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Hammer Bits Part 3

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Posted 22nd April 2009 at 01:55 PM by Sam@Cult Labs


Cheesy Hammer entertainment that steps away from horror and attempts to bring the work of H. Rider Haggard to the screen. Haggard wrote many a boys-own adventure romp in the 19th century with books like King Solomon's Mines and She being made into successful movies. She is definitely a kitsch, low budget entry in the canon of high adventure films and tells the dangerous tale of two men discharged from the army after WW1 in Palestine.

One is kidnapped and brought before a beautiful woman, Ayesha, who tells him she has long waited for his return. Given a ring and a map, he is instructed to prove his worth by travelling to her homeland, far beyond the Mountains of the Moon...

Epic intentions on an economy line budget mean that for all it's aspirations, She never really achieves lift off but the failings in the set design and special effects still prove entertaining and everyone gives it their all. Ursula Andress looks great in the title role, dressed in her ceremonial golden costume, and the tragic consequences of the central characters quest for immortality works well. She is just fun matinee silliness and there's nothing wrong with that. Hammer fans looking to investigate the studios productions outside the horror genre could do worse than to start here.

To The Devil Daughter

Aside from TV productions, To The Devil A Daughter marked the end of the Hammer Studio's horror output. Their trademark camp style appeared dated as the 70s rolled on, with ever more explicit and shocking movies coming from Europe and America superseding the high gothic style that made the production house it's name. Cashing in on the 70s vogue for satanic cults and devil worship in horror films, this final effort may leave some Hammer film fans cold but as a slice of cinema history it still holds some interest.

Christopher Lee plays an excommunicated priest who strays to the dark side, setting up a satanic cult that's thinly disguised as a Catholic Mass. He persuades a man to sign over his daughter's immortal soul so that she will become Satan's representative on earth on the day of her 18th birthday. As the fateful day draws ever closer, the guilt-wracked man seeks the aid of an American author of occult fiction in order to save his cursed daughters mind, body and soul...

A strange ending for a great studio, the movie has a lot going for it, with strong performances and moments of genuinely unsettling atmosphere, but it doesn't quite hang together. Still, retro horror fans will still want to have a copy of this and it would make a decent double bill with Hammer's superior "The Devil Rides Out" which explores similar themes of evil cults and dark schemes.

Fear in the Night

A slick psychodrama from Hammer Studios, Fear in the Night introduces us to Peggy Heller, a recently discharged psychiatric patient who is repeatedly attacked by a man with a wooden arm! Following these brutal occurrences, Peggy's husband Robert can find no evidence that the assaults ever happened and he thinks her mask of sanity may be slipping again. She travels to a remote boarding school where Robert has accepted a teaching post.

Puzzlingly, they arrive to discover there are no pupils, the classroom noises are recordings and the whole thing is an elaborate fantasy constructed by the crazy headmaster who caused a fire ten years previously that killed a lot of his charges... Did I mention that the head has a wooden arm?

The film twists and turns in an all out mission to confound it's audience, never letting up as it piles psychic shocks onto the unstable heroine. Fans of Hammer's Gothic horror need to see this great movie, to get a taste of the wide variety of British movies the studio actually produced outside to realms of Vampires and monsters.
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