2012-11-23T16:03:54.599+00:00

One often gets the impression that little is left to uncover when it comes to book projects pertaining to classic horror and fantastic cinema. It frequently feels that publishers are clutching at straws when they greenlight books about the memories of the guy who cut the lawn for Dwight Frye's second cousin's next-door neighbour. Yet every once in a while something comes along that makes you turn back and ask if it really can be true that no-one has ever covered that topic before and, by the way, why didn't I come up with that idea!Christopher Gullo's The Films of Donald Pleasence is an example for one of those books.17 years after his death (has it really been that long?) and despite having a large and loyal fanbase and having participated in more than a hundred movies (and a similar number of TV productions), many of which have become cult classics, this is the very first book ever written about “The Man With the Hypnotic Eye”.Having been a prisoner-of-war in WW2, an experience that was going to haunt him until the end of his life and that influenced his performance in The Great Escape, Pleasence quickly restarted his early acting career after the war in London stage productions and from there gradually moved to film and TV roles. Though today he is most easily recognised as psychiatrist Sam Loomis from  John Carpenter's Halloween series – speaking about waiting your whole life for a career defining moment -, reading this book it becomes apparent that the most important role of his acting career was likely that of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker, a part that he made very much his own in both the stage and the movie versions.He defined the Bond villain persona so much that it was his Blofeld that was parodied in the Austin Powers movies and on top of appearing in numerous jungle war flicks late in his career for the paycheck alone he also found the time to pen a children's book Scouse the Mouse and record a song that at this time of year just beckons to be unearthed again: Snow up your nose for Christmas (with lyrics by Ringo Starr).Oh, and he also played in one Hammer movie: Hell is a City.The format of the book follows the standard of the old Citadel publications:A large introductory biography compiled with the help of interviews with some of Pleasence's family, friends and colleagues (including his wife Linda, daughter Angela, John Carpenter, Kevin Connor and Ulli Lommel) is followed by a film-by-film critique consisting of a cast overview, a synopsis and a review of the film in general and Pleasence's performance in particular.The emphasis is very much on his movie work with some of his TV roles briefly mentioned but not much accentuated upon. If there is one thing I would have preferred it is to see a stronger additional emphasis on that part of his career in exchange for less of the synopsis, an area that I routinely just skip over whenever I come across them in movie books.Still, this is a very good introductory work on this hitherto ignored actor that will hopefully encourage additional research that may ultimately expand to a full blown biography.In the meantime, however, we still have a long way to go with Pleasence before we reach the point of oversaturation. frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=theworldofham-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=159393212X&ref=tf_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;"> frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="http://rcm-uk.amazon.co.uk/e/cm?t=theworldofham-21&o=2&p=8&l=as1&asins=159393212X&ref=tf_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=[...]



Christopher Gullo: The Films of Donald Pleasence

2012-09-25T23:07:16.415+01:00

Christopher Gullo is a good buddy of mine and somewhere up there in the world's Top 10 of Peter Cushing Fans. Ever since the late 1990s we've been communicating about the Gentle Man of Horrors. in 2004 he published In All Sincerity, Peter Cushing, a wonderful overview of the actor's life and career as told to Chris by many of Cushing's co-stars, friends and colleagues. (Incidentally I only just noticed now that there is also a cheap Kindle version(image) of that book available that at $3.39 is quite a steal.)

He has now finished his next oeuvre dedicated to the wonderful Donald Pleasence, an actor who for some reason totally beyond me has so far never received the biographical treatment he so well deserved.

Chris is now closing that gap and in conjunction with Bear Manor Media will soon release The Films of Donald Pleasence.

