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!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb


After the discovery of the tomb of Ra-Antef. Three men, against all warnings and threats, arrange to have the mummified remains exported to England to start a European tour with the mummy. The mummy then comes to life and begins killing various members of the expedition, but one of the members has a secret that involves the mummy's past.

The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb
is a 1964 Hammer production. It stars Terence Morgan, Ronald Howard and Fred Clark. It was directed by Michael Carreras.

George Pastell who was in 1959's The Mummy as Mehemet Bey returns in this as Hashmi Bey. As far as I'm aware this isn't a sequel to the 1959 film, so why he's dressed exactly the same in both films and has the same surname bewilders me, though he does have a different first name which confuses matters more. Now we know he's not the same character, yet he has clearly been made to look exactly the same as in The Mummy. This film is even set 5 years after the previous film, so he could easily have been made to be the same character. I really doubt that Hashmi is Mehemet's twin brother, because if he is and they dress exactly the same like their mother would have dressed them when they were babies, then that's just silly. I mean if he were his twin, and they continued doing this for a series of Mummy films, then we would end up with a Mummy franchise just like the American Pie Presents franchise. We'd be introduced to Mehemet's twin, younger brother, cousin and so on. I know Hammer reused their regular actors, but to have the same guy playing two different roles where he dresses and looks exactly the same and even has the same surname is pretty daft. This film could have been made as a sequel to The Mummy just by using the same Mr Bey in both films, but no he's a different character...though he also isn't.

Mehemet Bey, The Mummy, 1959

Hashmi Bey, The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb, 1964

I rather liked that the mummy wasn't just your everyday killer mummy, instead by the end of the film we see that he still retains his human side, when he saves a woman from being killed and then ultimately he kills himself to end his curse.

Overall, I think it was a bit slow in the first half, still good mind just a bit slow, whereas the second half was better. The film picked up once the mummy turned up, shame it took him a while to turn up in his own film. There was some good old fashioned Hammer violence intermittently from start to finish, there were a lot of hands getting chopped off which is always good in a Hammer Horror. I also liked that the mummy wasn't your typical mummy as I mentioned earlier. I enjoyed the mummy being different to what I expected. This film didn't feature any of the Hammer regulars, except George Pastell, but even he can't be classed as a hammer regular as he's only been in a few Hammer films, he's not exactly Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee. Due to it not featuring any well known Hammer regulars I figured this wouldn't be very good, as I've found the better ones tend to be saved for the Hammer regulars. But this film surprised me, I rather enjoyed it, it wasn't brilliant but it equally wasn't bad. It's a decent Hammer Horror, especially so for a Hammer featuring non-regulars.

The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb 3/5

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Evil of Frankenstein

After being chased out of town for yet again more experiments, Frankenstein returns to his home of Karlstad, where he and his young assistant, Hans, take shelter in Frankenstein's old abandoned manor house. Here he defrosts the frozen body of his first creature, the one from The Curse of Frankenstein, and begins reviving it. Physical reviving is unsuccessful, so he uses the aid of Zoltan, a hypnotist, to revive the creature's mind through hypnosis. The creature is successfully revived but only obeys Zoltan, and as such he uses the creature for his own personal gain. First, he makes the creature go to the village and steal gold from the church, then he starts making the creature “punish” certain residents of the town. But when the creature returns with blood stained fists, Zoltan is horrified that the creature has killed. When Frankenstein throws Zoltan out of his home for what he has made the creature do, Zoltan then commands the creature to kill Frankenstein.

The Evil of Frankenstein is a 1963 Hammer production. It is the sequel to 1958's The Revenge of Frankenstein and is Hammer's 3rd film in the Frankenstein series. It stars Peter Cushing, Peter Woodthorpe and Duncan Lamont. It was directed by Freddie Francis.

This film picks up presumably a while after the ending of The Revenge of Frankenstein, as he was no longer in London but some place else, so I'm led to presume he's been chased from place to place a couple of times in the 5 years between the release of the 2 films. Which I have to say is disappointing, as I really would have liked to have seen more of Dr Frank with his Moustache and monocle as seen at the end of The Revenge of Frankenstein.

The amount of violence was disappointing, the best the creature could do was thump a man against a wall. Come on! I could do that! He didn't even thump him hard enough to damage the wall.

