ORBzine - Hammer Horror - Movie Reviews

TITLE & REVIEW

Demons of the Mind (1972)

Demons of the Mind (1972) This takes place in typical Hammer territory. It is a period costume drama in a rural area of an unnamed central European country. The baron is up to no good, his mentally unstable son is suspected of murdering the village's scream queens, and the peasants are revolting. Michael Hordern ( Theatre of Blood ) is a priest, trying to instigate the peasants into violence.

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    The Gorgon (1964)

    Gorgon, The (1964) This is a Hammer Horror effort from the 1960s. Predictably it is a period piece, set in the Victorian era. A small town in Germany is beset with a series of mysterious killings. The town pathologist (Peter Cushing - Star Wars: A New Hope ) and Chief of Police (Patrick Troughton - Doctor Who ) are involved in the coverup.

    This is no mere slasher movie - the suspected killer is a magical, mythological, supernatural creature: a Gorgon named Magera.

    Eventually Christopher Lee ( Dracula ) investigates.

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    Kiss Of The Vampire (1962)

    Kiss Of The Vampire (1962) This is an early Hammer Horror effort, distributed by Universal Studios. It lacks the usual pairing of Lee and Cushing, and instead has a cast of second-stringers. As such it has faded into obscurity compared to the more famous Hammer films.

    This is set in a historical period, although the characters have an early model of motor car so the year must be circa 1900. Rather a late period, compared to the usual pre-Victorian setting of such movies. Most Hammer films were set in a pre-scientific era, so that the supernatural aspects of the story did not have to be properly explained.

    A young man and woman are in luck when their car breaks down. They get shelter at the nearby home of a mysterious aristocrat. Yes, more than a little reminiscent of the cliched start of The Rocky Horror Picture Show .

    The couple also encounter a vampire-hunter, a Father Shandor type (without the religious trappings).

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    Man Who Could Cheat Death, The (1959)

    The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959) A couple of centuries ago, scientist Anton Diffring ( ) discovers the secret of eternal life. Of course, this comes at a cost.

    A century later, in the late Victorian era, he sets his attentions on Hazel Court . Unfortunately she has another male friend (Christopher Lee - Star Wars: Attack of the Clones ), who becomes suspicious.

    Despite coming from Hammer Horror's top creators, writer Jimmy Sangster and director Terence Fisher , it is not one of their better known efforts.

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    Nanny, The (1965)

    The Nanny (1965) This is a Hammer film, written by Jimmy Sangster of all people. As such, we should not take seriously its view of mental illness.

    A young boy is paranoid that his nanny ( Betty Davis ) is trying to murder him.

    This is a pretty basic suspense thriller, with a contemporary setting.

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    Night Creatures AKA Captain Clegg (1962)

    Night Creatures AKA Captain Clegg (1962) In Eighteenth Century England, a Customs officer goes to a remote fishing village to investigate smuggling. The suspects include the local preacher (Peter Cushing - Frankenstein ), the buxom barmaid ( Yvonne Romain ) and a young fop (Oliver Reed - Curse of the Werewolf ).

    This is based on the Dr Syn books. Unfortunately Disney was working on Dr Syn, Alias The Scarecrow so Hammer decided to change the main character's name.

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    Plague of Zombies, The (1966)

    Plague of Zombies (1966) In Victorian England, an elderly Doctor and his attractive blonde daughter are invited to a small town in Cornwall. The town's Doctor is the old man's protege, and he is perplexed by a series of mysterious deaths in the area. Worse, his wife ( Jacqueline Pearce ) has been mysteriously blinded as if by magical means.

    As the film's title suggests, the locals have been turned into zombies. First they are killed by voodoo magic, then they are revived as the undead and put to work in a tin mine. These are pre-Romero zombies, they do not crave human brains. Rather they have to be forced to work by men with whips. For all the work they do, it might be more efficient to forget about using zombies and just get the men to do the mining work instead.

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    The Reptile (1966)

    The Reptile (1966) Although this has all the hallmarks of the Hammer brand (including the exteriors of Bray House), this has none of the usual familiar faces from Hammer horror films. Thus, it is at a disadvantage compared to other films of the brand.

    When a man dies in mysterious circumstances, his brother inherits a remote cottage in the English countryside. The neighbour is a sinister Doctor (of Divinity), with a beautiful daughter ( Jacqueline Pearce ) and a creepy Indian servant.

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    Scream of Fear (1961)

    Scream of Fear (1961) This is a black and white effort by Hammer House of Horror, before their heyday. The writer/producer was that prolific Hammer contributor, Jimmy Sangster .

    It starts with a German police officer recovering a woman's corpse from a lake. This is a grim scene that sets the tone for the movie. Although none of the characters in it appear again, it is vital for the actual storyline.

    A young woman returns to her estranged father's mansion in England. Father is dead, but his new wife - the stepmother - is welcoming. They have dinner with a family friend, the doctor (Christopher Lee - Dracula (1958) ). Yes, to match the mood of suspense we get one of the usual suspects.