Please find below some additional info about the release:

Mention the words "horror star" and certain names immediately spring to mind-- Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and Vincent Price. But another, lesser-known name was also heavily involved in numerous horror and science-fiction films-- Donald Pleasence. Featuring a distinctive look, memorable voice, and a serious approach to his roles, Pleasence shined brightly in many genre favorites. Whether as a maniacal body snatcher in The Flesh and the Fiends, a surgical assassin in Fantastic Voyage, the arch-villain of 007 in You Only Live Twice, a sarcastic inspector in Raw Meat, or his career-defining role as the heroic Dr. Loomis in Halloween, Donald Pleasence proved himself to be a top performer in the fantastical genres of horror and science-fiction. The Films of Donald Pleasence includes a full biography, tributes from Pleasence’s friends and coworkers, reviews of all his films, and a rare photo gallery in the first-ever book devoted to the man who became a genre favorite to countless fans.
To learn about this or other BearManor Media titles, please visit our website at www.bearmanormedia.com.
ISBN: 1-59393-212-X
Format: Softcover; 6” x 9”; 316 pages
Price: $21.95
Available also through Ingram and amazon.com
About the Author: Christopher Gullo is a history teacher and a life-long fan of genre films who resides in Long Island, NY with his wife Beth and son Anthony. His first book was In All Sincerity...Peter Cushing and he still runs the Peter Cushing Association on Facebook. In addition, Christopher has contributed to various books, magazines, and DVDs.



John Hamilton: X-Cert

2012-09-09T15:06:32.234+01:00

Let's see...We have books on Hammer. Lots of them.We have an excellent overview over Amicus courtesy of Little Shoppe of Horrors #20 and a controversial Dark Side publication Amicus: The Studio That Dripped Blood. The original author did an Allan Smithee and removed his name but say what you like about the contents this is still beautifully illustrated.In recent years we also got Beasts in the Cellar: The Exploitation Film Career of Tony Tenser to focus on Tigon Productions. (I haven't read this yet but according to all the people whose opinions I value, this has my name on it.)So what is left in terms of a more specialised approach to Classic British Horror?Ah yes, an overview over the independent UK Horror movies of the time.John Hamilton, author of Beasts in the Cellar, has now taken on the task of filling that gap on the book shelf.X-Cert - The British Independent Horror Film: 1951 – 1970 does exactly what it says on the tin.Published by Hemlock this volume will be instantly familiar to those who have previously read Bruce Hallenbeck's recent Hammer books. It features the same size and style of artwork and is richly illustrated, mainly in black & white but also with a separate 8-page coloured spread.Given the complexities of film financing and international co-production deals at the time Hamilton mentions in his introduction the difficulties in coming up with a definitive list of what constitutes a) a British, b) an Independent and c) a Horror film and freely admits that his list is probably subject to debate. As such I am not even going to bother arguing which films should or should not have been included and am just enjoying his chronological overview of all the films from Mother Riley Meets the Vampire to The Corpse/Crucible of Horror.Each of his entries is rich in historical detail and intelligent critique and low on synopsis just as it should be.As this book primarily focuses on x-certified “adults only” movies of the time we get a good overview over the changing mores, involvements with the censor and political legislation with regards to film productions during those two decades.Hamilton also manages to place the various cinematic talents in their respective career paths:For one we have the usual genre stalwarts, often on a break from Hammer, such as Terence Fisher, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff, Anton Diffring or Michael Gough.Even more interesting, however, are those that are on either end of their career spans: a young Sidney J Furie directing Dr Blood's Coffin or helping to supervise the making of Devil Doll; a mature Joan Crawford going Berserk! for Trog.For some like Michael Powell producing a film like Peeping Tom would put an end to an illustrious career. For others like Bryant Halliday (Devil Doll, Curse of the Voodoo, The Projected Man) these films were practically the sole reason that they still feature somewhere in the footnotes of cinematic history.The book is full with details about short-term production companies such as Planet, Gala or Eros Film Distributors some of which were only ever set up for one film to avail of a government deal, then were disbanded or re-formed under a different name to ensure that they would again be eligible for the very same State sponsorship.If there is one single name that comes up time and again providing something of a narrative throughout the two decades' worth of indie film history it is that of  Richard Gordon. He was single handedly responsible for the largest bulk of the movies in this book. Having established a friendship with him over the years, the author then rounds up this tome with a very personal and heartfelt remembrance of this multi-talented business- and showman who – outside of the Grea[...]



Hammer hosts YouTube Channel

2012-09-09T12:23:37.678+01:00

For the last month Hammer Films have started hosting their own YouTube channel. It's well worth checking out as on top of clips, trailers and previews it also features the following full-length Hammer movies each of which also has a separate introduction by Hammer historians Robert Simpson and Marcus Hearn.

