Thirty-One Days O’Horror: The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

“I’ve harmed nobody, just robbed a few graves!”

Hammer Horror entered the world of color with 1957’s The Curse Of Frankenstein. Not only that, Hammer introduced classic monsters to a whole new generation of horror fans. The film would prove to be a huge success and would quickly be followed by a number of sequels and other monster films, many of which would feature Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee facing off against one another.

The film is a loose adaptation of Mary Shelley’s famous novel. In the movie, Peter Cushing stars as Baron Victor Frankenstein, a man condemned to death for the murder of his maid, Justine, who also happens to be his secret lover. Hoping to convince someone of status that he is innocent, he requests an audience with a local priest. From there, the story flashes back to a young Victor. He is the sole controller of his family’s estate and hires a scientist, Paul Krempe, to be his tutor. The two form a strong bond and they begin experimenting on bringing the dead back to life. After a successful test, Victor plans to piece together plans to create new life, something Paul is staunchly against.

As Victor slowly spirals into madness, Paul remains at the estate in order to protect Elizabeth, Victor’s cousin and future wife. Victor begins buying body parts and eventually resorts to murder in order to get a suitable brain for his creation. Paul attempts to stop him multiple times but is put off by Victor’s threats to harm Elizabeth. Victor succeeds in creating a new life, but it proves to be a brain damaged specimen that has a murderous temper. Paul finds himself facing not one, but two enemies, the monster and its creator. Can he defeat them both? Check out The Curse of Frankenstein and see for yourself!

The movie was received negatively by most critics of the time, especially those in the United Kingdom. General movie audiences loved the film and it was a major financial success for Hammer. Much like the success of Frankenstein (1931) for Universal Studios, The Curse of Frankenstein provided the monetary kick for Hammer to create more films based on classic monsters as I mentioned earlier. The movie also began the lifelong friendship of Lee and Cushing. Although the duo had performed in other films prior to Curse, this was the first film where they actually interacted with one another. They were almost exclusively rivals in Hammer films, but the pair were best friends in real life.

The film had a great cast. Many of its stars would continue to appear in Hammer films. Cushing did a superb job as Victor Frankenstein. His descent into insanity was extremely subtle, almost unnoticeable at times, but you could see in his eyes that he was going mad. Christopher Lee’s role as the creature was limited to a few grunts and moans and one scream, but he did a great job nonetheless. Hazel Court, who would go on to appear in The Man Who Could Cheat Death for Hammer and a number of other films for other companies. She portrays Elizabeth in Curse and does a very good job. Robert Urquhart portrayed Paul in the film and was perfect as Frankenstein’s foil. Valerie Gaunt portrayed the poor Justine in the film and she did a wonderful job. She would appear with Lee and Cushing again in Dracula (Horror of Dracula in the USA).

The film’s sets were simply breathtaking. Frankenstein’s laboratory was a work of art, especially the device that he and Paul built in order to bring life back to a dog and would eventually be used to birth the creature. Frankenstein’s estate and the paintings used for the road to it in the beginning of the film were amazing.

This wasn’t Terence Fisher’s first Hammer film but it was his first Hammer film in color. It certainly wouldn’t be his last. He became the company’s go-to director for Gothic horror and would continue directing Hammer horror films, many of which would star Cushing and/or Lee. He kept the pacing of Curse at a nice clip and did a wonderful job of keeping the film interesting.

I really loved this film and I’m glad that I picked it for my final movie during my Thirty-One Days O’Horror focusing on Hammer films. I hope that you have enjoyed my journey through Hammer Horror and I can’t wait to do it all again next year. In fact, I’ve already selected my area of focus for next year and it will be revealed…….tomorrow! See you all again real soon!

Thirty-One Days O’Horror: Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)

“There is evil in the world. There are dark, awful things.”

Hammer gets groovy with Dracula A.D. 1972. The film was Hammer’s attempt at modernizing the classic Dracula theme that the company did so well with in a Gothic setting. The updated version still featured the two masters of Hammer horror, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, in the roles that put them on the map. Lee donned his cape as the dreaded Count Dracula and Cushing slid comfortably back into his role of Van Helsing albeit as a grandfather this go round.

