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13 Chilling Hammer Horror Films

Hammer. A name synonymous with lush, Gothic horror with a very British tint. The Halloween season is ideal for bringing us back to those years from about 1958 until the early 70s, when Hammer—previously a somewhat down-on-its-luck film studio, hit upon the winning formula of revived horror classics with a fresh, Technicolor hue, liberally doused in blood and gore. Hammer produced dozens of films and a few TV series in its lifetime (it had a dry run in the 30s, before war-time exigencies slowed production and brought the studio to near-failure) –comedies, war movies, straight dramas, science fiction—but it became know for those fifteen or so years of full-color period piece horrors—often derivative and cheap and sometimes exploitative—but always flashy and classy and fun. Of course, to our tastes today these films are tame, the blood and gore silly and fake… but their wonderful period-creak has the cinematographic patina of a lost time—not only in the Victorian/Edwardian mise-en-scene of each film, but in the double dip of a bygone fifties and sixties, when times were simpler and even cheapish horror was slick and theatrical.

The following are thirteen of the best Hammers, partly my opinion and partly the consensus of Gothic horror fans. Kids today may be jaded, but open your minds to suspended disbelief, and you may find yourself enjoying the look, colors, tonal moods and dark atmospheres of these small gems… not to mention the splendid acting talents of Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Andrew Keir, Barbara Shelley, Michael Ripper, Andre Morrell and many others—the regular players who made Hammer their home.

These films are offered in no particular order.

13

Quatermass and the Pit

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Bernard Quatermass was a character created by Nigel Kneale for the BBC in the 1950s, who was featured not only on television, but in a series of films produced by Hammer, beginning in 1955 with “The Quatermass Xperiment.” This begat a follow up a couple years later. Both films starred a poorly-cast American, Brian Donlevy, (a somewhat mundane actor with a well-fed face, who looked more businessman than scientist) as Quatermass. After these two black and white efforts failed to take off, Hammer delayed producing another Quatermass film until 1967, when it could apply both Technicolor and a better actor more suited to the role: bearded and tweeded Andrew Keir, who lent a professorial grumpiness to the part.

But not only that—Quatermass and the Pit (titled “Five Million Years to Earth” for American distribution) was given a Hammer supernatural horror treatment as well. The story of a mysterious and apparently dangerous “haunted” projectile discovered during construction of the London Underground (it’s at first assumed to be an unexploded German bomb leftover from WWII) which turns out to be a spacecraft from Mars (replete with mummified Martian corpses and fossils of the ape-men the grasshopper-like Martians were experimenting on) is more pure ghost and horror story than science fiction, with the ancient Martian plot to transfer the survival of their civilization to genetically engineered apes (later to evolve into Humanity) mixed in with horrific legends of demons, devils, ghosts and goblins. Indeed, the horned visage of the Martians is discovered to be the root at our race memory of a classic devil, and the whole thing ends in a terrific bang of electricity and telekinetic energy. A favorite of many a Saturday Afternoon TV monster movie matinee for us kids of the 70s, this film still packs a delicious jolt.

12

The Hound of the Baskervilles

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Not a horror tale you say? Oh, think again. When Hammer got a hold of it, the most famous Sherlock Holmes story became very much a horror yarn, and one of the best. In fact, this ranks, in my opinion, as purely THE best version of “The Hound” ever made, and one of the best Holmes movies ever. Peter Cushing turns an elegant twist as the great detective, with Andre Morrell a superbly dead-on Watson. Christopher Lee is along for even more delight as the haunted and hunted Sir Henry Baskerville, heir to the titles and lands of the cursed Baskerville family. It’s always a thrill to watch the Lee and Cushing team-ups, and this one doesn’t disappoint. If you’re a Holmes fan, you’ll almost certainly love Cushing’s take on your hero, and if you’re a horror fan, you’ll find this one rare and tasty meat that’s well above the common dog food.

11

Scream of Fear

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I’ve held forth on this one before (see my “Ten Suspense Movies You Must See’) but it never hurts to invite new audiences to look over an old friend.

For a time in the early-to-mid 60s, Hammer produced a series of psychological thrillers in the “mini-Hitchcock” vein, and to my mind this is the best. This twisting, turning, nothing-is-what-it-seems shocker affected me so much when I was a kid that I never forgot the scene of an old man’s corpse, glimpsed floating at the bottom of a weed-choked pool. I only saw the film once, on TV in the early 70s, but that scene stuck with me for so long that I finally tracked down the film years later, (I had remembered only bits and pieces of it) and of course added a copy of it to my library.

Pretty Susan Strasberg stars as the wheelchair-bound heiress who comes home to her family’s Cote d’Azur villa to suspicions that her stepmother and the village doctor may have murdered her father, and are plotting to drive her insane. From there it’s a minor roller-coaster ride of turning shocks with a surprise ending that delivers and delivers well. Creepy, moody, and sprinkled with scares, everyone I’ve introduced this film to has found it a fun delight. Let me know what you think.

10

Horror of Dracula

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Okay, first classic “monster” horror on the list, and also the first pairing of Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing and Christopher Lee as Dracula. This stylish thrill-ride boasts the signature Hammer cinematography, dramatic score, expertly paced editing, and excellent direction of Terence Fisher. It made Hammer’s name on both sides of the Atlantic, and begat a series of Dracula sequels… not to mention launching the careers of the aforementioned Cushing and Lee as horror stars.

But it’s not only historic importance that places “Horror of Dracula” on this list (called of course simply “Dracula” in the UK, the “Horror of…” had to be added for US distribution as Universal still held rights to the solitary “Dracula” for use as a film title) it’s also because this is simply a ripping good movie. Speedily but effortlessly paced, it plays as much, or more, with the original Bram Stoker story as the Universal Lugosi version did, but where the Universal classic was spooky and creaky, and Lugosi’s vampire a merely menacing Transylvanian undead, the Hammer film is a bloody, frightening, tense thumper, and Lee’s Dracula a deadly, horrifying, evil killer. With his bloodshot eyes, blood-stained lips and demonic stare, this more violent Dracula makes us forget that prior to the Hammer/Lee interpretation, Hollywood vampires had been only elegant men in elegant evening clothes, like lothario magicians. Lee’s Dracula brings the dripping blood and brutal menace to the figure, and makes him more demon than charming trickster… the true Prince of Darkness.

9

Curse of Frankenstein

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I’ve never been as big a fan of the Hammer Frankensteins as I’ve been the Hammer Draculas. The reason isn’t merely reflective of a preference for murderous vampires over lumbering creatures, but it really hearkens to a difference in the way the two series were played. There’s something new and keenly exciting about Christopher Lee’s Dracula and something creepily terrifying about most of the films in which he played the character. But there’s something missing, I think, in the Hammer Frankensteins. There’s something of the unoriginal about them, the derivative, of the Universal originals… while at the same time the Hammer Franks pale, for all their Technicolor garishness, when placed up against the Universal high-marks. I simply can never view a Hammer Frankenstein film without remembering the James Whale original, or The Bride of Frankenstein or Son of Frankenstein. Perhaps its Karloff, whom for once Lee could not measure up to, no matter his physical height. And perhaps, too, it’s the way the Hammer Frankensteins never seemed to grasp the pathos or the tragedy of the monster—let alone his creator. And here too the Hammers falter—because, as Denis Gifford pointed out in his unparalleled study of the Horror film (A Pictorial Guide to Horror Movies) Hammer made the mistake of making Doctor Frankenstein the continuing element in the films, and not the monster. Cushing played Frankenstein in all but one of the Hammers, and Cushing was great. But his Doctor Frankenstein is simply evil mad doctor with few, if any redeeming qualities… and in each film he creates a new monster which only serves to pull us away, in some sense, from the original creation of the story… and away from the heights which Karloff managed to reach in the 30s.