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allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="225" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/E2hyxjrpD44" width="400">

allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="300" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/ymWCanDmirI" width="400">

allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="300" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/5hgfpJe_dFY" width="400">

Hammer also appears to have Man Bait/The Last Page made available though apparently not for Ireland where I live as all access is blocked.





Wayne Kinsey/Gordon Thomson: Hammer Locations

2012-09-03T23:06:40.002+01:00

If anyone ever needs a definition of what constitutes a niche market book, point them to Wayne Kinsey's and Gordon Thomson's new publication about the Hammer Locations.This is definitely not anything for the casual Hammer or Horror Fan but for the die-hard fanatics who live and breathe Hammer and need to know every last detail about the productions.And then go to visit their locations.For anyone within that target niche Hammer Locations is an excellent, richly illustrated travel guide with in-depth descriptions of the areas the Hammer Horrors were filmed in and detailled maps and instructions on how to get there.Being one of a small number of Hammer-focused authors, Wayne Kinsey hardly needs an introduction to readers of this blog. His partner-in-crime for this tome is Gordon Thomson, a runner, assistant editor and sound recordist for a wide of range of shows with vast contacts in the industry to help him identify even some of the more obscure locations.Initially the book was meant to be just one chapter in Kinsey's previous book about Hammer Films – The Unsung Heroes but when that chapter started growing within an already massive manuscript, the publisher Tomahawk Press opted for a separate volume. Alas, the recession and declining specialised book sales ultimately prevented Tomahawk from adding it to their own portfolio, leaving Wayne no choice but to set up his own publishing house, Peveril Publishing, where this book is now exclusively available from. So don't even bother checking the likes of Amazon & Co.It is clearly a sign of the progress made in the self publishing industry that an individual can now produce a volume that at no point ever indicates that it doesn't have the weight of a professional publisher behind it. This book is meticulously researched, fantastically bound and printed and sumptiously illustrated in both colour and black & white. This is clearly NOT a “vanity publication” but a thoroughly professional one that just happens to be produced privately as its topic is otherwise too obscure for any of the regular players in the field.The initial chapters introduce us to the most commonly associated Hammer locations, Black Park and Bray. We get a general overview over those including a suggested walkthrough for anyone visiting those for the first time and with limited time on their hands.Following that we are treated to in-depth discussions of all the locations for the main UK based Hammer  Horror, Fantasy and Sci Fi films. Contemporary photos and screen grabs of the movies are compared side-by-side with current pictures of the locations as they look now. Some of the places have barely changed at all, others have irrevocably been altered.The amount of information available on those locations is simply staggering. I think that it is safe to say that if the authors haven't managed to identify a place, hardly anyone after them ever will.As thorough as the text is, space-wise it is far outweighed by the photographic material on hand which is actually a good thing if like me you aren't living anywhere near those places. Even couch travellers will be able to get great enjoyment out of comparing the sites then and now.Though Hammer Locations primarily focuses on the UK shooting sites for the company's genre movies, we also get shorter entries about their comedies and foreign locations with a separate chapter for Irish-based Ardmore Studios and Powerscourt which I would have loved to have had along with me when I visited the area a decade or so ago.I know that the first couple of readers have already successfully used the book for their own excursions into Hammer. And rumour has it that next year there may just be a[...]



Peveril Publishing.... a new home for Hammer books

2012-07-19T23:38:29.576+01:00

I know, I know, I do believe that books about Hammer have probably reached saturation level.

Whereas I was previously excited about *any* new publication that came along it is safe to say now that with all the (mainly: worthwhile) publications that have flooded the market in the last 10 or 15 years, I won't be rushing out anymore to buy yet another history of Hammer or yet another coffee table photo book.

Sometimes enough is enough and less is more. And there are very few Hammer related topics that I still need to see covered in book form.

But there still *are* some books I am getting excited about.

Case in point: Wayne Kinsey's new Hammer Films On Location book as I love travelling probably as much if not more as I love movies and I enjoy nothing more than combining those two main passions in life.

So when I first heard about his latest project I was giddy with excitement just to see my hopes shattered when it became apparent that his previous publisher saw little opportunity in getting this work published in the current climate.

For a while it looked as if we may never be able to read the fruit of Wayne's in-depth research but he has now set up his own publishing venture, Peveril Publishing, that will make this book available for order.