The film opens in 1872 with Dracula and Lawrence Van Helsing battling one another atop a horse carriage. As they fight, we also see a young man on a horse following the duo. The battle come to a head whenever the horses pulling the carriage get loose and the buggy crashes, mortally wounding Van Helsing and Dracula. As Dracula’s body dissolves, the young man collects the count’s ring and some of his ashes. The film then jumps ahead to 1972 and we are introduced to a swinging group of young twenty-somethings. Among them are Jessica Van Helsing, the granddaughter of Lorrimer Van Helsing, an anthropologist and occult specialist who often assists law enforcement on special cases that involve possible witchcraft or occult elements.

An enigmatic member of the young group named Johnny Alucard convinces the rest of them to join him for a black mass-styled ritual at St. Bartolph’s, a deconsecrated church that also happens to be where Lawrence Van Helsing is buried (and some of Dracula’s ashes were buried as well). The ritual occurs one hundred years to the day after the death of Van Helsing and Count Dracula. The group becomes intensely frightened by the ritual, especially whenever Alucard “baptizes” one member of the group, Laura, with blood. The young adults run out of the abandoned church. They leave Laura, who has become hysterical, and Johnny behind. Soon enough, Johnny removes a stake from the ground in the cemetery and Count Dracula arises. He drains Laura of her life. On the next day, Johnny attempts to convince his friends that the entire ritual was a joke, but when Laura’s body is found and Lorrimer Van Helsing’s services are requested by Inspector Murray, things become very, very serious. More of Jessica’s friends die, some become vampires, and Van Helsing goes on the hunt. Does he save Jessica? Will any of the youngsters survive? Find out in Dracula A.D. 1972!

Despite a somewhat awkward title and some very dated music, this film is one of my favorite Lee/Cushing Hammer films. Lee chews his way through each and every scene and Cushing bleeds cool at every turn. Christopher Neame, who plays Dracula’s disciple in both the past and in 1972, is full of charisma. He was perfectly cast as Johnny Alucard. Stephanie Beacham does a fine job as Jessica Van Helsing. Michael Coles is excellent as Inspector Murray, a role he would reprise in The Satanic Rites of Dracula along with Cushing and Lee. While Jessica would also appear in that film, she would be played by Joanna Lumley instead of Beacham.

The majority of Hammer fans seem to dislike this film or find it to be too silly to be a truly good movie. It’s my opinion that those folks are wrong. This is an enjoyable Count Dracula/Van Helsing film that stands on the strength of the performances of Cushing, Lee, and Neame. Oh, and Tim Burton is a fan so there’s that!

Thanks for checking out my post. Tomorrow is the final day of Thirty-One Days O’Horror! Let me know what you think about this film or any other film that I’ve reviewed in the comments section.

Thirty-One Days O’Horror: Charlie Boy (1980)

A Different Type Of Fetish

A young couple trigger a terrible spell in Charlie Boy, the sixth episode in the wonderful Hammer House of Horror anthology series. The episode’s “horror of the week” is voodoo and comes in the form of an African fetish doll. The episode is genuinely creepy and manages to build up a decent amount of suspense.

The story opens with the death of a young man’s uncle and then moves along to the young man, Graham, and his wife, Sarah, arriving at the deceased uncle’s home to collect their inheritance, the uncle’s art collection. They decide to sell all but two pieces of the collection. Graham chooses a favorite painting from his youth and Sarah selects an African fetish doll that she nicknames “Charlie Boy.” While driving home with the doll, the couple encounter an angry driver that attempts to harm them in a fit of road rage. After they get home, Graham playfully asks “Charlie Boy” to off the driver and while he stabs the doll, the driver is stabbed in real life.

