• Hammer Films Collection

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: August 18th, 2015.
    Director: Various
    Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Paul Massie, Susan Strasberg, Terence Howard
    Year: Various
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    The Movies:

    Mill Creek Entertainment reissues five Hammer Films on DVD in this, their Hammer Films Collection two DVD set. Here’s what you get:

    The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll (1960):

    First up, directed by Terence Fisher, it 1960’s The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll. Here Paul Massie plays Dr. Henry Jekyll, a scientist married to his promiscuous wife Kitty (Dawn Addams) who just can’t seem to tear himself away from his lab. His work is to explore the duality of man and the intricacies of multiple personalities. He spends more time with his lab animals than with his wife, however, so it’s not such a shock to find out that she’s running around behind his back with his best friend, Paul Allen (Christopher Lee).

    When Henry tests a certain serum on himself, he changes from a nerdy, bearded scientist he’s known as into the dashing and handsome Mr. Hyde. He and Paul, unaware of his true identity, hit it off at first and have a great time hitting up the whorehouses and opium dens of London, but there’s more here than Paul or Kitty is aware: Henry/Hyde knows about their affair. While Hyde is playing around himself, with an exotic dancer named Maria (Norma Marla), things quickly get out of hand when he tries to make moves on Kitty himself…

    This is a fairly dark picture with a bit more going on in terms of sexual overtones than you might expect for a film of this vintage, but it works. The makeup effects that turn Massie into the nebbish Henry Jekyll aren’t so hot but the story moves at a good pace, the lab sets are neat to see and the scenes where Hyde and Paul go gallivanting around town are fun to watch. Dawn Addams and Norma Marla add some welcome sex appeal and there are plenty of go-go dancers on hand throughout the movie too! Look for a young Oliver Reed in a small but important supporting role as well. Lee’s in fine form here, playing the arrogant, self-entitled swindler well, but Massie’s performance here isn’t all that invigorating. Still, it’s an entertaining mix of horror and drama with enough going on to definitely make it worth a watch, despite some predictability in the story department and some pacing issues.

    Scream Of Fear! (1961):

    Directed by Seth Holt, Scream Of Fear! tells the story of Penny Applebee (Susan Strasberg), a young woman confined to a wheelchair whose parents got divorced when she a girl. Penny was raised by her mother and they were quite close. After her mother passes away, Penny’s father offers to let her come and live with him in France, and she accepts his invitation.

    Oddly enough, when Penny arrives at his home she finds that he’s traveling. It’s then that she meets her stepmother (Ann Todd) for the first time, and although there’s great potential for this to be awkward the two get along quite well right off the bat. That night, however, Penny sees a light on in the summerhouse and she decides to check it out. When she does, she finds her father dead. She alerts the others but no one else sees what she saw, though Robert (Ronald Lewis), the chauffeur, does at least try to sympathize with her. The next night, she has a similar experience – she sees her father’s corpse in the library. This goes on a few more times, Penny finding her father’s body in a different location, and she soon comes to the conclusion that her stepmother and her father’s best friend, Doctor Pierre Gerard (Christopher Lee), are trying to send her off the deep end.

    While it’s not all that difficult to see where this one is going fairly early on, getting there is still a fun ride. This is a very strong suspense picture with some genuinely eerie moments, the pool scene being the best example of just how close the film gets to straight up horror movie territory, and the direction keeps things moving at a good pace.

    We get some pretty decent performances here too. It’s hard not to feel for Susan Strasberg as Penny. She’s been dealt a tough lot in life and her character should be easy to for anyone who has had to deal with unpleasant family politics to relate to. Ann Todd as the stepmother also does fine work. We don’t know whether or not we should trust her and while we are suspicious of her relationship with Christopher Lee, in another very fine performance, right from the start they’re able to keep us guessing as to what’s really happening here.

    Slick and suspenseful and very nicely shot in black and white, this is a top notch thriller that unjustly lives in the shadows of a lot of Hammer’s better known properties.

    The Gorgon (1964):

    Terence Fisher directed this period piece set in and around the German village of Vandorf. Here a monster of some sort terrorizes the village population, turning anyone that sees the thing into stone. Doctor Namaroff (Peter Cushing) and Inspector Kanof (Paul Troughton) hope to sort all of this out, and initially a young man named Bruno Heitz (Jeremy Longhurst) is suspected. His father vows to clear the boy’s name, and he heads to the nearby castle to do just that, but things do not go as planned for him and he writes to his son Paul (Richard Pasco) for help.

    As it turns out, Maguera has taken on a human form – chiefly, the very fine form of Carla Hoffman (Barbara Shelley), a woman that Namaroff is quite enamored with. His friend, Professor Karl Meister (Christopher Lee), is aware of how grievous this situation is and he tries to talk some sense into his friend, but it’s of no use… he’s madly in love with her, no matter her true identity.

    Clearly based on Greek mythology, this is an absolutely gorgeous looking film that’s ripe with gothic atmosphere and some stunning visuals. The sets for the castle are fantastic and the use of color that Fisher and his associates employ throughout the film really helps keep our eyes darting from one fantastic looking shot to the next. Those who complain about the effects employed to create the Gorgon at the film’s finale aren’t seeing the forest through the trees, as while they may be obviously just that – effects – they’re fine for their time and don’t feel out of place here at all.