So why is this movie here? Well partly historic significance—it proceeded “Horror of Dracula” by a year, and was thus Hammer’s first foray into the horror field. But it’s really more than that. This is arguably the best of the Hammer Frankensteins, and certainly the most stylishly handled, if some of the later films reached for more of an almost campy surgical mess and gore which could also be fun. It’s also interesting, however, in the way it chooses to focus on the failed humanity of Doctor Frankenstein himself, played with relished wickedness by Cushing. Told in flashback, we’re never quite sure if we’re seeing what really happened, or merely what Frankenstein has dreamed or imagined. In any case, though, this film delivers shocks and horror, and that’s what counts. In the future there were other Hammer Franks that had more murderous, brutal creature-creations, but Lee’s creature in this one (Hammer was unable to use the term “monster” for the Doctor’s creation, since this would have stepped on Universal’s legal toes) while having none of Karloff’s pathos, still echoes with a kind of pathetic sadness.


8

The Reptile

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With this film, Hammer took a break from the “let’s milk the old Universal classics for all they’re worth” and created their OWN monster for a change… and it’s a good one. The daughter of a former missionary to the Punjab has been cursed, because of his misdeeds, to regularly transform into a humanoid, poisonous reptile. Her bite, of course, is fatal to anyone who comes close, and the resultant rabies-like mess is a nasty sight to behold. Sounds cheesy, yes—and it is! But that’s the delight of these films. You don’t come to film for reality, you come to it for nightmares and dreams. And like all great horror films, this one proceeds from start to finish like a bizarre and twisted bad dream.

7

The Plague of the Zombies

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Did I say “The Reptile” was like a bad dream? That description fits this film even more closely. Three years before George Romero changed the Zombie genre forever with “Night of the Living Dead,” Hammer films were already paving the way with the first film ever that transformed the zombie from merely a slavish, robotic walking corpse into a terrifying monster. No, the zombies in “The Plague” aren’t yet eating your brains, or devouring your flesh—but they’re a damn site more menacing and nightmarish than the somewhat neutral zombies of the thirties and forties, when they were more prop than monster, even in great (but cheap) turns at the ghoulish, like “White Zombie.” Val Lewton’s more-dark-and-psychological-romance-than-horror“I Walked with a Zombie” is still the best ever, but I’ll put this film at third place after “Night of the Living Dead” for its place in re-edifying and re-vivifying the zombie as a monster of terror in our minds.

Great use of color for mood and tone, great direction and editing, and great makeup effects. AND a plus—a marvelously surreal dream sequence in the middle of it, an unusual departure for the usually straightforward Hammer.


6

Dracula, Prince of Darkness

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For me, the tops of all the Christopher Lee Dracula films. This is the one that gave me nightmares as a kid, and the one I remembered for years ever after. I’m not *exactly* sure why. Lee has nary a line in this film, but that only makes him more animalistically menacing and evil. And this is a brutal film in some ways, taking the Hammer nastiness up a notch. Oh, not as high as it would get later, in, for instance “Scars of Dracula” and so on—but you can see the blood on the wall here. A nice touch is the introduction of Dracula’s human “servant” and protector, Klove, acted by Philip Latham in a wonderfully understated but supremely menacing manner. It also features the beautiful Barbara Shelley as Drac’s first female victim, and the always enjoyable Andrew Keir (the aforementioned Doctor Quatermass) as a helpful but irascible priest who is instrumental in dispatching the evil count. High point—the brutal, slaughter-like sacrifice of Charles Tingwell’s character so that his blood will resurrect the dry-as-dust Lee back to the land of the living-undead.

5

Curse of the Werewolf

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I was initially unsure about the inclusion of this film to the list, and had originally preferred the later “Dracula has Risen from the Grave” (a nifty film in its own right, with the always-menacing Christopher Lee and a nice featured role of a failed priest as Drac’s slave/servant, including some more nasty brutality with a few particularly vicious murders). But then I thought the list was getting top heavy with Dracula films, and it needed a werewolf. AND Hammer did do the werewolf genre a nice turn with this minor, often forgotten picture.

It stars the always-watchable Oliver Reed, who portrays an even more tragic werewolf figure than is the norm—he is the result of a tragedy, in which a cruel nobleman first locked up and tortured a humble beggar, driving the beggar insane—and then had a servant girl flung into the beggar’s cell because she rejected the nobleman’s advances. There the hapless girl is raped, and the resulting child is cursed to lycanthropy.

The makeup for Reed’s werewolf may appear a trifle silly at times—that’s a matter of taste I suppose. But nothing silly about the story itself, or Reed’s performance, both of which carry with them power and subtlety. I found myself, on watching this film again, feeling eminently sorry for Reed’s character, who was cursed to a downfall that was not in any way his fault. And the pathos of this shows in the character quite well.


4

Brides of Dracula

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I think some people either love or hate this film. I love it. I think I know why too. Oh yes, surely, it’s all the attractive damsels that the Dracula stand-in, David Peel’s gloriously decadent Baron Meinster, gets to bite. (Yes, despite the title, this is NOT a Dracula film. Dracula is mentioned, but as having been destroyed. This film is about those who are carrying on in his name, with the loathsome “disease” which he has let loose upon the world). And it’s the edging-to-over-the-top performance of David Peel as a kind of metrosexual vampire, who retains some real menace in his clipped voice and manner. And it’s the TRULY over the top performance of Freda Jackson as “Greta,” Baron Meinster’s insane, protecting servant. But more than anything it’s the superbly stylized visual imagery, which makes the film look EXACTLY the way a gothic Technicolor horror film should look, from start to finish. This film should be watched on a slightly grey Autumn Saturday, with the leaves rustling in a menacing breeze, a threatening hush to a vaguely evil afternoon. You’ll see what I mean.

Never mind that this film throws Hammer continuity out the window (Van Helsing—again portrayed by the consummate craftsman, Peter Cushing—states in “Horror of Dracula” that vampires manifestly do NOT turn into bats—but in this film they do) and never mind that at times it makes little sense (characters seem to be introduced who are never seen again, and the vampiric brides make no move to stop Van Helsing from “curing” himself once Meinster has bitten to enslave him). It doesn’t matter. This film is such a ghoulishly visual treat you don’t care. It is chock full of memorable images—the first new bride’s “awakening” from the soil, with whacky Greta’s help—the fight between Meinster and Van Helsing in the castle—Van Helsing’s heroic “cure” of the bite inflicted on him—the padlocks falling supernaturally from a coffin—and so on. And it’s worth the price alone for David Peel’s fun take on the evil Meinster, with his biting delivery of the line, “MOTHER…..come here.”

3

The Phantom of the Opera

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Okay, again—there were other films I was thinking of including here. Any number of them. But then I reconsidered Hammer’s remake of Phantom of the Opera, and I thought, what the hell? What elevates this film, besides the usual lush Hammer cinematography, is the story of Herbert Lom’s tortured Professor Petrie, and the performance Lom turns in for the character. Again, this flies in the face, somewhat, of the original Leroux novel, but then so did the superior Lon Chaney version of 1927, not to mention the late 40s remake starring Claude Rains, which was more sappy romantic musical than horror film. I still prefer Chaney’s Phantom, who has no reason for what he does other than just being a butt-ugly nutcase. But his Phantom had the pathos. In a way though, Lom’s does too. We feel sorry for him. And that’s due to Lom… and partly to the always fun-to-watch Michael Gough, who again chews the scenery as the villain in yet another 60s shocker. Watch for Patrick Troughten as slimy rat catcher, too.

Lom’s Phantom dies heroically, saving the day. But before this we get to see the usually lush Hammer treatment of a classic story, with the Hammer edge of period decadence worked in. Only scary in spots, same may prefer other, more frightening Hammers… but this one manages to entertain without making us wish for Chaney, even if he still echoes and is still, of course, far better.