With money in hand from the sell of the art collection, Graham and Sarah decide to talk with Graham’s cousin, Mark (who received the bulk of the estate as part of his inheritance), and their mutual friend, Phil, a film director, about finally starting up their own production company. Mark has other plans, however, and this angers Graham. Graham then goes home, stabs the fetish doll with a knife, and Mark dies in a terrible riding accident the next day. Graham and Sarah begin to piece together what they believe might be happening as more people die. Graham reaches out to the art dealer for help and finds out that he must burn the fetish doll in order to end the curse. Not only are Phil and the family housekeeper, Gwen, in line to die as a result of the curse, so are Graham and Sarah. Will Graham be able to successfully destroy “Charlie Boy” or will the evil doll finish its wicked curse? Watch Episode 6 of Hammer House of Horror to find out!

The cast of this episode is excellent. Graham is portrayed by Leigh Lawson, who has acted on stage and screen and directed as well. He has a child with Hayley Mills and is married to the famous model, Twiggy. Sarah was portrayed by Angela Bruce. Bruce has appeared in numerous television shows over the years but I’m pretty sure that my readers will know her from her work on Doctor Who, Blake’s 7 (audio drama), and Red Dwarf. Michael Culver guest starred as Mark, the cold-hearted son of Graham’s uncle. Culver is best known to my readers as Captain Needa in The Empire Strikes Back. He has had a prolific career in supporting and recurring roles on both the screen and the stage. In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her role, Janet Fielding (Tegan from Doctor Who), guest stars as a worker on one of Phil’s film projects who answers the phone.

This was a fun episode. The fetish doll was creepy and the finale was amazing even though it was a bit predictable. The episode reminded me of a ton of other genre shows and films including Final Destination and Trilogy Of Terror. I also enjoyed seeing all of the actors from other science fiction properties, especially those that I love. Check out this episode. I believe that you’ll enjoy it.

As always, thanks for checking out my post! We are just two days away from finishing off Thirty-One Days O’Horror!

Thirty-One Days O’Horror: The Resident (2011)

Dr. Bliss

The second coming of Hammer Productions in the 2000’s has focused primarily on traditional horror stories involving vampires, ghosts, and bringing the dead back to life, but 2011’s The Resident goes in a different direction. It uses voyeurism, stalking, and psychological horror to feed the fears of the audience. In theory this should have worked extremely well, but it’s all pretty flat despite a star-studded cast, a wonderful setting, and a plot grounded in reality.

In the film, Hilary Swank stars as Juliet Devereau, an ER doctor who finds herself in need of a new apartment. Thinking that she has landed the deal of the century, she moves into a massive apartment owned and managed by Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who lives in the building along with August (Christopher Lee in his final Hammer film role), an odd elderly man. As the days go by, Juliet begins to get weird feelings in her apartment. She also begins to hear odd creaking sounds. She struggles to determine if the sounds and feelings are genuine, a fabrication of her own mind, a supernatural occurrence, or even a stalker.

Thrown in for good measure is Juliet’s strained relationship with her ex, Jack (Lee Pace). When she begins seeing him again, the bizarre happenings seem to ramp up and Juliet has cameras installed to see if she can catch a ghost or her stalker. Things come to a head when Juliet begins to oversleep and arriving late for work. With a blood test she discovers that she is being drugged and things go into overdrive. Who is her stalker? Is it a ghost, a jilted lover, or something even creepier? Watch The Resident to find out.

This has got to be one of the worst Hammer films that I’ve watched during my Thirty-One Days O’Horror. It absolutely falls flat. There’s no genuine terror, no especially good acting, and the slowest build up to the most anti-climactic ending that I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a true shame that this was Christopher Lee’s final appearance in a Hammer film as he was completely wasted in it. Hilary Swank was uninspiring on the screen. Jeffrey Dean Morgan did manage to give us a few creepy moments but he fell flat as well. Poor Lee Pace……well, let’s just say that he did nothing to speed up or slow down the pace of this film. This was bad, y’all. Really…..bad.