And apparently this will be the *only* place where you can order this. Don't expect this on Amazon or any other online market place anytime soon.

Imagine my surprise, however, when I just discovered that his will not be the only publication planned in the near future and that he indeed has a number of Peter Cushing art books planned: Peter Cushing’s Book of Bird Drawings, The Peter Cushing Scrapbook and Boys will be Bois.

Consider me agog with excitement.

Now off to order the Locations book....





Wanted for dissertation: Hammer Fans of a certain age

2012-07-08T21:55:17.486+01:00

I just got contacted by Joshua Searle who is a student at Portsmouth University and currently writing a dissertation concerning the Hammer Horror films of the 1950s and 1960s. He is very much interested in learning more about the initial audience reception when the movies were first released and is interested in interviewing anyone who may have watched those in the cinema during that time.

Please find below some more infos by Joshua about his requirements. Needless to say this is a very worthwhile cause and I hope that he can find some possible interview partners through this blog post:
"At the moment I am working on a research project concerning the Hammer Horror films that were released between 1950-1970. Movies like Dracula (1958) and The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) were very popular in their day and my project's main aim is to find out why this was. Nowadays it is very important that this type of research contains audience reception and so I need to interview people who went to see these films at the cinema. The study is also, broadly speaking, looking at the experience of going to cinema and how it changed after The Second World War.


In 100 years time people will look back on memories that are orally recorded with the same fascination that we would if we had the chance to examine the testimony of people from 1912. So if you went to see these films, or know someone who might have, and would be interested in sharing your memories about both them and your cinema-going experience please contact me by on 07518401791, or by email at shl90734@myport.ac.uk.


Thank you for reading, Josh."



The Great Plague

2012-06-13T09:34:09.742+01:00

A guilty confession: not counting Woman In Black, the only Hammer film I've seen on the big screen until yesterday was Dracula, and that was back in the late nineties at the Barbican.So I confess to having been immoderately excited when my local cinema announced it was showing Plague of the Zombies as part of a Tuesday night season of British classics (and Quatermass and the Pit still to come!)I expected to thoroughly enjoy myself; what I did not expect, however, was to have my opinion of the film substantially altered in any way, simply by virtue of seeing it as nature (or at least James Carreras) intended. I'm too young to know any real connection between my love of cinemas, where I went to see James Bond films and the like, and classic horror movies, which I saw only on television. TV still feels like Hammer and Universal horror's natural home for me. I've never been overly convinced by the standard assurances that seeing a film well-known from TV screenings in a cinema is invariably a transformative event; certainly I've rarely felt that way myself. (And experience has additionally forced me to be wary of attending rep screenings of classic horror films, because of the forced oafish laughter that is for some reason felt to be the correct response by large sections of the audience.)Nonetheless, Plague of the Zombies really did come alive in a whole new way for me, to the extent that I'm now inclined to label it a late-flowered primary masterpiece (alongside Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy and - sue me - Phantom of the Opera) rather than, as I'd always had it pegged until now, an example of solid, mid-period competence.It's not merely the intended experience of being engulfed by an imaginative world I am more accustomed to seeing self-contained and safely boxed in an otherwise rational living room. And neither is it the resultant luxury of seeing deeper into the frame than ever before, though I confess it was fun to be able to actually read the letter Andre Morell receives at the beginning, and to notice for the first time that when John Carson banishes his associates from the room after he scuppers their attempted gang rape of Diane Clare, one of them simply goes to the landing at the top of the stairs and waits there.It really did seem a better, more compelling and, yes, scarier film yesterday than ever before, and that's no small achievement given that I knew what was around every corner. Even the ironic contingent were largely silent, unleashing their guffaws only for the admittedly amusing way in which the two drops of blood Carson manages to squeeze from Clare's finger seemed to increase in quantity each time it was transferred from one vessel to another. But everything else - the jumps and jolts, the suspense, the effects, and the performances (especially Morell's and Jacqueline Pearce's) worked exactly as intended in 1966.The best scare remains the first sighting of the zombie, that inexplicably but so effectively screams as it flings Pearce's body to the ground, a moment doubly striking to me because I realised for the first time that this was Ben Aris, an actor I knew well for his appearances as suave, well-bred types in TV sitcoms. Of course the most famous scene remains the nightmare, in which the dead rise en masse from their graves and threaten Brook Williams, though rather less muddily and messily than I remembered, and notably bereft of the planned shots of a shuffling, decapitated Pearce holding her smiling head. (The BBFC put paid to that idea, though it may have been a case of Hammer out-imagining th[...]



