Cinema Sunday: Nightmare (1964)

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Title: Nightmare

Distributor: Hammer/Universal Studios

Writer: Jimmy Sangster

Director: Freddie Francis

Producer: Jimmy Sangster

Starring: David Knight, Moira Redmond, Jennie Linden, Brenda Bruce

Released: April 19th, 1964

MPAA: UR

 

Here we are with another Cinema Sunday, and of course, another fantastic movie! This week, we’ll take a look at another one of Hammer Studios psychological thrillers in – Nightmare! This film is much more intense than last week’s offering, but in a slightly different way. You still get a good mystery, but in this film, you also get some vicious murder scenes, as well. The cast was very small, but I think after you’ve seen the film for yourself, you’ll realize it isn’t a bad thing. Okay, let’s disperse with the clouds and get right down to this one!

 

The film begins with a girl wandering around a sanitarium. She hears a voice calling out to her, and is frightened. The voice calls for help, and then Janet (Jennie Linden), hears the voice tell her that she knows where to find her. Janet then proceeds down a hallway and enters a padded room. Standing in the corner, is a woman, begging for help. The door swiftly slams behind Janet, and the woman laughs insanely. Janet begins to scream, and then we see this is only a dream, and Janet awakens in bed, at her prep school. One of her teachers, Mary Lewis (Brenda Bruce) comes in and settles her down, and she goes back to sleep.

 

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The next day, Janet is approached by the same teacher from the previous night, and she tells her that the faculty wants Janet to see a doctor. Janet tells her that she’ll refuse any appointment. She also tells her teacher that she wants her guardian, Henry Baxter (David Knight), to come and get her from school. She gets her wish, and John the butler/driver (George A. Cooper), picks her up, along with Mary Lewis, as the school believes Janet could use some guidance on the journey home. Once they reach home, Mrs. Gibbs (Irene Richmond), greets Janet, and she seems elated. They enter the home, and Mary is going to stay the evening, and go back to the school tomorrow. Janet is surprised to see a woman, Grace Maddox (Moira Redmond), in the house. Mrs. Gibbs tells Janet that her guardian, Henry, thought that Janet might like someone to spend time with at the house, instead of being alone.

 

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Janet goes to bed after dinner, and Mary and Grace talk. Mary asks Grace why Henry asked her to stay with Janet, and she tells her that it’s because Henry is worried about her, and she’s a nurse, so he believes she can help out. Grace then heads to bed for the evening, and Mrs. Gibbs and Mary have a talk. Mrs. Gibbs tells Mary that the reason Janet seems mentally imbalanced is because she saw her mother murder her father when she was eleven years old. She had a nervous breakdown after that, and has always worried that she might have inherited some of her mothers wickedness. Mrs. Gibbs tells Mary that even if didn’t inherit any of those traits, that even the persistent thought could drive a person insane. Mary goes to bed, and Mrs. Gibbs is tidying up, when she hears a sound near the library. She’s surprised by Mary, who claims to have come downstairs to get a book.

On her way back to her room, Mary notices that Janet’s bedroom door is open. She investigates, and finds Janet missing. She creeps down the hallway to looks for her, and then she’s surprised by Janet, who silently turns the corner right in front of her. Janet seems like she’s in a daze or perhaps sleep-walking. Mary talks to her, but gets little answers other than the fact that Janet seems to think she either saw someone or dreamed that she saw someone. Mary shows her back to her room, and then goes to sleep, pondering what might be happening. As Janet walks slowly into her room, she notices someone on the bed. It’s her mother (or so she thinks), and there’s a knife sticking out of her chest, and the birthday cake from Janet’s eleventh birthday (the same day her father was killed) on the table. She freaks out, and runs off, but is then stopped by Grace, who slaps her a few times to get her to snap back into reality.

 

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The next morning, Janet has been sedated by the local physician, and he recommends to Henry that she be institutionalized. Henry then checks in on Janet, who, upon seeing him, pulls him in, and kisses him passionately. He pulls back, and then apologizes for not being able to meet her at school. Janet asks if the reason is his wife, and he tells her that she (his wife) doesn’t like being alone. He makes his apologies, and tells Janet he must travel to London, and then leaves. As day turns into night, Janet’s mind begins to unravel. She thinks she sees someone trying to open her bedroom door, so she calls out and asks who’s there. She gets no answer, and then gets up to investigate. She looks down the hallway but sees no one at first, but after a moment, she does witness a shadow down at the end of the hall. She walks down slowly, and keeps following where the shadow leads. Eventually, she comes upon a bedroom, and she hears the voices of herself and Mrs. Gibbs from the day she saw her father killed. She runs off to her bedroom, and sees the corpse of her father, lying in her bed. She goes berserk, and falls down a staircase, and George and Grace find her there unconscious.

 

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Another day, and Grace is feeding Janet her pills, supposedly from the doctor. Grace asks her what happened, and Janet tells her that some woman is plaguing her dreams. Grace tells her to get some sleep, because it’s her birthday tomorrow. A new day comes, and Janet finds herself being confused after the last few night’s activities. She then heads out to see who is around, but only finds a strange woman in a hospital gown creeping around the house. The woman vaguely resembles her mother, but we know that she’s locked up in a sanitarium, right? Janet then returns to her room, looking completely unhinged. She then smashes her mirror, and uses a shard to slit her wrist. Henry, and Grace are speaking with the doctor in the next scene, and wondering what to do about Janet. As Janet comes out from her bedroom to see Henry, she sees the back of a woman, who is introduced to her by Henry, as his wife. As the woman turns around, Janet recognizes her face as the woman who has tortured her. She then snaps mentally, picks up a knife, and brutally stabs Henry’s wife to death!

 

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I’m not going to go any further because I’d have to go into crazy spoiler territory, and because things get slightly convoluted as well! Suffice to say that the killing doesn’t end here, and by the end of the film, there’s more than one person that’s gone off the deep end!

OK here are my thoughts:

This flick is a good one, but definitely inferior to Paranoiac. It is more grisly, and that’s pretty cool, but the twists and suspense aren’t as powerful as the aforementioned film. As I said above, it does also get a bit wacky at the end as well. This being my first viewing might have something to do with that, but I honestly don’t think so. There is another scene towards the end of the film, where Henry and Grace slap each other. It’s quite a shock to see especially for 1964.

The actors/actresses are quite good in the roles that they play. Janet’s character was played by Jennie Linden, and was a late replacement. She did a god job for someone stepping in at the last-minute. David Knight, and Moira Redmond also were very good. Both gave convincing performances. The music score was by Don Banks, and definitely worth noting. He did a good job setting a good tone, and a couple of thunderous interludes when it was right. The set was absolutely gorgeous, and up to the Hammer standard for sure. Check this one out if you haven’t yet, because it’s worth the watch!

 

Watch the trailer here!

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Cinema Sunday: Taste of Fear (1961) (A.K.A. Scream of Fear)

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Title: Taste of Fear (Scream of Fear – U.S.)

Distributor: Hammer/ Columbia

Writer: Jimmy Sangster

Director: Seth Holt

Producers: Jimmy Sangster, Michael Carreras

Starring: Susan Strasberg, Ronald Lewis, Ann Todd, Christopher Lee

Released: Jan. 1961

MPAA: PG

 

If you thought Hammer Studios was only about horror flicks, think again! They made films in many genres (even comedies!), and some that are absolutely amazing in the psychological thriller category, like Taste of Fear! This one is a testament to the writing ability of Jimmy Sangster (and Michael Carreras), and definitely let people know that Hammer Studios was here to stay. The performances were great, and this movie being in black and white gives it an old school look to it that is perfect.

In 1961, Hammer was already starting to build up its horror library with hits like Horror of Dracula and Curse of Frankenstein, and more psychological thrillers would follow (Paranoiac, Nightmare, etc.). Some of the content in these films really pushed the envelope, just like Hammer horror did when it got rolling, and that wasn’t just schlock to get people in the seats. Hammer knew they had commodities with Cushing and Lee, so it was only a matter of adding some good character actors (Michael Ripper) most of the time, and they had a winning formula. OK, enough talk, let’s get down to business!

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The film opens up as a boat with two men aboard, search for something in the water. A policeman and another man in plain clothes fish out the body of a girl, as more policemen watch from the shoreline. After the credits roll, we see a beautiful young woman, Penny Appleby (Susan Strasberg) getting off of an airplane, and a chauffeur pick her up. The young lady is in a wheelchair, and apparently a paraplegic.  The chauffeur (Ronald Lewis) drives the girl to her ancestral home, and tells her that her father is away on business. He then arrives at the house where we see her step-mother, Jane Appleby (Ann Todd), and they have a rather interesting first meeting. You see, Penny has lived abroad, and never net her father’s new wife (she’s been away for ten years). She settles in, and then has a look around.