Don’t watch this snooze fest unless you only want to see Christopher Lee in his final Hammer role. I cannot recommend it. It’s sad because this film had so much potential based on its cast and theme, but it never found its footing and never managed to do much more than generate a few icky feelings. This was a dud.

I want to thank you for reading this review. The film was pretty bad but I promise that tomorrow’s review will be of a much better film. See you later!

Thirty-One Days O’Horror: The Witches (1966)

“They relish the idea of a secret power.”

If you’re looking for a film with an amazing cast, a strong story, and plenty of atmosphere and build up, 1966’s The Witches is exactly the film you want to see. Oh, if you also want a brilliant film that is entirely derailed by complete absurdity in its final ten minutes, The Witches is also the film that you wish to view. This film pulled me in right from the beginning and held my attention until its climax. At that point I threw my head back a bit and said, “This is bad.” It’s a true shame, because up until the climax this film is a pure joy to watch. Perhaps the book that it is based upon by Norah Lofts has a better ending? I might just have to read it.

In the film, Joan Fontaine portrays Gwen Mayfield, a missionary school teacher who has a terrifying experience with a witch doctor in an African village. Hoping to avoid another nervous breakdown like the one she experiences in Africa, Gwen takes a job at a school in Heddaby. She visits with the school’s director, Reverend Alan Bax, and his sister, Stephanie, and soon discovers that Alan isn’t actually a reverend at all. In fact, the church where the school is located has burned down and has not been replaced. Gwen quickly becomes acquainted with the rest of the locals in Heddaby and begins her work as a teacher. She starts noticing that some of the villagers act just a bit different, some almost sinister, especially toward young Ronnie Dowsett, who has formed a close bond with a young girl in his class named Linda Rigg. Linda’s grandmother and many of the other villagers do not believe that the two youngsters should be “courting” so much and try to keep them apart.

As the film continues, strange things begin happening and old reminders of Africa start showing up in Gwen’s life. She has yet another breakdown, a brilliant twist in the film in my opinion, but eventually returns to Heddaby only to find out that a dark force is at work in the village. When the truth is revealed, Gwen learns that the locals have plans for certain people in the village and she must play a part. Does she manage to survive the terrible scheme? Watch The Witches to find out!

Promoted in the United States as The Devil’s Own (which is also the title of Loft’s book), The Witches is an amazing film, quite possibly one of Hammer’s best productions, so long as you don’t include the film’s final ten minutes in that statement. The ending is rather hysterical and won’t spoil it for you. If you haven’t seen this film I want you to get slapped in the face with the absurdity just as hard as I was while watching this film for the first time. It’s a really, really bad ending, and if just a few minor changes had been made, the film probably would have been considered a masterpiece.

The cast was great. Every single person in this film did a brilliant job. Fontaine was excellent as Gwen and Kay Walsh and Alec McCowen were excellent as the Bax siblings. Ingrid Brett does a fine job as young Linda Rigg and Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies was quite wicked as her granny. The local butcher was played with plenty of gusto by Duncan Lamont and Michele Dotrice did a great job as the sweet-on-the-surface Valerie Creek.

Cyril Frankel’s direction is great until those final minutes where complete idiocy takes control. The music by Richard Rodney Bennett is excellent as well. Arthur Grant provides perfect cinematography as he almost always does in Hammer films and the rest of the crew do fine jobs also.

I really enjoyed this film and wish that it had a better ending. I do recommend that you check it out simply because of how brilliant it is until the finale. Unfortunately a solid cast, great direction, and amazing music cannot save this film from its dismal ending.

Thanks for reading my post. It’ll be Hammer time again, tomorrow!

Thirty-One Days O’Horror: The Plague Of The Zombies (1966)

Influential Undead

Considered by many to be more influential than it gets credit for, 1966’s The Plague Of The Zombies predates George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead by two years. The zombies featured in Plague changed the tone of the monsters as presented in previous films and gave them a look that is still prominent to this day. Shot back to back with The Reptile (and featuring Jacqueline Pearce in both films and using many of the same sets), Plague was initially treated as a secondary film and was released with a primary film, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, on a double bill.