Simon Helder returns!

2012-05-18T07:54:21.223+01:00


This was waiting for me in my in-box this morning:

Dear Matthew,
We thought you might be interested in the feature film we are about to shoot, called 'Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein'. The cast includes Hammer veteran Shane Briant, as well as real-life baron Clement von Franckenstein.
Synopsis:
1898. Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson travel to Germany to investigate a strange case in the village of Darmstadt.
Who is the mysterious scientist who digs up corpses and steals their limbs? Could these events be related to the nearby presence of Castle Frankenstein, whose name is closely associated to Mary Shelley's horror novel? Everyone is a suspect...
Best wishes,
Gautier CAZENAVE
Marteau Films Production

And yes, it would seem that Briant really is reprising his old Monster From Hell role!
Follow the link here to find out more.



Stop Me Before I Kill!/The Full Treatment (1960)

2012-05-07T15:12:33.489+01:00

So what's to like about Hammer's 1960 thriller Stop Me Before I Kill! aka The Full Treatment? This was Ronald Lewis' first starring role in a Hammer movie. He would later also feature in Taste of Fear and The Brigand of Kandahar. None of those parts would ultimately set the world on fire but in Stop Me Before I Kill! he has the notable honour of arguably playing the rudest and most obnoxious leading man ever filmed in a Hammer production.Following a car accident during his honeymoon his race car driving character is left not only physically but also mentally scarred and living in fear of wanting to murder his wife. He is compulsive, insulting, constantly flies off the handle and looks a lot like Errol Flynn.During a party scene we have a black female character playing a French Baronesse and society lady. Absolutely nothing is made of her skin colour and she fits neatly into the dinner table round. While this may no longer raise an eyebrow it is remarkable for a film of its time.Of course, it would have been even more remarkable had this character actually been played by a black actress but researching this blog post it appears that Barbara Chilcott, the actress playing that role, was Canadian and white.Unless I am very much mistaken Stop Me Before I Kill! features Hammer's first nude scene. Diane Cilento, today better known as the woman who once was Mrs Connery, graces us with a nude swim and a blink and you'll miss it so press the darn pause button quickly topless scene, the first of many more to come for Hammer.Eight years prior Cilento had one of her first roles in Hammer's Wings of Danger though genre fans will always remember her as schoolteacher Miss Rose in The Wicker Man. She was Oscar nominated for her supporting role in Tom Jones.Here she plays the long suffering wife – and potential victim - of race car driver Alan Colby. Given her character's name (Denise) and the location this movie is partially set in I guess she is meant to be French, however, in some early scenes she speaks fluent Italian and for the most part sports a very convincing Italian accent. In actual fact she is so good in it that it is hard to imagine that she is not one of Hammer's Continental discoveries but indeed Australian born.Wow indeed. No wonder someone spies on her.And that someone playing Peeping Tom is Claude Dauphin as a psychiatrist who suspects that smoking may cause cancer (so much for this being a new discovery) but still smokes and spends more time brusquely interrupting his patients and being argumentative rather than listening to their concerns. He is obsessed with murderous instincts (even when seeing a spider) and goes as far as treating his patients with CO2.... even if it nearly kills them.And, hey, and did you know that you don't need an iPod or even a Walkman to listen to music on the go? All it requires is to hang a portable radio smoothly around your neck while admiring your collection of surgical instruments.All in all Stop Me Before I Kill! is an enjoyable enough early piece of non-horrror entertainment from Hammer Films. Director Val Guest generally keeps this from getting too dull but the production does dabble far too much into then-fashionable psycho babble. One of the bigger issues is that for the most part until the end there is no real threat yet this production still has enough in its favour to make it worth a watch.The UK version of the film (and the one currently available on DVD) clocks in at a little under two hours which for a classic Hammer movie is practically monumental but for the m[...]