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Later, at dinner, Penny tells Jane that she didn’t come around because her parents got divorced, and her mother and her moved to Italy. Her mother passed away a few years ago, and she came back because her father wrote to her, asking her to come home for a visit. They have some small talk, but then Penny excuses herself, and goes to bed. Later that night, Penny awakens to a slamming noise outside of her bedroom. She gets into her wheelchair to investigate, and sees that it’s just a loose door. She also sees a light on in the window of the summer-house. As she scans the room, she sees her father, sitting in a chair, motionless. He appears to be dead, so she shrieks in horror, then flees the summer-house. On her way out, in a panic, she falls into the pool and begins to drown. She wakes up to realize that she was saved by Bob, the chauffeur, and is being cared for by the family doctor, Dr. Gerrard (Christopher Lee). She demands to be taken back to the summer-house, and Bob carries her there, but nothing is out-of-place, and her father is not there either.

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The next day, Jane leaves for a while, and Bob looks after Penny. They go to the beach for a bit, and they talk about many things, and especially about her disability. She tells Bob it was a horse riding accident. Bob then tells her that some funny things have gone on lately. He tells Penny that her father left in the middle of the night, and took the small car, one that he didn’t care for at all. They head back to the house, but Penny wants to inspect the summer-house again. Before she can search around, Jane interrupts her, and tells her that she has a surprise for he in the house. Her father is on the telephone, and asks her how she’s doing. The look on her face is one of suspicion, and she speaks for only a minute, then Jane takes the phone and talks. Dr. Gerrard tells Penny that she should calm down and not stress herself out, or she might have a nervous breakdown.

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As the creepiness continues, Penny then checks out the garage, and sees that the small car her father supposedly was driving on a business trip, was back in the garage. Jane tells her that it couldn’t be, because her father hasn’t returned yet. She also hears someone playing the piano, but when she investigates, she sees no one in the room. Once again she notices a light in the summer-house, and heads over to check it out. The chair that her father was sitting in is empty this time, but then she goes over to her room, and sees her father sitting by her bedside. He slumps over, and Penny screams. Bob comes running, and then Jane as well. She gets the feeling she’s being set-up, so clams up about what she saw, and tells them she’s OK.

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At dinner, Dr. Gerrard suggests that maybe Penny is mentally stopping herself from walking again. She gets very defensive, and tells them she doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. As everyone heads to bed, Bob agrees to help Penny with her sleuthing, and they theorize that maybe her father was murdered, and she might be next. They think the body might be being stored in a freezer in the kitchen (one of those large industrial type freezers). They investigate, but find nothing. The following morning, Bob and Penny head to the beach to plan more of their investigation. As Bob picks her up to take her back to the car, the two share a kiss, and watching from the cliff above, very creepily, is Jane. Back at the house, Jane attempts to hook Penny up with a few local gentlemen, but she refuses.

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That afternoon, Penny looks out her window and realizes there is one more place they can look for the corpse. The swimming pool would be the perfect hiding place, so Penny asks Bob to check it out. Bob jumps into his speedo (seriously), and jumps into the pool. Within minutes, he comes to the surface and tells Penny that the body is down below at the bottom. Penny and Bob believe that Jane has something to do with this foul play, because she can’t get her hands on the fortune that Penny’s father has amassed. Bob takes Penny in the car to get the police, but they see Jane broken down on the side of the road. Bob pulls over, and gets out to see what’s going on. Before you know it, the car begins to creep forward, and it seems Bob forgot to set the parking brake. Penny tries to reach for the steering wheel, and sees her father’s corpse lying in the front seat! She can’t get to the wheel fast enough, and the car plunges over the cliff towards the icy waters. I’ll stop here because to go further would give too much away!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This film has a certain charm to it that very few non-horror Hammer films have. Maybe it’s the mystery, maybe it’s that it’s in black and white, or just the memorable performances by the cast. Either way, the ending is shocking, and the twists and turns are quite phenomenal. You really think you know what’s going on, and then the rug gets pulled out from under you. Christopher Lee is outstanding in the few scenes he has in the film. Don’t let that foo you though, as Lee gives an incredible performance. Susan Strasberg is also fantastic, and really deserves a lot of credit.

The sets are on par with the normal Hammer goodness, and so is the script. The music score isn’t really anything grande but hits the spots it needed to. The production of the entire film is very high for 1961 (Bernard Robinson – production design), and looks like a higher budget film that what it actually was (allegedly $50,000). Hammer has had many beautiful ladies in their films over the decades (Susan Denberg, Ingrid Pitt, Veronica Carlson, etc.), but I have to admit, Susan Strasberg is absolutely gorgeous in this film (Carlson and Denberg are my usual favorites!). It’s rare to have a leading lady that is this stunning and a high-grade actress as well. Typically Hammer just wanted beautiful women to get the male demographic in the seats with their ladies, but in this case you get it all!

 

Watch the trailer here!

Cinema Sunday: The Gorgon (1964)

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Title: The Gorgon

Distributor: Hammer/Columbia

Writer: John Gilling

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Richard Pasco, Michael Goodliffe

Released: August 24th, 1964

MPAA: PG

 

Another Sunday, and another movie review! Huzzah! Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are the best acting tandem in horror movies ever assembled. Yeah, I just said that. Come at me with whoever else you have, but it won’t change my opinion. The sheer number of movies they did together helps that fact, and I’m not denying that, but seriously look at their body of work as a tandem, and you’ll be impressed!

This is one of Hammer Studios lesser known films (by the mainstream media types), but still has some redeeming qualities about it that cannot be denied. A tale that has some roots in Greek mythology, and add a splash of Hammer Gothic horror, and voila, you get The Gorgon! Let’s get down to the meat and potatoes of this one now!

The story begins with a young artist, Bruno Heitz (Jeremy Longhurst), as he’s drawing a portrait of his (topless) girlfriend. She informs him that she’s pregnant, and he storms off to tell her father that…”he isn’t going to avoid his obligations.'” As he heads into the forest, his girlfriend runs after him, but suddenly runs into some unseen killer that takes her out. The next day, we see that the girl has been found dead, and a search for Bruno is in effect. It doesn’t take long to find him, and when the police do, they’re shocked to see that he’s hanged himself from a tree…or did he?

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At the trial for this affair, it is clear that the local government wants to silence this case before it gets any more widespread. The father of the deceased, Professor Jules Heitz (Michael Goodliffe), is there, and has his say about what he theorizes happened. He tells the court that he will not rest until his son’s name is cleared. The court rules that Bruno murdered his girlfriend, then committed suicide. Professor Heitz and the local medical authority, Dr. Namaroff (Peter Cushing), are old colleagues, so after the hearing, Professor Heitz pays him a visit. Namaroff tells him nothing, and that he cannot help him. Heitz leaves, and is noticeably upset, but also realizes that he’s on to something fishy going on in Vandorf.

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The next day, Professor Heitz and his butler are at the home that his son was occupying at the time of his death, when all of a sudden, a few locals break in and threaten him if he doesn’t leave. A struggle ensues, but then the police show up. Everyone leaves, and Professor Heitz is even more aroused to find answers to this mystery. Later that evening, Professor Heitz hears some singing and heads over to the property nearby. As he creeps around the old castle, he can feel someone is there, watching him. We see a shadowy figure step out and Heitz screams in agony, and flees for his home. He reaches the home, but is badly hurt (image above). He’s turning to stone, but manages to write a few pages to tell his other son, Paul (Richard Pasco), of what has transpired.

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The following scene is Namaroff and Paul Heitz arguing over what killed his father. Namaroff stone-walls him, so he leaves. As he gets to the home, he sees someone in the house. It’s Dr. Namaroff’s assistant, Carla Hoffman (Barbara Shelley). She tells him that he’s in danger, and he should leave, but Paul refuses. Later on, Carla is talking with Namaroff about the gorgon theory that Paul had written back at the house. Speaking of Paul, as he’s sitting down at the home, a terrible wind blows the doors open, and he then hears that same siren song nearby. As he investigates, he sees a hideous face in water, reflecting at him. It drives him temporarily mad, and he passes out. He wakes up days later in the hospital, and sees Carla watching over him. He’s unaware that he’s been unconscious for days, and gets crazy when he finds out that the court hearing for his father is over. Namaroff has a brief discussion with him, but nothing gets resolved.

