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"Hammer Films: Icons of Horror" standard DVD review

1547 Views 0 Replies 1 Participant Last post by  Richard W. Haines
This is my second Hammer set although this group of four features was released by
Columbia rather than Universal. Fortunately, the condition of the films is the same
which is to say mint without any defects and of course like all pictures from that
small studio they have excellent production value, sets, Technicolor cinematography
and performances.

Before watching any of the films, go into the menu and watch the trailers. They are
hysterical and a lot fun. The old 'hard sell' type that really teased the audience (some
distributors caused them 'teasers' instead of trailers) with over the top hype. One repeats
"Warning" "Warning" "Warning" which had me laughing out loud and another show's a woman
screaming with a picture of the optical track next to her so you can see what the photographed
sound waves look like on the print. Only other time I saw the mention of the optical track
sound was in the segment in "Fantasia" which animated it.

The movies themselves are lesser known titles but three are pretty good and the other
one is watchable.

The best of this collection is "The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll" which was photographed in
anamorphic widescreen and Technicolor. It's a very interesting twist on the Stevenson
story. Rather than becoming a monster, Jekyll becomes a charming hedonist and libertine
along the lines of Dorian Grey. No gore in this one but Paul Masse is effective in the title
role and Christopher Lee has a prominent secondary role as a fellow libertine. However there
is some swearing that you didn't hear in American films of the time and lots of bordello scenes including a rather kinky sequence of a hooker with a snake. Good flick and much better than anticipated.

Second best is "The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb". I'm not a fan of Mummy horror flicks but
this one was also a pleasant surprise and put some twists into the story which I won't reveal
here. Much more intriquing than the traditional Mummy monster on the loose. A fair amount
of gore for the time including two on screen hands getting chopped off with blood that I
wasn't expecting. No stars in this one although you'll probably recognize Fred Clark, the
American character actor. Nice atmospheric color cinematography.

"Scream of Fear" is one of the rare Hammer mystery movies along the lines of "Paranoiac".
It's in black and white widescreen and is a good film but doesn't have any horror elements.
However, it had enough plot twists to maintain interest and very nice compositions making
good use of the light and shadows.

"The Gorgon" was somewhat of a disappointment. It's certainly watchable and I had seen
stills of the Medusa make up in monster magazines of the sixties. The problem is they combined too many legends. A little bit of werewolf full moon shtick combined with Gordon mythology and then toss in the Medusa monster that turned people to stone. They should've made up their mind and it comes off like a hodgepodge of horror elements. On the plus side, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are good as always and the sets and camerawork is fine. There is some effective transitions of people gradually turning to stone like it's a form of leprosy as opposed to other movies where they instantly turn to stone. There's an on screen decapitation at the end that was cut for television broadcasts but is intact here. The film is okay but the weakest of the four.

So there you have it. With a price of $20 each title averages to the price of a video
rental at Blockbuster so it's worth it if you like Hammer product. I'm becoming more of
an afficianado after watching them uncut and in the correct ratio. The images are sharp enough to project them on a DLP so I remmend this DVD set.
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