Caroline Munro's musical career

2012-04-29T13:20:24.549+01:00

This article was first previously published on my now defunct Hammer Glamour website. For this blog post I have only made slight modifications. At the time it was the only overview online about her musical career but since it got posted Karl Sherlock's Numa Records - The Formative Years has added a great section on Caroline Munro with info and record scans that far FAR surpasses mine though I was able to also help him out with the scans and tracks for Caroline's Convention Demo Tape. Definitely do check them out for a more complete overview of this part of Caroline's career. In actual fact just by reviewing their pages for today's updates was I even made aware of Munro's husband/wife collaborations with Judd Hamilton in the 1970s!At the time of writing the first version of this article YouTube wasn't even around. Nowadays, however, exploring her musical career has never been easier and I dropped most of the scans I had posted (and long lost again in Cyberspace) for YouTube clips.This article is probably a bit past its sell-by date but blogging about Caroline Munro's music videos made me recall it and bring it out of the cupboard.Throughout her career, Caroline Munro repeatedly tried to break into the music business. In actual fact, prior to ever getting into modelling or acting and while still at school at the age of 16, she recorded a cover version of Tar and Cement together with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce of Cream and Steve Howes of Yes as backing musicians. For a good while that single has been something of a Holy Grail for Munro Collectors as it was quite difficult to trace and also proved expensive enough due to her now famous fellow musicians involved in it at the start of their own careers but nothing stays obscure for too long these days and it has since found its way to YouTube and elsewhere. It’s a cheerful ditty tune that will keep you humming throughout the day and quite possibly the best song she has ever recorded. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="301" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/OnUFh6RmCdk" width="400">In the subsequent years she became quite successful as a model and poster girl for Lamb’s Navy Rum and also started a promising acting career. She also appeared as the cover girl on some albums. In 1972 e.g. she appeared as an archer in Robin Hood gear on the front and back cover of Hot Hits 11. She also appeared on the cover of a Top of the Pops sleeve. Some more cover appearances have since been posted on Karl Sherlock's tribute (even though I don't think the Europa Hitparade is Munro).In 1971 Caroline Munro did not just appear as a cover girl but in actual fact was also the subject of a song herself! For his first solo album "One Year" Colin Blunstone, lead singer of The Zombies, wrote a song called Caroline Goodbye about the breakup of their relationship. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="301" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/AA-e1nqR5qI" width="400">Caroline’s most famous recording was Gary Numan’s production Pump Me Up. The single was released in 1984 and also featured Numan on keyboards and backing vocals. It’s recorded in typical Numan style, i.e. her voice is completely drowned in some monotonous synthesiser sounds and it's hard to understand what she's singing.The B-Side, The Picture, is actually much better. In that song she sounds very much Blondie’ish. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="301" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/a49P_gUkMY0" width="400"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0"[...]



Caroline Munro in new music video

2012-04-29T13:04:55.055+01:00

An article in the Clacton Gazette informed me that Clacton's very own country singer Gary Curtis has just recorded a new charity single, Life is for the Living, featuring Caroline Munro in its accompanying video.

Gary Curtis is also known as Gary Wilson and a while back as "Wilson Munro" the two of them together had already recorded a 3-song CD. In actual fact the photo of them at about the 01:30 mark shows a promotional picture of them in younger years from that very CD release.

Can't say that this will ever be in the Top 100 of my favourite songs ever but it's good to see Caroline again in a music video.

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="233" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/GcpBgPyiTug" width="400">

Of course this is not the first time that we see her in a music video. The 1982 video for Adam Ant's debut single as a solo musician, Goody Two Shoes, featured Caroline Munro as a stern and stuck up member of the press corps who literally lets her hair down for the musician.

Also look out for veteran comedian Graham Stark as the butler.

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Less famous than Goody Two Shoes is Meat Loaf's If You Really Want To, probably the only one of his classic songs that didn't become hugely succesful. But what a video and what a chance for Caroline to shine for the first and only time ever as a....

Ah well, don't want to ruin the surprise for those of you who may never have watched that video before.

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Though she has over the years recorded a number of songs - Mental reminder that I need to transfer my old Discography article over from my now-defunct Hammer Glamour site – Caroline has never really recorded a proper music video for any of her songs. The closest she came to it is this clip of her cameo appearance from Don't Open Till Christmas singing Warrior of Love.

