come to home
video in August
July 26, 2001
By Franklin Harris
August is going to be a good month for fans of classic horror, especially fans of Britain's Hammer Films, the studio that dripped blood.
On Aug. 7, Anchor Bay Entertainment will add three new VHS and DVD titles to its already impressive Hammer Collection.
The first is "Scars of Dracula," in which the screen's most prolific Prince of Darkness, Christopher Lee, reprises the role that made him famous.
Filmed in 1970, "Scars of Dracula" was Hammer's sixth Dracula movie and the fifth starring Lee. And while it isn't one of the better installments — it can't compare to the best in the series: "Horror of Dracula" and "Dracula: Prince of Darkness — it has its charms.
As is typical of Hammer's films, "Scars" is lush despite its modest budget.
Even the cheapest Hammer movies look fabulous, thanks to rich, Technicolor hues and colorful set designs, and "Scars" is no exception.
But don't expect much in the way of special effects. There was no money in the budget for them.
At least the most laughable effect comes and goes early on. So, try not to hurt yourself laughing at the vampire bat that revives Dracula during the opening sequence. You have been warned.
Fans of British science fiction will want to watch out for Patrick Troughton, who has a supporting role as Dracula's lackey, Klove.
Troughton, of course, is best known as the second actor to star in the long running British SF series, "Doctor Who." And horror fans may remember him from another role: the priest who gets skewered in "The Omen."
The second Hammer re-release is "Horror of Frankenstein," also from 1970.
Unfortunately, Peter Cushing, who played Baron Frankenstein in Hammer's other Frankenstein films, is absent. In his place is the late Ralph Bates, whose brief career includes several other Hammer movies.
Bates plays a younger Baron in what amounts to a darkly comic remake of Hammer's first Frankenstein film, "Curse of Frankenstein."
The results are mixed.
Bates is a good actor, but he ultimately lacks Cushing's menacing presence, and there isn't much he can do with the lackluster script.
Still, there are treasures to be mined here as well.
It's hard not to give points for Bates' two leading ladies, Veronica Carlson (another Hammer vet) and Kate O'Mara (a Jackie Collins lookalike who played Joan Collins' sister on "Dynasty").
Then there is the monster, played by David Prowse.
Prowse is the only actor to play the monster in two Hammer films. He returned in 1973's "Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell," this time co-starring with Cushing.
Of course, the pair would team up one more time in 1977, when Cushing played Grand Moff Tarkin opposite Prowse's Dark Vader in "Star Wars."
The last film on Anchor Bay's slate is "Blood from the Mummy's Tomb."
This 1971 film stars Hammer veteran Andrew Kier ("Quatermass and the Pit") and Valerie Leon.
Leon plays a woman who is the reincarnation of an evil Egyptian queen.
Like an Egyptian tomb, this film seemed to suffer from a curse. It's director, Seth Holt, died just before filming was complete, and Cushing had to pull out of the film's lead role when his wife died.
The first 10,000 DVD copies of "Blood from the Mummy's Tomb" and "Scars of Dracula" will come packaged with bonus DVDs.
Hammer on TV
While Hammer produced its last film in 1979, it had one last gasp of life in 1980, when the 13-episode "Hammer House of Horror" aired on British television.
A&E Entertainment is releasing the entire series as a four-DVD boxed set on Aug. 28. The series features traditional Hammer subjects (vampires, werewolves, etc.) and traditional Hammer stars (Cushing, Lee, etc.).
Meanwhile, Hammer Films may yet return from the dead. A consortium purchased the company last year and announced in May that it plans to produce six horror films.
For the latest on Hammer Films, look up the Hammer Web site, www.hammerfilms.com.