    That night the young woman sees a ghost, or a dead body, in the grounds of the mansion. Either the place is haunted, or someone is trying to drive her insane - like in Gaslight .

    This is basically a low-level Hitchcock pastiche. It is not the kind of thing that Sangster or Hammer are famous for, but there was a lot of this kind of story in the 1950s.

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    The Witches (1966) AKA The Devil's Own

    Witches, The (1966) AKA Devil's Own, The This is a Hammer Horror film, adapted by Quatermass scribe Nigel Kneale from a novel entitled The Devil's Own. Apparently Joan Fontaine liked the book so much she bought the movie rights, and took it to Hammer so she could star in the film (at the age of 49).

    The protagonist (Joan Fontaine) is a missionary who falls foul of a witch-doctor in Africa. She somehow escapes back to England, and accepts a job as a schoolteacher in a remote country village. As with most horror movies, some of the locals are a bit creepy and she begins to suspect supernatural goings-on.

    Naturally, as the story progresses she needs the attentions of psychiatrist Dr Leonard Rossiter (Reginald Perrin). Is she re-living the trauma she suffered in Africa, or has she uncovered a genuine satanic conspiracy in Middle England? More importantly, how can the same Sh*t happen to the same guy twice?

    Unfortunately the film loses its way in the final act. Today's audience expect a Pagan blood-sacrifice ceremony to resemble the one in The Wicker Man . Unfortunately, this film's portrayal brings an unintentionally comedic tone to the proceedings.

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    Two Faces of Dr Jekyll, The (1961)

    Two Faces of Dr Jekyll, The (1961) Dr Jekyll (Paul Massie - ) is obsessed with his research into altering human nature. As a result he has neglected his wife, so she cheats on him with his best friend Paul (Christopher Lee - Dracula ).

    Jekyll decides his serum is ready for human trials, and injects himself. Mr Hyde looks just like Jekyll, except he is not sweltering under a wig and false beard. Yes, Jekyll's wife and friends do not recognise him clean-shaven!

    Hyde gets Paul to show him the perverse corruptions of London night-life. Unfortunately this consists of losing money at poker and watching showgirls dance the can-can. At least he gets to pick a fight with the young Oliver Reed ( Curse of the Werewolf ).

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    Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971)

    Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) This is a typical Hammer Horror effort, a period costume drama set in the late Victorian age. Ralph Bates ( Horror of Frankenstein ) takes a potion, and turns into Martine Beswick . Next thing you know, there are a series of murders attributed to Jack the Ripper.

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    Hammer Horror Dracula Series

    Dracula (1958)

    Dracula (1958) This is the Hammer Horror adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel, and takes a few liberties with the source material. Since this became considered a classic adaptation, and spawned a slew of sequels, this may have set a bad example to future adaptations.

    The movie starts with Jonathan Harker's arrival at castle Dracula. He is the castle's new librarian, instead of a Real Estate Agent. Harker's secret mission is to assassinate Count Dracula (Christopher Lee - Man With The Golden Gun ), but he is a sloppy assassin. Not only does he write his intentions in his journal, where they could be easily discovered by a snooper, but he is also distracted by Dracula's female hanger-on.

    A few days after Harker's inevitable failure, Van Helsing (Peter Cushing - Star Wars: ANH ) arrives in the area. Yes, the Dutchman was using Harker as a pawn all along. The bad news is that Dracula has disappeared. The good news is that Van Helsing has another minion, Arthur (Michael Gough - ), who can tag along on his adventures instead.

    It turns out that Drac has gone on the offensive. His first target is Harker's fiance Lucy ( Carol Marsh ), whose name has changed from Mina in the original, and who shares Lucy's fate in the original. The next target is called Mina, who happens to be Arthur's wife ...

    The final shot of this film seems to have inspired the end of Flash Gordon (1980) , which - thanks to the benefit of hindsight - did it so much better.

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    Brides of Dracula (1960)

    Brides of Dracula (1960) This starts with a voiceover to deliver exposition. Dracula (Christopher Lee - Man With The Golden Gun ) is dead, but other vampires (his disciples) still infest Transylvania.

    A French schoolmistress takes a stagecoach through Transylvania. She gets abandoned in a remote village, and ends up as a guest at the mysterious castle on the hill. The owner is the mysterious Baron Meisner ...

    Luckily, Van Helsing (Peter Cushing - Star Wars: ANH ) is in the area. Not to give away the ending, but Van Helsing uses the best-ever version of putting two sticks together to make a cross you can possibly imagine.

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    Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

    Dracula: Prince of Darkness Two aristocratic couples (including Barbara Shelley ) pass through the forest, near where Castle Dracula sits. Count Dracula (Christopher Lee - Frankenstein ) was killed ten years earlier, but the locals were all wise enough to stay clear of his castle.

    Despite the advice of Father Shandor, Demon Stalker (Andrew Kier - Quatermass ), the aristocrats end up at the creepy old castle. Dracula has an Igor-type manservant, and soon Drac himself is up and about.