In the movie, Sir James Forbes (Andre Morell) and his daughter, Sylvia (Diane Clare), visit a Cornish village at the request of Dr. Peter Thompson (Brook Williams). Thompson is a former student of Forbes and his wife, Alice (Jacqueline Pearce), is a close friend of Sylvia. He cannot seem to figure out what type of plague is attacking the villagers and he asks Forbes to come to the village to help him. Forbes and Sylvia encounter unruly fox hunters when they first arrive at the village. These hunters are guests of the local squire, Clive Hamilton (John Carson), who isn’t very well liked by the locals but seems to be just a slight bit charming to Sylvia. People continue to die and Sylvia eventually encounters a zombie near a local mine. As Forbes, Thompson, and the local police sergeant, Swift (Micheal Ripper), begin to make unsettling discoveries in their investigation of the deaths, Sylvia becomes a pawn in a lethal game between Forbes and the villain of the film. It’s all played out quite well on the screen and I believe that you should check it out.

The film is superbly directed by John Gilling and the cinematography by Arthur Grant is atmospheric, creepy, and beautiful all at the same time. The music only adds to the build up of terror in the film and works especially well in a dream sequence involving the undead rising from their graves. The special effects are done very well and the look of the zombies is still influential today.

Morell channels Peter Cushing a bit in this film, delivering lines coolly and with bite when necessary. He’s one of the strongest members of this cast. Clare’s portrayal of Sylvia is also well done but she isn’t given much material to work with in the film. Brook Williams is over the top as Thompson, and the film suffers almost every time that he is called upon to show emotion. Michael Ripper, who has quickly become one of my favorite actors since I started watching these Hammer films, steals the show with his portrayal of the police sergeant. John Carson is both smooth and sadistic as Squire Hamilton. I wish that he would have been given more screen time. Jacqueline Pearce is another scene stealer in this film, with her most epic moment happening in a graveyard. The rest of the cast also did a fine job.

The film definitely has some flaws and isn’t a masterpiece as a whole, but I have to give Hammer credit for trying something new with zombies. This was the only zombie film that the company ever produced, and it is definitely better than most of the more modern takes on the genre. It’s one of the few films that I’ve watched during the Thirty-One Days O’Horror that I was captivated with for the entire running time. I believe that if you are a fan of zombie films, check this one out. If you want to see a decent horror flick in general, this is a good film to watch as well.

Thanks for reading my post. We’re just a few days away from the final post in Thirty-One Days O’Horror. I hope that you’ve enjoyed the films and posts that I’ve given to you this year. Next year is going to be a scream!

Thirty-One Days O’Horror: Kiss Of The Vampire (1963)

Gaslighting Vampires

1963’s Kiss Of The Vampire takes vampirism to a different level. The film opens with a funeral service that is interrupted by a booze hound who proves to be the most brilliant man in town. That booze hound stabs his own deceased daughter in the heart and ends her reign of terror before it even begins. We are then introduced to a honeymooning couple that have car trouble on their way to their celebration destination. Luckily (or unluckily) for them, there’s a somewhat standoffish but welcoming man named Dr. Ravna who invites the couple to a party at his place while they are waiting on fuel to arrive. They also check into the local inn.

At the party the couple get swept up and separated by scheming vampires. The husband, Gerald Harcourt, begins to drink heavily and is slipped a mickey by the vampires. His new wife, Marianne, is taken to the bed chamber of Dr. Ravna and entranced by him. When Gerald awakens the next day, the family of Dr. Ravna and the innkeeper attempt to convince him that he was traveling alone the whole time. They go so far as to hide all of Marianne’s clothing and erase all other evidence of her existence. The local authorities believe that Gerald is insane and he soon finds himself alone…..until Professor Zimmer, the aforementioned drunkard, tells Gerald that he believes him and agrees to help him save Marianne and take down a growing vampire cult.