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Dave Worrall/Lee Pfeiffer: Cinema Sex Sirens

2012-04-09T17:09:56.408+01:00

Dave Worrall and Lee Pfeiffer, the authors of Cinema Sex Sirens, are the brains behind CINEMA RETRO. Dedicated to the films of the 1960s and 70s this is the only professional magazine these days I still subscribe to. And so should you if you haven't: The magazine consistently publishes very well researched, in-depth and beautifully illustrated articles often with the involvement of the men and women behind those flicks. Their look into The Men from U.N.C.L.E. movies e.g. lasted so many issues that a compilation of these articles would easily make up a proper book in its own rights.In actual fact that publication is so good you may not just want to purchase their magazines once but even twice just so you have a spare copy to auction off once the mags are all sold out. Their Where Eagles Dare Special Edition from just about three or so years ago now easily commands prices in the $100 range. Just goes to prove that Worrall and Pfeiffer clearly know their stuff.So when they promise a coffee table book dedicated to the 1960s/70s sex sirens you bet that I'm all over it.Those two decades with their more free spirited approach to sexuality and nudity rolled out new kinds of athletic female sex symbols that were all stunning, luscious and wonderfully uninhibited with not a Size 0 anywhere in sight. These beauties were often the focal point in horror, spy and (s)exploitation films (and their accompanying posters). Not a lot of modern female stars are still oozing this kind of glamorous jet setting mystique. As the promotional campaign for this book emphasised: They sure don't make'em like they used to. The concept is very similar to Marcus Hearn's Hammer Glamour from a while back. All actresses get anything between 2-6 pages. A short biographical overview of generally one, sometimes two pages will not, ahem, reveal anything majorly new if you are already familiar with the ladies in question though serves as a good spring board to the primary raison d'etre behind the tome: the photos.The book is richly illustrated with good quality reproductions of promotional photos and cult film posters. This being the Internet age it's hard to really describe a lot of those pics as “rare” but as usual it's nice to have them all available in one single publication.The book is divided into three main sections dealing with Hollywood Sex Symbols from Raquel Welch to Natalie Wood (and also including Russ Meyer gals and Blaxploitation favourites), the Continentals (e.g. Ursula Andress, Senta Berger, Sylva Koscina and a number of giallo references) and Brit Glamour. The last section contains chapters on some of the more prominent Hammer Glamour ladies (such as Ingrid Pitt, Caroline Munro, Madeline Smith).One potent reminder about the quality of the images in this publication is when I discovered to my initial dismay that one of the pages had been ripped out prior to shipment by either a Sharon Tate or Mamie Van Doren Fan working for The Book Depository. The issue was quickly resolved and I was promised a pristine new copy so my inital annoyance quickly made way to an ironic acknowledgement that even in the year 2012 these ladies still literally have pin-up appeal.All those list-style books by their nature have omissions and for me it is unfathomable that Jacqueline Bisset doesn't even appear to warrant a single name check in one of the overview chapters. Still even with that omission this book is just as glamorous and gorgeous as the ladies it portrays thoug[...]



