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TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Hammer Horror: DVD Review

Updated on December 27, 2010

The Curse of Frankenstein, The Horror of Dracula, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed

Hammer Films dominated the Gothic horror genre from the late 1950s to the 1970s, producing such horror classics as The Mummy, The Curse of the Werewolf, The Plague of the Zombies and The Devil Rides Out. The British company made its name worldwide with lurid monster movies starring household names such as Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Oliver Reed, with occasional appearances from major Hollywood stars, such as Bette Davis and Tallulah Bankhead.

Released in 2010, the DVD TCM Greatest Films Collection: Hammer Horror puts together four of the studio's greatest films in a two-disc collection, making a perfect introductory package for the Hammer novice.

The set retails at a very reasonable recommended price of $27.98, but you can buy it through sites such as Amazon at discount price.

Christopher Lee as the Creature in The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Christopher Lee as the Creature in The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957): TCM Hammer Horror DVD

The Curse of Frankenstein was the first color adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel, the first Hammer horror film -- although the studio had been making non-horror films since 1935 -- and the first to team up the fairly well-known Peter Cushing and little-known Christopher Lee, as Baron Frankenstein and the Creature, respectively. The gore and sex, though tame by today's standards, provoked uproar among censors and critics, but audiences loved it.

Peter Cushing as Dr Van Helsing in The Horror of Dracula (1958)
Peter Cushing as Dr Van Helsing in The Horror of Dracula (1958)

The Horror of Dracula (1958): TCM Hammer Horror DVD

Arguably Hammer Films' first true masterpiece, The Horror of Dracula  once again brought Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee together, this time as vampire hunter Van Helsing and the titular Count. The dark, cobwebbed ruins of Universal's 1931 film gave way to Hammer's almost exotic palace, and Lee played Dracula as a charming host who turns terrifyingly feral in an instant, rather than Lugosi's outright-ghoulish monster.

The opening titles of Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968) give some clue of the gore that is to follow.
The opening titles of Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968) give some clue of the gore that is to follow.

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968): TCM Hammer Horror DVD

Hammer had already resurrected Christopher Lee's Count Dracula once, in 1966's Dracula, Prince of Darkness, and had even managed a Dracula film without a Dracula -- the lavish 1960 The Brides of Dracula. This third film in the series looks fabulous, thanks to director Freddie Francis, best-known for his Oscar-winning cinematography. His use of coloured filters gives the movie a fantastically surreal atmosphere.

The Creature (Freddie Jones) awakes in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)
The Creature (Freddie Jones) awakes in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969): TCM Hammer Horror DVD

Where the Universal Frankenstein series had the Monster as the recurring main character, Hammer Films made Peter Cushing's Baron Frankenstein its main villain. Here he returns for the fifth time in what may well be the best of the series. It has all the expected horror elements, but also boasts a supremely sharp and witty script and a monster, played by Freddie Jones, who evokes the pathos associated with Boris Karloff's portrayal. Starlet Veronica Carlson, who had also appeared in Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, plays the Baron's reluctant assistant.

Hammer Links

Dictionary of Hammer Horror - An A-Z guide to the famous horror studio
Hammer Horror FAQ - Some more info about the studio that dripped blood
Top 10 Hammer Horror Films on DVD
Hammer Films: Icons of Suspense Collection: DVD Review
Vampire Circus: DVD & Blu-ray Combo Review
Hammer Films - The official site of Hammer Films today

Comments

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    • Rattigan profile imageAUTHOR

      Rattigan 

      7 years ago from St Catharines, Ontario

      Not sure what today's "Twilight" generation would make of the old Hammer films!

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 

      7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi: You have found the ideal birthday gift for a 17-year-old who is going through a "Vampire Stage." Great timing Bob

    • Rattigan profile imageAUTHOR

      Rattigan 

      7 years ago from St Catharines, Ontario

      I think Cushing was one of Britain's finest screen actors. I agree he was the definitive Van Helsing.

    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 

      7 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      The Hammer horror films are classic. Was there ever a better horror team than Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee? They made a dozen films together, and not all were horror. Cushing was the best Van Helsing ever!

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