    As much a gothic romance as it is a traditional horror film, the movie gives Cushing ample opportunity to play the type of tortured character he was always so good at. He’s fantastic here, giving his all as was so often the case, and he’s great in the part. Lee, who looks like Albert Einstein here, plays the more stalwart, practical friend of the doomed romantic as well as you’d expect, while the gorgeous Barbara Shelley is a great choice as the subject of Cushing’s affection. The film also features an excellent score from composer James Bernard.

    Stop Me Before I Kill! (1964):

    Another black and white entry in this collection, the film was directed by Val Guest and known in its homeland as The Full Treatment, the film introduces us to a professional race car driver named Alan Colby (Ronald Lewis). To say Alan is a bit full of himself would be an understatement, but he’s good at what he does – at least he is until he heads out on his honeymoon with his new bride Denise (Diane Cilento) and suffers a head injury after a nasty car accident.

    To recover, Alan and Denise move to France where it’s hoped that he’ll no longer suffer from the anger management issues that seem to have arisen since the crash. He’s put under the care of a psychiatrist named David Prade (Claude Dauphin), a man who seems unable to keep his eyes off of his new patient’s lovely young wife. Alan, on the other hand, has trouble stopping himself from trying to strange his wife. Eventually Alan and Denise head back to London and Prade follows them, hoping to convince Alan to get more intense psychiatric treatment. When Denise mysteriously disappears, the doctor can’t help but think that Alan finally gave in to his urge to kill…

    This isn’t the best movie in the set but it’s not bad at all. A decent psychological thriller more than a horror film but an entertaining one. The black and white photography is frequently moody enough to hold our attention even during the talkier stretches of the film and there are some nice compositions here. Stanley Black contributes a fine score that helps add to the atmosphere that Guest and company manage to conjure up.

    Performance wise, this is decent enough. Ronald Lewis does fine as the conflicted lead while Diane Cilento is not only beautiful but a solid actress as well. Claude Dauphin is sufficiently shifty in his role and a good choice to play a shrink as he not only acts the part, but he looks it too.

    The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb (1964):

    Last but not least, is the 1964 film the Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb, directed by Michael Carreras. The film introduces us to a pair of Egyptologists - Sir Giles Dalrymple (Jack Gwillim) and John Bray (Ronald Howard) – who is joined by the latter’s fiancée Annette Dubois (Jeanne Roland) on a dig. They manage to uncover the tomb of an Egyptian prince named Ra-Antef (Dickie Owen). The locals warn them not to tamper with it, but of course, they ignore those warnings and bring the sarcophagus and its contents back to England, along with some valuables of course.

    Alexander King (Fred Clark), a promoter, helps them set up a touring exhibit and things are going well enough at first. Soon enough, all involved meet a man named Adam Beauchamp (Terence Morgan), who easily talks his way into their group and winds up catching the eye of Annette. There’s more to Adam than any of them suspect, however, and soon the mummy Ra-Antef is rampaging about killing off all who stand in his way.

    This is a pretty standard mummy movie that doesn’t do a whole lot to differentiate itself from similar films that mine the same territory. It’s a bit on the talky side and not really all that remarkable, but at least the pace picks up in the later half once the mummy starts going about his business. The murder set pieces are absolutely the highlight of the film and what lays in between them isn’t particularly interesting but the sets look cool and the film has nice colorful camerawork to its benefit. It’s fun to see Michael Ripper show up in a supporting role here and Jeanne Roland is rather fetching, the rest of the cast fail to impress though. This one doesn’t hold a candle to the first Hammer entry, The Mummy from 1959, and it would be followed by two more marginally interesting entries – The Mummy’s Shroud in 1967 and Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb in 1971.


    The five films in this set are presented as follows:


    The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll: 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen, color.
    Scream Of Fear!: 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen, black and white.
    The Gorgon: 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen, color.


    Stop Me Before I Kill!: 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen, black and white.
    The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb: 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen, color.

    All of the films are in very nice shape, though each transfer is interlaced. Colors look great in the color features, while the black and white films show nice contrast. Detail is fine for standard definition and the five films in the set look nice and clean rarely showing any serious print damage at all. Some minor compression artifacts pop up here and there but for the most part, these are fine, though they offer no noticeable improvement over the previous release from Sony (the transfers are likely taken from the same sources).

    Each film is presented in English language Dolby Digital Mono. Clarity is generally fine here, with Return sounding a little more stagey and flat than the other movies but only because it’s quite a bit older. Dialogue is clean and clear and easy to follow and when hiss or distortion pops up, it’s never a serious problem and not particularly distracting.

    There are no extras here, just static menus offering movie selection.

    The Final Word:

    The Hammer Films Collection doesn’t improve over past releases, but it does get them back into print for those who missed out the first time, and at a very fair price as well. These movies hold up well – if you don’t own them already and enjoy classic Hammer horror, this is a no-brainer.