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!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Man Who Could Cheat Death

SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! SPOILER ALERT!

Paris 1890. Dr Bonnet (a scientist and an artist) is celebrating his latest sculpture. Little do people know that he is harbouring a dark secret, a secret that has allowed him to live to the ripe old age of 104, yet he only looks 35. Dr Bonnet has achieved this by replacing his glands every 10 years. But he needs living glands to replace his own with, hence he needs a living person every 10 years. As he has lived for a long time a pattern has began to emerge; every ten years a young woman goes missing who posed for an artist who was also a doctor, each missing person happened in a different place as Dr Bonnet has moved from place to place to keep a low profile. But now a detective is on his trail, and Dr Bonnet is in desperate need of a gland transplant as he's currently only surviving on a serum that keeps him alive for 6 hours per dosage.



The Man Who Could Cheat Death is a 1959 Hammer Production. It stars Anton Diffring, Hazel Court and Christopher Lee. It was directed by Terence Fisher. It's a remake of the 1945 film The Man in Half Moon Street which itself is based on a play of the same name.

Firsty, Anton Diffring is really good in this. Accompanied by his melodramatic acting and upper class German accent, he's great as the mad scientist (and artist) hell bent on living forever. His acting style and accent only help to aid the eeriness of his character. As far as I'm aware he wasn't in any other Hammers, which is a wonder because he's really good and it's just a shame he didn't get to feature in any others. He is in another British horror though, Circus of Horrors, which I'm now interested in seeing just because of him.



All hail the Hazel Court side boob. She's modelling for Dr Bonnet and as this is the early days of Hammer the extremity of nudity we get is a shot of Hazel Court's naked back with the glimpse of a side boob. Oh how this would change in future films, Hammers would come to be known for their violence and nudity.




I don't get why when Dr Bonnet is ageing up and going mouldy, if he touches someone they burn at his touch. Their skin literally scorches at his very touch. We see him do it to two people, now it looks good but I just don't get why it happens. The first time looks the best when he grabs a woman by her arm and puts his hand over her mouth to stop her from screaming and it leaves a scorched hand print over her mouth.

The story seems quite similar to Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. Both have a protagonist who has achieved a way of never ageing or dying, whether it be through the use of a painting or by simply getting a gland transplant every 10 years.

Now that's an interesting touch. As Dr Bonnet nears the end of his 10 years with one set of glands, he can survive on a serum but needs to take it every 6 hours otherwise he'll die. Now the bit that interested me is that if he doesn't take the serum then he'll begin to receive all 104 years at once as well as all the diseases and illnesses he has avoided over the years by getting his gland transplants. Now I'm guessing that's why when he touches people they burn, although that doesn't properly explain it it's the only explanation we get.



Now I don't get why the woman from the start, the first person we see Dr Bonnet kill, well I figured he'd killed her seen as he scorched her skin and then took her glands for himself, I don't get how she's still alive at the end of the film. Dr Bonnet has her in a cage but now she appears to have gone insane. Unlike the other part I pointed out earlier that confused me, this doesn't receive any form of explanation so it beats me.

This is a poor Hammer film and a big disappointment, I had such high expectations for it because after seeing the poster and the trailer I was left really looking forward to it and as such I expected it to be a pretty decent Hammer film but instead after seeing it I was left simply disappointed. There was stuff happening of course, but for most of the film there didn't seem to be a lot happening. At times (and it saddens me to say this) it was boring. It seemed to lack the entertainment and dynamism of other more well known Hammer films. Now by all means it wasn't terrible but I definitely wouldn't call it good. The ending seemed potentially promising and left me thinking (and hoping) it might pick up a bit, as in the final scenes we see a fire brake out and Dr Bonnet start to go full on mouldy, but even that was short lived. On a lighter note, I really enjoyed Anton Diffring's performance, he's great especially when he goes all wide eyed and stressed out because his serum has run out and he's beginning to age and go green. To sum up, I wouldn't recommend this Hammer film, maybe to an already established fan of Hammer, but to a new comer I can imagine it only putting them off Hammer before they've even tried some of the good ones.

