Halloween Extravaganza 3: The Essential Hammer Films Playlist
Everybody knows that if you wanted to see a classic monster movie in the 30’s and 40’s, you went to see a Universal Picture. Not only were they really well made films for their time, they saved Hollywood when the box office was sagging during The Great Depression. For years people would rush to see iconic characters like Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, films based on Edgar Allen Poe stories, the Invisible Man, and the Gill Man from the Creature From The Black Lagoon movies. But when the well had dried up in the early 50’s, and the publics fears had understandably transitioned from classic monsters to alien invasions and irradiated giant animals, there were a few brief years where it looked like the classic monsters were finished. Then British film company Hammer Film Productions picked up the slack. Starting with their first foray into horror with The Creeping Terror, Hammer would go on to create some all time starting in 1954 with The Creeping Terror and not ending until they went out of business in 1979 (they would make a comeback in 2008). But what about those who are just getting in to horror and are intimidated by such a long list of movies? Never fear, I have a list of essential movies from Hammer Films that you can use. Let’s start with the first horror movie they made.
The Creeping Terror (1954)
The first film in what would be three to feature a scientist named Bernard Quartermass (pronounced Kwate er mass and not like it’s spelled). Quartermass heads up a group of scientists looking to send the first manned mission to space. He launches the rocket without official sanction and while initially successful, loses contact with the vessel. When the rocket returns to earth bearing only one of three astronauts sent up, and with the remaining astronaut only able to say “help me”. Under the care of a doctor the astronaut is realizing his body is mutating, and a video inside the rocket reveals that something indeed caught a ride with the ship.
The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957)
The first in a long line of movies co-starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, usually with Lee as the monster. Director Terrance Fisher brings us a movie that begins with Frankenstein on death row, telling a priest his version of the Frankenstein story. In this version the scientist is much more sinister, using his creation to murder an innocent maid he impregnated.
The Abominable Snowman (1957)
Peter Cushing plays a scientist who joins an American expedition to the Himalayas to find evidence of the mythical yeti. They do manage to kill the beast and prepare to take it back to the wider world for study, but there’s a problem. It turns out that there is more than one yeti, they are intelligent, and they don’t appreciate it when you kill one of there own.
Horror Of Dracula (1958)
Starring Christopher Lee in his most iconic role until Saruman, this film offers a very different take on the events of the story. Jonathan Harker is a vampire hunter who must kill Dracula if he wants to revers the effects of the bite he had from one of Dracula’s brides. However, Jonathan fails and it falls on Abraham Von Helsing (Peter Cushing) to avenge his compatriot and stop Dracula once and for all.
The Hounds Of The Baskervilles (1959)
Once again Terence Fisher directs, but for once Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are both good guys. Sherlock Holmes (Cushing) and Watson must protect Sir Henry Baskerville (Lee) from the same ghostly dog that killed his ancestor and might have killed his brother. However, as is the case with Sherlock Holmes, not everything is as it seems.
The Mummy (1959)
Terrence Fisher, Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee team up again! This is basically the plot of all the Mummy movies up to this point; Explorers desecrate an ancient Egyptian tomb, read from the scroll of life, and die one by one as the mummy takes his revenge, that is until he sees one of their girlfriends as his reincarnated love.
Curse Of The Werewolf (1961)
Terence Fisher is back to direct the only werewolf movie Hammer ever made with Oliver Reed in his first starring role. The film takes place in Spain and is a slow burn film where the werewolf isn’t seen until the last fifteen minuets of the movie. boy but those last fifteen minuets. I like this film a lot, I even have a picture of the werewolf as my Facebook avatar.
The Old Dark House (1963)
A rather comedic take on the J.B. Priestly novel, an American car salesman gets stuck through unforeseen circumstances at an old dark house where the family must return by midnight each night or risk losing their inheritance. Until one night when a member of the family dies each hour on the hour.
The story of a young woman named Janet who is haunted by nightmares after watching her mother stab her father to death 6 years prior. The dreams mostly comprise of a woman in white, showing Janet a vision of that same mysterious woman with a knife in her chest. Janet starts going mad, and then the woman in her nightmares turns up.
Captain Kronos- Vampire Hunter (1974)
A small village is marked by a curse in which woman are dying at an alarming rate, seemingly by having their age accelerated. With no where else to turn, Dr. Martin calls on a man he used to know in the army, Captain Kronos, who is now a vampire hunter. They determine that the deaths are caused by a species of vampire that consumes youth, and Kronos and his crew set out to stop the madness.
I think this is a pretty good list for starters, and this doesn’t even include the eight other Dracula films, seven other Frankenstein films, three other Mummy films, and two more Quartemass movies. I hope this helps you out when you start your journey into British horror. Happy Hauntings.