Taking the New Hammer plunge

2012-03-23T15:08:01.603+00:00

Calling yourself ‘Hammer Films’ can work for you and it can work against you.On the one hand it gets you and your films more attention from the first than any other fledgling independent film company could dream of – would you have even heard of Beyond The Rave otherwise? – while on the other it automatically creates a weight of expectation that is almost impossible to honour.Some will want you to succeed whatever, just because of the name. Others, probably more, will want you to fail whatever, for the same reason.Then there are those who’ll say, simply, what’s the point?You can call yourself what you like, but it won’t result in any kind of instant metamorphosis. It’s interesting that there is an Ealing Films currently trading too, but oddly subjected to neither the same scrutiny nor the same challenging response to its product. There is a protective passion for Hammer out there that is almost impossible to please. Stray too far from the classic template and they’ll call you senselessly revisionist, pastiche it too accurately and they’ll call you hopelessly dated.I suppose if I belonged in any of the categories above it was the ‘what’s the point?’ one, though as a certain devotee of Hammer House of Horror I had no inflexible objection to the name’s revival, and on the whole I liked the idea. But I wasn’t all that excited about the films themselves. I managed about two minutes of Beyond the Rave (I gather that’s a world record) and a heroic fifteen or so of Wake Wood (which it turns out isn’t really a Hammer film at all).But The Resident I enjoyed, because it worked efficiently within its remit, and obviously because it brought Christopher Lee back. The New York setting was a touch provocative (though it shouldn’t be forgotten that the original Hammer psycho-thrillers it referenced were by no means predominantly English-set), and however much a casting coup Hilary Swank may have been, they should have known that you really need a dolly bird for woman-in-jeopardy roles. Still, I liked it overall, but much more importantly, I found when that red Hammer logo flashed across the screen that I did care after all, and I do like seeing the name up there again.So that’s why I went to see The Woman In Black last night in a well- rather than ill-disposed mood.Better yet, I came out the same way.It’s a film that has done the seemingly impossible: justified the use of the Hammer name, honoured the traditions of the studio’s past, evoked much of its style, and at the same time managed to appeal to a broad, modern audience that have no interest in, or perhaps even awareness of, the original films. As a film it’s good, as a juggling act it’s amazing.There have been some tellingly dogmatic objections, of the sort to which even as hopelessly romantic a reactionary as I can raise only a weary ‘so what?’ in response: the original Hammer never made a supernatural ghost story; they cut the film to get a 12 certificate; Daniel Radcliffe is too young; George Woodbridge isn’t in it. (Okay, I made the last one up, but you get the idea.)These are a priori obstacles, the kind of thing no amount of competence in the actual product can circumnavigate.I can’t think of any defining reason why they wouldn’t have made a ghost story back at Bray; and they certainly had a long and fascinating history of cutting their films to match a certificate (including an A certificate once in a w[...]



What am I bid for Hazel Court's nude scene?

2012-03-15T15:49:26.315+00:00

When I first saw the original Karloff Frankenstein, on British television in 1983, it was still missing the famous sequence in which the Monster innocently throws the little girl into the lake, expecting her to float.The notorious cut from his moving towards her to her father carrying her sodden body through the streets, vastly more unpleasant in its implications, was still unaltered, and there was little realistic expectation of the lost footage ever being restored.When it did turn up not long after I can still remember the excitement, but now that it’s the official version and no longer surprising, I feel perversely privileged to think that I was around to see the film when it was still missing.These sort of thoughts are foremost in my mind because of the recent announcement that Hammer is mounting a search for missing footage, and has highlighted the quest with a Top 6 hit list of dream snips.There is a difference, though. While the Frankenstein footage was a major chunk of the movie, the absence of which disrupted the narrative and left the film genuinely incomplete, what Hammer are looking for are for the most part merely trims, a second here and there of gore which crossed the censorial line in the fifties and sixties, and wouldn’t any more. But it’s the very fact that such moments as the head-in-acid-bath scene from Curse of Frankenstein, identified as the number one dream restoration, are no longer shocking enough to be excluded that makes their restoration an academic exercise at best. The film is not robbed by its not being there, and surely, after the first few frissons of unfamiliarity for those of us who have already seen the film a billion times, it won’t be enhanced by its being back either.There’s something a bit defensive about the exercise, as if the studio is saying to young, modern audiences: if you think Hammer has a reputation for tameness, that’s not our fault, and just wait until we start splicing all the juicy stuff back in…But an eyeball here and a cut throat there won’t make any difference to the story construction – which is what really dates the films – nor will it make the films any more shocking or thrilling or scary. For the first few watches the film will seem overbalanced by the new shots, in that they will command a share of the attention paid to the film overall that they were never intended to do when shot, then eventually we’ll get used to them and they’ll fade back into the woodwork again. It’s an interesting exercise for people like me and probably you, but that, surely, is about as far as it goes.That said, the studio’s six most wanted list does make interesting reading.There are a few surprises. No mention of Dracula’s full death scene from the ’58 original, complete with blistering face and extended shots of his crumbling hands, nor that odd shot that crops up in stills of Harker’s corrupted body after his staking. (Of course, this may have been omitted because it makes no sense: Valerie Gaunt’s body becomes that of an old hag because that’s how old she’d really be: there’s no more reason for Harker to deteriorate in this way than Lucy.)In the absence of the above, the continued fascination with the acid bath shots from Curse of Frankenstein is intriguing, especially since they have been at least partially restored now: the version currently available on DVD has shots that were still missing wh[...]