The Man Who Could Cheat Death 2/5

Monday, 17 January 2011

ANNOUNCEMENT - The Double Take Radio Show Download is Now Available

Hi But We're British! readers,

If you were unfortunate enough to miss my radio debut on the Saturday 15th January edition of Double Take or would simply like to listen to it again then follow the link below. Which will take you to the Double Take blog, where you can download it as a podcast and listen to it as much as you like. Enjoy!

http://doubletakeontheradio.blog.com/2011/01/17/download-show-7/

Thanks for your time,

Andy

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Scars of Dracula

SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! SPOILER ALERT!

A bat drips blood onto the remains of Dracula which resurrects him. As he lie sleeping in his crypt, the local villagers come to burn the castle down. They get past his servant and manage to burn part of the castle but Dracula survives. When the villagers return to the church where their wife's had been hiding they are horrified to discover that Dracula has controlled some bats to kill them all. From now on the villagers live in absolute fear of the Count and isolate themselves from anyone other than the other locals. So when a young man (Paul) comes wanting somewhere to stay the local pub landlord sends him on his way and leaves him with nowhere other than the castle to go to. At the castle he becomes Dracula's prisoner. The young man's brother (Simon) along with his fiancée (Sarah) pass through the local village searching for his Paul. None of them are willing to help except for one young woman who tells them that he went to the castle. After getting in the castle and discovering the truth about the Count they manage to escape, but shortly after and with the help of the local priest they return to battle the Count and save his brother.



Scars of Dracula is a 1970 Hammer Production. It stars Christopher Lee, Patrick Troughton and Dennis Waterman. It was directed by Roy Ward Baker. From what I've read this was planned to be the first of a new series of Dracula films but at the distributor's insistence the resurrection scene was added at the start of the film.

I think by this point we can just accept that Dracula is with us for good, he's never going to die no matter how many times we've actually seen him die. I mean how many times and in how many different ways can he be resurrected after turning to dust? This said I still really enjoy the Dracula films though, even with his constant deaths and resurrections, I enjoy seeing how imaginative each one can be. I have to say the death in this film I did not expect but I'll come to that later.

OH MY GIDDY AUNT! It's Patrick Troughton!



I love Dracula's Bat Alarm clock. Although it's no use as Dracula is obviously a deep sleeper, it flies above him squawking and squawking yet he still sleeps through it. Either he's a deep sleeper or it's one of those crappy alarm clocks, hell I don't want one any more.

Then we see Simon and Sarah at a social gathering to celebrate Sarah's birthday. Hold on, her birthday cake is Christmas cake! There's a huge group of people at this birthday celebration and not one of them could afford to get her some Victoria Sponge? Tight Bastards.

Yey! Dennis Waterman. I wonder if he sang the theme tune.



There is a very Carry On-esque moment. Paul is in bed with a woman, then he suddenly says he has to go, she assumes he is leaving to meet another woman (why he didn't deny it I don't know, afterall he was only going to his brother's fiancée's birthday bash) and she chases him down the stairs wearing nothing except the bed sheet. Then her father walks in, she accuses him of trying to interfere with her to which the father grabs him by the scruff of the neck in a comical fashion shouting things like “You young swine?!”. Just what Dracula needs, y'know the whole raunchy, bawdy comedy and sexual mishaps style comedy. Comedy? But this is Hammer. THIS IS HAMMER!

Dracula brutally stabbing a female vampire was both horrible and funny, horrible because of what it was, but funny ...also because of what it was. Why would he stab her? Why would he stab her with a knife? And how does a knife manage to kill her? She's a vampire! Use a steak! You should know this Dracula, God knows you must have been killed via a steak in at least one of your many deaths.

I have to give credit to the visual effects in this, they're actually rather good. Obviously by today's standards they're not but for 1970 I think they're pretty good. The make up on the victims attacked by the bats looked pretty gristly and good for that reason. The model effects for the castle are rather good too, the castle itself isn't bad but most of all the shots when the camera is looking down the side of the castle and we see right down the edge of a cliff, the effects on that bit alone were surprisingly good.



There is such a bad continuity error that keeps losing more and more continuity every time we see it. Paul got Sarah a picture of herself in a frame as a birthday present, but the glass got cracked at some unseen point when it was in his jacket. The crack is constantly changing direction every time we see it. Originally its a vertical crack, then at one point its a diagonal crack then it's a horizontal crack, and for the whole film it can't decide which way to stay. I just don't get how that could even happen, it's one prop which for the whole film has been cracked, so no change has had to have been made to it yet there's still this constant continuity error, how difficult is it to keep one prop the same for the whole film?

