Posts Tagged ‘Hammer Horror’

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An archaeological expedition  uncovers the tomb of an ancient Egyptian prince. However, the members find themselves being killed off by a mummy who is revived when the words of the prince’s burial shroud are said aloud.
An epic back story of a dying young Pharaoh played out on StarTrek- like sets, miniatures with blackened white men is lifted by Don Banks wonderful orchestral score. The Mummy’s Shroud moves to 1920 where the set design is as classic as the actors and dialogue itself.
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What’s notable about this Hammer production is that it borrows much from earlier Mummy films but has a look and feel of its own which has clearly influenced more recent incarnations especially the narration and dessert deaths. Nevertheless, the Shroud really drags it feet, and feels as worn and tired as the shroud itself. The Mummy’s appearance is around the 50 minute mark which wouldn’t be an issue if there had been some suspense or tension in the build up. Not even the great props and 1920’s style sets (which are amazing considering the productions budget) weren’t the only thing on screen to keep you entertained.
20120129-202146.jpgThere’s bribery, a little racial tension and notable is Maggie Kimberly as Claire de Sangre. During the last 30 minutes the kills both on and off screen are effective enough by stuntman Eddie Powell (Christopher Lee’s regular double) and Michael Ripper as Longbarrow is a joy and really gets to shine.
Absent is blood and there is little if any cleavage on display synonymous with Hammers later outings, but what you have in the closing act are some well executed mummy effects.
Overall as the warning tagline read: ‘Beware The Beat Of The Cloth-Wrapped Feet!’ Make of that what you will.
She’s a vampire I Yutte

Decades before Twilight’s vampires walked in the daylight there was Hammer Horror’s vampires. It’s 1830, at a finishing school in Styria, Mircalla arrives as a new student. As the young female students in the school begin to die the villagers suspect the Karnsteins located in their ominous castle are to blame.  A visiting author, Richard Lestrange, instantly falls in Mircalla but she is a vampire – Carmilla Karnstein – who has been resurrected by her vampiric family. 

Lust for a Vampire is a well produced Hammer film that arguably is only led astray by its reused footage of Christopher Lee’s blood shot eyes and “Strange Love,” a 1970’s song which plays over LeStrange and Mircalla’s saucy love scene.
The Jim Carrey look
Amongst the abundance of cleavage and boobs on display there is quiet a tight story, there’s the usual vampire cliches hardly surprising given the source material of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic Camilla. Fog, horse-drawn carriages, mysterious cloaked figures and a castle on a hill. Theres some modest effects and interesting scenes, a throat is slit, a resurrected skeleton and a blood covered naked body.

I’m not Christopher Lee
I’m actually a lot cheaper
The school location gives it a fresh look and complements the authenticity of the costumes. Dancing autumn leaves around forests and a powerful score  synonymous with hammer are present. There’s the local Inn and obligatory village mob on a witch hunt.

Dimpled chin lead Yutte Stensgaard (replaces Ingrid Pitt who refused to return as she disliked the script) is on fine form. Nobly for me  is an apperance by Barbara Jeffordd seen more recently Polanski’s Ninth Gate. But the star of the show is the underused co-star (Honor Blackman and Elizabeth Montgomery alike) beautiful Suzanna Leigh as dance teacher Miss Playfair. 

Suzanna Leigh 1945 was a good year 
born in Belgrave, Leicester UK,
There is an array of sub characters from an inspector to a concerned father and headmistress to name a few. Dear John’s (UK TV hit) Ralph Bates plays the quirky but ill-fated character Giles Barton. Cheeky chappy Lestrange is played by Michael Johnson. Interestingly Johnson replaced Peter Cushing (as his wife was ill) but Peter clearly would have been unfittingly for the dashing love interest, as in the finished film. Lestrange’s character has quite an arch unusual for the standard vampire affair.

