Best of Hammer FilmsBy RodneyHatfieldJr for Movies
Today we will be looking at the massive vault of Hammer Horror. This is a truly a double edged sword for me. Hammer is like Universal in quality and number of great horror movies. Where Universal was the premier source of horror from the late 1920‘s to the mid 1950‘s. Hammer filled the void starting in the 50‘s and was the go-to studio for horror up into the 1970‘s. So when they came out of hyperbaton in the mid 2000‘s I was very pleased.
Since Hammer has such a large showcase of truly classic films, I will group certain series together. If I didn’t it would just be a list of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee films(which would be an awesome list). Right behind Vincent Price, Peter Cushing is my 2nd all-time favorite horror star. His poise and class screams sophistication. Where I could listen to Mr. Price read from the newspaper and enjoy every moment, I could watch Mr. Cushing silently reading the same newspaper while drinking tea and enjoy every moment. He is a true master that few have come close to.
So lets dive into this treasure-trove of iconic movies. As always, this list is in no way in any order. Nor are these the greatest, because it would be impossible to pinpoint what is the best unless we polled fans and took the ones with the most votes. So this is my personal list of films I enjoy.
Rasputin the Mad Monk 1966
The great Christopher Lee playing the most famously corrupt, scheming, fraudulent, hypnotist of a holy man in history. The setup for simple. Rasputin manipulates his way from disgraced monk to trusted advisor of Russian royalty, Lee makes us believe that this charlatan really possessed the charisma to make it happen.
The chief merit of this film is certainly Lee’s dynamic performance, which he throws himself into with gusto. Movie fans don’t flock to Rasputin for its screenplay or its groundbreaking visuals; they line up to see Christopher Lee light up the screen; and are never disappointed.
Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter 1974
What a title. A movie could either be impossibly awesome or disastrous. Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter lands somewhere in the middle. Captain Kronos is a professional vampire hunter whose services are required in a small village where youth-draining spectres are hard at work. Instead of losing blood, the victims of this breed of vampire show signs of rapid and premature aging. Captain Kronos has faced plenty of supernatural enemies in his career, but can he defeat a new kind of vampire?
It is one of Hammer’s better efforts without quite rising to the level of a classic. It’s indisputably great fun though, and all true vampire hunters should feel proud to have their names associated with it. I have no idea how this film has not been remade. It screams for one.
While giving Christopher Lee a role for which he would forever be famous, Dracula series also made an invaluable contribution to the catalog of great vampire movies. Truly unforgettable – largely due to the larger-than-life personalities of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Cushing is Doctor Van Helsing, Lee is Count Dracula, and the two face off in epic fashion.
Hammer has no shortage of takes on the Dracula story. There are seven films to chose from. Going from the original take from Stoker, to Kung Fu vampires in the final film in the series(not very good. No Lee, but original)
You can easily watch any of the nine films and be entertained.
It was inevitable that a legendary horror studio would want to put their unique stamp on the Frankenstein story, and Hammer did so in legendary fashion. Except with these films, the focus is on Dr. Frankenstein instead of the monster. On the plus side, we get different monsters. The series of films featuring Peter Cushing as Dr. Frankenstein; the greatest Dr. Frankenstein ever.
The longest Hammer series covering seven films. This initial installment in the Frankenstein series is the closest to the original literary story. Then we get an ongoing adventures of Victor Frankenstein. The most enduring aspect of this series is the monster. The creature runs the full gantlet of monstrous, to beauty. A rare find in movies. Just a friendly reminder. The 1970 Horror of Frankenstein is a somewhat remake parody of the original 1957 version. But on the plus side we get David ‘Darth Vader’ Prowse as the monster. He also portrays the monster in the last Frankenstein film, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell in 1974.
The Mummy 1959-1971
Hammer’s The Mummy is a classic time capsule of horror perfectly preserved for future generations to admire. And that is from someone who doesn’t like mummy movies.
The series has four installments. Each with a self contained story. While the stories are familiar, Hammer’s take on it is fresh and exciting. Aided by dynamic acting from a host of iconic horror stars and beautiful photography any of the Mummy films are an irreplaceable entry in the horror movie canon.
Countess Dracula 1971
Based loosely on Elizabeth Báthory, the Countess in question discovers that bathing in the blood of young women has a physically rejuvenating effect on her. The Countess promptly sets out to kill countless women in her 17th-century Hungarian empire and use them as a beauty balm.
Classic retelling of the Bathory legend. Having been made in the decade of exploitation, the film has more sexuality and blood that earlier Hammer films.
The Vampire Lovers 1970
Doing what Hammer does best, producers the infamous short story “Carmilla” by Sheridan Le Fanu and upped the sex and violence. The plot is thick with characters of little consequence, most of which are lined up as a hot buffet for Ingrid Pitt to devour as the ravenous vampire-in-waiting.
We’re here for the snarls and the cleavage, and The Vampire Lovers delivers
The Reptile 1966
A small village in Cornwall is hit with a strange string of deaths. As they begins to dig, they slide down a slippery slope of reptilian scope. That is to say, there is a reptile-human hybrid terrorizing the town.
This slithering slow burn is rich with atmosphere, a brooding score and some truly sinister makeup work from Hammer special effects.
Vampire Circus 1972
A true forgotten underrated vampire gem. The story takes place amid a plague which, residents of a village are unable to leave their habitat. Fortunately, the carnival has come to town to keep them entertained. The only downside is that the carnival is a gang of vampires and they’ve come to feast on the townsfolk and resurrect their master.
The film boasts an abundance of exquisite Gothic atmosphere and some gruesome blood-letting. There’s plenty of carnival-esque strangeness that makes the film a bizarre and beautiful sight to behold.
The Devil Rides Out 1968
One of the many virtues of The Devil Rides Out is that it wastes absolutely no time getting to the good stuff. The suspiciously occult-savvy investigator and his dumb, if courageous pal are having a friendly reunion. But they are one member is missing. Thus begins a 24-hour quest to save him from the clutches of a cult.
The Devil Rides Out keeps things moving and features some delightful Hammer main stays. In addition to a fair share of occult standards, we get the goat headed devil to boot.
Let Me In 2010
I had to add a film from the new Hammer films. A remake of the Swedish film Let The Right One In is a film teetering between restraint and explosive violence. However when there is violence, it’s constrained. The restraint is most concentrated in Abby, stricken with a condition that drags her from the humanity she craves. But is it hope she finds in Owen, or just another kindred life she solemnly passes through?
While this remake may not be the quality of films from the golden age of Hammer(but very few are), it does show that Hammer is still creating quality films.