Hammer Films on DVD
The Curse of Frankenstein
Horror of Dracula
The Curse of Frankenstein
While Universal Studios began the tradition of releasing great (or
at least great attempts at!) horror movies back in the 1930s,
Britains Hammer Films took up the baton in the 1950s and
60s with a series of movies that not only gave scare
starved kids a new outlet, but which helped make stars of such journeyman
actors as Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.
Theyre generally pretty good flicks, too, made in widescreen
with blood curdling color and larger than life stories.
The Curse of Frankenstein is the film that started this
resurgence, and its a dandy.
Cushing stars as Baron Victor Frankenstein who, at movies
opening, befriends one of his former teachers, Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart).
Though fascinated by the potential of Frankensteins experiments at
bringing life to dead matter, Krempe eventually gets cold feet and refuses to
help with Frankenstein's experiments on humans.
Cushings Frankenstein is the real monster here. Hes
the coldly rational scientist turned cold-blooded criminal as his
ambition-blinded campaign to recreate life leads to him commit murder. Lee, on
the other hand, is a sympathetic character, the pitiable and frightened
creature who is more innocent than monster, despite his grotesqueness. Thanks
to his outstanding makeup, he acts mostly with his eyes and through gestures.
Cushing and Lee are both great; in fact the whole cast does a
wonderful job. Cushings Frankenstein is sinister but understandable while
Lee brings new life to the man given new life.
The DVD is also very good. The anamorphic widescreen presentation
(16x9 TV compatible) is bright and mostly sharp, and the lurid colors of the
production itself help contribute to the films mood. Audio is Dolby
Digital mono, not surprisingly, and its quality is fine considering the
original source material.
Extras are limited to a short text essay "Hammer Creates a
Monster," some cast/crew info and the theatrical trailer.
The Curse of Frankenstein, from Warner Home Video
anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital mono
Starring Peter Cushing, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhart, Christopher Lee
Executive Producer Michael Carreras
Written by Jimmy Sangster, directed by
Horror of Dracula
Christopher Lee may not get star billing, but he was made a star
after Horror of Dracula, his first Hammer Films appearance as the Dark Lord.
There's no Renfield in this version, despite it being based on the
original Bran Stoker novel, though not strictly. It opens with Jonathan Harker
(John Van Eyssen) turning up at Dracula's castle, a vampire hunter after the
biggest prize of all. He doesn't get it, of course, or there'd be a darn short
But he does manage to stake his claim on one of Drac's ladies of
the night, sending the Count into a vengeful fit that not only sees him
enslaving Harker to his vampire's ways, but setting his sights on his fiance
back in England as well. Enter Peter Cushing as Professor Van Helsing, who's
determined to prevent Dracula from getting his bloody sacrifice.
While we lose bats and wolves - and, it appears, Transylvania - we
do get Dracula as the erotic dark lord who seduces women into baring their
necks for him. The sex, though merely implied, was probably quite daring for
1958, though it's ultra mild by today's standards - and this is actually to the
film's benefit because it leaves more to the audience's imagination. And while
there's enough blood to be convincing, it doesn't flow excessively (and it's so
bright red it looks like "Hollywood" blood).
Lee is terrific as Dracula, even though he isn't around on screen
that much. As with Bela Lugosi, he brings charm and strength to the role, while
Cushing moves his intelligent scientist from the madness of Dr. Frankenstein to
the crusader bent on saving the world from a horrible force.
It's a fun horror movie in the grand tradition (in fact, it helped
create that grand tradition) suitable for just about everyone.
The DVD's pretty good, too. Presented in anamorphic widescreen,
16x9 TV compatible, the picture is a tad soft but on the whole eminently
watchable. The "old fashioned" color image is mostly sharp and bright, with
cinematography that adds to the mood. Audio is Dolby Digital mono and is
Extras are limited to a short text essay "Dracula Lives Again,"
some cast/crew info and the theatrical trailer.
Horror of Dracula, from Warner Home Video
81 min. anamorphic
widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital mono
Cushing, Michael Gough, Melissa Stribling, Christopher Lee
Written by Jimmy Sangster, directed by Terence Fisher
Hammer Horror Classics on
If you grew up as a horror movie fan during the late 1950s
or the 1960s, you probably remember the films in this collection with
fondness. They arent the scariest flicks around, but theyre fun
horror, beautifully produced and filmed, and even if generally lightweight they
still brought some class to the genre.
Anyone who only remembers Christopher Lee as Saruman or Count
Dooku will enjoy watching him become a star as probably the best Dracula since
Bela Lugosi, while those whose memories of Peter Cushing are limited to his
portrayal of Governor Tarkin in Star Wars Episode 4 are also in for a
The six disc set features six of Hammers best, all featuring
anamorphic widescreen video (of varying quality, alas) and is an excellent
introduction to the franchise.
In Chronological order, the films are: The Curse of Frankenstein
(1957), Horror of Dracula (1958), The Mummy (1959), Dracula Has Risen From the
Grave (1968), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969) and the racy Taste the
Blood of Dracula (1970).
The Curse of Frankenstein (see review
above) is Hammers retelling of the
classic Mary Shelley tale, featuring Cushing as the title character whose
obsession with creating a human life runs him afoul of pretty well everyone
from those closest to him to God himself.
Horror of Dracula (1958) is the same thing (see review
above), but remakes the Bram Stoker Dracula
legend instead. Lee and Cushing are both excellent here, Lee as the undead
Count and Cushing as vampire hunter Van Helsing.
The Mummy (1959) sees Lee cast as the bandaged beast and while
some might argue the quality of his performance compared with Karloffs
Universal original, he manages to be both dynamic and forceful with no dialogue
to speak! Guess the horror really is unspeakable
Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968) was Christopher Lees
third Dracula flick. Its an exciting and fast-moving tale that boasts
some pretty neat visual images and a pretty neat story.
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969) brings surprising complexity
to the Cushing-portrayed doctor. Depending on the situation, he can be
charming, evil, cunning a tribute to Cushings thespian skills as
well as the literacy and imagination of the screenwriter.
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) presents the full 95 minute cut
that was apparently never seen before in the U S. Its the only R rated
film in this set, thanks to bits of nudity and violence. Lee is his typically
commanding self as Dracula though he isnt here as much as in other
outings. Geoffrey Keen and Ralph Bates co star in what turns out to be a clever
and interesting vampire tale.
The DVDs are all presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV
compatible, and the picture quality is generally very good. Curse of
Frankenstein looks the worst of the bunch (its also the oldest), but
its still quite watchable.
Audio is Dolby Digital mono and is unremarkable.
Extras are few and far between with these DVDs. You get some
trailers, but thats about it.
The Hammer Horror Classics Collection, from Warner Home
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