This was a fun film to watch. It was the first horror film ever directed by Don Sharp and I believe that he did a great job. Alan Hume’s cinematography was amazing. The bright colors and beautiful sets popped on the screen and the darker scenes were wonderfully designed. Professor Zimmer’s use of sorcery was a bit bonkers and the massive number of bats flying around looked hokey but they all worked well enough in the end. The idea of a vampire cult seems pretty original to me and I liked it very much.

The cast was excellent. Clifford Evans chewed his way through every scene as Zimmer. Edward de Souza and Jennifer Daniel were very believable as honeymooning newlyweds. Noel William was great as the evil Dr. Ravna and all of the vampires did fine jobs, but I want to point out Isobel Black and Barry Warren. Black portrayed Tania, who tricks poor Gerald. Warren played Carl Ravna, the doctor’s spoiled and snobby son. He stole the show in y opinion.

This was a great light horror film. You can watch this one with the entire family. It had a few fun moments early on but it was fairly serious most of the time. It’s not scary at all and there’s surprisingly very little blood when compared with other Hammer films. Give this one a look if you want something to watch on a rainy afternoon.

Thanks for reading my post. We’ve reached the homestretch and Thirty-One Days O’Horror is almost over. Let me know in the comments which films you’ve seen, which ones you like or dislike, and what films you’d like to see me review. I appreciate each and everyone of you for checking out my posts.

Thirty-One Days O’Horror: To The Devil A Daughter (1976)

“I will not recant!”

Christopher Lee traded his fangs for a priest’s collar and attempted to summon the Devil himself in 1976’s To The Devil A Daughter. The film would be the last Hammer production to feature Lee until he returned to the company in 2011’s The Resident. The film is a mixed bag of brilliant and buffoonish writing, excellent acting, and a few questionable moments as well. It also features one of the most scandalous moments in horror which I’ll get to later. In my opinion the film works very well as a suspense thriller but absolutely falls apart in the final act.

In the film Lee portrays an excommunicated Roman Catholic priest named Fr. Michael Rayner who starts his own Satanic religious order. He plans on using young Sister Catherine, who is about to turn eighteen, to summon the demon named Astaroth, who in turn will inhabit Catherine’s body. In Fr. Rayner’s way are Catherine’s estranged father, Henry, and an American occult writer and researcher named John Verney. Henry’s primary intentions, as it turns out, are to free him from a demonic pact that he made with Rayner. Verney, however, fully intends to stop Rayner and his evil order.

When the film is on the mark, it strikes perfectly. The music is probably one of the best things about this film. Paul Glass does a fine job of building suspense, stirring chaos, and squeezing terror out of many scenes that would be terrible without the proper music. The special effects are done quite well. There’s a demon baby that might seem a bit cartoonish at first, but its use in one particular scene is especially uncomfortable. David Watkin’s cinematography is rather limited by the locations in the film but there are quite a few amazing shots scattered across the film. Director Peter Sykes gives the viewer two thirds of some of the best thriller cinema that you can find but he manages to derail all of that brilliance in the film’s final act. I won’t spoil anything about the film’s ending, but I will say that the viewer shouldn’t expect much just prior to the rolling of the credits.

The film’s cast is superb. I was especially pleased with many of the supporting roles in the film from actors such as Honor Blackman, Michael Goodliffe, Eva Maria Meineke, and Anthony Valentine. Izabella Telezynska has a small role in the film but it will definitely make you squirm. Christopher Lee’s portrayal of the wicked father was sinisterly delicious. Denholm Elliott does a fine job as Henry Beddows. Richard Widmark carries the film with his performance as occult writer John Verney.