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After leaving the hospital, Paul decides to exhume the body of his father, and he then sees that he was turned to stone. He’s surprised from behind by Carla, and the two talk about what’s going on in Vandorf. Paul then realizes he’s in over his head, so he summons his former teacher, Professor Karl Meister (Christopher Lee), to help with the investigation. Once he arrives, the stuff really hits the fan, because of his no-nonsense approach to everything! The two discuss the problems in Vandorf, but Paul has fallen in love with Carla, and is letting it cloud his judgement.

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Meanwhile, Namaroff sends his goon, Ratoff (Jack Watson), to assassinate Paul, but old Professor Meister has a trick or two up his sleeve, and saves Paul. He then confronts the police, Namaroff, and anyone else that he thinks needs to answer some questions. He gets shown the door just like Paul and everyone else before him. Meister and Heitz then try to form a plan, but first visit the police for some information. They figure out that there were only a handful of women that have recently moved to Vandorf, thus giving them the lead that they need to solve this mystery!

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OK, here are my thoughts:

While this isn’t the best of Hammer’s offerings, it still pretty cool. Cushing and Lee both give very solid performances, as does Richard Pasco. Even Jack Watson (the doctor’s goon, Ratoff), is quite convincing with his menacing attitude. Barbara Shelley isn’t anything to write home about in this film (even though she’s had a few other great roles). The film is a little inconsistent with pacing until Christopher Lee’s character show up, and gets the ball rolling.

The sets, and atmosphere are typical for Hammer, meaning that they really drive the mood home. Although the “monster” isn’t very scary, the build-up, acting (for the most part), sets, atmosphere, and music score, make this film certainly worth a watch now and again. I won it on a four disc set that has three other classics on it that I’ll definitely be reviewing in the future (one of which I’ve already reviewed). Listen, give this one a look, if for no other reason than Cushing and Lee giving solid performances!

 

Check out the trailer here!

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

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Title: The Plague of the Zombies

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Writer: Peter Bryan

Director: John Gilling

Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys

Starring: Andre Morell, Diane Clare, John Carson, Jacqueline Pearce, Brook Williams, Michael Ripper

Released: January 12th, 1966

MPAA: PG

 

After last week’s review of a zombie flick, I thought I’d go to that well once again, with one of my favorite Hammer films, The Plague of the Zombies! This little gem predates George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, but features Haitian zombies, rather than flesh eaters. Either way, both films are great, but this one doesn’t get a fraction of the attention that NOTLD does, so I’m going to cast some light upon this one for all to see how truly awesome it is! The film was shot back to back with ‘The Reptile“, and you can tell for sure, but it didn’t take away from the movie in the least. So, now let’s get own with the show!

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As the film opens, we see some creepy dude dressed in a robe and mask. There’s also some crazy looking voodoo type guys pounding on drums, adding to the wild scene. The robed man begins to chant something in another language, and then the scene switches to a woman, Alice Tompson (Jacqueline Pearce), as she’s in bed with her husband, Peter (Brook Williams). She’s getting restless and the more the guy in the robe chants, the more unsettled she seems to get. Eventually, she bursts out with a blood-curling scream, and the credits then roll.

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The next scene shows a man, Sir James Forbes (Andre Morell), and he’s checking out his fishing equipment, while on holiday. His daughter, Sylvia (Diane Clare), comes into the room, and brings her father a letter from a friend in Cornwall. A former pupil of his (Sir James teaches medicine, and Peter was his brightest student), Peter Tompson, is having some trouble with the villagers getting ill, and a few deaths were involved. They decide to travel to Cornwall to help him out. On the trip to Cornwall, Sir James and Sylvia see five men hunting a fox. Sylvia tells them that she’s seen the fox, but points them in the opposite direction. Once they reach town, a funeral is taking place. Before they can even have a thought, the five hunters ride through town, and knock the coffin over an embankment. Sir James gets out of the coach, and yells at them, but they just holler back at Sylvia for her trick.

Once they arrive at Peter and Alice’s home, they’re greeted by Alice, and she looks terrible. She doesn’t even recognize her old school mate, Sylvia, at first. She begins to act slightly irrational, but makes them welcome. Sir James asks about a wound on her arm, but she’s very apprehensive about it, and gets a bit angry when he asks to look at the wound. Sylvia and Alice go to the kitchen to make tea, and Sir James sneaks off into town to have a look. At that time, Peter is at the pub, and getting harassed by the brother of the dead man who was knocked out of the coffin. Sir James tells everyone in the pub how lucky they are to have Peter as their physician, and then the two men leave. Peter then tells Sir James about the twelve deaths in the last year that are unexplainable. They all sit down and have dinner, then go their separate ways.

Later, at the house, Sylvia sees Alice leave after dark, and calls out to her, but Alice doesn’t hear her. Sylvia follows her, but gets lost along the way. Suddenly, out of the forest rides the hunters from the earlier scene, and they surround her. After she realizes there’s no escape, they grab her and take her to a large home at the edge of town. They play a card game to decide her fate, but the cards tell them to let her go. As they taunt her more, a voice rings out to let her go. Squire Hamilton (John Carson) appears, and pimp slaps one of the men. He tells them to get out, and apologizes to Sylvia. Her friend, Alice, told her about the Squire, so she gives him some slack, and doesn’t report the incident to the police. While this is going on, Peter and Sir James have taken it upon themselves to exhume one of the victims, and do an autopsy. As the two men are digging up a body, they are surprised by the police (Michael Ripper – image below), but rip open a coffin anyway. They’re all surprised when they see that the body is missing, and Sir James asks the police to help him to figure out this mystery.

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As Sir James is walking home, while Peter covers the grave back over, he sees Sylvia stumbling down the street. He runs to her as she collapses, and then he takes her to the house. The next morning, Sir James gives Peter the bad news, (as Sylvia has told her father that she found Alice dead out on the moors the previous night), and Peter goes off the deep end. They go to the police and then make the trip out to the moors. They find Alice, and also find the drunken man from the pub that was berating Peter (who’s also the brother of the most recent victim). They awaken him and he tries to run off, but the police catch him. Peter and Sir James take Alice’s body back to the house to do an autopsy, and find that the blood around her face is not hers, and not even human. The police question the drunken man, and find out that something else was afoot, something more sinister than just murder.

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Sylvia then explains to her father that the body of her friend wasn’t in the same spot where she’d seen it the previous night. As Peter and Sir James go out to do some detective work, Sylvia gets a visit, from Squire Hamilton. He “accidentally” cuts her finger on a broken piece of glass, and when she leaves the room to attend to it, he gets out a vial to put her blood in, and then excuses himself from the home. He races back to his mansion, and pulls out a small coffin from a drawer, and we see that it contains a voodoo doll of sorts. He then reveals that he has the vial of blood, and also that he’s gathered his cronies again, and the drums begin to beat!

Alice is now being buried, and Sylvia is overcome by the voodoo that’s now being used on her. She leaves the funeral with Peter, and Sir James asks the vicar if he can use his library to research witchcraft. He does, and finds out that someone in the village is practicing witchcraft, and using it to raise the dead. The clues are adding up, but can Sir James and Peter save Sylvia and the rest of the town before everyone is turned into a zombie?!?

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OK, here are my thoughts:

Anyone that doesn’t know of Andre Morell, is in for a big surprise, because he proves without a shadow of a doubt, that he can be the lead in a movie! He did do a great job as Watson, in Hammer’s “Hound of the Baskervilles”, but that was a very strong performance by Peter Cushing, that kind of overshadowed Morell. The supporting cast is also pretty good, especially Jacqueline Pearce (Alice), and John Carson (Squire Hamilton). Both were very convincing, and Carson was an excellent devilish fiend!

The “zombies” didn’t have a ton of screen time, and that is a bit of a downer, but when they were on-screen, they were pretty creepy. Not a lot of makeup on them, but just the way that they were portrayed and used in those scenes, made them rise above mediocrity. The graveyard scene was especially good, as was the last act in the bowels of the tin mine. Michael Ripper added his usual flavor to the film as the constable. He always finds a way to steal the scenes he’s in, and he certainly was a welcomed addition to this cast.

Grab this flick if you can, because any horror enthusiast would be happy to have this one. If it hasn’t been re-released lately, wait for that if you can’t find it at a decent price. Sometimes these online sites can really rip you off, but I know Hammer is putting out Blu-ray copies of films on a pretty consistent basis now and for the foreseeable future.