    Shandor's monastery is believed impenetrable to the vampires, not because it is holy ground but because a vampire cannot cross a threshold without an invitation. It has another victim of Dracula, a bug-eating fellow named Ludwig. It never occurs to Shandor that a brainwashed victim like Ludwig is exactly the kind of person who could be compelled to invite Dracula across the threshold!

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    Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968)

    Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968)

  • 2000
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    Taste The Blood Of Dracula (1970)

    Taste The Blood Of Dracula

  • 2000
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    Scars of Dracula (1970)

    Scars of Dracula A young student and ne'er-do-well (Viktor Frankenstein meets Jonathan Harker) spends the night in Dracula's castle. Dracula's Igor may look like the Third Doctor (Wurzel Gummage) but is played by the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton - The Omen ).

    The student's brother (Denis Waterman - Minder) and fiance come looking for him. Luckily, the fiance's cleavage-enhancing dress comes with a silver crucifix - which entrances Dracula (and the audience).

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    Dracula A.D. 1972

    Dracula A.D. 1972 Professor Lorrimer Van Helsing (Peter Cushing - )

  • 2000
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    Satanic Rites Of Dracula (1973)

    Satanic Rites Of Dracula

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    Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires (1974)

    Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires (1974) Professor Lawrence Van Helsing (Peter Cushing - )

  • 2000
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    Hammer Horror Frankenstein Series

    Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

    Curse of Frankenstein (1957) The story starts in Switzerland around the year 1850. Doctor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing - Star Wars: ANH ) is imprisoned, awaiting execution by gillotine. He recounts to a priest the strange tale of how he got convicted of murder.

    The extended flashback starts with the young Frankenstein (Melvyn Hayes - It Ain't Half Hot, Mum! ) hiring a tutor who teaches him science. By the time Frankenstein has grown enough to look like Cushing, he and the tutor have managed to reanimate dead tissue. The next step is to create the perfect man.

    The experimental subject is Christopher Lee ( Lord Of The Rings (2001) ), swathed in bandages. Ironically the other Hammer Horror role he was famous for in his days before Dracula (1958) was as the title character in The Mummy . Yes, he certainly seems to have cornered the market for silent lumbering bandaged stranglers. In all fairness, Boris Karloff was an experienced theatrical actor who delivered many incredible perfomances in other movies.

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    The Revenge of Frankenstein (1962)

    The Revenge of Frankenstein (1962) The story starts in 1860, about a hundred years before the film was produced. Dr Frankenstein (Peter Cushing - Star Wars: ANH ) was sentenced to death at the gillotine. After the execution, a couple of grave-robbers dig up his coffin. However, things do not go according to the robbers' plan.

    The story picks up three years later. Frankenstein has moved to a new town, the city of Carlsbruck, and carried on his work. His cover is as a doctor in the town hospital, and the pseudonym he uses is ... Doctor Stein. Presumably his first name was Frank.

    Frankenstein's cover is as a general practitioner of medicine. He has a private practice where he caters to wealthy hypocondriacs, and uses the money to subsidise his work in a free clinic for peasants. Not everyone is happy with this arrangement. For example, the local Medical Council feel he has poached half their clients. It says a lot about their Oligopoly pricing system if a new competitor can dominate half the town's medical industry.

    Frankenstein's work is on surgically transferring a living brain from one host body to another. Yes, he actually perfects the full-body transplant. There is, however, one unfortunate side-effect.

    As always, Frankenstein's great flaw is his hubris. He refuses to flee, even when his own discovery is imminent. Will he evade justice again?

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    The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)

    The Evil of Frankenstein (1964) Dr Frankenstein (Peter Cushing - Star Wars: ANH ) is sabotaged by a violent local preacher. He moves back to his home town of Karlstaad so he can carry on his work. His old castle has been unoccupied for ten years, but he assumes that his valuable art collection is still there.

    Once back at the castle, Frankenstein tells his sidekick about his original experiment. Instead of giving us an extended clip of the original Hammer movie, this version shows us some re-imagined scenes. Gone is the Christopher Lee monster, and in its place we see the flat head and big boots we associate with the generic Frankenstein monster. However, when this film was made that appearance was anything but genetic. It was the intellectual property of Universal Pictures, and Hammer got the rights to use it in this movie by ensuring it had international distribution through Universal.

    In this re-imagined version, Frankenstein has not yet been convicted of killing anyone. The most they got him for was assaulting a policeman, for which the punishment was permanent exile. Unfortunately the corrupt burgomeister also looted - oops, confiscated - all the Baron's furniture and clothes. Everything that was not nailed down was relocated to his home.

    Frankenstein, with the aid of a mute beggar-girl, finds his old monster. Luckily the machinery in the castle has not been sabotaged, stolen or just rusted in the previous decade. However, the creature's brain is unresponsive. Frankenstein recruits another ally - Professor Zoltan, a hypnotist who has also fallen foul of the local authorities.