2

Nightmare

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Another Hammer psychological thriller. I almost fudged by including yet another Hammer in the same vein, “Paranoiac,” with this one (here’s the link to the famous ultra-creepy scene from Paranoiac) but I decided I might as well just come down for one or the other—and I simply consider “Nightmare” to be the superior film.

It’s the story of a teenaged girl who witnessed her insane mother kill her father years earlier, and is now suffering recurring nightmares about the event. Released from school, she returns home to her guardian, nurse, and servants… but her nightmares become more and more realistic and vivid—and terrifying—centering on a woman she’s never seen before. We soon found out that the girl’s guardian and his mistress have taken advantage of all this to form a diabolical plot to get rid of the guardian’s wife… and the story goes twisting and turning from there.

Good, spooky suspense with a lot of atmospheric and creepy scenes to recommend it.

And sure, check out Paranoiac as well.

1

The Mummy

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45E-YNHX4_E&hl=en&fs=1&]

Another derivative Hammer that revives an old Universal favorite, this one again stars Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, with Lee at bat as the VERY tall and very moldy Egyptian, Kharis. Kharis was condemned to have his tongue cut out and be entombed in a living death for attempting to revive, using the “Scroll of Life” (it was the Scroll of Thoth in the original Karloff/Universal version) his moribund love, the princess Anank-ah, who, it just so happens, is the spitting image of the wife of Egyptologist/Archeologist Cushing.

When Cushing and his father and uncle come a-calling in Egypt to loot Anank-ah’s tomb, they rouse the ire of Mehmet Bey (George Pastell), a faithful follower of the long-dead religion of the god Karnak (which was actually a *place* in ancient Egypt, not a deity). Bey decides to use the accidentally-revived Kharis to take revenge on those who desecrated the tomb, and soon Cushing and family are marked for death.

In truth this plot was lifted from later Universal mummy films, but the yardstick to go by is always the original 1932 Karloff version—and really, this one holds up pretty well. The fun thing is to watch Lee—who is bandaged from head to foot—acting at times solely with his eyes. It’s downright amazing. He manages to convey anger, rage, determination and even sadness with just a change of eye-expression… the mark of a good actor. Cushing, of course, is a delight, and the film is moody and dark enough to scare. There were a few successor Hammer Mummy films–none of which starred either Lee or Cushing—and each had their moments of terror and gory shock. But this one maintains a level of typically stylish Hammer panache that keeps the fun going to the very end. Not a great film, but a decent one. Later mummies were scarier and more brutal (Hammer’s “Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb” and “The Mummy’s Shroud” both rack up the body count to a higher degree than this film) but it’s Lee’s performance and Cushing’s presence that bring home the goods here.

Listverse Staff

Listverse is a place for explorers. Together we seek out the most fascinating and rare gems of human knowledge. Three or more fact-packed lists daily.

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  • Si Si

    This one bored me. And I care not to see any of these films. I thought there was going to be a “Faces Of Death” list.

  • Drewdy

    Love the theme so close to Halloween.

  • ants1

    i hope tommorow is another horror list, i collect horror movies but cant say im a fan of the hammer horrors. Love the Can do attitudeof the company but the movies were all a little B- Moviesh for my liking.

  • Galactus

    Yup we want faces of death list

  • Derek

    More horror to immerse ourselves in the coming days, Hurrah!

    I really liked the old Dracula films as they usually give me a laugh with the special effects and music.

  • Firefly

    I LOVE Hammer films, especially the horror ones. Christopher Lee is one of my favourite actors ever (its a close tie with Vincent Price). My boyfriend bought me a 21 film collection of HAmmer for my birhtday this year. Best present ever! A lot of these films are in the collection. I would have included To the Devil a Daughter or The Devil Rides out. But all the ones here that I’ve seen are great :)

  • El the erf

    Does the Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing starrer, Dr. Terror’s House of Horror’s qualify as a hammer horror? If yes, why does it not figure in this list?

  • saopauloesquecida

    Well, the list was very well done, no doubt. Personally, I’ve never watched these movies and don’t think I ever will.

  • apepper

    Cushing and Lee formed a great partnership. Christopher is still an imposing presence.

  • undaunted warrior

    Well done Randall, just as well its 11am here I would hate to open this list last thing at night.

    Thanks another feather in your cap.

  • nuriko

    cool…

  • El the erf

    Oh sorry, the duo wrote the script for that one,they didn’t act in it.

  • El the erf

    Amongst the new ones, Evil Dead II is my all time favorite.(even thou it is part hammer part humour)… The sun setting scene still gives me the creeps, eeps!

  • djoser

    Good list. The Gorgon was pretty good as well.

  • Nemiga

    Nice list

  • El the erf

    Is it just my iphone or are there really no images in this list ?? And the guy with the long teeth…is he the dracula of Brides of Dracula?

  • El the erf

    Boy! People sure are thinking twice before posting. I bet the comments which follow will either be congratulatory or politically correct,lest they incur the contributor’s wrath(you-know-who!) :-)

  • Camel

    El the erf – They’re all embedded movies, which may be why they’re not coming through.

  • Seventeen

    Seriously does anyone really care about these movies?

  • oouchan

    Awesome list, Randall! I love the Hammer movies! Better than most of the crap out today. Have to say that number 9 and number 1 are my favorite.

  • tripsyman

    The I always remember is Zoltan, Hound of Dracula, in the states it was called draculas Dog. The American trailer can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7ifmDGdCZ0&feature=related

    I have fond memories of late saturday nights on BBC2 here in the UK, they used to show hammer horrors regularly. The only other thing that scared me as much were sketches done by an irish comedian called Dave Allen. Good days indeed!

  • tripsyman

    ^ the???

  • Kanza

    Very good list. Many great movies to choose from, and the final selection summed up some of the very best and as able to attain a fine balanced between different styles and characters. I’ve watched most of those and I am particularly fond of Horror of Dracula, maybe my favourite vampire movie that’s been produced after Nosferatu and Bela Lugosi’s Dracula – though it’s a tough dispute with Herzog’s Nosferatu.

    If I were to add another Hammer movie, that would have to be One Million Years B.C., which I used to watch as a kid in our old super-8 projector. That scared THE HELL out of me. And we can never have too much of a scantily clad Rachel Welch.

    And only now I see it was done by my arch-enemy Randall! (Easy, easy, it’s a joke!)

  • Kanza

    Proofreading:

    “the final selection summed up some of the very best and *WAS* able to attain a fine *BALANCE*”

  • Whitelighter33

    I collect horror films too and these are def films any horror fan would have on their shelf. Great list ;o

  • timmar68

    I’ve never heard of “Hammer Horror” but I’d love to see all of these films.

  • vesselman

    Nice list.

  • General Tits Von Chodehoffen

    learn something new everyday

  • Davy

    Good list, Randall. It seems to be your type.

  • saber25

    Thanks Randall. (eVEN THOUGH i ENVY YOU FOR SOMETIMES. pEOPLE LIKE YOU. pLEASE TELL ME SOME TIPS.) Yeah JFray, I NEARLY forgot, where are the TOP 10 FACES OF DEATH LIST? You told us that in the Spooky travel Destinations list nearly 2 Months agoooooooooo. Just to spice up the ZHalloween theme. And, 31st

  • saber25

    And By the way. Please tell me on who or what is HAMMER? It’s kind of confusing.

  • flamehorse

    Hammer is a British film studio that specialized in cheaply made but good horror movies, its heyday from the 1950s to 1970s. Their three most important actors were Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Vincent Price.

    Randall, this was a really fun list, but why isn’t Scream and Scream Again on here? Just for the climactic teaming of the 3 greats.

    Please don’t get really really pissed about this comment and start with the profanity. I wouldn’t want to have to show you up. :)

  • Kanza

    @saber25 (32):

    Hammer is a rapper from the 80’s/90’s. He directed all these movies.

    Not really.

    It was a british movie production company. The list introduction tells some of its history.