The adult themes give this an edge  over some Hammer outings even if it is light heartedly hammy in spots.The climax is effective with some nice effects although somewhat a little rushed. Overall, classic Hammer that is sexual charged and ghoulishly gory.
For me it’s comparable to Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro meeting in Heat as horror stars Vincent Price and Peter Cushing converge in Madhouse. It’s a surreal and momentous moment in horror so I was compelled to share a few thoughts on the occasion.
An ageing horror star comes out of retirement only to find murder follows him everywhere he goes.
There’s nothing better than watching two stars, in this case horror stars grace the same screen. Very loosely based on Angus Hall’s novel Devil day (1969) Madhouse is certainly of time (1974) which is a good thing, making it contemporary of that time and different their older films. After parties, Cine films, film reels, film launches, tributes and the trappings of fame are on show indicative of film world at that time. Madhouse is wonderfully shot, rich in contrast, with excellent set design and locations. It exudes atmosphere in places and is genuinely creepy in spots, still it’s an odd film, almost surreal in places, especially the scenes in the cellar and the body on the boat.
With a striking looking supporting cast both Vincent Price and Peter Cushing are excellent. Even though in their fermenting ages which is a shame, it’s fitting to the story, and you can’t help feel that there’s irony baste over irony in Prices role of Paul Toombes, even maybe a hint of truth in the dialogue of his character. Mild-mannered Cushing as Herbert Flay unfortunately doesn’t get as much screen-time as you’d like. This is certainly Price’s show and he effortlessly captures the viewer with his immense presence and deep tones as much as he did 10 years earlier in The Last Man on Earth (1964).
Although reminiscent in feel of The House on Haunted Hill (1959) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973) it’s my no means a ‘classic’ but there is enough killings, spiders, old horror clips, kooky cops and good performances to keep you watching veteran editor Jim Clark’s (Charade (1963), Memphis Belle (1990)) last and only horror directing contribution.
All in all, Madhouse an intriguing must see for its possible comparable look at how much real life Price was injected into Dr. Death by Ken Levison in his screenplay.
As a fan of Hammer horror, with a few of their many films being a spiritual inspiration for my book Blood Hunger, Hammer sent me a brad new copy and I thought it rude not to say a few words on the iconic studios latest offering Wake Wood...

Blood Hunger

Following the unnecessary, yet excellent remake Let me in Hammer returns with Wake Wood a supernatural chiller in which a child is brought back from the dead to comfort her parents for three days. But she’s not quite the angelic child she was.

Eva Birthistle plays the grieving mother Louise and Twelve Rounds (2009) bad guy Adian Gillen is exceptional as the deceased child’s father. Reliable Timothy Spall and the child actress are notable and the supporting cast are solid.
There’s some effective bloody gore, grizzly births, severed spines, dog attacks and killings. Some supernatural elements take place out of shot to avoid the use of CGI, which adds to the believability and saves the budget.

Wake Wood is dark, damp and dreary just as it should be. Nevertheless, it is slightly stifled by a filmed for TV look. That aside, with a small budget director David Keating keeps the blood flowing and the pace going. And it benefits in plausibility and atmosphere with an on location shoot. There’s plenty of shadows, eerie music, sharp editing and a grounded screen-play (by Brendan McCarthy) to keep you watching with a grin that Hammer may have a place in this century.

Wake Wood [Blu-ray]

With elements of Don’t Look Now, Case 39, Carrie, The Wicker Man and Pet Cemetery to name a few you could argue it’s all be done before and better. However, Wake Wood’s great ending debatably leaves you thinking sometimes less is more.
And so it begins…
Baron Wilton, Iliana and Lucia and array of other Blood Hunger characters have been let loose on the world, not just as a novel but as audiobook (on iTunes); a downloadable e-book and there’s also prelude film Terminus directed by Sean Parsons. There’s no lunch box just yet.

