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Hammer horror rises from the grave once again

Like Dracula rising from the grave, the House of Hammer is back, preparing to open their vaults and release a collection of classic films remastered for Blu-ray.

Christopher Lee as Dracula

If you were a kid in the late 60s/early 70s, you probably grew up watching classic movies on your local TV stations’ midday movie slots (like The Four O’Clock Movie here in Baltimore). If you were really lucky, your city had a late-night horror host on the weekend. We had the Ghost Host, and if I could get the rabbit ears positioned just right, I could pick up a snowy transmission from D.C. to catch the antics of Count Gore De Vol. These programs played a lot of the classic Universal horror films, and even more grade Z flicks, but they also had a nice selection of films from Hammer studios. If you grew up watching Bela Lugosi as Dracula, seeing Christopher Lee in the role (and in color!) was shocking and exciting.

Hammer’s heyday extended from the late 50s to the mid 70s, and Christopher Lee was probably their biggest star, playing almost all of the notable monster roles – Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Mummy (Oliver Reed actually played a werewolf at one point). Peter Cushing was also teamed up with Lee in many of these films and they left a mark on many impressionable minds.

Hammer’s fortunes declined as the monster films fell out of favor and their once violent and sexually provocative films became tame by modern standards.  Some of the Lee/Cushing films found their way to VHS and DVD, but often in edited versions. Anchor Bay had done an admirable job of releasing a large chunk of the Hammer library on DVD several years ago, but some of these titles were still incomplete.

Hammer fans got some astounding news this week when it was revealed the studio has begun restoring 30 classic films for release on Blu-ray.  Hammer has been working with various foreign and Hollywood studios to locate missing footage and produce new high-def masters.  Quatermass and the Pit (known in the US as Five Million Years to Earth), a movie that gave me nightmares after seeing it on TV when I was a kid, has already been restored and released in the UK, with Dracula: Prince of Darkness, on the way. Probably most exciting is the news that extended footage for Dracula (US title: Horror of Dracula) has been located in Japan. Among the newly discovered footage is a more graphic disintegration scene at the film’s climax. The film’s original UK titles are also being restored.

In addition to Dracula and Quatermass and the Pit, the initial 30 films will include such titles as The Curse of Frankenstein, The Plague of the Zombies, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, The Mummy, Frankenstein Created Woman, The Lost Continent, The Reptile, Slave Girls (US Title: Prehistoric Women), and The Vengeance of She. Hammer is also hoping fans will help with the restoration process by helping track down lost footage. This is exciting news indeed, and I look forward to Hammer rising from the grave once again.

Photo Credit: Hammer Films

Categories: Features, General, News

4 Responses to “Hammer horror rises from the grave once again”

January 22, 2012 at 11:42 AM

. . . . .

I am that kid from the 60’s amd 70’s. I am a HUGE Quatermass fan and that flick creeped me out. Loved it. Classic.

I grew up with Saturday afternoon horror hosts and loved’em.

This news might just convince me to finally search for a Blu-ray player. Most of the above mentioned titles are already in my library … but … you never know …

January 22, 2012 at 1:44 PM

Agreed! I bought the Quatermass flick as soon as it came out on DVD. I do have a few of the other Anchor Bay/Hammer releases, but to see these movies in HD will be a revelation, especially with the restored footage and the original titles. I think it will be well worth the upgrade to Blu-ray!

January 23, 2012 at 11:11 AM

Chuck, you have made my day with this news.

January 23, 2012 at 2:31 PM

It’s nice to know that others are as excited about this as I am!

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