TCM Greatest Classic Film Collection: Hammer Horror (Horror of Dracula / Dracula Has Risen from the Grave / The Curse of Frankenstein / Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed)
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Horror of Dracula
Jonathan Harker, a student of vampires, ventures to Dracula's castle and attacks him. The revengeful vampire leaves his dark abode to prey on the family of his attacker's fiancee. The only man able to protect Harker and his fiancee is Dr. Van Helsing, a friend of Harker's. As a fellow-student of vampires, he's determined to destroy Dracula.
Dracula Has Risen From the Grave
Dracula Has Risen from the Grave is the third Christopher Lee Dracula film from Hammer Studios. While trying to rid the former Dracula's Castle of evil after the mysterious death of a local girl, the Monsignor inadvertently raises the dark prince from his deathly slumber. Once awaken from the grave, the parched prince only has one thing on his mind, the yummy taste of blood which he fiendishly extracts from the local maidens. Though a little weak in plot, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave still comes off as a strong vampire film, delivering the goods on the gothic visuals, eerie sets, and Lee's performance. --Rob Bracco
The Curse of Frankenstein
In this re-telling of the classic horror tale, Baron Victor Frankenstein becomes friends with one of his teachers, Paul Krempe. At first, both men are fascinated by the potential of their re-animating experiments. Eventually, though, Krempe refuses to help with Frankenstien's human experiments. However, he is drawn back into the plot when Frankenstein's creature kills a member of the house staff.
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed
Another take on the classic tale. This one's a British version from 1969 with a more heartless version of the mad scientist. Instead of having a lab assistant to do his dirty work, this Dr. Frankenstien pushes a young doctor and his betrothed to kidnap the next victim. They must capture the mentally ill Dr. Brandt so that hi sbrain may be used in Dr. Frankenstein's experiments.
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Top customer reviews
Much earlier, Universal Studios of the 1930's and 1940's dominated the horror genre with the original 'Dracula' Frankenstein' 'Mummy' 'Wolf-Man' (and many sequels) and although the early Universal outings were of very high-quality and also impeccably atmospheric ==> Hammer Films, beginning in 1956 (and carrying on thru the early 1970's) brought a more directly terrifying 'realism' and complexity to the Dracula and Frankenstein portrayals especially (adding technicolor 'blood' of course, but beyond that acutely ampliphying the more intriguing qualities of both Classic horror icons ==> Dracula became much more 'sensual' and intensely-sinister in his pursuit of potential victims, and Doctor Frankenstein became more obsessive and 'driven' almost to the point of insanity in his pursuit of creating authentic 'life'!
This 'TCM' Greatest collection of 4 of the best Hammer films (two featuring Christopher Lee's Dracula and two showcasing Peter Cashing's Doctor Frankenstein) are basically required-essential viewing especially at Halloween! (even in the 21st Century!)
"The Horror of Dracula" (originally released circa1958) really stands-out = there is never a dull moment here, the film is packed with (and probably set the standard for) those Eerie gothic atmospherics Hammer specialized in. The story & dialog are air-tight and the film moves briskly and builds incredible suspense as the anticipated (and 'real') terrors inexorably mount, leading to the final confrontation between Dracula (Lee) and Van Helsing (Cushing) that is still quite terrifying to watch to this Day (with astonishing 'effects' of Dracula's disintegration et al) = a true adrenaline rush (and creepy/eerie as hell, even compared to 21st Century CGI etc. = i.e. the Hammer make-up Dept. worked authentic magic here!). And again, much of the credit (for authenticity) goes to Christopher Lee evoking the sinister 'confidence' believing that his superior intellect can outwit any would be vampire-hunter (including Van Helsing) and also that he can successfully 'seduce' any potential victim (into donating blood willingly!) And Peter Cushing's 'Van Helsing' seems resolute with righteous-indignation to 'right all wrongs' and destroy the eternal evil that is Dracula. If you haven't ever seen this, you will be quite surprised at how incredibly expertly-well this film is constructed (there is probably little room for improvement!)
