Just upon hearing the words, Hammer Horror- can cause your spine to tingle and your hair to stand on edge. The legendary studio made over 40 horror films from the gothic, to vampires, monsters, satantic cults and so on. Between 1957 and 1974 they pushed the envelope of what was deemed horrific and brought untold entertainment to its patrons. Double bills would reign supreme on the big picture and that trend continued on television.
With it being October, here is a list of the 10 greatest Hammer Horror films- be sure to stick a few on when Halloween comes around.
10. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1962)
This one has always divided fans- though on reflection it is hard to see why. There is a terrific gothic atmosphere, the acting and script is solid and Herbert Lom as the Phantom is near perfection. Michael Gough steals the show as the corrupt stage hand and Patrick Troughton is great as the rat catcher. A quick eye will catch a heavily disguised Michael Ripper as a taxi driver.
9. NIGHTMARE (1964)
Probably the scariest film Hammer ever produced. Not seen by many but it should be. A young woman has nightmares that her mother is dead and sees graphic images (the censors would have loved this one). But is her mother dead? Is she going insane? Eerie and atmospheric, don't watch this one with the lights out.
8. KISS OF THE VAMPIRE (1963)
A couple are stranded and need a place to stay, but sadly for them they are staying in a village occupied by vampires and a satanic cult. This vampire movie doesn't have stalwarts Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee but it doesn't need them- it is its own film and stands highly regarded 50 years on. Van Helsing here is a weird guy that gets drunk a lot but knows what he has to do. Stunningly beautiful cinematography and a great gothic atmosphere add to the richness of it all.
7. THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (1968)
Almost 50 years on this shocker from Terence Fisher still has the power to get under your skin. At the time this was probably the best Satanic film ever made. The atmosphere is never over played and the excellent acting makes it all the more believable. Christopher Lee and Charles Gray are terrific. Deservedly one of the great Hammer films.
6. THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970)
Hammer alienated some of its hardcore fans at the turn of the 70s, when the studio ramped up the sex, violence and gore to new extremes. In truth it had little choice, times had moved on. On occasion it would get it all wrong, but then there were speedbumps, and this film was one of them. A fast flowing movie involving vampires and lesbians, topped up with Peter Cushing hell bent on destroying all that gets in his way. George Cole offers ample support. But let's talk about the glorious women: Ingrid Pitt, Pippa Steel, Madeline Smith and Kate 'oh my' mara. Plenty of nude scenes, horror and blood, what's not to like? The first and best of the Karnstein trilogy.
5. THE GORGON (1964)
Simply terrific. The trick with The Gorgon is that it hardly shows its 'monster'. It is more of a talkie film, but the script and setting are fantastic. It also stars the great duo of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing who can be watched all day long. When the monster does appear it is genuine shock and the make up for the time is great. One of the all time best ones.
4. THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957)
This is where it all started- the first Hammer gothic horror. And what a fine retelling of the Universal monster. We have a backstory, Cushing as a young obnoxious kid and then growing up to become the mad but brilliant scientist how creates a monster. Lee is great as the monster and gives a memorable performance. But this film is what cemented Hammer's long legacy and also Cushings.
3. DR JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE (1971)
Ralph Bates plays the smary thespian you would love to punch in the face as Hammer turn a familar story on its head and come up with something unique and fairly original. When Bates turns into Hyde he turns into a woman, hell bent on destruction and massacre. Martine Beswick is terrific as Bate's counterpart. Great atmosphere, interesting characters and tight script. Remarkable film.
2. HORROR OF DRACULA aka DRACULA (1958)
Hammers first attempt at the Dracula story proves to be one of the best if not the best ever Dracula movies. Christopher Lee as talented as he was, was born to play the count. Peter Cushing plays Van Helsing. The rich colors are a wonder and the direction by Terence Fisher is spot on. By far the best Dracula film from Hammer. A masterpiece. And now to the No.1. film drumroll.................................
1. THE CURSE OF THE WERWOLF (1961)
It's Terence Fisher again behind the lens as we come to, in my opinion the greatest Hammer Horror film ever. Where to stay, OK we have the gothic atmosphere and the costumes are fantastic. But it's the back story that is so interesting. We actually learn and care about our characters that will be introduced to us in the second half of the film. The great Oliver Reed stars as the werewolf and he is spectacular here. The make up for the time is outstanding and there are a few gore scenes to be thrown into the hat too- some controversial for the time period. Awesome film.