  • Kyle Dickens

    I’m sorry. Is that Youtube video entitled “The Plaque of the Zombies (1966) ” ? Were the Zombies employee of the year?

  • Taash

    Wow… how boring!

  • Taash

    But the list was done in a very cool way. Just the suject… I’m a late 80’s baby!

  • mom424

    Excellent list Randall. Being babysitter extraordinaire in my youth, I’ve seen ’em all.

    You’re entirely correct about Hound of the Baskervilles; it is the very best version ever made. Palpable feeling of menace – A classic.

    I’m not so sure about The Mummy though; I’m going to have to re-watch it. I vaguely remember it as being too cheesy even for me.

    Maybe next you could do a list of famous Vincent Price movies? House on Haunted Hill better be on that one. :)

  • Dave Rattigan

    Some very good choices.

    Personally, I would have included The Nanny, The Devil Rides Out and the underrated Captain Clegg (Night Creatures).

    I’ll certainly be watching a few Hammers this week, along with a handful of the old Universals.

    Am I allowed to pimp my website here, since it’s relevant? http://www.dictionaryofhammer.com

  • Kanza

    @ flamehorse (32):

    Is Scream and scream again a Hammer movie? I didn’t think it was, looked it up and found no such refence.

    I don’t recall much of this film, but I remember it had a very busy storyline, all over the place.

    The 3 greats, as you named them, plus John Carradine, are also together in House of the Long Shadows, which is has a humorous feel to it. It’s been ages since I’ve watched this movie.

  • Dave Rattigan

    Kanza, Scream and Scream Again is an Amicus movie. They made horror films (some very good ones) in around the same era – early ’60s to mid-’70s. Tended to be modern settings, though they dabbled in Gothic. Lots of really excellent anthologies, eg Dr Terror’s House of Horrors, The House That Dripped Blood, Tales from the Crypt.

  • El the erf

    Oh …and all this time I had been thinking that hammer horror was a genre of horror going hammer n tonks,blah!

  • Kanza

    @ Dave Rattigan (40):

    Thanks for the clarification. Your site seems to be very good, I’ll explore it further later. Congratulations.

  • callie19

    I’ve only seen Nightmare and Phantom, and I had no idea they were “Hammer”. I’m flitting over to Netflix right now. Yay, horror movies.

  • El the erf

    Reminds me to always carefully read the intro first before I just jump onto the list.

  • chowching

    never thought Hound of the Baskervilles was made into movie.
    always loved Sherlock Holmes :D
    i’m looking forward the Sherlock Holmes movie this Christmas.

  • Dave Rattigan

    El the erf, it’s a common mistake. The term “Hammer horror” to a lot of folk has come to suggest any British Gothic horror of that era, whether made by Hammer or not.

    Another common mistake someone made was to say that Vincent Price was a Hammer horror star. He wasn’t in a single Hammer.

  • Kanza

    @chowching (45):

    Actually, there are several cinematographic versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles, even some old silent ones – from the 10’s and 20’s – made in Germany. Unfortunately, I still haven’t been able to watche these. I’d say that roughly every decade has had its version of the book – though none were released in the 21st century yet.

  • kingoflondon

    No 7 Golden Vampires? but this is an all time classic – Shaw Bros and Hammer kung fu horror… it doesn’t get any better than that!

  • RC

    Thought you’d have had ‘The Devil Rides Out’ in there somewhere. ‘Horror Express’ is also a favourite of mine.

  • flamehorse

    @Kanza (39): I guess it might not be a Hammer film, but it might as well be.

  • CannonJack

    Number one should have been the Original WICKERMAN!!!!!!!! Hands down the best hammer horror film of all time!!!!!

  • Randall

    @CannonJack (51):

    The Wicker Man was NOT a Hammer film. Sorry. It was from British Lion Pictures.

  • Randall

    Okay folks, thanks so far for all the positive comments. And thanks to Dave Rattigan for filling in for me a bit here, to correct some misconceptions… and nice website Dave. I think I’ve been there before.

    Flame: Nope, “Scream and Scream Again” was NOT a Hammer film, but nevertheless, it’s pretty cool. I have a copy.

    Same goes for Dr. Terror and any number of other Amicus and Tigon productions—another good one (from Tigon) is “Blood on Satan’s Claw,” marred only, I thought, by a weird and puzzling ending.

    Amicus and Tigon tried to copy the Hammer formula to some extent, and it’s sometimes easy to get the studios confused—but really when you get down to it, there’s nothing quite like a Hammer film.

  • natapillar

    they put these on late at night on bbc2. used to enjoy watching them when i was a kid,knowing that if i got caught i’d be told off…. but still watched them anyway!

  • Randall

    Horror Express is another good film, but again, alas… not from Hammer.

  • AshleyR

    yay!! i love Dracula and Frankenstein!!!!!!! and the phantom of the opera too of course ^_^

  • archangel

    Cool classics!

  • natapillar

    i was gonna say,i never remember hammer doing the wicker man! still it was a good film though

  • Randall

    @Dave Rattigan (38):

    Dave, thanks again. And really, great site. Stick around and chat Hammer with me/us all you want. I could waste a whole rainy day on the subject. :-)

    You know, I thought about the Nanny, but something about that film never really clicked for me. I don’t know why. As for The Devil Rides Out, yes, very good film… but I think the Hammers from 69 on, into the early 70s… I think they lost something. For instance, the Karnstein Trilogy films—you know the ones I mean… they just don’t thrill me at all, except, of course, for all the beautiful naked chicks. THAT’S a nice thrill… but the Hammer panache is kind of gone from them.

    Oh…Captain Clegg… do you have a decent copy? Mine is *terrible.* It’s all washed out and the sound is no good. Is there a better issue of that film? The one I have is a cheap-o DVD which for all I know may have been homemade by someone (bought it on eBay). I think I’d enjoy it more if I had a superior copy.

    Did you ever see Dr. Syn, the version with Patrick McGoohan? It’s Disney, I know, but actually I think they just distributed it. I remember seeing it on TV when I was a kid and thought it good, but I haven’t seen it in probably close to forty years.

  • Randall

    @mom424 (37):

    A list of Vincent Price films is an EXCELLENT idea… I should have thought of that sooner… I could get right on that and have that banged out in no time. (I’ve been trying to finish a *researched* list for Jamie on hauntings… hoping I can have that done before Halloween, but of course he may have other plans for submissions).

    I love Vincent Price though–always have. My 15 year old daughter even has a kind of crush on him. ;-) But she’s a very dark and goth kid. :-)

    Any preferences? My favorite Price films are of course the Corman pictures—top of the list being “The Haunted Palace” and “House of Usher.” But of course “House on Haunted Hill” would HAVE to be on there… :-)

  • Blacknimbus

    Good list…Quatermass and the Pit is one of my favorite films.

  • Randall

    Dave Rattigan:

    PLEASE don’t think me a huge dick for nitpicking… but just noticed, in the small thumbnails at the top of your page–the great vampiric cleavage shot of Ingrid Pitt is from “The House that Dripped Blood”… an Amicus film. :-)

    Not that I disapprove–I have that one too, and it’s probably their best, I think. And what the hell? She looks great.

  • Cecilie

    actually the Phantom of the Opera movie starring Lon Chaney is from 1925

  • Randall

    @Cecilie (63):

    Thanks for the correction, Cecilie… you are so right.

  • Bob

    Hammer who? What is this? I don’t even. . .

  • Dave Rattigan

    Hi, Randall.

    You’re right, the Ingrid Pitt pic is from The House That Dripped Blood. It was pointed out to me years ago, but I decided to leave it in as a bit of a test for Hammer fans. ;)

    I definitely think the best Hammer films were late ’50s to late ’60s, and there were a lot of duds in the 1970s. As for the Karnstein trilogy, The Vampire Lovers wasn’t bad, Lust for a Vampire was one of Hammer’s tattiest ever productions, and I actually really like Twins of Evil.