1957's "Curse of Frankenstein" was Hammer's first foray into technicolor-horrors (they made some B&W SciFi previously, which are actually quite good), but it was Frankenstein that became a World-wide blockbuster first followed closely by 'Horror of Dracula' that made Hammer films into a major-player in Britain especially during the 1960's.
I think the major-strength of this Frankenstein film lay in the 'seriousness' with which the Director (Terence Fisher), Writer (Jimmy Sangster) and especially Lead Actor (Peter Cushing) approached this production. Although this film only cost something like 65K pounds-sterling to make (roughly $125,000 converted to American currency of the Day) painstaking care was obviously taken (by all involved) to make the Laboratory set-pieces and Frankenstein-monster make-up extremely realistic for the time, and of course Peter Cushing comes-thru brilliantly as the inordinately focused, obsessed 'mad-Genius' who will literally stop at nothing to bring his inanimate corpse/cadaver to authentic 'Life' = not foreseeing the brutal and horrific consequences to come. I was especially impressed by the final scenes when Doctor Frankenstein/Cushing is pleading with his laboratory assistant to corroborate his tale that the there really had been a 'creature' brought to life in his laboratory that was to blame for the havoc wreaked - but no one believes him, and the gallows await.
Just quick comments on the last two films: "Dracula has Risen from the Grave" (circa1968) is also very well made and quite atmospheric (with a different but strikingly-impressive look by director Freddie Francis who was also a renowned Cinematographer). This is a good/exciting outing for Dracula (again fast-paced and visually intriguing), probably the second or third best in the series vying with the earlier "Dracula: Prince of Darkness' from 1966.
"Frankenstein Must be Destroyed" from 1969 is a slightly different film, more psychologically-driven and a bit more gloomy as an older Doctor Frankenstein wrestles with his past & present intellectual 'Demons' but can't quite resist delving into the realm of animating the undead once again - fearing/anticipating cruelly-devastating ramifications as always, but tempting the hand of fate once more!
Horror of Dracula
"Horror of Dracula" may not be a faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic Gothic vampire tale, in fact far from it, but it is a fine take of Stoker's novel.In this version, Jonathan Harker goes to Dracula's castle at the beginning under the guise of a librarian, but he actually knows what Dracula is and his purpose is to destroy him. Unfortunately, he is killed by Dracula and the vampire goes to London to prey upon Harker's fiancee, Lucy Holmwood [yes, they changed the names too], and later on Mina Holmwood, Lucy's sister-in-law. It is left to Van Helsing [Peter Cushing] and Arthur Holmwood [Lucy's brother and Mina's husband] to destroy the monster.
Christopher Lee, in his first portrayal of the evil Count Dracula, may not have much screen time, but he makes the most of the limited time he does have. His Count is sensual and evil at the same time - exerting a hypnotic effect upon his female victims that have them eagerly disrobing for the count's pleasure [and fangs:)].
Peter Cushing does an amazing job as Dr Van Helsing, vampire hunter and his commanding presence and determination to hunt down and destroy the monster that is Dracula is so credibly done that I was cheering him on all through the movie.
The female victims are suitably beautiful and helpless in the face of Dracula's charm and manipulations, and though this movie doesn't exactly scream big budget, I thought the production values were pretty decent - the vivid colors, the sets and scenery all enhanced the movie experience.There is a genuine atmosphere of menace that is effectively conveyed via the creepy score and sets.
Dracula Has Risen From the Grave
Though there are mixed reactions to "Dracula Has Risen from the Grave", I personally found it to be very interesting and thought-provoking. The story here begins with the little village in which Castle Dracula is located. It's been a year since the count's reign of terror ended, and yet mysterious events still plague the villagers. When the Monsignor [Rupert Davies] returns for a routine visit, he finds the villagers cowering in fear, including the Parish Priest himself [Ewan Hooper]. When the Monsignor undertakes to exorcise the Castle once and for all, events transpire differently - an unfortunate cut on the Priest's head proves to be the nourishment that brings the Count back to life, though the Monsignor remains oblivious of this fact, returning to his own village. The Count and his now faithful servant, the priest follow hot on the Monsignor's heels, bent on revenge - the target being the Monsignor's lovely niece, Maria [Veronica Carlson]. It's left to the Monsignor and Maria's atheist boyfriend, Paul [Barry Andrews] to save Maria before it's too late.
