Hammer Films, one of the most celebrated horror studios in the history of cinema, presents 8 classic horror films in one collection. From Dracula to Frankenstein, werewolves to phantoms, the Hammer Horror Series showcases ... more »some of the most terrifying monsters in the history of cinema and features legendary performances by Peter Cushing, Oliver Reed and Janette Scott.« less
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 06/18/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I was prepared to be disappointed but hopeful that Universal would do a good job with this set. While it isn't perfect, this collection of classic Hammer films (and some not so-classic ones as well)looks pretty good in this DVD transfer. Although "Brides of Dracula" and "Curse of the Werewolf" don't look as stunning as the "Horror of Dracula" (or "Revenge of Frankenstein")each appears in what appears to be the correct aspect ratio. Universal evidently used notes with the prints indicating the original theatrical aspect ratio (at least for the U.S.)much as Warner did with "The Mummy" and "Horror of Dracula". There aren't any extras to speak of but the image quality is solid. There's grain evident in most of these DVD transfers but all of that can't be attributed to the transfer itself as these were shot on stock that was grainy to begin with. Older DVD players (and some newer ones as well)may have a problem playing some of these discs. Evidently there are reports (again) that these Universal discs can cause some players to freeze and lock up the DVD players which is related to a manufacturing issue related only to dual layered discs. These discs would have looked terrific on single layered releases or on single sided dual layered releases. The reason these are being released like this is due to $$. Luckily, so far I haven't had a problem but I thought the same thing with some of the other Universal releases and found out otherwise much later.
"Brides of Dracula" has a misleading title. Dracula doesn't appear at all instead this film focuses on Van Helsing's (Peter Cushing) efforts to rid a village of a young vampire that has been inadvertantly released by a young woman. Although the script isn't quite as strong as "Horror of Dracula", the film has a number of memorable set pieces. Evidently beyond the four screenwriters credited, Anthony Hinds also had a hand in the script (as did Cushing and Fisher much later) as he had to tone down the film for the British censors prior to production. In Sangster's original screenplay Dracula makes an appearence at the end of the film to punish Meinster. One of the last Hammer films shot by the marvelous Jack Asher, "Brides" looks great on DVD.
"Curse of the Werewolf" features Oliver Reed in the title role. Set in Spain, Reed plays Leon a young man adopted when his mother a mute servant girl dies giving birth. We know very little about the father except that the girl was raped. As a youth Leon exhibits the traits of the werewolf while hunting and the curse continues to haunt him as he grows older.
The colors are bright and vivid. Terence Fisher's direction is sharp as usual and the film is one of the more "adult" Hammer films dealing with a number of complex themes. Reed doesn't show up until about 40 or so minutes into the movie. Featuring an unusual rich score by Benjamin Frankel("Night of the Igauna") and a chrismatic, powerful performance by Reed, "Curse" would be one of the few Hammer films to visit the legend of the werewolf. Bizarrely, Yvonne Romain plays Reed's mother in this while Reed romances her in "Night Creatures". Romain would have her last film role as Sheila in the classic mystery film "The Last of Sheila".
"The Evil of Frankenstein" allowed Hammer to adapt Jack Pierce's classic monster make up for this film when Universal agreed to finance it. Cushing plays the doctor once again. It's one of the lesser Frankenstein films and the only one featuring Cushing not directed by Terry Fisher. While it isn't the best of the Frankenstein films, Freddie Francis (cinematography on one of my favorite classic horror films "The Innocents" and other films such as "The Elephant Man". Director of horror classics "The Creeping Flesh" and "The Doctor and The Devils")does a solid enough job of directing the film despite it's apparent low budget. "Evil" features one of the weakest scripts by Anthony Hinds for the "Frankenstein" series. Cushing does his best with the material. It's basically a rehash of elements seen in many of the Universal Frankenstein films including the sequence where the Baron discovers his creature in ice (which echoes "Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman"). The transfer looks far from "Evil". With nice, robust colors and nice fine line detail "Evil of Frankenstein" looks extremely good.
"Paranoic" features Oliver Reed in a clever thriller with as many plot twists as "Psycho". Featuring a script by Jimmy Sangster and sharp direction by Freddie Francis, it's a memorable thriller but derivative thriller. It doesn't measure up to Hitchcock's classic but has a number of marvelous sequences in it and a great performance by Oliver Reed. A very nice transfer with rich blacks, "Paranoic" and "Nightmare" (another Jimmy Sangster "Psycho" knock off of sorts) both look positively beautiful in this presentation.
"Phantom of the Opera" is Fisher's remake of the classic French novel. In this version the Phantom is played by Herbert Lom. The make up isn't as memorable as Lon Chaney's and the changes in the plot along with the smaller scale of the production makes this one that gets overlooked. Although it wasn't the huge financial hit that Universal had hoped at the time and the action lags a bit at the beginning, "Phantom" still remains a terrific bit of entertainment and has a number of marvelous set pieces directed by Terence Fisher.
"Kiss of the Vampire" may appear to familair to fans of Roman Polanski's "The Fearless Vampire Killers". The basic plot involving a vampire cult and their attempt to initiate an unsuspecting young woman at a "vampire ball" was the basis for Polanski's satire. Well directed by Don Sharp, the main weakness of the film are the unconvincing bats that attack in one sequence. Otherwise, this is a top notch film. The transfer for "Kiss of the Vampire" looks quite good with rich colors.