Watch the trailer here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Phantom of The Opera (1962)

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Title: The Phantom of the Opera

Distributor: Hammer/Universal

Writer: John Elder (novel by Gaston Leroux)

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Hinds

Starring: Herbert Lom, Heather Sears, Edward de Souza, Thorley Walters, Michael Gough

Released: June 25, 1962

MPAA: UR

 

I own this version and the Universal film as well, but as with other previous reviews, you’ll find out why I think the Hammer Studios version is superior. Heck, just watch them both, and you’ll probably agree. Lon Chaney did a fantastic job as the Phantom, but Herbert Lom brings it to another level. This film did have the advantage of being shot many years after the Universal version, but it wasn’t some big budget film full of incredible special effects. No, it was the acting of Lom, De Souza, and Gough, that makes this film a winner. Now let’s get down to the story!

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The film begins with some organ music playing in the bowels of an empty opera house. We then see the Phantom (Herbert Lom) and his minion (roll opening credits). We next see the opera house, as it’s filling up for the first night of a new show, allegedly written by Ambrose D’Arcy (Michael Gough). Ambrose and the theater manager, Mr. Lattimer (Thorley Walters), are quite excited about the good showing of people. In a dressing room backstage, a woman is readying her voice for the show. She’s the lead in this version of ‘Joan of Arc’, and seems a bit nervous because of some shenanigans that have plagued the theater as of late. As she continues warming up, the light in her room is put out by a creepy looking hand. Another man then enters the backstage area of the theater, the producer, Harry Hunter (Edward de Souza). He speaks with the stage manager, and the conductor about more mischief around the theater, but then he’s summoned to the dressing room of Maria, the star of the show. She’s terrified and explains to him that a man, dressed all in black, and with only one eye, entered her room and scared the life out of her. She claims she can’t go on, but Harry convinces her otherwise.

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The play begins, and we see Lattimer and Hunter discussing the riddle of how a man like Ambrose wrote such good music. Ambrose then walks in, and sarcastically thanks Harry for his “compliment’, and Harry gives him a snarky comment right back. Harry then leaves the box, and Lattimer and Ambrose talk briefly. Ambrose notices an empty box, and questions Lattimer about it. Lattimer tells him that people do not like to sit there, because they believe it’s haunted. Ambrose gets angry, and tells Lattimer that he’ll speak to his superiors in the morning about this matter. Things are going fine, but then suddenly, we see something ripping through a piece of the set, and it reveals a man, hanging by his neck. People scream in terror, and the theater empties out. Ambrose instructs Lattimer to let no bad press attach itself to the opera, and the two part ways for the day.

Meanwhile, Harry is holding auditions for the lead role of St. Joan. One girl in particular, Christine Charles (Heather Sears), is singing her heart out, and impresses Harry. Ambrose and Lattimer walk in, and get angry at first, but when they hear the voice, they settle down. Ambrose is especially taken with Miss Charles (basically, he’s a horny dude that uses his money and power to get girls). He tells Lattimer to give her a note to meet him later for dinner. As the evening gets older, we watch, as Ambrose and Miss Charles have dinner, and at first, it seems very cordial. But, as Ambrose gets more and more drunk, he begins to show his true colors. He tells her that essentially, she has to sleep with him if she wants the lead role in his opera. She’s completely embarrassed, but gives in to his request in the end. Just as the two are leaving, Harry comes into the restaurant, and Miss Charles asks him to help her out of this jam. He gladly accepts, because he can’t stand Ambrose. When he realizes the scam is up, Ambrose leaves in a huff.

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In the next scene, the two (Harry and Christine), are taking a carriage ride through the park (driven by Michael Ripper). She tells Harry that she recently had an experience just like the previous lead role, and that the same man spoke to her in the dressing room, telling her to get away from this place, and Ambrose D’Arcy. Harry then instructs the driver to take them to the opera house, to look for clues (Scooby-Doo style). The cleaning ladies are still there and don’t believe him when he tells them that he’s the producer of the show. He then asks if ay of them have found a diamond broach, and they scatter to search for it (a ruse to get them out-of-the-way). As the two get to the dressing room, the lights go out, and that sinister voice orders them to get away from this place or else! Just as they’re trying to figure out who this is, the cleaning ladies shriek, and run off. Christine and Harry are then greeted by the rat catcher (Patrick Troughton- image below), and he offers a few of this evenings catches for a nice “pie”. They tell him that they’re vegetarians, and then give him a few pounds to get lost. As he leaves the room, he gets stabbed in the eyeball by the Phantoms diminutive sidekick. The rats then scurry away, and Harry and Christine wonder what’s happened to the rat catcher. As Harry investigates, Christine is approached by the Phantom, she screams in fear, then faints. This draws Harry back to the room, but by that time, the Phantom is gone.

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The next day, Ambrose is holding auditions for the lead role. When Harry finds out, he’s furious, and confronts him about it. Ambrose tells Harry that it’s his opera, and he’ll make the decisions. Harry accuses him of mistreating Christine, and basically firing her for not sleeping with him. Ambrose then fires Harry. Harry goes to see Christine, and tells her that he’s been fired as well, so they’ll go celebrate because they both ‘got the sack’ today. Harry notices some sheet music in the room, and asks the landlord where she got it from. She tells him that a musical genius named Professor Petrie used to live there, and wrote some incredible music while living at the apartment. Harry asks what became of him, and she tells him that he was killed in a fire at a printing shop years earlier. They (Harry and Christine)  then spend a beautiful day together, and are falling in love with each other.

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They later investigate the printing shop, and the man tells them that the man who broke in didn’t die, but ran off after being burned by a fire and some acid that he thought was water, trying to douse the flames. They go to the river (Thames), and then decide it’s time to call it a night. The two take another carriage ride (this time driven by Miles Malleson), and kiss in the carriage. Harry then takes her home, but not long after getting in the door, Christine is assaulted by the Phantom’s sidekick, and taken to his lair. Christine awakens to find herself as a captive of the two men, and then is told by the Phantom, that when she sings, it will only be for him. He will instruct her on how to become a great singer, or suffer the consequences!

Will Harry be able to save Christine, and figure out the secret identity of the Phantom? Will someone put Ambrose out of his misery?

OK, here we go with my thoughts:

As i said earlier, if you’ve seen both films, you’ll probably agree that this one is better than the Universal film overall. Herbert Lom is a great Phantom, but he really sells his role as Professor Petrie. Those scenes are extremely emotional, and he really shows his acting chops in them. As the phantom, he’s creepy, but the film has a different angle than the Universal film, and you’ll either love it or hate it, in the end. I won’t give it away, but the person who you really want to see get theirs at the end of the flick might not be the Phantom.

The supporting cast is very strong too, and Edward de Souza deserves the lion-share of the credit. He really has you believing he’s a big time music producer, and an all around butt kicking dude! He has a fight scene with the sidekick/minion guy, and tells off Ambrose every ten minutes. He’s a ‘man of action’ type in this film, and really reminds me of a James Bond sort of character. Michael Gough is also sensational, in his portrayal of the dastardly Ambrose D’Arcy. You really want to see this guy get throttled about ten minutes into the film. Thorley Walters adds his usual oddity to this one, and you get the quick cameos by Michael Ripper and Miles Malleson, too!

Listen, before you start throwing rocks at me for saying this one is better than the Universal flick, get out there and grab this movie, and give it a try. It’s extremely underrated, but has a great cast, solid plot, a top-notch music score, and incredible sets as you’ve come to expect from Hammer Studios!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

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Title: The Curse of the Werewolf

Distributor: Hammer/ Universal

Writer: Anthony Hinds

Director: Terence Fisher

Producers: Michael Carreras, Anthony Hinds

Starring: Clifford Evans, Oliver Reed, Yvonne Romain, Michael Ripper

Release: June 7th, 1961

MPAA: UR

 

As I continue to cut a path of movie madness through the Hammer Studios catalog, there are still a few that stand out to me. One of them is definitely The Curse of the Werewolf. It’s the only Hammer werewolf movie to my knowledge, and why that is can’t be explained rationally to me considering how good this film portrays the monster. He’s a tortured soul (maybe even more so than Chaney), and really gets you to feel sorry for him by the end of the flick. So, without anymore interruptions, let us forge ahead with this classic!

The movie begins with a beggar (Richard Wordsworth- image below) making his way through a village. He notices that there is no one in the streets, and that the church bells are ringing. He knows that it’s not Sunday, so this is very puzzling to him. He asks the one passerby that he sees about this situation, and the man directs him to a poster hanging on the side of a building. Since the beggar cannot read, he keeps moving until he finds a pub. Once inside, the “gentlemen” that are drinking tell him that the local marques (nobleman) is getting married, and the reception is taking place at his castle. They instruct him to go there in search of food and money.

