This blog is a place for Me to review classic British films (in particular horror films) by Hammer, Amicus and the like. But I will occasionally branch out and review international films as these are the international counterpart to the British films, some of which will include works by American International Pictures, Mario Bava et al. I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde

Whilst experimenting to develop an elixir for eternal life, Dr Jekyll creates a serum made up of Female hormones. The reason for this being that he has concluded that female hormones have stronger life than male hormones, for example how women manage to not go bald whereas men do. After believing he has accomplished his goal, he drinks the serum but not all goes to plan as he becomes a woman; Sister Hyde. Dr Jekyll needs more female hormones to create more of his serum, and after Burke and Hare, the two men doing the dirty work for him, get punished by the public for their crimes, Jekyll himself has to go out committing murders in order to get the bodies he needs. The more he does it the more his Hyde side likes it and begins trying to take over. Here the battle begins, the battle of the sexes, the battle for control.

Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde is a 1971 Hammer production based on Robert Louis Stevenson's short story, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It's a retelling of the classic tale but with a twist, he doesn't turn into a monster of a man, but into a woman. It stars Ralph Bates as Dr Jekyll and Martine Beswick as Sister Hyde. It was directed by Roy Ward Baker.

This isn't the only time Hammer have remade a film or franchise they have already made, but made it a black comedy. The only other one I know of is The Horror of Frankenstein which was a retelling of the original Frankenstein tale but with an added dark humour. Both The Horror of Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde star Ralph Bates in the title roles. Maybe it was a possible future direction Hammer was heading in, to remake certain tales with added humour and have Ralph Bates in all of them, much like the use of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in most others. Or maybe it was just a coincidence. But I have to say it would have been nice to have had some other Hammer black comedy remakes with Ralph Bates. Ralph Bates, much like other Hammer regulars, was a good actor and an enjoyable person to watch in these films, obviously not as good as the classic icons of Hammer; Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, but he's certainly up there.

Although it's made with a tongue in cheek black comedy approach, I didn't find it had a lot of humour in it, except the obvious comical element that he turns into a woman instead of Mr Hyde. But what is a funny sight is in the middle of a scene where Hyde is killing Jekyll's friend, Hyde begins changing between herself and Jekyll, so in other words we get to see Ralph Bates in a corset. Another funny plot development is that of Jekyll and his neighbour, Susan, taking a fancy to each other just as Susan's brother and Jekyll's “sister” Hyde take a fancy to each other too. We've seen love triangles done again and again, but I think this is the first and only time I've seen a love square.

I liked the inclusion of historical aspects to the story, these include Burke and Hare who gather the women's bodies for Dr Jekyll, and then there's Jack the Ripper who is actually Jekyll collecting the bodies for himself then Hyde who begins killing for the fun of it.

Overall, I really liked it. It was at the time a new take on the classic tale that has been adapted and remade so many times, so to take it and put a twist on the story was something of ingenuity and I think quite a brilliant move for Hammer, especially when you think about other franchises they did like Dracula and Frankenstein where they just churned out sequel after sequel after sequel. Now I have nothing against the Dracula and Frankenstein franchises I love both. But I really appreciate Hammer taking a story we've seen so many times before and instead of just doing the same thing again, changing one major element and through that creating something original, even though it is actually an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's story.

Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde 4/5

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Dracula: Prince of Darkness

Two Couples are travelling together to Carlsbad, along the way the coach driver leaves them stranded as it's getting near dark. They take advantage of an empty, driverless horse and carriage which turns up out of nowhere, but once they board it the horses begin taking them in the opposite direction to Carlsbad and instead to Castle Dracula. They are greeted at the castle by Dracula's servant, who states he was told by Dracula to look after guests even after his death. Later that night, the servant uses the blood from one of the men to resurrect Dracula from his ashes. Here his reign of terror begins once again.

Dracula: Prince of Darkness is a 1966 Hammer production. It is the sequel to 1960's The Brides of Dracula and is Hammer's third Dracula film. It stars Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley and Andrew Keir. It was directed by Terence Fisher.

It was nice to see Peter Cushing make an appearance even though he wasn't in the film, this was achieved by opening the film with the final scenes of Dracula, in which Van Helsing destroys Dracula through the use of a candle stick cross and the sun.

This film taught me one thing that warming your backside is an “earthly pleasure” stated by Andrew Keir's Father Sandor as he warms his backside on an open fire with glee.

This Dracula film is notable for two things. Firstly, the controversial scene in which one of the men gets his throat slit while hung upside down above Dracula's coffin, allowing the blood to pour from his throat into the coffin filled with Dracula's ashes. Secondly, Dracula doesn't speak a single word throughout the entire film, the reason for this is from one of two claims. One being that Christopher Lee states that when he saw the script he refused to speak the dialogue, the other being that the screen writer, Jimmy Sangster, didn't write any dialogue for Dracula as he didn't believe vampires should speak and instead should be a visual image of horror.

