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Hammer Bits Part 4

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Posted 22nd April 2009 at 01:57 PM by Sam@Cult Labs

The Witches

More production line horror fun from the Hammer Studio now, with The Witches, a scary vehicle for Actress Joan Fontaine who plays a school teacher struck by a nervous breakdown following an unpleasant run in with voodoo witchcraft while teaching in Africa.

When she returns to Britain she is hired by a rich family to become head teacher at a small private school in an isolated rural village. In classic Hammer style the villagers are cagey yokels with dark secrets and they don't like interlopers on their turf. Fontaine's teacher has her suspicions aroused when the townsfolk start treating a 14 year old in a most peculiar manner. It turns out that her dubious employer has discovered an ancient text that allows for the transference of one soul into another's body...

So now Fontaine must investigate the evil coven behind these demonic activities. Is the whole village in on the devilish fun? This is a Hammer movie...What do you think!

Not as well known as the studio's straight up gothic offerings sourced from classic literature, The Witches is still a fine addition to any retro-horror fans collection, bolstered as it is by excellent, melodramatic performances and a heady, occult atmosphere.

Horror of Frankenstein

One of Hammer's less successful adaptations of the classic movie monsters, Horror of Frankenstein is definitely more of a B-movie curio than a quality piece of British horror but scary movie nostalgics and Hammer completists will still find a little camp entertainment in a rather silly take on Mary Shelley's tale of a modern Prometheus.

Taking the reins from Hammer regular Peter Cushing, Dear John star Ralph Bates is Victor Frankenstein. In this version he's an emotionless, arrogant, philandering genius who is furious over his fathers refusal to allow him to continue his weird experiments. Victor rigs his dad's shotgun which leads to his fathers 'accidental' death. With his inheritance he enters a Viennese medical school but has to return home after getting the Dean's daughter in the family way.

At home, free of all constraints, he sets up a lab and starts building a monster, which turns out to be David Prowse of Darth Vader and Green Cross Code man fame. Surely only murder and mayhem can be the terrible results of the mad doctors fiddling with the natural order of things?

Horror of Frankenstein is not as strong as the other Hammer movies in this particular cycle but Ralph Bates makes an interesting Baron even if the movie does focus a little more on his sexual adventures at the expense of the scares. This is a sign of the times in which it was made, when censorship slackened and producers needed to up the explicit content of their movies to compete in a crowded exploitation market place. High Camp Hammer Fun!

Demons of the Mind

Baron Zorn is a troubled man. He must keep his teenage children locked up for fear that his wife, who committed suicide, has passed her insanity onto them congenitally. When one of the children, Elizabeth, escapes to have a fling with a local, she is recaptured and bled to release 'bad blood'. Emil, the brother, keeps trying to flee but his wicked aunt catches him repeatedly. The kids are kept separated due to their incestuous longing for each other. So, I think we can safely say we have a dysfunctional family on our hands!

Soon, young girls are found butchered in the woods and the local peasants think demonic forces are afoot. Suspicion soon moves to the two disturbed children however and a dodgy scientist takes an interest in curing the cursed siblings using strange apparatus. He gets a local woman to play the dead mother in a bizarre attempt to shock the children back to normalcy but it soon becomes obvious that the ever more peculiar Baron is the real cause of all the familial madness.

Another weird exercise in broadening the scope of Hammer's horror output, this came towards the end of the studios production run and it contains a lot of the same flaws as other late period experiments especially in the Wooly plot department, but the general feeling of creepy unease and slowly spirally insanity comes across well and the extra dose of sleaze inserted to bring the film up to speed with the increasingly explicit exploitation films of the time make for a flawed but fun movie.

Prehistoric Women

Taking the hilarious and historically inaccurate camp of 1 Million Years BC to it's logical conclusion, Prehistoric women is one of the Hammer Studios forays into genre movie making outside of gothic horror and for kitsch fun and silly laughs, it's a blast!

The movie is a bare faced excuse for lots of animal fur bikini shots and tribal dancing designed for a little soft cheesecake titillation in a nicely inoffensive 60s fashion, although it is amazing how much support the prehistoric bra gives...Those cave men knew their way around lingerie design.

Our story begins when an intrepid explorer is captured and marked for death after he violates a jungle tribes holy ground. Upon touching a sacred relic he is mysteriously transported back to a time when women ruled and men were enslaved, making the film a clear case of fantasy wish fulfillment for submissive guys.

Plot becomes irrelevant from here on in as the film romps along in a flurry of wrestling, whipping and cat fights...Anything in fact that Hammer could get away with in the more censorious times in which the movie was produced. There is a general message of equality of the sexes; that women are as capable of chauvinistic attitudes given a degree of power but that's an irrelevance to be honest and the movie should be enjoyed for what it is, high camp silliness.
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  1. Old Comment
    iluvdvds@Cult Labs's Avatar
    Woah Sam! 4 mega blogs! I luv Hammer too and the way the films, to me, oooze Britishness. The huge 21-disc boxset has a special place in my collection
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 22nd April 2009 at 03:13 PM by iluvdvds@Cult Labs iluvdvds@Cult Labs is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Sam@Cult Labs's Avatar
    I think all these movies are in that set, I foolishly bought it first week and it cost me about as much as one of the Sultan of Brunei's Houses.

    Soon dropped to 40 though...
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 22nd April 2009 at 03:24 PM by Sam@Cult Labs Sam@Cult Labs is offline
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