Here’s a collection that was part of the Halloween celebration last month I guested on over at Lance Writes …..
Time to turn my thoughts once again to the films we love to revisit during the Halloween season. Last year, Lance Lumley, invited me over to his site, Lance Writes, as a guest blogger and has kindly done so once again for the 2019 season. For my previous entry I focused on my five favorite duets of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Feel free to check them out here.
As Mr. Lee and Mr. Cushing are quite often associated to the Studio That Dripped Blood, Hammer Films, I thought I’d shine the light on some other titles from the studio that did not star either one of the dynamic duo of horror. To do so I reached for my handy copy of Hammer Films : An Exhaustive Filmography from writers Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio from McFarland Publishing.
Let the debates begin but here are five titles I’ve come up with for today. Ask me tomorrow and I may change my tune and after thumbing through that book I’m not sure how I’m going to narrow this to five so you can definitely expect some honorable mentions at the bottom of the page.
Here we go in no specific order…..
Plague of the Zombies (1966)
Directed by John Gilling and starring the very dependable Andre Morell, this Hammer outing was like discovering a new flavor of ice cream when I first saw it thanks to it’s release on VHS tape via Anchor Bay in the clam shell case. I guess one could argue that Morell scores the Cushing role as a man trying to find out what is terrorizing a small community while John Carson scores the Lee role. Meaning he’s the villain who has been dabbling with voodoo dolls and raising the dead.
The production has that gorgeous Hammer look and feel to it that fans have come to recognize and of course character player Michael Ripper makes his customary appearance to give us that warm and comfortable feeling. Highly recommended if you’ve somehow missed this one that I think has gained in popularity thanks to the home video market. Oh, and I’m totally convinced if this had starred either Lee or Cushing or better still, both, it would have been one of Hammer’s more popular titles looking back.
One Million Years B.C. (1966)
Another outing from 1966 proved to be a memorable one for different reasons. As a kid there’s no doubt that it was the special effects of stop motion master, Ray Harryhausen. Any film that turned up on TV featuring his amazing work was always a reason for celebration and would cause this young hockey player to forgo the neighborhood road hockey game to stay indoors and watch the Saturday matinee on TV. The teen years hit and you’d still be forgoing the road hockey match because you wanted to watch Raquel Welch parading around in a caveman era bikini. Now that I’ve aged into fatherhood I’m not sure which reason becomes more prevalent. Harryhausen or Welch?
Either way this one is worth looking into for both reasons though it’s all rather silly in the end. Still, a must see for the work of Harryhausen. A true genius of whose importance to cinema goes far beyond the films of Hammer thus making my list of films to see.
Hammer dabbled in a number of Psycho like tales once Hitchcock unleashed the story of Norman Bates upon the world. For this effort from director, Freddie Francis, making his debut for the studio, a suitably brooding Oliver Reed has been cast in the lead role playing a troubled young man awaiting an inheritance to finally be awarded to him. His parents are long dead as is a missing brother who supposedly committed suicide years ago. Problems arise when the long thought dead brother arrives at the estate shortly before the money is handed over to the alcoholic Ollie.
Ollie an alcoholic hellraiser? Perish the thought!
I’ve always liked this one and that’s in large part because I’ve always been a fan of the cinema’s number one badass, Reed. Director Francis would go on to do a number of Hammer films including both a Frankenstein and Dracula title as well as guiding a number of Amicus titles starring both Peter and Christopher.
Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971)
Bizarre twist on the famous Stevenson tale has the perfect casting. Ralph Bates as the good Doctor and look-a-like Martine Beswick as the murderous Hyde. Roy ward Baker takes the directing duties for this colorful tale of Victorian England that the studio excelled at. There’s not a lot to explain here. If you know the story of Jekyll and Hyde (assuming you have a pulse then you should know it) then the title gives all the plot points you’ll need to understand about what’s going to be happening to poor Ralph Bates.
Exploitative? You bet and by this time the studio had been dabbling in lesbians vampires and nudity. No lovely vampires cross over into the Jekyll story but Miss Beswick does offer up some skin for those looking to get a more intimate look at one of Sean Connery’s Bond girls.
I know it’s a Halloween theme but I can’t list my Hammer favorites without including this superb police drama starring the one and only Stanley Baker…..
Hell Is a City (1960)
Baker is a precursor to Dirty Harry as a cop looking to take down a murderer on the loose in Manchester. To do so he plays it mean and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. The killer is effectively played by John Crawford who has escaped from prison and managed to pull off a heist. What Baker doesn’t yet know is all the crimes committed in the story are connected but with some forceful interrogation of key suspects he’s going to begin to connect the dots.
The film also stars Billie Whitelaw and in his only appearance for Hammer, Donald Pleasence. One would think that Donald should have been a sure fit for the studio’s many thrillers but it wasn’t meant to be.
