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Hammer Horror

Hammer horror refers to horror films produced in the late 1950s through the 1970s by the British film studio Hammer Films. They made a series of horror films that were collectively known as Hammer's House of Horror.

What Vincent Price was to American International Pictures (AIP), Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee were to the Hammer studio. Hammer horror begins with the 1957 film The Curse of Frankenstein, in which Cushing played the mad doctor, and Lee the monster. The two teamed up next year for 1958's Dracula, also known as The Horror of Dracula, in which Lee played the title Count, and Cushing played Dr. Van Helsing, his nemesis.

The two were paired over the following decades quite frequently, in a series of sequels to these pictures. Lee went on to become, after Bela Lugosi, the next most famous face of Dracula. He made six more Dracula pictures for Hammer:

  • Dracula, Prince of Darkness, 1966
  • Dracula Has Risen From the Grave, 1968
  • Taste the Blood of Dracula, 1969
  • Scars of Dracula, 1970
  • Dracula AD 1972, 1972
  • The Satanic Rites of Dracula, 1973

Later films in the series tend to turn increasingly to self-parody, though Satanic Rites rivals Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls in its amusing vision of hippie jive.

Other Hammer vampire films include the Karnstein Trilogy based very loosely on J. Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla:

  • The Vampire Lovers, 1970
  • The Vampire Lovers, 1971
  • Twins of Evil, 1972

These films featured Polish actress Ingrid Pitt[?], and were somewhat daring for the time in suggesting lesbian themes.

Cushing, for his part, went on to make five more Frankenstein films for Hammer, including 1959's The Revenge of Frankenstein. Cushing also appeared in Dracula sequels without Lee, such as 1960's Brides of Dracula, in which David Peel[?] played an intriguingly decadent Count.

Hammer also made a 1959 remake of The Mummy, with Lee as the Mummy (see The Mummy (1959 movie)). Robert Louis Stevenson's Jekyll[?] and Hyde were visited in 1960's The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll. There was also a Hammer Phantom of the Opera[?] starring Herbert Lom[?] (1962).

The Hammer horror films were hardly critical favourites when they appeared; critics accused them of being over-the-top gruesome in the manner of the Grand Guignol. For viewers of the twenty-first century, used to even gorier fare, the Hammer films seem tamer, more atmospheric and camp, yet at their best they can still be truly frightening.

External link

Hammer Films' official website: http://www.hammerfilms.com/

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