This film completely rewrites The Curse of Frankenstein for the flashback sequences, much like how Evil Dead 2 did with the flashback sequence of The Evil Dead. Its all newly shot footage and is just generally different to the original. A few of the changes are as follows. The creature now resembles that of Boris Karloff in the 1930s Frankenstein films as opposed to Christopher Lee in the actual film its meant to be a flashback of. The creature is seen to have fell into a glacier and was frozen, whereas in The Curse of Frankenstein the creature fell into a bath of acid and was dissolved. Then Frankenstein states that he was then ordered to leave town and never return, when in actuality he was sentenced to death, but escaped the guillotine in The Revenge of Frankenstein. For these reasons and more, lots of fans regard this film to be non-canon, like The Horror of Frankenstein which was a remake of The Curse of Frankenstein.

On a lighter note. It has to be said, I for one, did not expect to see Batman and Robin in this film.

I'd say this is an average Frankenstein film, a bit of a disappointment but all the same pretty average, it's neither bad nor great, just ok. So far it's definitely the worst Frankenstein film I've reviewed. I'd say it's easily miss-able but of course if you fancy watching it then by all means do, just don't expect it to be as good as the previous 2 films.

The Evil of Frankenstein 3/5

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Taste the Blood of Dracula


Weller, an English Businessman, travelling through Eastern-Europe witnesses the events from the end of Dracula Has Risen From the Grave. The man collects Dracula's blood which has become a power substance, along with his cape and his ring. Some time later, three gentlemen go to a brothel, there they encounter Lord Courtley who takes them to buy Dracula's blood from Weller in order to perform a ceremony. Courtley fills four goblets with the blood of Dracula, one for each of the men including himself. The three men refuse to drink the blood, so with Courtley being the only one willing to finish the ceremony he is left to drink the blood alone. After drinking from the goblet, he falls to the ground screaming in pain begging for the three men to help him. But instead they beat him to death and flee the scene, returning to their everyday lives. The dead body of Lord Courtley then transforms into Dracula, here he vows to avenge his servant's death by killing those who killed Courtley.

Taste the Blood of Dracula is a 1970 Hammer production. It is the sequel to 1968's Dracula Has Risen From The Grave. It stars Christopher Lee, Linda Hayden and Anthony Corlan. It was directed by Peter Sasdy.

I really like the way that this film actually picks up exactly where the previous one left off, in fact it picks up before the point on which the other one ended, but the story ties in with the previous film's ending. This I feel was a really interesting story telling method which makes Dracula Has Risen From The Grave and Taste the Blood of Dracula an almost 2 part story. Which I like just because it was a different approach from Hammer.

Due to Christopher Lee's increasing reluctance to reprise the role of Dracula, the film was originally written without him and instead written to have Lord Courtley become the new vampire of the Dracula series, he was intended to become a vampire after his death at the hands of the three gentlemen and then exact his revenge upon them. But Hammer's American distributor refused to release the film without Dracula in it, so Hammer had to convince Lee to return. I personally think it would have been a bit naff to continue the series without Dracula, it then would have became a non-Dracula franchise claiming to be a Dracula franchise, but I do think they could have got away with it for this one. Afterall the title is Taste the Blood of Dracula, which Lord Courtley does do in the film, so I think the film could have worked as a Dracula-lite film, much like 1960's The Brides of Dracula. That way Hammer could then have picked up once again with Lee as Dracula for the next one. This would have not only given Christopher Lee a break from the role but also audiences a break from the character, leaving them anticipating his return.

Vincent Price was originally cast to play one of the three gentlemen, but when the film's budget got cut they could no longer afford him. Which is a shame really, it would have been nice to have seen Vincent Price alongside Christopher Lee in a Dracula film, all that would have been missing then would have been Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, and then there ladies and gentlemen we would have the perfect Hammer Horror.

Notably, there was some interesting camera work and visuals, I liked the use of the camera zooming in on Lord Courtley's face in rhythm to the throbbing of a heartbeat. There was also the rotating camera, showing Dracula's point of view looking down from the top of the window inside the church, which gives us the same dizzy, vertigo sensation that Dracula presumably is going through. I also really liked the use of a cross that has a blinding light on the side facing Dracula, I just thought it was really cool.

It was nice to see Ralph Bates in the film, true he didn't have a big role but it was vital to the story, after all Lord Courtley is the one that resurrects Dracula. Just would have been nice to have had him in it a bit longer than he was, it's always a treat to see a Hammer with Ralph Bates in. It's a shame he wasn't in many. But the ones he is in are rather good.