Dracula is portrayed really well in this film, the technique of having him with no dialogue is brilliant. It creates a visual image of horror, as opposed to a creepy voice or whatever, the character relies on Christopher Lee over acting and heightening Dracula's actions, resulting in a completely visualised depiction of horror to instate fear without anything other than sight.

What can I say, for what (as far as I'm aware) is considered to be the best of the Hammer Dracula films, I disagree. Don't get me wrong it is rather good, but I stick with my previous statement that 1958's Dracula is the best in the series. Though there are some dodgy effects, like the sun setting in a matter of seconds and in the controversial scene whenever there is a shot with the man within it there isn't any blood dripping yet we can still hear it, but when its a shot of the coffin there is masses of blood pouring into it from off screen. In fact the blood is almost wiggling all over the place as the source of the blood appears to be moving from off screen as the blood is pouring, almost as if the man is being shook about as he hangs. But these aren't important, they don't spoil the film they're just noticeable. The film is fun and enjoyable and all round a decent Dracula film but I wouldn't agree that it's the best one. Maybe it's just that I feel it was missing Peter Cushing too much I don't know, but it's definitely worth a look either way.

Dracula: Prince of Darkness 3/5

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Revenge of Frankenstein

SPOILER ALERT This review contains spoilers SPOILER ALERT

The film picks up where the first one left off, with Frankenstein heading for the guillotine. He escapes his execution thanks to his faithful assistant Karl, who has made a deal with the baron to save him from the guillotine in return for a new body, as karl has a fine brain but his body is deformed. Frankenstein relocates to Carlsbruck, where he poses as Dr Stein, a voluntary doctor helping the poor. After one of the Medical board doctors recognises him and wants to work alongside him, Frankenstein accepts and they begin work on his new project. Using the amputated limbs of the patients at his clinic, he builds a new body for Karl's brain. Previous experiments into transplanting brains into other bodies have gone wrong, one such experiment was that of a monkey who after the operation ate another monkey. But Frankenstein is confident this won't happen to Karl. All appears to be going well, Karl just needs time to adjust to his new body but when he learns of Frankenstein's plans for him; to be exhibited to scientists from all around the world, to be constantly stared at which he already has been his whole life for being different, he then escapes and Frankenstein's plans begin to fall apart.

The Revenge of Frankenstein is a 1958 Hammer Production and is the sequel to 1957's The Curse of Frankenstein. It stars Peter Cushing, Francis Matthews, Eunice Gayson and Michael Gwynn. It was directed by Terence Fisher.

What I felt was a nice touch in this film was the idea that he is operating using living organs, as opposed to using dead people's body parts which in itself is nasty, I liked how Frankenstein had moved up a notch and was amputating patients' limbs for his own end. This I thought was pretty dark and really effective for a Hammer film.

I love the fact that Frankenstein is this genius of a scientist but when it comes to creating aliases he's not very good. He moves to Carlsbruck and calls himself Dr Stein, later in the film he relocates to London and calls himself Dr Franck. As Dr Stein he doesn't even wear a disguise, he looks exactly the same at least as Dr Franck he does actually try, he has a moustache and a monocle. But the names aren't even unrecognisable, what's next? Dr Frank Victor? Dr Frank Stein? Dr Franklin Stein? Hell why not just call himself Dr Frank N. Stein? Very imaginative. His imagination aside, people do actually fall for it. Literally everyone believes he is this new doctor and in no way could be Dr Victor Frankenstein, only one guy recognises him as Frankenstein, and even he is a fan of his and wants to work with him.

I really enjoyed the ending, I think it must be one of very few Hammer films that doesn't end abruptly, usually right after the baddie is killed then the credits roll. Instead this has the whole monster ordeal then there is the operation to save Frankenstein's life by putting his brain into a new body. Then the film cuts to London, where we see Dr Franck's clinic and we see that Frankenstein is still alive and presumably HE'S AT IT AGAIN. Which I have to say I really like this kind of ending, now the abrupt ones work with Hammer films as it leaves it open for a direct continuation of the story, but I like this ending, its a novelty and it really effectively works. A similar sort of ending, the whole HE'S AT IT AGAIN ending, also features in The Quatermass Xperiment which I also really liked.

On the whole I liked The Revenge of Frankenstein. This is a good sequel, a good Hammer and a good Frankenstein film. I all round enjoyed it. I found the violence was a bit tame for Hammer mind, it was actually more bloody in the previous Frankenstein film. But that didn't matter much, the story was still good and the film was still enjoyable.

The Revenge of Frankenstein 4/5