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The beggar makes his way to the castle, and inside we see the marques and his new bride. The marques (Anthony Dawson) is an evil and vicious man, and treats his servants like dirt. As the beggar knocks, a servant answers, and tells him to go away, but before he can leave, the marques tells him to come inside. He tells the beggar that he’ll give him food and wine if he’ll sing and dance for it. The beggar complies, and then after more of the shameless behavior from the marques, he intends to “retire” for the evening with his new bride (who appears to be half his age). On their way out, the beggar makes a snide remark, and the marques has him thrown into the dungeon. The only people he ever sees, are the jailer, and his mute daughter. Years pass, and the jailer dies off, but his daughter (Yvonne Romain), continues with the work load. One day, the girl is serving some food to the marques, and he attempts to assault her in his chambers. She bites his hand, and she is then thrown into the dungeon for her acts, with the beggar. The beggar then rapes her, but later, when she makes some commotion, and the guards take her back to the marques for a lesson. As he turns his back on her, she stabs him, and runs away.

Months later, after living in the forest, a man, Don Alfredo Corledo (Clifford Evans), sees the girl, and she’s on death’s door. He brings her back to his home, and his wife takes care of her, but they also find out that she’s a few months pregnant (from the rape). She eventually gives birth to a son, but dies shortly after delivery. Corledo and his wife then take the child as their own. As the baby is being baptized, the church rattles from a thunderstorm that’s raging outside. Corledo’s wife is very upset, and thinks this is a bad omen. Time passes, and in a nearby village, dead animals are being found with their throats torn out, and a wolf is blamed. The farmers have a hunter in their employ though, and he vows to kill the predator. He waits up one night, and hears a wolf howl. He sees something in the brush close by, and shoots.

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The next morning, Corledo and his wife are stunned to see that their little boy has been shot. The two of them are at a loss on how the boy got out of the house without them knowing about it, and, why he was shot. Corledo questions his son, and he learns that his son has had bad dreams lately. He notices that his arms and hands are hairy, and he gets a worried look on his face. Corledo talks to his local priest about his son’s issues, but gets little help. The priest does explain however that sometimes demons can gain entrance to a soul, if the person is weak (or young).

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At the local pub, a man (Michael Ripper), is going off about the full moon, and evil things being abroad during the night of a full moon. Corledo is next seen putting bars on the windows of his son’s room. The hunter is trying to figure out what to do, and then sees his wife’s crucifix on the wall. He then melts it down, and makes a bullet out of the slag. He now believes that it’s a werewolf doing these killings and that there is only one way to stop it from continuing. Again, he waits up for the beast, and is ready to shoot. He hears something close, and fires. As the gun goes off, we switch scenes to the Corledo home, and young Leon is struggling to pry open the bars and get out into the night (image below). Back outside, the hunter sees that he shot a dog, and believes it was responsible for the killings.

More years pass, and Leon (Oliver Reed) is now an adult, and leaving home for some work in another village. He seems to be cured, but there is an uneasy feeling from his surrogate parents. As he enters the town, a carriage splashes mud on him, but he seems to get over it quickly. A man then approaches him about work, and he gladly accepts. He’s shown a wine cellar, and then meets his workmate, Jose. The two bond quickly, and then one day, they hear a carriage approaching. They see a beautiful young woman (Catherine Feller), who’s the daughter of their boss. Within days, Cristina is running to the arms of Leon (after her boyfriend drops her off from their date), and the two kiss passionately.

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After a long work week, both young men decide to go out to a seedy pub at the edge of town. A couple of prostitutes are showing them both a good time at the bar, and then Leon begins to feel queasy. One of the hookers takes him upstairs to “lie down”, and we now see that it is a full moon outside. As the young lady begins to do her tricks, she quickly finds out that Leon is more than meets the eye. In the next scene, the woman is lying on the floor, eviscerated. Jose comes to find his friend, and gets throttled for his trouble. Before the night is over, there is one more killing, as a drunk leaves the pub, and gets jumped by the werewolf.

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The next morning, Leon awakens in his bed back at home. He’s covered in sweat and there is blood on his hands. His father sees the bars on the window have been broken. His parents and a priest attempt to tell him about his affliction, but he’s in denial. He runs off, and when he reaches the village, the police are waiting there for him, to question him about the murder of his workmate. He doesn’t give them anything to work off of, and they let him go. Later, Cristina visits his room, but Leon shouts at her to get away. She stays with him, and for some reason, his change doesn’t occur. He realizes this, but then her father intervenes, and keeps her away from him just as they are about to run away together. Leon is then imprisoned and under suspicion of murder.

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As the moon rises, Leon gets that funky feeling, and transforms into the hairy beast once again. He kills the guard, and goes on a rampage throughout the village. Leon’s father feels as if it’s his responsibility to stop his son, so he grabs his rifle, and heads over to the village. The two then have a showdown in a bell-tower, Quasimodo style! Two enter, only one leaves!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This is one of the best werewolf movies of all time. It ranks right up there with the Wolfman (1941), no joke. Oliver Reed is a superstar in this film, and really steals the show. He’s strong as Leon, and even more dramatic when he’s the werewolf. The supporting cast really doesn’t add too much though, and other than Yvonne Romain (who dies 1/3 of the way through the film), most aren’t that memorable. A love story that has tragedy in it is very Shakespearean, and a lot like the 1941 Universal film, but this version was more vicious, and more exciting.

Of course, the sets were incredible too, and are a staple with Hammer films. The music score was quite good too, and lent some atmosphere to the film. The running time of the movie is standard for its time, but it just felt too short. More screen time for the monster, and more mystery about who the real monster was would have been better. Overall, those few things are more a nitpick than anything, and should never discourage anyone from seeing this Hammer classic! After viewing this film again, it seems to me that if the female lead roles would’ve been reversed (Yvonne is the love interest, and Feller the mother), things mat have been quite different. Not trying to downplay Feller’s contributions, but Yvonne Romain was definitely a better actress.

Get out there and look for this movie. I’m sure it’s available online or grab the Hammer Horror Series DVD set, and be ready for a Hammer marathon! See you next week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)

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Title: The Revenge of Frankenstein

Distributor: Columbia Pictures (Hammer Studios)

Writer: Jimmy Sangster

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Hinds

Starring: Peter Cushing, Francis Matthews, Eunice Gayson, Michael Gwynn, Michael Ripper

Released: June 1st, 1958

MPAA: UR

 

In what basically is a direct sequel to The Curse of Frankenstein, this film has a unique twist to the tale of the Frankenstein Monster. With the usual cast of characters, and production stalwarts, some consider The Revenge of Frankenstein to out-do the first film. I wouldn’t go that far, but it is a good film, and we’re going to dive head first into the plot in a moment. The film stars the incredible work of Peter Cushing, along with a solid performance by Francis Matthews. Now, let’s get down to business!

The film begins with good old Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing), as he’s being led to the guillotine for his crimes against nature. There’s a few people surrounding him; a priest, a guard, and a man who appears to be crippled. This crippled man and the Baron share a quick nod, and as the camera goes off scene, we here a struggle, then the guillotine does its job. That scene then cuts to a bar, where a woman is howling because she’s having a good time. The view turns to two men, getting drunk, and talking about a job. One of the men tells the other that it’s a simple job of snatching a body from the graveyard. The other man (Michael Ripper), doesn’t seem to trust him on the real ease of the job, but he needs the money for booze (I guess), so he agrees to come along for the job. As the two men dig up the body, they realize the grave is marked Baron Frankenstein. Inside the casket though, is the body of a priest! This scares the one man off, but the other one stays to finish the job. Before he can do anything more though, a shadowy figure creeps out of the bushes, and introduces himself as Baron Frankenstein. This gives the old guy a heart attack, and he dies right there on the spot.

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Three years later, a few gentlemen that belong to a “medical council” in Carlsbruck, are discussing a doctor in town that’s been stealing all of their patients. They agree that they’ll send a delegation to meet him and convince him to join their ranks. One of their number is Dr. Hans Kleve (Francis Matthews image above), and as they visit Dr. Stein (Peter Cushing), he recognizes him, but keeps quiet. After Dr. Stein refuses the medical council’s offer, Hans returns later that evening, and calls out the Baron on his true identity. Dr. Kleve then tells the Baron that he wants to learn under his guidance, and will keep quiet in exchange for knowledge. The Baron then takes him to his laboratory, and shows him his latest achievement. He shows Dr. Kleve a new body, constructed from “spare parts”, and tells him that it will be the new body for the crippled assistant, Karl (The Baron made a deal with Karl, that if he saved him from the guillotine, he’d grant him a new body).