"Night Creatures" is a Peter Cushing period piece that was retitled for the US market from "Captain Clegg". Cushing plays the vicar in a town full of smugglers. Clegg was a pirate in the region who was ultimately caught, executed and buried in the town. Using "marsh phantoms" to scare away those who might be interested in their smuggling activities, the town is investigated when a man who had betrayed Clegg is found by the King's Navy. This mute brute (Clegg had his tongue cut out for trying to rape the Captain's wife and for betraying him)leads the King's men to the town where it is suspected that Clegg might be alive and still in action after all. A well written period adventure, Cushing is marvelous as the vicar and a young Oliver Reed does a nice supporting turn in the film as well. The film is based on the same source as "Dr. Syn/The Scarecrow" which Disney made with Patrick Magoohan (famed for "The Prisoner" and "Secret Agent Man/Danger Man")which forced Universal and Hammer to change the title and character names to avoid a lawsuit. Well directed by Peter Graham Scott with a breezy action filled script by Anthony Hinds, "Night Creatures" is a film I hadn't seen since childhood. My impressions now (as they were then)is that this is a terrific piece of filmmaking showing a side of Hammer that was rarely investigated.
"Night Creatures" looks quite good although the sequences that set at night are a tad flat looking and dark. The colors are bright and vivid although the film looks like it could have been cleaned up a bit more for this presentation. Still, this DVD presentation of the film looks better than the rare VHS copies I've seen over the years. Part of the flaw with the film could be the age of the negative itself and/or the condition of it. It still looks mighty good all things considered.
The packaging resembles the other "Franchise" collections Universal has put out with a see through slipcase and images of the original lobby cards in small print on the inside. A nice job of putting this set together although, again, an extra disc with a biography of Cushing, commentary track from a Hammer film scholar (or fans)and the original theatrical trailers would have been appreciated.
I am buying this DVD set for Night Creatures
RDtoo | Detroit | 08/29/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a good set of Hammer films but I am going to buy this set for one movie only. That film is Night Creatures, titled Captain Clegg in the UK. I am not surprised that many of the reviews here are not familiar with it. The film has not been shown on TV in over 2 decades. I spent years tracking down a bootleg copy. The story concerns pirates and smuggling. This film is not a remake of the Disney film "Dr. Syn". They were filming at the same time from the same source material. Disney sued Hammer and won. Hammer made changes in their film like changing the name of Dr. Syn to Dr. Blyss. The Scarecrow becomes a minor character in this film but even more eerie. Wait until you see the opening scene with the Marsh Phantoms. It will stay in your memory forever. It is important to point out that this is not a film dealing with the supernatural, but has the feeling of a horror film throughout. It has that old fashioned kind of spookiness and atmosphere that makes it an ideal film to watch on Halloween. Many people, myself included, consider this Hammer's finest film. Justice is fianally done with an official release. Thank you Universal."
GODFREY HAMILTON | HOLLYWOOD, CA USA | 01/31/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Yep folks, I have to concur with other reviewers who have shouted BUYER BEWARE - just as Paranoiac gets interesting, the image freezes and completely locks up and all you can do is to make a note of the exact time on the DVD clock, then start the movie again using chapter stops to go PAST the lock-up, then reverse back to about 50 secs after the freeze occured ... a wonderful carry-on for a suspense thriller, huh ? And ditto playing it on the computer - ever tried to eject a disc when your computer is frozen up ? The great tragedy is that these are wonderful, wonderful movies but the DVD quality is obviously a crap shoot (in fact some of those earlier reviews telling us how brilliant the disc quality is are highly suspect ... but Universal would never stoop so low as to stuff the ballot now would they?) To those who have clean copies - well lucky you.
What I will say though is that no emails I have sent to Universal ("Contact Us" ! says their website) have been acknowledged, still less has anyone at Universal Customer Services (hah) offered refund or replacement or EXPLANATION AND APOLOGY. Service ? Heaven forfend ! We want your MONEY !
All the other reviewers who have complained so plaintively and angrily have my full support - now tell me, apart from Amazon's willingness to replace defective discs, has ANYONE had any satisfactory contact with Universal ? And indeed has Amazon complained to Universal on our behalf ?
I can tell you one thing - the artwork on this collection's digipak, that is actually embellished with a lobby card from the Claude Rains version of Phantom, only confirms what I already knew - BELIEVE ME the studios are full of career eager-beavers who haven't a CLUE about any movies made more than ten years ago and even the recent ones had better be blockbusters with great opening weekends and great test screening responses or these superannuated adolescents who populate the Studios won't have any idea what you're talking about ... Peter who ? .... Cushing? ... what's he done ? Should I know him ? Who's his agent ?
I rest my case."
Great Movies, terrible DVDs
Sabalom Glitz | Miami, FL USA | 01/09/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Like many others I also have to report having problems with these discs. Curse of the Werewolf froze and pixellated a couple of times, but was otherwise okay. Evil of Frankenstein, however, was unwatchable because of all the playback problems. I think the disc was scratched by a flyer that was enclosed in the set. Not real smart to package something loose to rattle around along the playable surface of your discs. So I got in touch with Universal to send me a replacement and that one was defective as well. I really love these movies, but I will never again buy a double-sided DVD from Universal. I give these movies 5 stars, but 1 star for the discs themselves. Avoid these unless you're feeling very lucky.
**UPDATE** I finally received my second replacement disc for this set from Universal, making it the third disc I've tried. Evil of Frankenstein still had severe playback problems on my Sony DVD player, but fortunately it played just fine (except for a momentary hiccup) on my older and much cheaper Pioneer player. Go figure. For the sake of future releases, please join me in boycotting Universal's double-sided DVDs."
Where is Universal Studios quality control?
Bradley Beard | Las Vegas | 09/25/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I really give the overall content of the set a five star rating however due to the fact I had to watch and return two copies before I found ONE that worked I can't have much positive to say about the package. I just watched my Bela Lugosi collection today and found the same problem. All the problems listed by other people are TRUE. Beware when you purchase ANY Universal DVD dual layered disc!! We as consumers all need to band together and continue to email Universal until they get the idea that their quality control is FAILING!!"