The production values in this movie were actually quite good - the sets, the score, and cinematography all enhanced the storytelling and made this movie very dark and menacing [the cellar under the inn where the Count is forced to reside looks very authentic].
The acting was good - Christopher Lee returns as the Count and this time, he is really mad and bent on revenge, with more screen time and dialogue to convey his anger. His lust for his prey is convincingly portrayed as usual and the female victims once again fall hopelessly under his spell, baring their necks in anticipation of the Count's 'embrace'. Rupert Davies is also strong in his portrayal of the Monsignor and special mention needs to be made of Ewan Hooper's fallen priest. His guilt and conflict comes across as genuine, and this was one aspect of the movie that made it really good for me - the corruption of good by Dracula, and the test of faith in both the Priest and also the atheist Paul.
The Curse of Frankenstein
"The Curse of Frankenstein" (1957) is one of Hammer Films' best productions, with the great horror talents of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee to entertain viewers. This also happens to be Hammer's first color film and the first in their Frankenstein franchise. Though I prefer my favorite horror actor Cushing as the "good guy", I think he excelled in his role as Frankenstein, not only here but in the other films as well. In "The Curse of Frankenstein", Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is in prison awaiting execution for the murder of Justine (if I'm not mistaken, Valerie Gaunt has played one of Dracula's brides in another Hammer production), a maid in his home. He is narrating his story to a priest via flashback; as a young boy, the intelligent, confident and wealthy Frankenstein forms a close friendship with his tutor, Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart), and the two become partners in the various medical experiments thought up by Frankenstein. One of these experiments involves bringing a dead dog back to life, and Frankenstein is so ecstatic at his success, that he decides to create life itself in the human body, by piecing together different parts of the body. Paul Krempe finds this an abomination and refuses to participate, and is on the point of leaving, when Elizabeth (Hazel Court), Victor's betrothed arrives at the Baron's home. Paul realizes he cannot abandon Elizabeth in the hands of a maniac, and tries to shield her from the horrors of the Baron's experiments. The full horror begins when the creature of Frankenstein's making comes alive and unleashes havoc.
This movie is wonderful for various reasons - the sets, score, and costumes, not to mention the ghoulish manner in which Frankenstein procures the various body parts lend a truly macabre feel to the movie, infusing it with a high sense of Gothic horror. The acting by the cast is simply excellent - Cushing shines as the egotistical and maniacal scientist, and Lee (though almost unrecognizable, but not quite) is believably creepy as the monster (no lines here, but the horror is all too evident in the expressions on his face). The others, especially Krempe as played by Robert Urquhart, enhance this horror drama with their credible acting. An excellent horror movie in all aspects, this is a true Gothic classic, and a must-have for fans of classic horror.
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed
With a title like "Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed", my initial impression was that this was going to be one of those over-the-top horror features that are quite characteristic of Hammer Films Productions. That opinion was soon revised after watching this movie, a perfect blend of drama, suspense, and great acting, especially by the talented Peter Cushing (one of my all-time favorite actors in the horror genre). Here, Cushing portrays the manic-obsessive Baron Frankenstein who flees from a scene of horror, only to visit his evil upon a pair of hapless lovers, a young doctor (Simon Ward) at an insane asylum, and his fiancee (Veronica Carlson), who makes the unfortunate decision of renting a room in her boarding house to Frankenstein. The pair are soon blackmailed to aid the nefarious Baron in his illicit activities, whilst the authorities try to track him down.
There are many chilling scenes in this movie - memorable ones such as the scene of a petty thief breaking into Frankenstein's lab, only to find himself facing a scene of indescribable horror and in mortal danger. There is also, disturbingly, a scene of assault in this movie involving a female character and the Baron, which I was quite taken aback by (definitely not a typical role for Cushing who always seems gentlemanly even when portraying 'monsters'). All in all, this is a well-made, atmospheric horror movie starring the great Peter Cushing in a monstrously evil role. A must-have for fans of classic horror.
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