Next, we see a young woman, Margaret, (Eunice Gayson) at the hospital for the poor (where the Baron gets his spare parts from), as she informs Dr. Kleve that she’ll be working at the hospital doing charitable work for the patients. Her father, who’s the minister of this town, would be trouble if “Dr. Stein” refused, so he allows her to stay. That night, the two doctors descend into the laboratory, to give Karl his new body. The surgery seems to be going well, but then suddenly, the body begins to twitch violently, and requires restraining. Karl’s brain now resides in the new body, and they take him to a secluded room at the hospital.

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Once there, the janitor (George Woodbridge- image below)) sees them transporting the body there, and he also eaves drops on them as they discuss Karl (Michael Gwynn) and his new body. Karl screams out in pain, and the janitor shudders in fear. The next day, as Dr. Kleve is watching Karl (who’s still strapped down), he tells him that Dr. Stein wants to show him off to other doctors around the world. Karl gets upset because “people have stared at him his whole life”. Dr. Kleve tells him not to worry, and leaves for the day. The janitor wants to impress Margaret (image below), so he tells her of the “special patient” in the room upstairs. She visits him, and he asks her to loosen his traps, because they’re hurting him. She thinks nothing of it, and loosens them. Karl then uses this chance to escape the hospital. He doesn’t want to be ogled by anyone and wants to live his own life.

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Later that night, the Baron and Dr. Kleve head over to the hospital to check on Karl, and find that he’s gone. Karl heads over to the laboratory, and attempts to dispose of his old body. He makes some noise, and the janitor that’s cleaning up hears him, and investigates. He attacks Karl, hitting him with a chair, then punching him several times. This causes brain damage to Karl’s recently operated on brain, and causes him to begin to revert back into his old self. He violently kills the man, then runs away crying. Dr. Kleve tells Dr. Stein that he told Karl about the big plans for him, and they realize that he couldn’t handle the news, and ran off. They immediately head over to the lab and discover the dead janitor, and also that he burned his old body in the furnace.

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The next day, Margaret is finishing up some horseback riding, and heads into the stables to check on the other horses. She discovers a traumatized Karl (image below), hiding in her stables. Margaret tells him that he can’t stay there, but she’ll find a way to help Karl out without telling Dr. Stein (Karl tells her that he’s afraid of him). She returns to the hospital and tells Dr. Kleve about Karl. Meanwhile, Karl begins to relapse into his crippled state, and runs off into the night. In a nearby park, a young woman and her boyfriend are talking, but she soon dulls of his words, and leaves for home. She barely makes it around the corner, and she’s attacked and killed by Karl. Dr. Stein and Dr. Kleve are on their way to Margaret’s home, when they are stopped by the police. They tell them that there’s been a murder, and they investigate, and realize it may have been Karl. They then go to a party at Margaret’s house and speak to her bout what happened with Karl. In the next moments, Karl bursts through the window, and shouts “Frankenstein, help me!”

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The following day, the medical council meets, and they decide that action must be taken to oust Dr. Stein. The hospital is empty as well, as word has gotten out about “Dr. Stein”, and his true lineage. Dr. Kleve is summoned by the medical council, and urges Dr. Stein to leave the country and they can start anew somewhere else. He refuses to leave and actually joins Dr. Kleve in the meeting with the medical council. Dr. Stein denies his real name, and the council goes to get proof. They dig up the grave, and find the priest’s body in the casket. As they are doing this, Dr. Stein is in the hospital for the poor, making his rounds. The janitor was apparently telling the patients of the rumors, and they savagely attack him.

I’ll stop here for now, and leave the ending a secret, but rest assured, the old Baron has a plan up his sleeve, and also Dr. Kleve to help him survive…or does he?

OK, here are my thoughts:

Although I like this film a lot for its interesting perspectives and plot, it doesn’t surpass the original. It lacks any real scare factor, unlike the first movie. Maybe this is due to Christopher Lee not being the “monster”, or maybe the lack of someone of strong principles opposing Baron Frankenstein. Either way, it’s still a good film, due to the roles played by Cushing and Matthews. Both are very good, and even the janitor, George Woodbridge, does a good job as a a secondary character.

The sets were quite good, as you’d expect from being filmed at Bray Studios. The music is average, but that can probably be attributed to the absence of James Bernard. The colors didn’t seem as vibrant in this second film either. If that’s just to the copy I have, or just fact, I’m not quite sure. Oscar Quitak (Karl, before the operation), was also very creepy in the movie, even though he was only around for the first third of the film. The brief appearance of Hammer faithful Michael Ripper definitely puts me at ease. His mere presence in any Hammer production automatically elevates it no matter what the quality is of the film. Definitely check this one out if you haven’t seen it before. It’s worth a watch and owning if you’re a Hammer fan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

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Title: The Curse of Frankenstein

Distributor: Warner Bros. (Hammer Studios)

Writer: Jimmy Sangster

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Hinds (also Max Rosenberg)

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhart

Released: May 2nd, 1957

MPAA: X (originally in the U.K., but PG in the U.S.)

 

To say that this film was groundbreaking for its time, is an overwhelming understatement. What Hammer Studios did was take the foundation of horror that was laid by Universal Pictures back in the 1930’s, and build  a mansion of horror on top. It all began with this film, The Curse of Frankenstein, in 1957. The film broke down barriers that had been in place for a long time, and nothing would be the same after its release. Peter Cushing is an absolute superstar in this one, and it vaulted his career into the atmosphere. Let us now turn back the clock to 1957, and witness the birth of true horror.

The movie begins with a priest, as he rides along a windy path to a prison on a hill. Once there, he’s shown to a cell where a man is “raving”, but the priest enters alone anyway. Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is the man inside the cell, and he’s scheduled to be hanged in one hour. He tells the priest to sit down and listen to his story, so that he can pass it on to others over time. The priest tells him to start at the beginning, so Baron Frankenstein begins his story in his childhood days, when his mother died. He explains to the priest that he inherited the family fortune at the age of fifteen, and brought in a tutor, Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart- pic below), to finish his schooling. The two grow to be quite close, and after two years, the young Baron has learned all Paul can teach him. The two are fascinated by the possibility of regenerating dead matter, and go ahead with their plans to conduct experiments that will lead to such a result.

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After months of gathering information and equipment, they finally attempt to revive a dead puppy. The laboratory is filled with all sorts of arcane looking devices, and before you know it, they activate the machines, and revive the animal from the other side. At this point they theorize on what to do next. Paul believes they should share their findings with the medical federation that meets in London every year. The Baron disagrees, and tells Paul that now is the time to open Pandora’s Box, and “find what lies beyond it.” Paul seems confused, and the Baron tells him that they must build a man, piece by piece, and animate it, creating life, in the vein of God creating mankind itself. Paul seems skeptical, but agrees to go forward.

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A neighboring town has just hanged a man for being a criminal, and hung his body at the town limits to warn others of the punishment waiting if they should try anything. Paul and the Baron cut the body down, and begin their experiment. First, the Baron tells Paul they must cut off the head, because the eyes and half of the head were eaten away by crows. Paul stands in shock and awe, as the Baron flippantly cuts off the head of the corpse. He then tosses it in a vat of acid, disposing of it once and for all. The Baron then informs Paul that he’s going away for a few days to get something (a new pair of hands for the creature). The next day, Paul is talking with Justine (Valerie Gaunt), the maid. A knock at the door interrupts them, and the door opens to show Elizabeth (Hazel Court- pic below), the baron’s cousin. She announces that she’s coming to live there, and to be married to the Baron as it was arranged by her mother. Paul then tells the Baron (in seclusion) that he’s decided to stop helping him with the experiment. The Baron tells him to leave him alone, and continue on without any help.

We next see the Baron and Justine, sharing a passionate kiss in a dark hallway. She tells him that she’s jealous of Elizabeth, and that she wants the Baron to marry her, as he promised. He kind of chuckles at her request, and then carries on with the make out session. The following day, the Baron leaves once again for more “materials”, and this time he brings back a new set of eyeballs for the creature. He then is seen examining them, close up. A knock on his laboratory door by Paul interrupts him, and then the two have a conversation about what the Baron is doing. The Baron then reveals the creature to Paul, but he rebuffs him again, and leaves.

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Another day or so passes, and we see that the Baron is hosting one of the most brilliant minds in Europe. This older gentleman is a scientist that is possibly more brilliant than the Baron himself. As they have conversation, Paul enters the room, and the Baron introduces the two. The Professor then tells them that he’s tired, and needs to retire for the evening. The Baron agrees to walk him to his room, and shows him a painting at the top of the balcony. We see the Baron get a strange look on his face, and then tell the Professor that if he backs up against the railing, he’ll get a better view. As he backs up, the Baron pushes him over the railing, shouting as if the Baron is having an accident. We get the impression that the Baron planned this all along. He then offers to let the body of the Professor rest in his families crypt, being that he had no family. After the burial, the Baron sneaks into the crypt, and removes the Professor’s brain. Paul shows up, and the two argue over the fact that the Baron basically murdered the Professor. The argument gets very heated, and then Paul grabs the bag containing the brain. A brief struggle ensues, and the brain gets smashed against the wall. The Baron get furious, and pushes Paul out of the way.