    Zoltan gets drunk and decides to use the monster to even a few scores. He fails to realise that the monster has no grasp of subtlety, and that the local police will not find it difficult to trace the source of the problem.

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    Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

    Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) Dr Frankenstein (Peter Cushing - Star Wars: ANH ) is dead, buried for an hour and then dug up and revived. He then plans a soul transfer. He continues his work, with an aging doctor and a young man whose father was executed for murder.

    Frankenstein realises you can resurrect the dead after flatlining for an HOUR because the soul does not leave the body on the instant of death. He then manages to create a bulletproof forcefield that will trap the soul in the body after death.

    Apart from Frankenstein's exposition, we also see the soap-opera life of the small town. The young assistant is in love with a deformed barmaid who has a stereotypical aggressive father. They are harrassed by a trio of young hooray henrys. One person gets murdered, and an innocent party gets sentanced to death and guillotined the next morning. This tragedy is compounded with a suicide.

    Frankenstein views the double tragedy as an amazing opportunity, and ends up putting the executed man's soul in the woman's body. Of course, no good can come of this ...

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    Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)

    Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)

  • 2000
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    Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)

    Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell A medical student tries to emulate Frankenstein's work. His body-snatching Igor may look like the Third Doctor (Wurzel Gummage) but is played by the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton - The Omen ) ... and seems remarkably similar to a character in Scars of Dracula .

    Frankenstein's fan ends up getting sent to the same Asylum. Unfortunately, Frankenstein (Peter Cushing - Star Wars ) has supposedly died in the meantime. The medical student soon sets about creating a new monster ...

    The Male Appeal is Madeline Smith , although unfortunately for everyone who remembers her eye-catching cameo in Live and Let Die she displays absolutely no cleavage.

  • Frankenstein Created Woman
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    The Horror of Frankenstein (1970)

    The Horror of Frankenstein (1970) This is a Hammer reboot of the Frankenstein story.

    Viktor Frankenstein (Ralph Bates - Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde ) is a young medical student who inherits a large castle complete with well-stacked housekeeper ( Kate O'Mara ).

    Instead of re-animating a complete person, he decides to make a jigsaw of human parts. The resulting monster looks like Dave Prowse ( Star Wars ).

    Naturally, everyone Viktor comes in contact with seems to learn to much, so he has to bump them off in order to keep his secret.

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    Karnstein Trilogy AKA Lesbian Vampire Films

    Vampire Lovers (1970)

    Vampire Lovers (1970) General Von Spielsdorf (Peter Cushing - )

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    Lust For A Vampire (1971)

    Lust For A Vampire (1971) This is a Hammer Horror period-piece, based on the work of J Sheridan LeFanu . It is set in 1830 in a Girls' school that is right beside the ruins of the castle of the vampiric Carnstein family. The protagonist joins the school staff, which includes creepy schoolmaster Ralph Bates ( Horror of Frankenstein ).

    A new girl named Mircalla ( Yutte Stensgaard ) arrives at the school. If she looks like she is too mature to play a teenage girl, this is not because she is a vampire. It is because Hammer used the typical Hollywood process of casting someone in their late 20s to play a character ten years younger.

  • Twins of Evil
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    Amicus Horror Films

    And Now the Screaming Starts (1973)

    And Now the Screaming Starts (1973) Stephanie Beecham , married two centuries ago in the 1770s, moves into a remote countryside mansion owned by her husband, Ian Oglivy. Shades of Rebecca, perhaps, as spooky goings-on commence. Dr Peter Cushing ( Frankenstein ) is called in to investigate. He discovers that something nasty happened fifty years previously, when Herbert Lom ( Asylum ) was Lord of the Manor.

    This was made by Amicus Productions in the early 1970s, playing on the success of Hammer Horror Films. It is from the same year that The Exorcist was released, and it seems to encapulate every reason that the Hammer-type horror movies died out. It is a period costume drama in an age that was embracing grittier stories set in the modern age. It is based on a book, Fengriffin - not one that has made best-seller lists recently. The Scream Queen has to contend with the then-cliches of the draughty old mansion, haunted portrait and severed hand.

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    Dr Terror's House of Horror (1965)

    Dr Terror's House of Horror (1965) Dr Shreck (Peter Cushing - Star Wars: ANH ) gets into a train carriage with five other gentlemen, many of whom have since gained International recognition. He offers to predict their futures with the use of a tarot deck. The result is a portmanteau of classic horror tales, produced by Amicus (the arch-rivals of Hammer House of Horror).
  • Werewolf
    One man returns to his family's home. The ancient lands were disputed by a werewolf named Cosimo Valdemar, a name more suited to a Paris-based story by Edgar Allan Poe than to a Scottish ancestoral manor in the Hebrides. The curse is that one day the werewolf will rise from the grave and reclaim the house.
  • Creeping Vine
    Bernard Lee (M in the James Bond movies) investigates a mysterious creeper vine growing near a suburban house. The plant
  • Voodoo
    Roy Castle (Carry On Up The Khyber) is a trumpet-player who gets a good job in the West Indies. However, he makes two mistakes. The first is to eavesdrop on a secret Voodoo ceremony. The second is to memorise their sacred rythms and incorporate it into his own music. Yes, the Voodoo gods take copyright infringement even more seriously than YouTube do!
  • Creeping Hand
    Christopher Lee ( Wicker Man ) is a snobbish art critic who has a feud with an artist (Michael Gough - Satan's Slave ). Gough plays a trick on Lee, but is most ungentlemanly by continually rubbing it in. Finally, even Lee has a breaking point. But Gough's severed hand starts to haunt Lee ...
  • Vampire
    Donald Sutherland ( Don't Look Now ) is about to move to a new home in a new town with his new wife. But the new town has a vampire in it. Will Sutherland manage to slay the monster?
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    From Beyond The Grave (1974)