Oh! That is nasty. When Simon finally finds Paul in Dracula's crypt, he is dead and hung up on a hook on the wall which has pierced right through him and is sticking out of his chest. This is horrible but looks really good, so again more credit to the effects team on this one.



Dracula scaling his castle wall is an instant win. Not only for being awesome but for being the first time a film has attempted to capture the famous wall climbing scene from Bram Stoker's original novel.



Sarah is a bit shit, now I understand a bat was flying at her trying to bite the cross from around her neck and yank it away, but come on she just stood there gasping. The bat was struggling anyway to even get a hold of the cross so surely she could have just hit it. COME ON! PUNCH THE BLOODY THING!

I don't really know what to think about Dracula's death. It definitely got me by surprise but is surprise enough to make it a good death. I mean Dracula's had some great deaths over the years; the combination of a candlestick cross and sunlight, landing on a cross. And there's also been the not so great ones; realising he's in a church and falling onto the altar, and falling into water for instance. But this I mainly like purely for it's surprise factor. Simon throws a metal pole into Dracula's chest, the pole is then struck by lightning setting him on fire. Burning him to death as he falls and plunges off the castle. Like I said it's definitely not one I saw coming, and for that I have to give it credit and I suppose it's a decent death, it definitely beats fresh running water.

Overall, I liked it. This film (from what I've read on other sites) seems to get a bad rap but I liked it, aside from the unnecessary Carry On bit it was quite a good Dracula film (now I like my Carry On's but it just didn't seem right having a place in a Hammer Horror). The visuals were pretty good, the story was decent enough and I liked the cast, it was great to see Patrick Troughton and Dennis Waterman in a Hammer, what can I say Hammer they could be so good for you.

Scars of Dracula 3/5

Saturday, 8 January 2011

ANNOUNCEMENT - I will be appearing on the radio

Hi But We're British! readers,

For all you who are interested, I will be appearing on the local radio show Double Take. I will be on there to discuss "Hammer Horror" in it's generic sense, meaning British horror films of the time that had a similar look and feel to Hammer Productions, these include Amicus, Tigon and the like. I will also be giving an insight into how I got into "Hammer Horror" and I will also be talking about my all time favourite film, and no it's not a British horror. [GASP]

Double Take will be on Saturday 15th January at 1pm on CVFM 104.5FM, but depending on what area you live in though that may vary to 104.4 or 104.6, or alternatively tune in online at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/cvfm-live.

Thanks for your time,

Andy

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

ANNOUNCEMENT - Films to get a Revisited Review

Hi But We're British! readers,

I'm posting this just to let you know that in the near future I will begin re-reviewing my first 13 films (and possibly the 14th but I haven't fully decided on that one yet). I will do these revisited reviews every now and then whilst I'm still doing the new reviews. This is because after these reviews my review style and format changed as you will have noticed, I don't beleive my old style is as good as the current one and it has left these films poorly reviewed. Amongst them are some gems, one of my personal favourites Dracula as it is goes reviewed to a standard that I am not happy with, I beleive it and the others deserve a better review and deserve the current review format. Also the reason I haven't decided yet on the 14th review (The Tomb of Ligeia) is because that was the first review where my format changed and started to become my current one.

The 13 (or 14) films to be Revisited are:

Dracula
The Brides of Dracula
The Curse of Frankenstein
Horror Express
Hands of The Ripper
The Uncanny
The Curse of the Werewolf
Tales from the Crypt
The Mummy
I Don't Want to be Born
From Beyond The Grave
The House That Dripped Blood
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Tomb of Ligeia




Thanks for your time,

Andy

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Count Dracula

SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! SPOILER ALERT!

Jonathan Harker is travelling to meet Count Dracula to discuss a property in England. After the discussion he unwittingly becomes Dracula's prisoner. Whilst there he witnesses unholy goings on involving Dracula and three females with sharp teeth. After he manages to escape he awakes to find himself a patient at a psychiatric clinic and under the supervision of Dr Van Helsing and Dr Seward. Later, Jonathan's fiancée's friend Lucy becomes victim to Dracula. After examining the evidence Van Helsing, an expert in vampirism, comes to the conclusion that Count Dracula is a vampire and must be stopped. As Dracula goes about picking off victims and regaining his youth, Van Helsing and his band of heroes are planning their attack to stop Dracula once and for all.