Of special note is the performance of fourteen year old Natassja Kinski. She played a character that was eighteen in the film and she does a fine job. With that being said, I want to mention an extremely scandalous scene that occurs near the end of the film. As I’ve already stated, Kinski was only fourteen when this film was shot and she appears in a full frontal nude scene. She is meant to be seducing Verney but, at least in my opinion, the whole scene could have played out just fine without the nudity. There are a couple of other nude scenes in the film that should be noted. One involves the aforementioned demon baby “entering” young Catherine and the other involves a Satanic orgy that shows plenty of sex but almost no nudity. Viewers will get to see the backside of Christopher Lee’s double, but that’s about as much flesh as any man shows in the film. All of the scenes involving nudity are meant to make the viewer uncomfortable and they definitely did that for me. I mention this mainly because the scenes, especially the Kinski scenes, were considered scandalous and almost definitely would not have occurred in a film today.

I recommend checking out the first hour of this film. After that, I’ll let you decide if you want to continue viewing the movie. The ending is terrible and not a suitable payoff for a film that was so well done prior to its climax. This is definitely my least favorite Hammer Horror film, so that means that things will hopefully only get better as I watch more Hammer films to finish out the month.

Thanks for checking out my post. I expected to view a few dull flicks this month, but To The Devil A Daughter is much worse than I ever expected. Let me know what you think about the film or my review in the comments below.

Thirty-One Days O’Horror: The Abominable Snowman (1957)

“There is no Yeti.”

While Hammer is known primarily for their classic Universal Monster adaptations and their later “blood and bosom” horror, every once in awhile they would release a film that was completely different. Much like Scream of Fear, 1957’s The Abominable Snowman took horror in a completely different and unexpected direction. To be quite honest it is a refreshing break from the standard Hammer films that we all know and love.

In the film, Peter Cushing stars as Dr. John Rollason, a botanist doing a study with his wife, Helen (Maureen Connell), and his friend and colleague, Peter Fox (Richard Wattis). They are studying in the Himalayas as guests of a local monastery headed up by a friendly Lama (Arnold Marle). Another group arrives that is in search of the legendary Yeti. Rollason agrees to go with the small expedition made up of Dr. Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker), Ed Shelley (Robert Brown), Andrew McNee (Michael Brill), and their guide, Kusang (Wolfe Morris), despite the protestations of Helen, Peter, and the Lama. As the group ascends the mountain they face off against another expedition of locals trying to stop them from reaching their destination. They manage to set up camp and things go south quickly. McNee is injured and there’s a visit from an unexpected creature. Then the members of the party begin to experience paranoia and hear strange sounds. Ultimately the viewer has to decide what is real and what is only a figment of the group’s imaginations. Will the expedition succeed in finding the elusive Yeti or will they all suffer a brutal fate? Watch The Abominable Snowman to find out!

The film is very different from other Hammer films. There’s no gore, very little violence, and almost all of the horror comes as a result of the internal struggles of the expedition. This is a very character driven film and it relies on the performances of Cushing, Tucker, and the rest of the cast to put fear and doubt into the viewer’s heart. We only get brief glimpses of the Yeti creatures and the actual payoff shot of the creature triggers an almost sympathetic emotion instead of terror. It’s done that way intentionally and it works in the film.

This was a very good Hammer production. It allows the actors to flex their chops and while it may not have any jump scares, gore, or an insane amount of violence, it works well for what it is, a film about whether or not man is the true villain. I’m a huge fan of Bigfoot and Yeti films, but almost all of them feature the beast as a man-eating monster. This film points the finger at man, not the beast.

Give The Abominable Snowman a shot. It’s a different type of Hammer film and it’s worth watching. Oh, and I thought long and hard about posting a photo of the creatures from the film, but would much rather you see them for yourself in the movie. Thanks for reading my post. See you tomorrow!

Thirty-One Days O’Horror: The Vampire Lovers (1970)

“You must die!”

Ingrid Pitt portrays a bloodthirsty lesbian vampire in The Vampire Lovers. The 1970 film was just one more attempt by Hammer to use sexuality to draw in a crowd. The film would be followed by two sequels, Lust For A Vampire and Twins of Evil, both released in 1971. Collectively the films are known as the Karnstein Trilogy and all three are loosely based on the 1872 novela Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu. While many people seem to focus on the portrayal of lesbians and the nudity in the film, it actually has a very good story line.