    From Beyond The Grave (1974) This horror portmanteau from Amicus is adapted from a series of stories by R. Chetwynd-Hayes . Peter Cushing, such a nice old gent in Tales from the Crypt , is the creepy proprietor of an antique shop.

  • (segment 1 "The Gate Crasher")

  • David Warner ( The Omen ) buys a mirror. Unfortunately it has vampiric tendencies. A Victorian ghost is trapped in it, and hypnotises Warner into slaughtering some of the sexually available women he encounters.
  • (segment 2 "An Act of Kindness")

  • This segment involves Mabel Lowe ( Diana Dors ), Jim Underwood (Donald Pleasence - Halloween ) and his wife Emily ( Angela Pleasence ).
  • (segment 3 "The Elemental")

  • This segment involves Susan Warren ( Nyree Dawn Porter ).
  • (segment 4 "The Door")

  • This segment involves William Seaton (Ian Ogilvy - ) and his wife Rosemary ( Lesley-Anne Down ).
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    It's Alive (2008)

    It's Alive (2008) This is a remake of the 1970s classic. It is a new-wave Amicus Production, set in modern-day USA.

    Bijou Philips is a college student who gets pregnant. This is not a normal pregnancy - the foetus mysteriously doubled in size. And during the birth, something kills the entire medical team. The Sheriff is suspicious, as is the psychiatrist and the best buddy. Yes, a succession of visitors for the house with the murderous baby.

    The kid's father has a younger brother who is crippled and has to use crutches to walk. Easy prey for the man-eating baby, right? What is the brother's life expectancy? Or will he be protected by the Hollywood law that under-18s are exempt from death?

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    The Skull (1965)

    The Skull (1965) This is a little-known Amicus production, despite the impressive cast. Maitland (Peter Cushing - Star Wars: A New Hope ) is a collector of gruesome curios. His supplier (Patrick Wymark - Blood on Satan's Claw (1973) ) sells him the skull of the Maquis De Sade.

    Unfortunately the skull is haunted. Maitland seeks help from an old friend (Christopher Lee - Dracula (1958) ), but to no avail. The trail of bodies grows.

    While this film has a decent storyline, it is let down by its reliance in special effects. Especially since the effects are far below modern expectations.

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    Torture Garden (1967)

    Torture Garden (1967) This is portmanteau of four horror tales by Robert Bloch , directed by Hammer Horror veteran Freddie Francis . The framing story is Dr Diabalo (Burgess Meredith - ) giving some hand-picked customers a tour of his gruesome carnival sideshow. The exhibit is Atropos - Goddess of Destiny, who can reveal the horror of the customer's own hidden evil. One customer does not believe a word of this, so Diabalo uses the Goddess's powers and tells his future.
  • Enoch
    The first customer, a middle-aged man, visits his rich uncle and promises to end his spendthrift ways. This is a ploy to get access to his inheritance, which he believes to be a witch's gold. After all, the uncle pays for his grocery shopping in the local village with solid gold coins! Be careful what you wish for ...

    The witch's gold comes from their familiar, a black cat named Balthazar that was buried alive in the basement. Yes, a couple of homages to the works of Edgar Allan Poe . Balthazar will reward its human with gold coins ... but it demands human sacrifice in return. Since it has telepathic powers, it can coerce the human into following its commands.

  • Terror Over Hollywood
    The second customer is a twenty-something girl named Carla Hayes ( Beverly Adams ) who lives with a flatmate, Millie. Carla is overcome with jealousy, and steals a date with Millie's boyfriend - a successful man who is old enough to be her father. This is all a ploy to improve her career as an actress by hooking up with a powerful movie producer who looks like he is twice her age.

    Carla hooks up with a middle-aged superstar actor, a man who apparently has not aged a lot so might be even older than he looks. She discovers his nasty secret, about how he one of the Hollywood immortals ...