What’s different about Blood Hunger? 
Gathering dust amongst the thousand of vampires books lay a treasure. It’s a definitive vampire story that chronicles their ancient origins and follows the fall of the vampires in the 15th Century to their return and plight to gain control in the present day.
Blood Hunger brings vampires back to basics, striping out the pop culture and watered down characters that they have so often been portrayed as. Blood Hunger returns to the tales, folklore and traditional vampire ‘rules’ but injects new lease of life into the dead. They’re are enigmatic, raw and dangerous killers that made the vampire legend infamous.


It follows Lucia Ferrara’s discovery of a body in Romania, dubbed the ‘Ice Prince’ which is significant enough to put her and her boyfriend Max Lowe in the media spotlight. Iliana and her sister’s journey to the United Kingdom after self-imposed isolation in the United States. News that the ‘Ice Prince’ has been discovered ceases their many years of blood abstinence and they unleash a bloodthirsty terror on humankind leaving a trail of death from Mississippi to London and the crimson stained Welsh countryside.
Prepare yourself, their first bite will be your last!
Blood Hunger the vampire horror is out now from a variety of online books stores, including Amazon US and Amazon UK you can also order it from your local store.
Anyone that has listened my interviews over the years will know that I’m a fan of Hammer Horror films, but if I may add it’s in the oddest sense, they are not the greatest productions ever made but they have a Gothic, eerie, charm of their own with some fine performances, setting, sets, theatrical scores and things that go bump in the night.
I discussed this with the outlandish Scream Queen Ingrid Pitt, it became all to clear to me, having children of my own that Universal classics like ‘Dracula’, ‘The Wolfman’ and ‘Frankenstein’ may never be seen not just by British youngsters but US and  the rest of worlds teens. That is unless they have some kind of horror influence in their lives and find stories, books , posters, of this genre of films intriguing to find out more.  Young people haven’t or don’t get the opportunity to see the older horror movies or Hammer films that inspired me and others like The Reptile (1966), The Gorgon (1964) and Plague of the Zombies (1966) to others such as From Beyond the Grave, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors and The House That Dripped Blood. So when I heard about @cyberschizoid’s campaign (on Twitter) to bring back classic horror to BBC 2,  I had to do my bit in joining in by telling you about my fantasy horror double bill.
Now while I could tell you about an array of UK productions from The Ghoul (1933) to Vampire Lovers(1970) and likes of 1957’s The Curse of Frankenstein. Personally I’d love to see Dead People (1974) or Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971) on the BBC 2 but I’ve chosen titles a possibly less obvious to most and not British. I believe they would make great first viewing and have the drawing power to intrigue, inspire and capture the imagination of new comers of the genre.  So in true tradition of those BBC 2 days gone by here are my thoughts on an oldie black and white, followed by a colour film just like they were aired way back when…
BBC take note, I’d be happy to sit in a large leather chair in front of a log fire, in a drawing room and introduce these… And I’m a lot cheaper than Terry Wogan or Jonathan Ross. So turn that tuner, wait for the TV to heat up, this is my horror double bill…
Okay first up is Carnival of Souls (1962) and not a surprise to old school fans. A true horror classic Director Herk Harvey and writer John Clifford both waived their earnings in order to get the film made. Upon release in 1962 the film was a failure in the box office, thankfully its subsequent airings on late night television helped to gain it a strong cult following so Clifford and Herks work was not all in vain.
The delightful Candace Hilligoss is perfectly cast as the troubled woman that after surviving a traumatic car accident, that kills her two friends, becomes haunted by a frightening ghoul and drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival. It’s a shame that Hilligoss only acted in two features as she gives an impressive performance as Mary Henry.
The music is very creepy and a little too intrusive in places, however, for it’s time and budget it is a well crafted film. Carnival of Souls many not be as sleek and stylish as the Haunting (1963) but it is far more eerie. The zombies are not as imposing as in Night of the Living Dead, however, they are vastly creepier and macabre.
Oozing atmosphere it’s a creative and unnerving film that concludes with a common place twist but back in ’62 it was ahead of it’s time, a true cult classic.
And onto the next…
Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti”  (original title) I know its Spanish/ Italian production but it’s set in England and feel very Brit.A crop dusting machine from the agricultural pest-control is emitting ultra-sonic waves that are re-animating corpses… 


A lot have said this is underrated, granted it’s overlooked. It is Atmospheric with an ominous feel. It has great locations and is at times genuinely creepy. However, it’s shares more with Fulci than Romero. The acting is not aided by the bad dubbing. To its credit it has an eerie musical score by Giuliano Sorgini and a number of suspenseful sequences but it borrows many of its best sequences from Night of the Living Dead. 