    I have always loved The Nanny, but really appreciated its genius when I read the novel by Evelyn Piper. The novel had a good central idea, but the writing was absolute pap. I could see the changes Jimmy Sangster (writer and producer) had made, and it made me appreciate the film all the more.

    Re: Captain Clegg, if you can play Region 1 DVDs, Captain Clegg is on the Hammer Horror Series set from Universal, under the US title Night Creatures. It’s a fine print.

  • ianz09

    Dammit, this is discouraging. Just the other day, Randall, I believe on some thread you said you had just submitted another list… and here it is. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve submitted by now, but obviously they’ve been subpar :(

    Anyway, great list, I am too young to have known of most of these, but a good horror movie list was timely indeed for Halloween! Great writing.

  • John Sherman

    Ah Hammer! I grew up with their films. This is a pretty good list. A couple of comments. First, I thought the STRENGTH of the Frankenstein films was the focus on the doctor and not the monster. If you watch closely, you’ll find that Dr. Frankenstein has a vicious sense of humor in the movies. Second, Plague of the Zombie is the best zombie movie I’ve seen (I don’t like the brain-eating junk). Third, I saw Dracula, Prince Of Darkness at a midnight show and I watched it with my mouth hanging open. It was my favorite Dracula movie for a very long time. Fourth, I loved The Mummy, but in one scene Cushing blows up the tomb as his expedition leaves. NO archeologist would EVER do that! Fifth, Quatermass & The Pit is one of the best Sf movies ever made. It is GREAT. Everything works in that movie for me. Finally, Phantom of the Opera really isn’t that good. Weak. Feeble in fact.

    I would have added The Gorgon and The Devil Rides Out, but that’s just me.

  • Blogball

    Randall,this is a great and unique idea for a list. I really enjoyed it

  • Dave Rattigan

    John Sherman, I have to agree with you on two things.

    First, having Frankenstein as the focus of the series, rather than the Monster, was definitely a strength, and a reason why overall the Frankenstein series is better than the Dracula series (not that I don’t love both). There’s a sense of continuity (with the exception of Evil of Frankenstein) and character development. As you say, a dark, ironic sense of humour was pivotal to the character. I particularly liked him in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, probably the finest of the series.

    Second, The Phantom of the Opera was a bit of a misfire. It has its moments, but ultimately it didn’t really work. I wouldn’t say it was feeble, just a good try that didn’t quite work.

  • John Sherman

    A quick question for Randall and Dave Rattigan (who seem to be the resident Hammer lovers): Have you chaps seen any of Hammer’s pre-horror films? They did some noir films before they hit the mark with their horror films. There are a couple of DVD sets out of these films, but I have yet to see any. They were made with an American company who, it seems, provided a script and an American star (usually washed up). Hammer did the rest.

  • Dave Rattigan

    John, I’ve seen quite a few of Hammer’s pre-horror films, though not many of the noirs that have been released in the US. There are few real classics in that era, but there are definitely a few worth watching. Terence Fisher’s Stolen Face and Four-Sided Triangle, for example. Both are interesting in how they prefigure the later Frankenstein films, though neither is a horror.

  • ames801

    Great list! I can’t say I’m familiar with Hammer films but now I know where to start…

  • Dave Rattigan

    Btw, Randall, I like your opening:

    “Hammer. A name synonymous with lush, Gothic horror with a very British tint.”

    To many, Hammer is synonymous with tatty, corny hokum, all rubber bats, cardboard scenery and gratuitous nudity, but that’s unfortunate. The later Hammer efforts – Lust for a Vampire, Scars of Dracula, Horror of Frankenstein – have somehow overshadowed the earlier classics, which really were lush, classy affairs with very high production values (an astonishing achievement on very meagre budgets).

  • mom424

    Randall: Pit and the Pendulum? He was great in it. In fact he and the overall atmosphere are all that was good in that particular movie. :)

    Tales of Terror was pretty awesome too – at least I think so. I like shorts and campy/scary shorts are even better.

    His turn as the host of PBS’s Mystery series was wonderful as well; the best so far.

    By the way, have you ever seen the fanstabulous Canadian kid’s show, The Hilarious House of Frightenstien? He had a recurring role; he intro’d the show and recited poems in costume about each of the characters in it. H of F was all campy skit comedy – SCTV for kids. Great!

  • Firefly

    @ Randall: If you’re going to do a list of Vincent Price films my vote is for Masque of the Red Death. Oh, or The Abominable Dr Phibes, or Dr Phibes Rises Again, Witchfinder General…..ok I’ll stop now :)

    @ John Sherman (68): unfortunately it used to be common archaeological practice to use explosives to get into prehistoric tombs. Thankfully it’s something they don’t do anymore!

  • Randall

    @Firefly (76):

    In re: Vincent Price: YES, YES, YES and yesssss…. though Witchfinder General really just *depressed* me. I have a copy but I’m not sure I could watch it again. God, what a dark film. But Price is brilliant, as ever.

    In re: explosives in archeology—yes, explosives were sometimes used to OPEN tombs and such… but in the movie in question, Cushing dynamites the tomb AFTER they’ve got in and taken everything out. I too never figured out WHY.

  • Kanza

    For all the Vincent Price fans:

    google “pit and the pendulum statue”, or something in these lines, that you shall find images of a very nice figurine of Don Nicholas Medina that was released a while ago.

    Quite befitting for the time of the year!

  • Randall

    @Dave Rattigan (74):

    Thanks… and I agree with you 100% about the unfortunate perception of Hammer… but I don’t think that perception is… “universal.” (pardon the silly pun).

    Have you ever read Denis Gifford’s excellent book on Horror films? He didn’t speak kindly of Hammer, (the book was written in 1972) though I always felt his criticisms WERE justified. The unoriginality and derivativeness of the Hammer films, for instance—and he just felt they didn’t measure up to the heyday of Universal. And yet, he didn’t RAIL against Hammer, and admitted that in time, age might put its own patina on them–and it has. I bet if Gifford were still with us, he’d have changed his mind about Hammer by now. At least the older films.

  • Maggot

    Great list Randall, nicely done. I don’t even particularly consider myself a horror fan but this list and your descriptive write-ups intrigues me enough to want to check out a few of these (and I say this without even having seen your clips yet, because I can’t access them until tonight from home). Being a total layperson towards the genre, I had no idea this Hammer “sub-category” even existed. Oh the things I learn by surfing LV.

    Btw, I LOVED your added clever touch of having “13” entries! lol nice.

  • Metalwrath

    The Devil-looking aliens in the movie “Quatermass and the Pit” suggesting our mythology of devils is actually that we saw aliens who looked like them is a rip-off of the book “Childhood’s End” by Arthur C. Clarke.

  • samanthaf63

    I adore Hammer films and Christopher Lee in particular, but I must say my favorite is like “Brides of Dracula” because the writing is surprisingly tight (the fate of the Baroness Meinster is particularly creepy).

    However, I simply adore Christopher Lee (check out his autobiographies and you will become an instant fan if you weren’t already) and take advantage to see him when possible.

    Would I like to add a bunch more? You bet – though I’m not sure I would call them “scary,” I would definitely call them “entertaining.”

    What a fun list!

  • QDV

    @Randall (60):

    Finally, someone mentioned Ingrid Pitt, who made her mark in several of these “boobs and blood” flicks. Great list…makes me want to go out and pick up half a dozen of these today and waste a few hours tonight. I have good memories of a lot of these movies and their scaring the pants off of me during the Saturday afternoon (or late night) horror film presentation.

    BTW, small typo alert: It’s Patrick TroughtOn, in “Phantom of the Opera” (and quite a few other Hammers, such as playing Klove in “Scars of Dracula”).