  • Mr Steinway
    The third customer is a young woman named Dorothy Endicott ( Barbara Ewing ), who has a relationship with a concert pianist named Leo Winston (John Standing - ). He in turn has a very special relationship with his piano ... and with Dorothy on the scene, the piano gets murderously jealous!
  • The Man Who Collected Poe
    The final story is about an American named Ronald Wyatt (Jack Palance - ) who is obsessed with the works of Edgar Allan Poe . Well, he would have loved the first story in this anthology. He meets a fellow fan, Mr Canning (Peter Cushing - Dr Terror's House of Horror ), who has something special stored in his basement.
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    Tigon Horror Films

    Blood Beast Terror (1968)

    Blood Beast Terror (1968) Rural England in the gaslight era, and dead bodies are piling up. The Police Inspector (Peter Cushing - Frankenstein ) asks the help of the master of the local Mansion - a Professor of Etemology. The Professor's daughter ( Wanda Ventham ) may know something about it.

    The Inspector goes undercover, and takes his daughter along as stage-dressing. This does make sense, from a certain point of view, but is also very convenient for the Damsel in Distress school of film-making.

    It turns out that the ability to turn into a giant man-eating moth has a single glaring down-side. I mean, how many centuries has it been since man discovered fire?

    The stand-out character is the morgue attendant who advises Inspector Cushing.

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    Blood on Satan's Claw (1971)

    Blood on Satan's Claw (1971) This 1971 effort makes its Hammer contemporaries seem tame in comparison. It has good cinematography but lacks familiar faces or big names, although a couple of the supporting cast later went on to major roles in Dr Who . The storyline seems a bit disjointed, because it is actually three stories joined together.

    Somewhere in rural England (everyone has a West County accent) a group of peasants discover the devil's bones. Apparently it is a demon named Behemoth, and needs human sacrifice to reconstitute itself.

    The Judge (Patrick Wymark - ) drinks a toast to James III, the Old Pretender - so he is obviously not to be trusted. The Reverend (Anthony Ainley - Dr Who ) has a weird obsession with snakes.

    Wendy Padbury falls victim to Sunday School bullies, in the worst ways imaginable. The village children start to become a satanic coven.

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    Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968)

    Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968) This is a Tigon production from 1968. Basically it is a Hammer-style effort, so you should know what to expect.

    A Black Mass ceremony is conducted by satanic priestess Lavinia ( Barbara Steele ). The film's production design team must have had a field day, because the costumes are so OTT even the torturer has massive antlers on his hat.

    An antiques dealer goes looking for his brother. He visits the mansion where he was last seen, and wanders into not a Roman orgy but a party from the Swinging Sixties. The lord of the manor (Christopher Lee - Dracula (1958) ) seems helpful, and orders his butler (Michael Gough - Satan's Slave ) to help the dealer.

    The film has an acknowledgment of genre cliches that pre-dates Scream by almost three decades. In a self-knowing scene that removes all genre-blindness one character compares the mansion to a creepy old house in a horror movie. Boris Karloff ( The Raven ) gets a name-check, especially ironic because he gets top billing in the film. Nobody points out that the two leads both played the monster in Frankenstein - Karloff in the 1930s Universal effort, and Lee in the 1960s Hammer version.

    The main story is that Lavinia was caught by witch-hunters and executed, but cursed them and their descendants. If this sounds familiar it was previously used in another Barbara Steele movie, Black Sunday (by ground-breaking Italian horror director Mario Bava ).

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    Virgin Witch (1972)

    Virgin Witch (1972) In the early 1970s, a pair of young women (real-life sisters Anne and Vicki Michelle ) go to London and get work from a seedy modelling agency. They are sent for a photo session at a remote mansion in the countryside.

    The mansion, like the modelling agency, is secretly owned and run by a coven of satanists. They use it to select potential sacrificial victims. The two young women have to remain virgins, so there is an element of cock-blocking.

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    Vintage English Horror Films

    City of the Dead (1960)

    City of the Dead (1960) This is set in New England, USA, but was filmed at Shepperton Studios in England. It came out the same year as Psycho (1960) , and they have quite a lot in common. Not only are they directed by Englishmen, they also feature a female protagonist who stays at a creepy not-a-hotel and goes missing so her boyfriend and next-of-kin come looking for her. Also, the final scare is similar. And on every level, the Hitchcock film is far superior.

    The storyline starts with a witch-burning in the bad old days. Not unlike the Mario Bava classic, Black Sunday , but set in Massachusetts like the works of HP Lovecraft . Then, in the modern day (1960) a Professor (Christopher Lee - Dracula (1958) ) sends an attractive young female student to do her research in a remote village. Her topic of study is witchcraft, but despite knowing about the witches' rituals of human sacrifice she is completely genre-blind when it comes to realising she has been set up as the next potential victim. It is one thing to be ignorant of the cliched old man at the fuel station, a trope which featured in Cabin In The Woods but was relatively new at the time this film was made. However, it is an entirely different matter for her to give exposition about what witches do to potential victims and then completely ignore the same things happening to her.

    The climax is quite spectacular in its own way. If you do not want to sit through the film, you can always watch best bits in the music video to Iron Maiden's Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter.

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    Island of Terror (1966)

    Island of Terror (1966) Despite being directed by Terrence Fisher and featuring Peter Cushing ( Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) ) this is not an actual Hammer horror production. It was made by a company called Planet Film Productions, which is quite obscure to say the least.

