Hammer Halloween. That is to say that I'm going to try to consume a Hammer horror film every day - or at least every day I have the chance to watch a film - from now until October 31st. In the last week I've taken in The Mummy, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Revenge of Frankenstein, and Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, and I'm presently halfway into Curse of the Werewolf, featuring Oliver Reed in his first credited acting role (above). Each of the above is absolutely terrific (perhaps because they were all directed by Terence Fisher?). I managed to miss all of these in my horror-watching childhood, am mostly familiar with them from photos in Famous Monsters of Filmland, since Hammer films seldom ran on TV and weren't widely available on VHS in Maple Ridge. That means I have a lot to catch up on - and I couldn't be happier at the prospect; I can't believe I waited so long to do this!
October 26th!). They are firmly planted in genre, often fairly conservatively filmed and structured, and - the odd hint of perversity or sadism aside - offer less in the way of surprises and more in the way of horror-loving comfort, as their stories play out true to form, delivering exactly what you'd expect. The thing is, they do this with craft and skill and great respect for all involved; they make a serious investment in offering detailed, well-told stories, often with imaginative sets and costumes, entertaining scores, lovely Technicolour colours, and some fun early gestures at gore (which is often imaginatively evoked, rather than shown: the most disturbing thing in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, for example, is the sound of Frankenstein's saw as he cuts through skulls, during his ill-advised, obsessive attempts at brain transplants. You don't actually see the skulls being sawn through - or at least you don't see much of it - but you hear them, and really, that makes it far worse).
Richard Wordsworth - great-great-grandson to William, who appears in Revenge of Frankenstein and Curse of the Werewolf - make an impression. Plus Hammer had a way of choosing busty leading ladies (like Yvonne Romain, below) and packaging their cleavage like it was about to explode out at you like airbags deploying from a steering column; I can't say it's not a look that appeals to me. (I won't even mention The Vampire Lovers in this context).