  • Dave Rattigan

    Randall, I’ve not read Gifford, but am not sure how the criticism that the Hammer horrors were derivative really stands up, unless he’s talking about the later films. With their earliest films, Hammer pioneered a totally new approach to horror that was as far away from the Universals as you could get. (They had to, under threat of legal action from Universal if they aped any of the old horrors.)

    A film like Dracula (1958) was a huge risk. Gone were the dusty cobwebs and crumbling ruins in favour of an exotic, lavish, immaculately kept palace. Gone was Lugosi’s creepy, foreign-sounding Count in favour of Lee’s dashing, handsome, well-spoken young aristocrat. Gone was the sterile, monstrous vampirism of the Universal films in favour of the sexual, sensual seductiveness of Lee’s brand of vampirism.

    Certainly the films became more derivative as they went on, but often only derivative of their own style. They continually breathed new life into old myths – the vampire, the werewolf, Frankenstein, the Mummy – and regularly introduced new Gothic stories, such as The Gorgon, Jekyll and Sister Hyde, Hands of the Ripper.

    Let’s not forget Hammer also made a whole swathe of movies outside the horror genre, even during their horror years. Some really good adventures, war films, thrillers etc.

    I think pretty much all the critics dissed Hammer until the mid-’70s, when David Pirie wrote A Heritage of Horror and made Hammer horror respectable.

  • BryanJ

    Good list,
    Interesting stuff. I have never seen any of the films. It is hard to find old horror flicks in video rental stores around here. They usually play the same movies year by year on television.

  • Randall

    @John Sherman (68):

    “Ah Hammer! I grew up with their films.”

    Me too! I was born in 1965, and I had a sister who was ten years older than me… so as far back as I can remember, she’d make me sit with her and watch monster movies on Saturday afternoons. Hammer films were a staple, of course.

    “This is a pretty good list. A couple of comments. First, I thought the STRENGTH of the Frankenstein films was the focus on the doctor and not the monster.”

    Well, I can see that. Certainly with an actor of Cushing’s caliber, it can work. And I wasn’t saying that it wasn’t. It’s just that there was always something that turned me off about the Hammer Franks. Maybe it was the memory of Karloff, I don’t know. But the films seemed to be lacking in the tragedy and pathos of the first three or four Universal Frankensteins.

    “If you watch closely, you’ll find that Dr. Frankenstein has a vicious sense of humor in the movies.”

    That’s true!

    “Second, Plague of the Zombie is the best zombie movie I’ve seen (I don’t like the brain-eating junk).”

    No, neither do I, really. But I do feel that “Night of the Living Dead” (the original) was a high point. It’s a remarkably scary, tense film. But that’s the thing–the brain-and-flesh-eating “zombies” aren’t really ZOMBIES… they’re GHOULS. That’s what ghouls do–eat corpses, and sometimes freshly killed corpses. Zombies are really just animated corpses that have no will of their own.

    “I loved The Mummy, but in one scene Cushing blows up the tomb as his expedition leaves. NO archeologist would EVER do that!”

    That always puzzled me, and it puzzled my 15 year old daughter who asked about it the other day. I’ve had a long professional and private interest in archeology… and the only sense I can make of it is that Cushing blew up the ENTRANCE to the tomb after the fact, in order to protect the site from being entered, because it was way out in the desert, and impossible to protect. Of course, they’d already presumably removed all the contents… but perhaps the wall paintings and such were left in situ, and it was a way to protect these from exposure to the elements and vandalism. But really, I think it was just done in the film to suggest the modern disregard for the ancient holiness.

    “Fifth, Quatermass & The Pit is one of the best Sf movies ever made. It is GREAT. Everything works in that movie for me.”

    Total agreement.

    “Finally, Phantom of the Opera really isn’t that good. Weak. Feeble in fact.”

    Well…. I wouldn’t say feeble. But look at it this way—there’s the original, with Lon Chaney. Surely the best. BUT it’s a silent, and so not terribly accessible to a lot of people. (But if they try it, it’s worth it). Then there’s what I found to be the godawful remake in the late 40s, by Universal, starring Claude Rains—which to me isn’t a horror film at all. And it’s a thumping bore. That left us, for the longest time, with the only other option being Hammer’s version. Which is to me superior to the 40s remake by a long shot.

    I don’t know—my original inclination was to NOT include it… I fretted over that a bit. I DO actually prefer “The Gorgon,” but I have to admit that “The Gorgon” is a pretty weak entry itself. But in retrospect that may have been an error on my part. I mean, I like it… and frankly, I think I like it better, as I say.

  • Tom

    Does George Lucas have any particular affinity for Hammer films? I’m only asking because of Cushing and Lee’s appearances as Grand Moff Tarkin and Count Dooku.

  • necro_penguin

    thank you thank you thank you! i love the hammer films! you even included two i haven’t seen (nightmare and scream of fear).

    excellent list indeed.

  • Randall

    @Tom (87):

    Yeah, I believe so. I seem to recall an interview with Lucas where he cited his love for the films of the two actors, which certainly would focus on the Hammers.

    Lucas, Spielberg, and their various peers are all fans of the old 50s and 60s horror/sci fi films, producers, directors and actors. The period and the films themselves influenced them heavily.

  • Randall

    @necro_penguin (88):

    Oh really–check those two out. I guarantee you you’ll love both.

  • Rob S.

    I LOVE Quatermass and the Pit! I just rented the film from the library again a few months ago. I love stories that contain ancient spookiness.

  • El the erf

    @ianz09(55) Chin up! At least you are second on the Top Listverse commenters list, just behind big R :)

  • ianz09

    @El the erf (92): Yeah, but that doesn’t say much, that just means I say a lot.

  • Davy

    The Plague of Zombies was a pretty good movie, and as John Sherman said, it is much better than the brain-eating crap.

  • Nitroglycerin 2..0

    Great List Randall!

  • Randall

    @Blogball (69):

    Thanks much, pal. That’s nice, esp. coming from you—it’s my opinion you’re at or near the top of list writers for the site.

  • Randall

    @mom424 (75):

    “Pit and the Pendulum? He was great in it. In fact he and the overall atmosphere are all that was good in that particular movie. :)”

    Well, he was great in EVERYTHING, but yes, I agree about Pit and the Pendulum. Love that movie. AND it has Barbara Steele!

    “Tales of Terror was pretty awesome too – at least I think so. I like shorts and campy/scary shorts are even better.”

    Me too. I wasn’t nuts about the opener, Morella, but the others were great… particularly the M. Valdemar one.

    “His turn as the host of PBS’s Mystery series was wonderful as well; the best so far.”

    Yeah…. I miss that.

    “By the way, have you ever seen the fanstabulous Canadian kid’s show, The Hilarious House of Frightenstien? He had a recurring role; he intro’d the show and recited poems in costume about each of the characters in it. H of F was all campy skit comedy – SCTV for kids. Great!”

    No, never saw it… the number of Canadian imports here slipped in the late 80s, then dried up to near nothing in the 90s. Shame.

  • Andres

    Very informative and well-written—the way every list should be. Great job.

  • bleh waaaa

    Boom shaka wa wa!

  • bleh waaaa

    Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

  • I had read through about four reviews when I suddenly thought, “Wait a minute! What’s going on here? I agree with everything this list writer has said so far.”
    So I went back to the top of the list and sure enough, it was you, Randall!
    I have seen every one of these movies, and every movie alluded to, and agree with you about 87%.
    The 13% left over is not disagreement, just leaving room for later recall of another movie that I might slip in there instead of one of the choices there now.
    I have been a horror movie fan since childhood, and Hammer never disappointed (well, not too badly), and I’d drag friends, and later boyfriends, off to the movies to sit through double features of this stuff! If a boyfriend could sit through it and still want to go out with me, I considered him a possible keeper.
    What was a bit scary, Randall, was that you phrased things exactly the way I might have had I been writing the List; my feelings being so close to yours in these matters, I guess that’s inevitable.
    Anyway, great job!