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Paul the warns Elizabeth that Victor is meddling with things he cannot control. She tells him that she wont be leaving, and he leaves her room, very disappointed. Next, we watch as Victor fixes the damage done to the brain by the struggle with Paul (or so he thinks). He then begins the process of reviving the creature. Initially, nothing seems to happen, but as he leaves the room, he then asks Paul to help him, and threatens to involve Elizabeth is he wont help him. Suddenly, he hears a loud crashing noise coming from the lab. He returns to see the creature (Christopher Lee), alive, and extremely volatile. It attacks the Baron, nearly killing him, if not for Paul intervening. The Baron is in ‘full arousal’ over this (even though he’s almost killed), and Paul is mystified at this reaction. Paul then begs Victor to dispose of the creature, but Victor tells Paul it’s his fault because he damaged the brain in the fight they had previously.

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The following day, the creature gets loose, goes into the forest, and kills an old man and his grandson. Victor asks Paul for his help in tracking it down, then, Paul brings a rifle, and shoots the creature, killing it once and for all…or so he thinks. He and Victor bury the monster, but Victor then digs it up and keeps it secretly in his dungeon. Justine then threatens the Baron if he doesn’t marry her as he promised. He tells her that she had better not or face the consequences. He also tells her that she’d better be gone by tomorrow, or else. That night, Justine creeps out of her room to gather proof of what’s going on in the laboratory, so she can either extort Victor or hurt him by telling the police. Victor realizes this, and lays a trap for her. As she creeps into the lab, and then the dungeon, Victor slyly locks the door behind her, and the creature kills her.

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Once again, Paul confronts Victor after learning the creature still lives. Victor and Paul argue and fight in the lab, then out in the street as well. The creature busts out of his chains, and attacks Elizabeth on the rooftop. Victor grabs a pistol, and in trying to shoot the creature, accidentally shoots Elizabeth. The creature then attacks him, but he throws a lantern at it, and it is engulfed in fire. It then stumbles towards the window, and falls into the pit of acid.

We then return to the prison, as Baron Frankenstein finishes his story, and the priest seems unconvinced. The guard then tells the Baron that Paul Krempe has come for a visit, and he shows him in.  Victor begs Paul to corroborate his story, but Paul acts as if he has no clue what the Baron is talking about. The priest walks out, and Victor then attacks Paul, but the guards drag him off. Paul leaves and tells Elizabeth that Victor has gone insane. The last thing we see, is Baron Frankenstein being led to the gallows.

 

My thoughts are as follows:

In the beginning I said this film was groundbreaking, and that’s no exaggeration. It showed copious amounts of red blood, and now for the first time in color, it seemed even more revolting. Hammer is known for its “RED” blood, no doubt about that. The scenes of other grotesqueness include the Baron holding an eyeball right in front of the audience, the reveal of the creatures horrific face, when the Baron cut off the head, and disposed of it in the acid, and so on. This movie pushed the envelope of what it meant to be a “horror” movie like no other of its time.

Peter Cushing was marvelous, of course, and Robert Urquhart added a fantastic element of struggle against the Baron. Both men played off of each other very well, and showed how just two characters can carry an entire film literally by themselves. Yes, you did get Lee as the creature, and Hazel Court was beautiful, and well spoken, but those two men were the shining light of this movie, make no mistake.

In typical Hammer fashion, we had sets that were awe-inspiring, and the locations were numerous but none more famous than Bray Studios. Fisher, Hinds, and Sangster, gave us a masterpiece with this film, and should be lauded for their efforts. Also in keeping with Hammer traditions, the music score by James Bernard will send chills up your spine and have you on the edge of your seat with his thunderous climaxes. If you’ve never seen this film, shame on you, and rectify this blemish on your record immediately. If you have watched this film but do not own it, buy this film in a set like I did (TCM Classic Horror), it includes four Hammer classics that every horror fan needs to own!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968)

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Title: Dracula Has Risen From The Grave

Distributor: Warner Bros./Seven Arts (Hammer Studios)

Writer: Anthony Hinds

Director: Freddie Francis

Producer: Aida Young

Starring: Christopher Lee, Rupert Davies, Veronica Carlson, Barbara Ewing, Barry Andrews, Michael Ripper

Released: November 7th, 1968

MPAA: G (PG, by today’s standards)

 

As I continue with my look at the Dracula/vampire franchise from Hammer Studios, the next movie in order is this under-appreciated flick. It is missing Hammer stalwart, Peter Cushing, but it does feature the best Dracula ever, in Christopher Lee! There are a few minor roles that are good too, and we’ll take a look at them for sure! There were some different names attached to this film that you didn’t see before (or after for that matter), but it still did have that awesome Hammer atmospheric mood to it. Lets get down to business!

 

The film begins with a boy, Johann, as he’s going to clean the church before mass. He quickly notices something dripping from the bell rope, and we see blood, covering the rope. Outside, the priest (Ewan Hooper) hears a scream, then rushes into the church. He sees that a woman has been bitten on the neck (image below), and her blood is dripping down the rope, and into the church. The priest exclaims…”when shall we be free of his evil.” Fast forward to a year later, and that same priest is saying mass, to an empty church (except for Johann). He then seeks asylum at the local tavern for a drink. Within minutes, his superior, Monsignor Ernest Muller (Rupert Davies) is coming for an inspection, but finds only Johann in the church. Johann, who is now a mute (due to shock from the incident a year earlier), takes the Monsignor to the tavern where the priest is boozing.

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The Monsignor  questions the priest about why the church was empty. The patrons tell the Monsignor that they are still afraid of Dracula’s presence even though he’s supposedly dead (he was killed in the last flick). The Monsignor tells the priest that they will head up to the castle in the hills, and perform an exorcism to ease the villagers fears. The next morning the two holy men make the trek up the mountainside. As they approach the castle, the priest begins to waver, and begs to stay behind. The Monsignor tells him it’s OK if he does, and he continues on the journey by himself. As he reaches the castle, night falls, and a storm begins. He reads the service of exorcism, and places a cross on the door.

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Meanwhile, the priest is having a drink of booze, and the Monsignor begins the journey back down the mountain. The priest then slips, falling to the icy river below. This is the spot where Dracula was killed off, and we can see his ice-covered body right under the priest. The ice cracked from the fall, and some of the priest’s blood seeps into the ice, and on to the lips of Dracula. This is enough to revive the fiend, and before the priest can get his bearings, the bedeviled master of all that is evil, is ready to get down to business. He then enslaves the priest to be his daytime minion. The Monsignor theorizes that the priest went down before him, and leaves town for his home.

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Next, we see the Cafe’ where a young man, Paul (Barry Andrews-image below) works. His girlfriend, Maria (Veronica Carlson), who is the niece of the Monsignor, lives with her mother and Uncle. Max (Michael Ripper), the owner of the cafe’, gives Paul some advice before he heads out to meet Maria. In the bar, Zena (Barbara Ewing-image below) is entertaining the drunks with her wit and voluptuous figure. The regulars play a joke on Paul, and he gets soaked with beer, just as maria shows up to meet him. She seems to be quite upset at first, because Paul is meeting her mother this evening, but she quickly forgives him, and they head out to her home. Once there, Maria is shocked to see that her uncle has returned from his trip, and you get the feeling that she didn’t want Paul and him to meet. After dinner, we find out why Maria was uptight about them meeting each other. Paul is an Atheist, and he tells the Monsignor this, and they get into an argument. Paul then leaves, and Maria is very upset.

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As Paul returns to the cafe’, Zena is closing up. Paul orders a large Schnapps, and Zena uses this to try to put the moves on Paul. As Paul retires upstairs, Zena attempts to seduce a drunken Paul. Maria shows up however, and puts a damper on that idea. Paul and Maria then make whoopee, and maria sneaks home along the rooftops of the village. As Zena walks home in disappointment, a carriage runs her down, and chases her into the woods. As she twirls around, Dracula is there, and he bites her. The next morning, Paul finds Zena in the basement of the cafe’. She hides her bite marks, and heads upstairs.