The film opens with Baron Hartog planning out his scheme to kill a vampire. After a successful hunt, the film jumps ahead a few years and we are introduced to General Spielsdorf, his beautiful niece, Laura, her suitor, Carl, and the mysterious Countess and her daughter, the captivating Marcilla, at a party at the general’s home. After receiving news of the death of a friend, the countess leaves for her home but asks the general if Marcilla can stay with him until she returns. The general agrees and not long after that, Laura begins having severe nightmares and calls out for Marcilla at night. Laura falls mysteriously ill and soon dies. Marcilla leaves but she and the countess find themselves in the helping hands of Roger Morton. Once again, the countess leaves her daughter, now going by the name Carmilla, and who becomes fast friends with Morton’s daughter, Emma. She seduces both Emma and Emma’s governess, Mademoiselle Perrodot. Other women in the area begin to die mysteriously and Emma becomes sick like Laura.

Vampires and victims from The Vampire Lovers. L to R: Kirsten Lindholm (Hartog’s vampire), Pippa Steel (Laura), Kate O’Mara (Mademoiselle Perrodot), Madeline Smith (Emma Morton), and Ingrid Pitt (Marcilla/Carmilla)

In the meantime, Carl begins to piece together that Emma’s sickness is similar to Laura’s and both of them became ill after the arrival of strange young woman. The general arrives in town with Baron Hartog with him. Convinced that his niece was seduced and murdered by a vampire, the general actively sought out Hartog in order to hunt down the vampire and end its reign of terror. Spielsdorf, Hartog, and Carl, along with other supporters, seek out the vampire. The Morton’s butler and family doctor become suspicious of Carmilla and take measures to keep Emma safe. You’ll have to watch the film in order to find out what happens next.

While The Vampire Lovers received a lot of attention for its lesbianism it is neither the first film to feature lesbian vampires (usually considered to be Universal’s Dracula’s Daughter from 1936) nor was it the first film to be based upon Le Fanu’s novella (Blood And Roses, 1960, although other films used elements of the story prior to it). The film features a considerable amount of nudity including a full frontal nude scene from Pitt. In fact, all of the primary female cast members (excepting Kate O’Mara) appear in some state of undress. There’s also a considerable amount of cleavage and numerous scenes featuring actresses in see-through gowns. Why am I mentioning all of this? To show my readers just how far Hammer went to draw in larger box office numbers. In all honesty the film could have been shot without the nudity and it would have worked just as well on story alone.

The film’s cast is superb for the most part. Pitt portrays the seductive Marcilla with full confidence. Kate O’Mara shines as Perrodot, who goes from a protective governess to a woman desperate for the attention of Marcilla. Pippa Steel has a brief role as Laura but she is wonderful. The men in the film, primarily Peter Cushing as the general, Douglas Wilmer as Hartog, and Jon Finch as Carl, all give a wonderful performance despite taking quite a few steps back to allow the women to shine in the film. Harvey Hall and Janet Key are great in supporting roles as Renton and Gretchin. The only somewhat weak link is Madeline Smith as Emma. Smith spends most of the film wandering around her home or laying in bed with big doe eyes. I understand that she is supposed to be completely captivated by Marcilla, but she comes across as a bit too dumbfounded.

The film’s special effects were great. The blood was the signature Hammer red. While there weren’t as many scenes involving splattering blood, the few that do occur should be quite enough to satisfy gorehounds. Roy Ward Baker’s direction kept the pacing acceptable and there was some brilliant cinematography from Moray Grant.

I really liked this film. I hope to watch the other films in this trilogy and if I have time I’ll review them for Thirty-One Days O’Horror. I definitely recommend this film. If you’re interested in lesbianism in vampire films or in cinema in general, I suggest checking out Dracula’s Daughter. This film is also perfect for Doctor Who fans, as Pitt, O’Mara, and Cushing all featured prominently in Doctor Who stories.

Thanks for checking out my review. See you tomorrow! I’ll take a break from the vampires for a few days. What could I be reviewing next?