I watched director Jorge Grau’s offering under the title of ‘Let Sleeping Corpse Lie’ but whichever name you see the film under don’t be mistaken or mislead, it’s a solid zombie horror movie and of its time with fine cinematography from Francisco Sempere. It’s a lot better than the low budget DTV zombie films that there’s no shortage of at the moment.

For more information about the campaign visit cyberschizoid blog

and check out fellow supporter Amanda Norman’s blog

A. M. Esmonde talks Blood Hunger, photo shoots, film and horror in an interview with the Volts Show. From his thoughts on the modern vampire genre including Twilight to Hammer Horror.

News, movie developments, but firstly, I’d like to sincerely thank all those who have purchased and read Blood Hunger, feedback has been very positive and I’m glad it has been well received, especially by die-hard vampire fans and the USA audience.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts I continued shaping Blood Hunger, writing a definitive vampire tale true to the original origins but an injecting a modern spin and twist. And at times it is ambiguous but it was required for the reader to link and solve some of the mystery.

Picture from fullhalloween.com
Thankfully or worryingly, everyone seemed to have warmed to the cold-blooded killer vampire sisters Monica, Gabriella and the mysterious Iliana. And that Nettie Johns character hit a nerve.

The 1477 A.D segments of the book that follow the downfall of the vampire brothers Vlad, Mircea, Radu and Stellan – I tired to encompass the 15th century history as oppose to Bram’s 1897 Victorian London, and I love that readers ‘got it’ and liked the contrast in setting. Talking of contrast in setting, my research and correspondence with the police on the chapters set in the present day really helped give those parts some realism. Detective Michaels and explorer Lucia turned out well and I’m looking forward to seeing their film incarnations.

Unfortunately, after attending development meetings with the first producers  it’s apparent that the movie adaptation may omit the 1477 A.D segments due to budget constraints. I am in the process of pushing it’s development forward.  Hopefully it will exceed Terminus popularity.

Ultimately, I set out two write a definitive vampire story that encompasses and pays tribute to the myth and legend, which has such an affect on today’s pop culture. However, I was very conscientious to write something different to Meyer, Rice and so on, who’s work I have not read but have heard a lot about. I hope Blood Hunger continues to capture the imagination of new readers that have been surrounded by only Twilight, Vampire Diaries and True Blood types respectfully, while at the same time satisfying hammer fans and lovers of the vampire and Dracula legend itself.

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I’ll be giving away Blood hunger T-shirts and stuff

Order your copy here: Blood Hunger

If you like audiobooks and love vampires you are in for a treat with my latest novel Blood Hunger…

From the fall of the vampire in 1477 A.D to their return in the present day… Their first bite, will be your last!

Last year I undertook a vampire concept photoshoot, models and actresses around the UK came to a ‘haunted’ castle and a museum in Wales, to capture the spirit of the novel, and portray a glossy version for film development.

Think you know vampires? although I have stayed true the vampire origins, it is different to whats around in todays pop culture and while it has it’s own twists it’s definative of the genre.

It has a shroud of Bram Stoker, Joseph Sheridan Lefanu. If I were to draw comparision to the screen, even though vampires are vampires and must be generic or they become something else, it isn’t Twilight, Buffy, True Blood or Vampire Diaries and thinly closer to The Hunger and Hammer Horror’s spirit.

I’ll leave it for you to decide. The audiobook Blood Hunger will be on iTunes, Napster, Amazon, HMV to name a few this coming June 2010.