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The following morning a priest comes to the cafe’ (Dracula’s new slave), and obtains a room with Zena’s help. He hides Dracula in the basement, and then Dracula orders Zena to bring Maria to him, so he can exact revenge on the Monsignor for the exorcism and the such. Zena doesn’t acre for this request, but Dracula pimp slaps her, and she changes her mind. Once Maria shows up, Zena quickly lies, and tells her that Paul is in the basement waiting for her. As Maria heads down, Zena jumps her from behind, putting a sack over her head. Zena then tosses her into the other room, and Dracula nearly bites her. Paul broke things up by calling out to Maria, and Dracula then takes out his frustrations on Zena. He bites her, and drains her blood, killing her (image above). Maria heads home after Max and Paul calm her down a bit. Maria sneaks into her bedroom, but her mother is waiting, and scolds her for sneaking out. As she does, Maria faints, and appears to be unconscious. Dracula then commands the priest to dispose of Zena’s corpse, and he does so by tossing her into the furnace!

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The next evening, Maria gets a visit from Dracula (image above), and this time, there is no one there to stop him from biting her. The Monsignor sees the bite marks on her neck, and realizes what’s going on. He waits for Dracula the next evening, and chases him across the rooftops. Just as he starts to catch up, the priest smashes a pot over his head, and leaves him to die. He doesn’t die right away, but crawls back to his home, and tells Maria’s mother to get Paul. He explains the situation to Paul, and how he must stop Dracula, or Maria will become his servant or die. Can Paul stop this bloody reign of terror? Or will Dracula keep Maria for his bride?

 

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OK, here we go:

This is my second favorite Dracula movie of all time. I really enjoy this one because it feels true to things Dracula would probably do if you crossed him. Think about it. If you did something to Dracula’s home, don’t you think he’d want revenge? Of course, you can’t guess about everything he would do, but his arrogance would definitely be something you could count on. Lee is very creepy in this film, and his action scenes are absolutely fantastic! He leaps out of a window like a panther in one scene, but also commands the room even when he’s stationary too.

The supporting roles were solid in this one as well. Rupert Davies was a great protagonist, and then was replaced after his demise by Barry Andrews. Both actors brought different things to the film, but both also delivered. The anguish of the priest was another very good angle in this movie. It added the last part that was needed to bring about some chaos in the movie. And let’s be honest, looking at Veronica Carlson doesn’t hurt the movie either.

Michael Ripper is his usual awesome self in this one too. You can always count on him to stabilize the dialogue, and bring some humor into the mix. He owns these secondary roles, by giving a strong performance, and being the utmost professional as well. He knows exactly how much energy is needed to bring to the table without stepping on the toes of the other actors performances. Another great film from the Hammer vault!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

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Title: Dracula: Prince of Darkness

Distributor: British International Pictures (Hammer Studios)

Writer: Anthony Hinds (Jimmy Sangster -screenplay)

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys

Starring: Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Andrew Keir, Thorley Walters

Released: January 6th, 1966

MPAA: UR

 

I’ve decided after last week’s review, to continue with Hammer’s Dracula franchise, and give Dracula: Prince of Darkness a look! Now, this film is actually a continuation from the first film (Horror of Dracula in the U.S.), and keeps the ball rolling with the greatest Count Dracula- Christopher Lee! He reprises his role as the venomous vampire, and really cranked up the crazy in this film! It’s definitely one of my favorites in the sub-genre of vampire films! Well, without further delay, here we go!

The film begins showing stock footage of Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) killing off Dracula from the first film (to get you back on track after The Brides of Dracula). Next, a funeral procession is moving through the forest, and seems to be ready to do something terrible to a girl that has just died. As they are about to put a stake through her heart, a monk, Father Sandor, (Andrew Keir) is passing by, and whips out a hunting rifle, and puts a shot near them, stopping them from staking the corpse. He tells them that they’re fools, and they explain that they cannot take any chances with suspicious deaths. He again calls them idiots, and orders them to bury her in the church yard.

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In the following scene, the local tavern is bustling with patrons, and four of them specifically are spotlighted. These four travelers are having a good time, all except Helen (Barbara Shelley). She thinks that her brother in-law, Charles Kent (Francis Matthews), is being foolish with his money by buying drinks for everyone at the bar. They disagree about the subject, but as they are about to leave, the door swings open, and Father Sandor (image below of Andrew Keir & Francis Matthews) steps inside. He greets the travelers, but scoffs at the locals for having garlic to “keep out the boogeyman”. The locals seem like they couldn’t care less, and keep pounding down the ale. Father Sandor asks them to come visit the monastery when they travel his way, but warns them about their next destination. He tells them that evil abounds there and that they should avoid it altogether.

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The next morning, the foursome is taking a carriage ride to their next stop, in Carlsbad. Once it nears sunset though, the driver stops, and orders them to get off of the carriage. They do, but can;t understand why he has asks this of them. He drives off after telling them he’ll be back in the morning. As they quibble about what to do, another carriage, all black, pulls up to them. It has no driver, and this scares Helen, but Diana (Susan Farmer), Alan (Charles Tingwell), and Charles all agree they should use the carriage to get to Carlsbad. Once in the carriage though, it takes off and wont follow the instructions of the driver. It arrives moments later at a less than auspicious castle in the hills.

Once they decide to go inside, which is against the warning s of Helen, they are not greeted by anyone, and can find not a single soul at home. The dinner table is set for a meal though, and all the candles are burning. The men go upstairs to search for someone, and as they do the ladies are shocked to see the shadow of an odd man coming towards them. They shriek in terror, but when the men come back downstairs, they all realize that it’s just a servant. The man identifies himself as “Klove” (Philip Latham), and tells them that his master always has a table and rooms waiting should any passersby need help. Helen is irked by Klove and the house, but the others think she’s being a wuss. Klove tells them about his former master, Count Dracula, and how great of a guy he was back in the day. After a nice meal, they retire upstairs for the night.

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As the two couples are bedding down for the night, Helen still has an uneasy feeling about the situation. Everyone goes to sleep, and Helen cries out, thinking someone has called her. Alan tells her she’s been dreaming, but then he hears something in the hallway. As he peeks out, he sees Klove, dragging a trunk through the hall to a room. As he leaves to investigate, he follows Klove into a lower level. As he sees a coffin placed in the middle of a room, Klove pops out from behind him, and stabs him to death. Klove then hoists the corpse over the coffin, which we can now see is full of ashes, and slits Alan’s throat, spilling the blood all over the ashes. As the ashes turn to smoke, then to an eerie fog, we get a feeling of dread. As the fog clears, we see Count Dracula, reborn! Before he can even get his bearings, Helen, who has gone looking for her husband, reaches the lower chamber. Before she knows what’s going on, she’s hypnotized by the gaze of the Count! He then moves in for the kill.

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After this wild night, Diana and Charles are befuddled by their missing family members. Charles searches for them diligently, but cannot find any trace of them. Charles takes Diana to a nearby woodcutter’s shack, and returns to the castle to look for them again, and more in-depth. A while after he’s left, Klove pulls in with the carriage and tells Diana that Charles asked for him to come and get her. Meanwhile, Charles has discovered his brother Alan’s dead body. Klove then returns to the house with Diana, and Helen, who’s now a vampire, attempts to bite Diana, but is interrupted by Dracula! He hisses at Helen and grabs Diana, but Charles shows up, and fights them. Diana then uses the cross to send them packing for now.

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Charles and Diana then make for the monastery where Father Sandor lives, and tell him the horrible story. He agrees to help them fight Dracula and his minions, but first they must fight off an attack on the monastery itself! Can they defeat the Prince of Darkness? Or will they become part of his undead army?!?

OK, here are my thoughts:

If you love vampire/Dracula films from back in the day, you’ll love this flick. Lee gives a chilling performance in this one, and his lack of dialogue doesn’t hinder the creepiness of his character. After the second film not having Lee in it, this was a great return for him, as the previous vampire (David Peel) was also pretty good. Barbara Shelley was also quite good in this film, adding the “nagging wife”, but also giving the movie some of that eeriness by being so frightened. Her performance was very  believable.

Another fine role was that of Klove. He was supremely weird and creepy, giving us all something to shudder about! I think the best acting role was by Andrew Keir (Father Sandor). He was hilarious when the need was there, but also very serious and tough as nails as well! A scene where he had to clear up a vampire bite on Diana’s wrist. He holds a scolding hot lamp on it, and then stakes a vampire through the heart later in the movie!

Overall, I’d give this one high marks for the roles, and for the music score too. James Bernard is probably the best Hammer composer of all time, and rightly so should he be labeled. Always thunderous, and oft his music sets an ominous tone for the entirety of the films he composes! Kudos to the regular gang of people as well that also were involved -Jimmy Sangster, Anthony Hinds, Anthony Nelson Keys, Terence Fisher, etc. Get out there and grab this flick, it doesn’t disappoint!