Sunday, 3 October 2010

Horror of Hammer

Horror of Hammer is a excellent collection of Hammer trailers, spanning 53 of the studio’s most famous films with one or two obscurities thrown in for good measure. The trailers are ordered in cycles, with the disc kicking off with a clutch of Frankenstein trailers followed by Hammer’s wave of ‘50’s science fiction, and so on. For the most part the trailers are wonderful, full of outrageous hyperbole ("Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein, who crosses swords with Satan in his fight for immortality") and showcasing Hammer’s potent mix of flesh and blood – the trailer for The Satanic Rites of Dracula is an especially heady mix of sex and gore. My personal favourite trailer is Plague of the Zombies, a wonderfully atmospheric preview of John Gilling’s terrific film. The trailer for To the Devil A Daughter is a good one too, and might prompt one to revisit this much maligned Hammer swansong, while the trailer for The Damned, which doesn’t know if its selling a juvenile delinquent drama or a science fiction film, is amusingly incomprehensible.

The trailers themselves were produced for the US market, so there are some interesting re-titles, like the Quatermass films which were all issued with more palatable titles for their American releases. Interestingly, only one trailer, Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde actually mentions Hammer in the voice over. In between every 3 or 4 trailers are short spots for local theatres, the kind of ephemera you'd expect on a Something Weird DVD, and showman extraordinaire William Castle shows up to introduce the Hammer-Castle collaboration, The Old Dark House.

A Hammer by any other name
Top left - Quatermass, right - Quatermass and the Pit
Bottom left, - The Satanic Rights of Dracula, right - Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires


Horror of Hammer is marvellous stuff, but All Day’s DVD is unfortunately not up to snuff, presentation and production wise. For starters, the trailers are mostly in battered condition. The trailers for Hammer’s Frankenstein and Dracula series are particularly bad, often drained of colour. All the trailers here look decidedly ragged and beat up, riddled with dirt and scratches, and plenty of snap, crackle and pop on the soundtracks. Not helping that is the DVD itself suffers from an overtly digital appearance with heavy edge enhancement and a blocky, pixilated image in the brighter scenes. However the DVD does score points for an excellent knowledgeable commentary track by Hammer experts Ted Newsome, and authors Stuart Galbraith and Gary Smith. The DVD appears to be unavailable at the usual sources, but can still be picked up from All Day’s website

3 comments:

  1. I will keep an eye on this for a while - shame about the poor production - thanks for the heads up Wes!

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  2. I have a disc of Hammer trailers - wonder if it's the same one? Sadly, after giving it a good watch back when I first got it - ten or so years ago - it has moved into the background of the video vault - so I'd really have to go on a search to find it...

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  3. Yeah, it's probably the same trailer compilation... I like these trailer discs I must say - the 42nd Street Forever series from Synapse is fantastic and there's a good cheap Something Weird sampler as well that's well worth picking up. I find these compilation discs are great to duck in and out of - very handy for when you got 30mins to kill, or perhaps more effectively, I find when my Exploitation movie spirits are flagging, these discs give me a good shot in the arm...

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