This is another film that I had no idea of it’s existence until Anchor Bay released it on VHS for home video. Funny thing is I remember putting off purchasing it till I had all the other releases first. The reason? Cause it wasn’t a horror film and Hammer for me had always represented horror. As the years and film studies would go by I’d learn that they had a number of Noir tales in the books as well prior to Curse of Frankenstein that changed their fortunes and direction for the years ahead.
Be sure to watch this one. A solid gangster film and one that’s worthy to make a best of list when it comes to naming top British gangster pictures. Having already spotlighted this one as part of a Stanley Baker fest feel free to click here to learn more.
I know, I know, where’s Captain Kronos? Tell me about it, that one’s got Caroline Munro! And how could you totally ignore Countess Dracula and the Quatermaas films? Honestly when it comes the Quatermaas films, I really like the first two but am less then enamored of the third film which seems to be the one most others like the best. On that note, X-The Unknown is also a good one alongside The Snorkel starring a deadly Peter Van Eyck. For a dose of real terror that was years ahead of it’s time one should check out Never Take Sweets From a Stranger. A chilling studio entry that’s just as relevant today as it was then.
I guess the bottom line is I would encourage one and all to look beyond the usual titles and films that featured Lee and Cushing. Hammer fans will of course be familiar with all the titles above but for those that are not then hopefully I’ve given you something to track down and enjoy. Thanks to Lance for having me over to share some fun titles for the pumpkin season.
I too got the “Dirty Harry” vibe from HELL IS A CITY and oddly enough John Crawford also pops up as the Mayor in THE ENFORCER.
Just thought I’d list a few of my “most wanted” missing Hammers.
THE STEEL BAYONET a black & white war film in widescreen with Leo Genn and the wonderful Michael Ripper also on board.
THE MEN OF SHERWOOD FOREST from Val Guest has Don Taylor as Robin Hood.
BREAK IN THE CIRCLE also Val Guest is spy stuff with Forrest Tucker and Eva Bartok.
Also very keen to see the Joseph Losey short MAN ON THE BEACH made in colour and ‘scope.
Yes indeed. Mr. Mayor who needed Tyne Daly to come to the rescue. Thanks for the recommendations. Have Steel Bayonet so that one I’ll be getting too sometime soon. Also finally scored a copy of Shadow of the Cat and hoping for good things.
Only two I’ve heard of from your list…’Hell is a City’ (which two years after you reviewed it I still haven’t tracked down) and of course One Million Years BC. I’m interested in seeing both ‘Zombies’ and ‘Sister Hyde’…and yes, I’d have to say leaving any Ingrid Pitt film off the list is pure sacrilege!
Ah yes, Miss Pitt. Thought that might upset someone. Countess Dracula. I’d include the Vampire Lovers if it weren’t for Peter Cushing’s appearance. Love that film.
Great recommendations! One Million Years BC is so great and Jeckyl and Sister Hyde is one of my favorite Hammer films, Ralph Bates is one of my favorites! Hands of the Ripper is another good Hammer film minus Lee or Cushing that I would recommend and yes, anything with Ingrid! I love Stanley Baker in anything and I’ve had Hell is a City on my list for awhile, will definitely check it out.
I thought of Hands of the Ripper and Vampire Circus and while I like them both I never saw them till way past my early years so they don’t have those great childhood memories attached to them like the many of the Studios other titles. Great films though.
I have the UK Blu Ray for Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde, and I love the film. I watched it as part of my first Halloween a Thon on my page here. I liked the whole Battle of the Sexes feel to it, though I wish they had more screen time for Martine Beswick as she was fabulous. I would also include Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, the Mummy’s Shroud, and Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb as well, as they’re all fun to watch, especially Blood From as the ending had me thinking about the film for days afterwards.
And it’s too bad Cushing had to bow out of Blood From just a day or two into production after the death of his wife. Good film. Miss Beswick is a treat. Seen her twice now at conventions and her stories are full of fun as she looks back over her many films.
Wow sir Mike I never knew One Million Years BC was a Hammer film. Damn that Raquel for just being too darn sexy. But yeah Ray’s stuff might play second fiddle but it’s nearly as good to ogle at. Hell Is A City is a perfect film I believe. I loved it so much.
Now the other three I haven’t seen before and have excitingly reached for the note pad. They have now been added. Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde does sound like fun.
Also I’ve just found a copy of The Snorkel, in the honorable mentions, which I’ve been itching to see. Hopefully will see that soon.
Note to self…. I need more Hammer in my life!
One can never see or rewatch enough Hammer films in one’s life. Cushing, Lee and bosomy Hammer beauties await! Get to it.
Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) is a fascinating little movie. Fantastic casting: the actors look like twins!
They do look so alike in those photo shoots.