Just like the previous Dracula film, Dracula Has Risen From The Grave, the certificate this film received at the time bewilders me, in America it got a GP rating, which is the equivalent to nowadays PG rating, even though the film contains nudity and violence. Yet when the film got released in America on DVD it got an R rating. What can I say it was a different time.

There are some good deaths, these include one of the three gentlemen getting a spade to the head. Another one played by Peter “Wallace” Sallis getting a stake through the heart, vampires' revenge I call it. They're sick of getting staked all the time so they've decided to do it in return on a non-vampire.

Overall, I rather liked this Dracula film, it was definitely an improvement on the previous one. I think Peter Sasdy, director of other Hammer films including 1971's Hands of the Ripper, did a good job with this film. The dark, eerie atmosphere was well executed and as I mentioned earlier he gave the film some quirky camera angles which I rather liked. I liked the plot, I liked the idea of Dracula on a revenge mission, as opposed to just randomly killing people. I also loved the creative ways for Dracula to exact his revenge; spade to the head, staking a non-vampire. The only thing this film was missing was Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, but I say that every time I review a Dracula film without him in it, so I guess you can take that to mean this is a pretty good Dracula film.

Taste the Blood of Dracula 4/5

Monday, 6 September 2010

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave


One year has passed since Dracula was defeated in Dracula: Prince of Darkness. A Monsignor visits the village that was once terrorized by Dracula, only to discover that the villagers still live in fear of the vampire. The local priest has lost his faith and the villagers don't attend the church for mass because “the shadow of his castle touches it”. In order to end their fear of the long since gone vampire, the Monsignor climbs to Castle Dracula to perform an exorcism. In the process of the exorcism the priest, who climbed part of the way with the Monsignor, falls and hits his head and at the same time cracks the ice which Dracula lays frozen in. Unbeknown to the Monsignor, who is still conducting the exorcism, blood from the priest's head spills into Dracula's lips and re-awakens him. Dracula wastes no time in hypnotizing the priest into being his servant, and begins his reign of terror once again (obviously).

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave is a 1968 Hammer production and is the sequel to 1966's Dracula: Prince of Darkness. It marked Hammer's 4th film in their Dracula series. It stars Christopher Lee, Rupert Davies and Veronica Carlson. It was directed by Freddie Francis.

Upon looking up the poster for this film's review I discovered it had several, several of which were made with a comical design. The reason for this is beyond me, it's not like the film is made with a comical approach, it's a straight forward horror like all the rest. But the advertising campaign was somewhat comedy orientated. This was done by adding comical taglines to the poster these include, “You can't keep a good man down!”, “I always said he had plenty of get up and go!”, “Boy does he give a hickey!” and adding (obviously) after the title Dracula Has Risen From The Grave. The other comical poster has a photograph of a woman, who has clearly been bitten by Dracula, with two elastoplasts on her throat.

Another thing that confuses me about this film is the rating. It got rated G for the general public. It's a Dracula film, you know, for kids. Though I wouldn't say its suitable for kids at all. I wouldn't say there's as much violence as in the previous Dracula films, thinking in particular to that of Dracula: Prince of Darkness and it's controversial throat cutting scene, but there is still some. A couple of scenes in particular include one scene where Dracula gets stabbed with a stake whilst sleeping in his coffin to which masses of blood oozes out around the stake. Then there is the climactic ending, which I'll get to in a bit. It will continue to bewilder me as to how this film passed for a G rating, it wouldn't pass for a U rating now, in fact the DVD is 15 rated, so how on earth did it pass for a G rating back in 1968?!

The climactic ending is brilliant, if it weren't for the ending I would have been rather disappointed by this film, it's not bad but it in no way is as good as it's predecessors. But the climactic ending is brilliant, it has to be the best death Dracula gets in the entire Hammer series (as far as I can remember). He falls from his castle and lands on a giant golden cross which pierces right through his back and out of his chest. To which he begins bleeding from his eyes when the priest starts praying, then eventually he perishes and all that's left is the cross, a puddle of blood and his cape. The only thing that could have made this scene even better is if Peter Cushing's Van Helsing had been in it, but as is it's still really good.

I think practically everyone in this film was hammy and melodramatic. Hell, I'd say the entire cast overshadowed Christopher Lee by their collective of hammy acting. The story isn't great, and all in all this isn't the best Hammer Dracula that I've reviewed so far, in fact out of the 4 it's probably the worst, not to say it's terrible because it's not, but I find the other 3 to be so much better. But again, I have to say the ending improved my opinion of the film considerably. It's an average Dracula film and is worth watching even just for the ending.

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave 3/5 (obviously)