    The story is set on Pitcher's Island, off the east coast of Ireland. The local policeman wears the uniform of the Garda Siochana, so we can deduce that it is in the Republic of Ireland's jurisdiction. However, with the exception on the Garda's light brogue there are no actual Irish accents to be heard. The local doctor is an American immigrant, and the experts he calls in to help him are English. The locals' surnames and accents are lowland Scots at most.

    A local farmer disappears. When his body is discovered, his bones have been removed somehow. Dr Brian Stanley (Peter Cushing) gets called in to investigate. He and his associate launch a rogue investigation, and neglect to keep either the Garda or the mayor up to date. As a result, the monsters virtually take over the island.

    This is basically a monster movie. It seems the prime inspiration for modern parody Grabbers . However, we have to be fair to it. The second-rate special effects are a product of its time, reminiscent of the worst creatures from Doctor Who , but in all fairness are no worse than the CGI monsters of today's low-budget efforts.

    Does this film pass the bechdel test? The only female cast member is one of the doctors, girlfriend. Sorry, excuse the punctuation error - I meant to write one of the doctors' girlfriend. She is shoehorned into the plot by means of her having a rich father. The men complain about having to take her into a quarantine zone. In all fairness they are right to do so - not because of her gender, but because of her lack of relevant skills. These days, we hope that the writers would create gender-blind characters who would be defined by their actions and then cast according to ability.

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    Tales That Witness Madness (1973)

    Tales That Witness Madness (1973) This is one of a subgenre of 1970s UK horror portmanteaus that are best known for the entries by Amicus Productions. This particular film was released by an unknown studio, and sank without trace.

    A government official named Nicholas (Jack Hawkins - Black Rose ) visits a scientist, Tremayne (Donald Pleasance - Halloween (1978) ), at a top security laboratory. Together they review four cases that involve supernatural phenomena.

    The first story, Mr. Tiger, is about a young boy with an imaginary friend - an invisible tiger. Sort of like Calvin and Hobbs, but a lot more serious. The boy's parents are rich, but they constantly fight.

    Penny Farthing is about a young man and his girlfriend ( Suzy Kendall ) who own an antiques store. One of the artefacts there is an only penny farthing bicycle, once owned by the man's uncle Albert. In fact, they put a portrait of Uncle Albert on the wall above the bike. The portrait seems to have telekinetic powers, forcing the man to ride the bicycle so fast he goes back in time.

    A middle-aged Englishman becomes obsessed with a tree trunk named Mel, much to the annoyance of his neglected wife ( Joan Collins ). Is the husband insane, or is the tree an undead entity that controls his mind and has the physical ability to inflict violence on people? Perhaps a bit of both.

    The final story, Luau, is about a publisher named Auriol ( Kim Novak ). Her only loves are her career and her hot tweenage daughter Virginia ( Mary Tamm ). The publisher wines and dies her big new client, a Polynesian screenwriter, who in turn takes an interest in Virginia.

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    The Uncanny (1977)

    The Uncanny (1977) Most movies in this genre are shot in England by specialist UK Horror-movie studios. This was filmed in Canada by the more mainstream Rank organisation, so it has a bigger-budget cast but lacks the familiar feel.

    The bookend sequence is set in Montreal, Canada, in 1977. A writer named Wilbur Gray (Peter Cushing - At The Earth's Core ) delivers his research to a prospective publisher, Frank Richards (Ray Milland - Battlestar Galactica (1978) . At the publisher's request, Wilbur tells three tales from his book. They all promote his thesis that cats are evil and want to take over the world. Cats and Dogs (1999) , anyone?

  • London 1912
    The first story is about a rich old woman who wants to cut her nephew out of the inheritance and leave it all to her cats. The housemaid ( Susan Penhaligon ), in league with the nephew, tries to steal the will. This leaves her at the mercy of the cats.
  • Quebec Province 1975
    The second story is set in Canada. An orphaned girl named Lucy is sent to live with her aunt ( Alexandra Stewart ). Lucy's only friend is a black cat named Wellington. She claims it can talk to her. Perhaps this is something to do with her mother's books, a sets of tomes on black magic and witchcraft.
  • Hollywood 1936
    The final story starts during filming of a Pit and the Pendulum scene, when the lead actress has a nasty workplace accident. This puts the Producer, Pomeroy (John Vernon - War of the Worlds (1988) ), in a tight spot. The dead woman's husband, a famous actor named Valentine Death (Donald Pleasance - You Only Live Twice (1967) ), suggests they promote his wife's stand-in, Edina Hamilton ( Samantha Eggar ). All seems to be going well.

    Valentine has inherited his dead wife's cat. Worse, the cat turns out to be a female and it drops a litter of kittens. Instead of selling the kittens, Valentine baptises them by total immersion. This starts kill-or-be-killed war between him and the cat.

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    Vintage European Horror Films

    The Bloody Judge (1970)

    The Bloody Judge (1970) Jess Franco delivers this historical horror in the vein of Witchfinder General . It was filmed in Spain and then badly dubbed into English.