  • Carole

    I Love Hammer films. Christopher Lee was always the best Dracula. What about “Blood From The Mummies Tomb” “The Vampire Lovers” and ‘Countess Dracula”?

  • kayleyrae

    I want to do a halloween like movie list, but it would probibly already be too late…

  • chuchu353

    Several years ago around Halloween, I came across (I think) a Hammer vampire film on cable. I only saw a few moments of it, but I clearly remember seeing a young female character dressed in early-19th century men’s clothes. She had short blonde hair and was wearing a high collar, breeches and boots. I think the film was made in the early 1970’s (could it have possibly been “The Vampire Lovers”?). Does anyone recognize this film?

  • GiantFlyingRobo

    Aww, isn’t this sweet? Randall’s getting along with everyone! It really is heartwarming, what with at least one idiot/jerkoff showing up on every other list and starting a fight with him, that we get to see him like this in a peaceful conversation. Of course, I’m over-reacting and someone’s probably gonna show up sooner or later to tick him off(I’m looking at you Archiealt). Oh, and by the way, good list Randall! I’m gonna have to rent some of these movies, maybe even buy some

  • Moonbeam

    Great list and well written. I ended up staying late at work because I started to read this at the end of my work day, and then I didn’t want to stop. I especially like the subtle play on words that you’ve inserted here and there – such as:
    “this film still packs a delicious jolt.” (#13)
    “one rare and tasty meat that’s well above the common dog food”(#12)
    “re-vivifying the zombie as a monster of terror in our minds…” (#7)
    “but you can see the blood on the wall here…” (#6)
    “with his biting delivery of the line…” (#4)

    I can remember watching some of these as a child and as a teen when I stayed up late babysitting. I wasn’t aware of the Hammer Film Studio, nor did I realize the connection among these films.
    By the way, today would have been the perfect day to watch some of these – it’s been an overcast and rainy Autumn day where I live.

  • Randall

    @Moonbeam (106):

    Moonbeam, thank you so much for noticing my little touches. It’s gratifying to have my prose style noticed as well as appreciated.

    It was a rainy Autumn day where I live, as well. But you know, I find it spookier still to watch these movies on quiet, dry, greyish Autumn days, with a breeze blowing the leaves around the lawn. There’s something of menace in days like that, even as they’re beautiful and soothing. Odd, but that’s how it’s always felt for me–a dichotomy of sorts.

  • Randall

    ADDENDUM: ATTENTION PLEASE.

    I find that I have been in error here. It’s a subjective error, but nevertheless, an error all the same.

    I chose Hammer’s “Phantom of the Opera” for this list instead of Hammer’s “The Gorgon.” I had not seen the latter in a year, and had forgotten some if its excellent moody touches and remembered that, while enjoying it immensely, I’d come away from it feeling it was not up to “The Plague of the Zombies” and “The Reptile.”

    Well, perhaps not. But I have just watched the film again, for the first time in a year, and I find I was mistaken in leaving it off the list. It IS superior to “Phantom” in every way.

    I had forgotten the wonderfully evocative (if ever so slightly cheesy) Hammond organ score. It gives an amazingly creepy spirit to the film in spots, underlining its dreamlike atmosphere–a bad dream. The vague nightmarishness is further emphasized by the strange, stagelike sets that look haunted by a thousand years of dark menace and earth-tone hues of quiet horror.

    I had forgotten Christopher Lee’s unusual performance, as the hero this time, to *Peter Cushing’s* indirect “villain.” Irascible, impatient, imposing, Lee makes this film in some ways. Cushing is like a sombre Frankenstein in this film–he even has a lab with dissected brains.

    I had forgotten the other excellent performances, and the beauty of Barbara Shelley, and how she manages a cold otherworldliness in this picture, echoing not only the dreamlike sense of things, but her character’s mysterious alien nature.

    I’d forgotten the peculiar lighting, and the subtle, small touches that mark the film as different, in odd little ways, from other Hammer films–for instance, when the main character, Paul, awakes screaming from a nightmare–the way he lurches from the bed into the camera, the light seeming to move across his face, as though for a moment we were coming out of the dream with him.

    There are repeated pools of strange light–oranges and reds and greens that appear like clouds of luminescence only to fade quickly from sight.

    This film is… well, not a minor masterpiece, perhaps… but close to it. There’s still some kind of a lack of a payoff… perhaps what made me hesitant originally. But the mood here is what matters, along with the strikingly weird beauty of the cinematography, matte painting, backgrounds and sets–which makes it a consummate Hammer film.

    Here is a link where you can watch the ENTIRE movie on YouTube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zh-GqOV5lUI&feature=related

    Really everyone—go take a look. And let’s just pretend I included The Gorgon here on this list, as an extra chiller.

  • Randall

    Actually, that link I posted takes you to Part TEN of the entire movie—but you can backtrack to Part One and go from there. Please do.

  • Doc Moonlight

    Great list Randall. You obviously put a lot of love and care into it.

    I think you’ve sold the Hammer Frankensteins short, though, particularly “Revenge of Frankenstein” which I think is the best Frankenstein movie ever made.

    One of my favorites not on the list is “Kiss of the Vampire”.

    I’m surprised not to see “Vampire Circus” is not on the list as it has many fans, but I’ve always considered it to be the most over-rated Hammer film; ok, but not a classic. For the most part I agree with you on the 70’s Hammers, but I do like “The Vampire Lovers”.

    If you’re going to do a Vincent Price list, it mus include “Theatre of Blood” and if you want to put a non-horror title, I would vote for Vinnie’s hilarious comic performance in “Champaigne for Caesar”.

  • chris

    Good list, I haven’t seen these films in years and reading about them makes me nostalgic, although for my money Mario Bava was the king of horror in the 60’s.

    The No. 6 entry mentions Charles Tingwell, who wasn’t really known on the world stage, but here in Australia Old Bud Tingwell (as we called him) was an icon of local film and television. He passed away recently and if anyone has the opportunity check out “Innocence” and “The Castle,” two fine aussie films that showcased just how great an actor Charles Tingwell was. R.I.P. Bud, we all miss ya mate.

  • steeveedee

    Kudos on this list, Randall. It brings me back to my adolescence when these were shown on Saturday afternoon TV, on Philadelphia’s Dr. Shock Theater. Not only did I enjoy the fountains of fake blood, but also the copious bosoms overflowing from all the women’s bodices. Hammer Horrors were quite an education.

    There are a couple great Hammer Horror collections on Amazon, and of course, the split up all the best films, so you have to buy a few of the collections to get all the great ones, like those listed here.

    Thanks again Randall!

  • Firefly

    @ Randall: yeah Witchfinder General was rather grim (I actually just watched it again a few weeks ago) but Vincent Price is just so sinister and evil in that film. Excellent as usual. What about Theatre of Blood? Genius!!

  • damien_karras

    Randall, sorry so late commenting on your fine contribution… to be completely frank, I was downloading your list all day in preparation for a horror movie marathon ably accompanied by a bottle of chilled Belvedere.
    Your writing style is incomparable, you don’t disappoint.

  • Dave Rattigan

    Have just confirmed that I’ll be on Dr William Lester’s radio show on Saturday November 28, 10pm-midnight ET, talking about Hammer Films.

    http://drwilliamlestershow.synthasite.com/
    http://www.gameconradio.com

  • Randall

    @damien_karras (114):

    Ah… Horror movie marathons with a good buzz on… few things can be better. What’s on the cinematic menu?

    And thanks much for the compliment.

  • laurabearandsavannah

    I loved the original “Phantom of the Opera” as a child. Everyone thought I was weird (fine by me, :D). I actually brought it up to school for movie show and tell month when it was my turn when I was 6. The teacher put it in, left the room, and I was the social pariah of every little girl in my class for months to follow. Love it.

  • kennypo65

    Hammer films are the best. You can’t go wrong with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, they are just perfect in these.