Count Dracula is a 1970 European horror film. It stars Christopher Lee, Klaus Kinski and Maria Rohm. It was directed by Jess Franco. It is an adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. Although Christopher Lee stars as Count Dracula this is not a Hammer Production and is not part of the Hammer Dracula film series.

Jonathan Harker climbs into a carriage to take him to Dracula's castle. But wait, that carriage driver's voice sounds suspiciously like Christopher Lee, which can mean only one thing. DRACULA! AHHHHHHHHHHH! Hold on a second, that also means that Dracula is either very tight or he can't afford to hire any staff around his castle, not even the typical hypnotized servant or whatnot. Which means Dracula plays all and every role needed to keep his castle up and running, these include Chef Dracula, Servant Jeeves Dracula, Cleaning Lady Dracula and of course when he gets time Count Dracula.



Now that was rather bloody cool. Mina is following Dracula and before she can catch up to him he turns into a shadow on the wall and fades away. Dracula's abilities seem to be somewhat more supernatural in this adaptation which in my opinion only adds to the fear factor, giving the impression that nothing can stop him, nothing will get in his way (except of course a cross, but shhh).

I love the fact that in this adaptation the aspect of him starting out old and drinking blood to regain his youth is utilised, it gives a great effect to the idea of drinking someone's blood, that you take not only their life but their youth, it's brilliant. And, and, and on top of that...DRACULA'S GOT A MOUSTACHE! Yey!



There is a frequent use of zoom in close ups on characters' faces to the sound of music that connotates a sense of surprise, shock or horror for the character. This to me is very “70's” which I'm not saying is bad, it's just a very “70s” technique which I would commonly associate with Grindehouse films of the time. I actually rather like this camera technique, it does what it's meant to do; express the character's shock, and it's amusing when used quite often as it is in this film. I like to imagine it would start to be used when it's not necessary like for instance Van Helsing pops to a corner shop “I'd like some rice pudding please.” “We're all out of rice pudding I'm afraid.” [zoom in close up on open mouthed horrified Van Helsing].

Poor old Renfield, Dracula doesn't even use him to do anything for him, he just makes his life worse and worse. It all started when Renfield's daughter was killed by a vampire; presumably Dracula, and he was left no longer sane. So Dracula kills Renfield's daughter, causing him to lose his mind and end up in an asylum where he eats insects. Then when Dracula uses his mind control on him, he makes him break open the bars on his window and simply jump out. After that big drop and hitting the ground appearing as if in pain (obviously), the next time we see him he's back in his cell in a neck brace. Poor Renfield.



Now that was creepy, another one of Dracula's many abilities, whilst using his remote control ability over Renfield he is also using some sort of control thing over a collection of stuffed animals making them, or at least making them appear, as if they are returning to life. It's really creepy seeing a stuffed owl shaking and and making noises all the while with red glowing eyes, along with various other animals doing much the same thing.

It's a shame about the ending, such a shame in fact. I was rather enjoying the film up until that point. It was pretty anti-climactic, they just set him on fire. They being Jonathan Harker and Quincey Morris, the only two who went to destroy Dracula. Whatta gang, whatta crusade. Van Helsing didn't even go to fight along side them as he decided to go and have a stroke so he ended up having to stay at home and look after Mina. So that left Harker and Morris as the only two to take on the Prince of Darkness in an epic final battle. Problem with that is it's not an epic final battle, there seems to be an absence of a race against time before the sun sets and Dracula regains his powers. Not only that but when they do open up his coffin there isn't even a struggle Dracula just lays there and gives them a shocked look leaving them enough time to slowly set him a light and throw the coffin off a cliff. Not only was there no epic battle, no fight from Dracula but they didn't even stake him and cut off his head like they did with other vampires, they just set him on fire and chuck him off a cliff, I mean what's that all about?! No stake?! It's a disappointing end to what appeared to be a pretty decent Dracula film. It's not a brilliant Dracula film but it certainly wasn't bad, and like I said earlier I was rather enjoying it then came the ending. The ending just seemed to damage the film for me. By all means it wasn't a terrible ending but it was certainly a disappointing one.

To end on a lighter note, it being a lighter note purely because it's a bad but funny visual effect. The burning Muppet Dracula.



Count Dracula 3/5