This month, Amazon.com (God bless 'em) is having a sale on horror movies. Obviously, the economy is a little unpredictable right now and nobody really knows what the future holds but it's hard to be especially frugal when my favorite web site is dangling such tasty tidbits in front of my face.
I'm finding it hard to resist, in particular, their selection of Hammer Films. As we enter the era of Blu-ray, a lot of Hammer films are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain on DVD. Many were never released to begin with and a lot that were are out of print. To get them, you have to be willing to part with some cash. For now, I'm going to pass on such high-dollar gems as The Abominable Snowman (the inspiration for this post's rather disappointing sketch) and The Reptile and head straight for quantity over quality.
This set is one I passed on a few years back when money was tight (we'd just bought a house) and I've regretted it ever since. Costco had it for around $50 or $60. Now Amazon has it for $16. That's too good to beat. It has two films I'm especially interested in. Curse of the Werewolf and Brides of Dracula. Curse was a film I never saw as a child but I had seen numerous stills in the backs of Marvel's horror magazines and a wonderful Skywald comic adaptation. I was always intrigued by the creature design. I ended up picking up a VHS copy of the movie as an adult and remember being disappointed by it. For one thing, the werewolf was barely in it and for another, when it was, it sounded more like a horny cat than a wolf. I ended up giving the movie away. (I KNOW!) But my tastes have matured a little and I can't wait to give it another go. Brides is another film I didn't see until adulthood and also remember seeing stills of in the backs of Marvel's mags. It was the direct sequel to Horror of Dracula, Hammer's adaptation of Stoker's novel but strangely did not feature Lee as Dracula.
Hammer films hold a special place in my heart. I may be committing heresy, but I've always preferred them over the Universal versions. They were more more lurid, less sophisticated and certainly more overtly sexual. There was something grimy about the sets that really grabbed me as a kid. And as an adult I can really appreciate the Hammer trademark...the heaving bosoms of the damsels in distress. One actress in particular seems to epitomize the Hammer feminine ideal...Valerie Gaunt. Her only two Hammer films were Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula. I remember liking her very much when I was a kid. She had many attributes of which I came to consider "my type" if there is such a thing. Dark, lustrous hair. Arched eyebrows. Lots of curves. Sadly, she appears to have given up acting after Horror of Dracula as there are no further listings on her IMDB page.
When we were kids, Mike and I used to stay up late on Friday nights because that was when the local CBS affiliate would run horror or sci-fi movies on the late show. Sometimes it would be a couple episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker or the Planet of the Apes TV shows mashed into a single "movie." But sometimes we'd luck out and get another Hammer film. If it was winter, we'd lay under a blanket on the living room floor, propping our faces up with cushions from the couch and try to stretch a corner of the blanket over the heat vent to trap the warmth. Usually, I'd make it almost to the end before falling asleep. Sometimes Mike would take pity on me and wake me up for the "good" parts.
I've been buying up a lot of those old favorites over the last few years and I'm really gaining a true respect for the outstanding quality of them. Yes, some of them bordered on exploitation, but there was a certain charm to them and everyone involved seemed to be taking their work seriously. Peter Cushing in particular. To this day, seeing the word "Hammer" written out sends a little thrill through me that folks today, post-M.C. wouldn't understand. If you haven't tried any of these movies yourself, I highly recommend you head straight to NetFlix and do yourself a favor. The early Dracula's, Curse of Frankenstein, The Mummy and the Quartermass films should be at the top of the list.
Oh, and Christian recommends Plague of the Zombies. Right, Christian?