    It is 1685, the reign of wicked King James II. Judge Jeffries (Christopher Lee, who previously worked with Jess Franco as Fu Manchu ) persecutes beautiful young women who are associated with anachronistic pagan rituals. Lots of soft-core sado-masochism is shoehorned in, to prevent it from being a dry historical drama.

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    Face of Fu Manchu (1965)

    Face of Fu Manchu (1965)

  • Blood of Fu Manchu (1968)
  • Brides of Fu Manchu (1966)
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    Brides of Fu Manchu (1966)

    Brides of Fu Manchu (1966) Fu Manchu (Christopher Lee - The Man With The Golden Gun ) is back, and he has a cunning plan. He can manipulate the world's greatest scientists into doing his bidding by kidnapping their gorgeous twenty-something daughters. One scientist is ordered to invent a walkie-talkie radio transceiver device. Surely such technology was commonplace by the year 1966. This raises the question of what time period the film is set in. The cars appear to be 1930s models.

    Nayland Smith and everyone else still think that Fu Manchu was killed off when his evil lair was destroyed at the end of the previous film. However, the Yellow Peril has no intention of laying low. He sends out his dacoits, clad in their trademark uniforms of black pajamas and red bandana, to kidnap a woman in front of the Tower of London! Naturally, none of the oriental villains display any martial arts talents during the poorly-choreographed fight scenes. How sad to think that Christopher Lee later starred as villain in a James Bond movie that epitomised the chop-socky genre.

    Burt Kwouk (Return of the Pink Panther) is Fu Manchu's sidekick. Their evil plan is to use a radio wave as a death-ray to incinerate buildings in London.

  • Castle of Fu Manchu (1969)
  • Blood of Fu Manchu
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    Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967)

    Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967)

  • Blood of Fu Manchu (1968)
  • Brides of Fu Manchu (1966)
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    Castle of Fu Manchu (1969)

    Castle of Fu Manchu (1969) Fu Manchu (Christopher Lee - Dracula (1958) ) has a new base of operations in Anatolia. He is planning to blow up the Bosphorus - like the villains' plot in The World Is Not Enough . His test sequence consists of some stock footage from a dam disaster movie

    Spanish Director Jess Franco combines aspects of his other works - the Turkish location of Venus in Furs with the villain (Christopher Lee) of The Bloody Judge ).

  • Blood of Fu Manchu (1968)
  • Brides of Fu Manchu (1966)
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    Horror Express (1972)

    Horror Express (1972) It was filmed in Spain, re-using the sets from a Spaghetti Western, and dubbed into English. The basic story is that of the classic pulp sci-fi story Who Goes There?, previously filmed as The Thing From Outer Space . This time, however, instead of a polar research station the action takes place on the trans-Siberian express train.

    In the Edwardian era, an English gentleman explorer (Christopher Lee - Dracula (1958) ) has recovered a mumified body from the mountains of Manchuria. It has been frozen in ice for two million years. He crates it up and puts it on the train from Vladivistok to St Petersburg.

    Also on the train is the explorer's friendly rival (Peter Cushing - Frankenstein ). Normally they are antagonists, but this time it is a good thing because when the monster starts to bump people off, they team up and fight it.

    The passengers and crew on the train are a forgettable bunch of Spanish actors who only a hardened viewer of European genre film would recognise. However, along the route our heroes get reinforcements in the form of a band of Cossacks led by Captain Kazan (Telly Savalas - ). It turns out that Savalas worked on the spaghetti western that featured the train set, and like it he was recycled in the new project. If only British film-makers would use their initiative in such a way.

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    Night Visitor (1973)

    Night Visitor (1973) Salem (Max Von Sydow - Jesus Of Nazareth ), a convicted axe-murderer, escapes from a lunatic asylum and breaks into a nearby farmhouse. By apparent coincidence this happens to be his own family's house, now in the hands of his sisters and his brother-in-law. It seems they are involved in a criminal conspiracy, which means this is a revenge spree rather than a slasher film.

    Soon, women start to turn up dead. Salem may be a murderous psycho, but he actually has a plan. He does not want to prove his innocence, he just wants to kill everyone.

    A Police Detective (Trevor Howard - Who? ) is assigned to the case. This makes it something akin to a police procedural, but with far more attention paid to the killer's perspective.

    The film was shot on location in Denmark and Sweden, and while it is not technically a UK film it was made in the English language and certainly feels more Hitchcockian than Giallo. In fact the nearest thing to compare this to is Frenzy , a far superior film with a similar storyline that Hitchcock himself made around the same time.

    This film's director has a Hungarian name, but he spent his entire working life in the USA. He was not an experienced film director, but instead worked as a director-for-hire on a lot of American 1960s TV shows. This explains why the movie is so boringly filmed. There is only one original camera-shot, where a prospective victim's gaze falls upon an axe-blade. Beyond that, it is just a poor imitation of the master's work.

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    Soon

    Soon

  • 2000
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