  • Anonymous

    #4 – One of the Brides of Dracula “Gina” (Andre Melly) looks like Michael Jackson @0:15.

  • John Sherman

    Thanks for reconsidering The Gorgon. I like it went Lee plays a good guy. That’s why the non-Hammer movie Horror Express was fun. Lee and Cushing teamed up as good guys.

    There are a couple of scenes in Phantom with Scotland Yard looking into the crimes. They ways these play, I am convinced they were added for the American release only. I seem to recall none of the police ever interacting with the main characters. I must say, the only thing I really liked in Phantom was Michael Gough, who is always good.

    I remember The Four-Sided Triangle! Two scientists invent a fantasic machine that can duplicate people. When one of them is asked how it works, all he does is ramble off a list of famous scientists of the past. “Oh, we’ve mixed some Mr. Einstein with a little of Mr. Edison and Mr. Tesla and added a smige of Mr. Watt” Blah blah blah! Best technical bafflegab in a movie ever!

  • Dave Rattigan

    You’re right, John. Those scenes in The Phantom of the Opera were added for television only in the US.

    The Kiss of the Vampire and The Evil of Frankenstein also had inserted scenes for TV. In the case of the former, many of the original theatrical scenes were cut, the added scenes drastically changed the story, and the title was changed to The Kiss of Evil.

  • John Sherman

    I recall reading that Hammer often made three cuts of their films. Mild for home, violent for the US, and very violent for Japan. I don’t know how many of their films that applied to, if any.

    Since Hammer tapped the Universal vein so often, it would have been interesting to see their take on a multi-monster film, like Universal’s House of Frankenstein or House of Dracula. Let’s see. Van Helsing approaches his twin brother Dr. Frankenstein (one took their father’s name, one took their mother’s) on how to finally kill Dracula. Dr. Frankenstein is convinced the solution lies with werewolves and mummies and zombies! And then we throw in Ingrid Pitt in a low cut nightgown and a hunchback assistant.

    I don’t think anyone mentioned Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. That was a fun movie. Not great, but fun. I wish they made a few of those.

  • Randall

    @John Sherman (122):

    “I recall reading that Hammer often made three cuts of their films. Mild for home, violent for the US, and very violent for Japan. I don’t know how many of their films that applied to, if any.”

    I doubt this. While it’s true that generally, British film censors tended to be far more strict in the early days of horror on up until about the 50s, in fact when Hammer started making their more lurid, bloody pictures, the only concession they seem to have made to American audiences is to tone *down* the violence for American television release. I’ve never heard, however, of them *upping* the violence for American theatrical releases–or for Japan for that matter. David Rattigan may know more about this, however.

  • Dave Rattigan

    Hello again, John!

    The one time Hammer really milked the Universal horrors for ideas (other than simply using the same monsters) was a disaster. That was Evil of Frankenstein in 1963. Since Universal were funding the film, Hammer looted the old Frankensteins and tried aping every aspect of them – a Karloffesque square-headed monster preserved in a glacier, a Mittel-European travelling carnival, a crazed hypnotist, a Stryckland-style laboratory, an explosive extravaganza at the end. It all looked pretty ridiculous in Hammer’s hands.

    I went to a Captain Kronos reunion last year. Wonderful day – only Hammer event I’ve been privileged to attend. All the cast were in attendance, as well as the director. Sadly, John Cater, a lovely, benign old gentleman who played Kronos’s hunchbacked assistant, died this year.

  • Dave Rattigan

    Randall, John is right on that one.

    The American market was open to more gore, where the British censors were very intolerant. Hammer’s scripts were regularly judged to be sick, perverted, warped, disgusting etc by the British Board of Film Classification. Wayne Kinsey documents the many censorship battles extensively in his two books about Hammer Studios.

    Japan would accept still more gore.

    Dracula (1958) was recently restored in the UK to include a few seconds of the US cut. You’d hardly notice it if you weren’t expecting it, but there are a few extra blood shots during Lucy’s staking.

    An extended disintegration sequence was definitely planned for the same movie, and a still of a makeup/effect not seen in the final film exists that makes one pine for what could have been. There’s some debate about whether it was all filmed, but it was possibly in a Japanese release.

    It wasn’t just the blood, either. European audiences were more tolerant of sex and nudity, so there are some notorious instances of such (eg a topless Hazel Court in The Man Who Could Cheat Death) that never made the UK release, but can still be seen in European cuts.

  • Randall

    @Dave Rattigan (125):

    Well, Dave… I can certainly believe American audiences (and the MPAA) were more tolerant of gore. The British film board censors were notorious for their uptightness in regards to not only violence but any scenes of a lurid or vulgar manner. Again, Denis Gifford tells many stories in his book on horror films about the British censors cutting various pictures to bits, removing not only violence but any scenes they deemed depraved or too frightening.

    By the way, here’s the book’s listing on Amazon:

    http://www.amazon.com/pictorial-history-horror-movies/dp/0671069365/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257280245&sr=8-13

    As a horror fan, I urgently counsel you to buy it.

    So what was the practice in actuality then? To make each film with X level of gore/blood/violence, and *that* version went to Japan…. then trim back X level a notch or two, and that was for the US… and then trim THAT back a couple more notches, and that was for the UK? Well, I guess it does make sense.

  • AuthorityFigure

    My Dad made me watch most of these on Mondays, (he forbid us to go to school on that day). Occasionally, he make us re-enact scenes at friends’ weddings and parties. He also wrote poetry with chalk.

  • ianz09

    @AuthorityFigure (127): ????

  • Idea Generation

    Glad to see Hammer is making a comeback! Check out http://www.culturelabel.com/Search.mvc/Products?q=hammer for Hammer products. They have great stuff- enjoy!

  • chapman6640

    No, no, no, Dracula isnt the prince of darkness, Ozzy f*****g Osbourne is the prince of darkness. :)

  • Jubbs

    @chapman6640

    Damn straight.

  • Windy

    Great list, i love the Hammer film. Hey, you can’t beat a
    grade B Horror or Sciencefiction Flick…

  • rrrr8891

    @Si Si: Wow, Faces of Death, you’re TOTALLY BR00TAL!!1!1!

    Grow up.

  • rrrr8891

    By the way, this is an excellent, well-written list. I don’t completely agree with the ranking (Quatermass would be #1 on my list) and you’ve omitted a few of my faves, but I can’t argue with the films presented. These are great flicks. Not scary per se, but atmospheric and fun. It’s unfortunate that some of the children here who think that horror is best represented by Saw, Hostel, and FACES OF DEATH (LOL REAL PEOPLE DIE ITS TOTALLY X-TREME LOL) are too jaded to give them a chance.

  • Will Trame

    Also of note is the “Hammer House of Horror” TV series which I believe had a thirteen episode run in the early ’80s and was broadcast on the Sci Fi channel in the early ’90s. I have since acquired the box set and episodes such as “The Witching Hour”, “The Silent Scream” and “The Carpathian Eagle” were extremely unnerving.

    Hammer veteran Jimmy Sangster wrote a superb “Night Stalker” episode, “Horror In The Heights” (aka “Rakshasha”).

    As far as the movies go, I also feel that Quatermass should have come in much higher on this list.

  • 80slightningreviews

    I just can’t take a list seriously that puts The Mummy as the number one film and marginalizes both Horror of Dracula and the Curse of Frankenstein. At least Quatermass and the Pit was included in this list.

    • Randall

      Note that I state that the list is in NO PARTICULAR ORDER. The Mummy is not “number one” in sense of being the best. I don’t like the idea of trying to rank these films, many of which, to me, are equals.

  • damien

    Where the hell is Karnstein trilogy hmm?
    Hammer means a total revolution in horror trade and no one is to oppose

  • nors

    Does anyone know the name of the movie in which Peter Cushing got bitten by a vampire ,i think Christopher Lee starred in it as well,not sure.

    • David L Rattigan

      That was Brides of Dracula (1960).