Friday, October 30, 2009

Camera Obscura: Halloween Top Five; Monster Catfish; Hammer Films Is Back, Baby!

The British film company Hammer Films, which gave us the timeless performances of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as well as a vast army of horror films is back in business.

The company is back with several new projects, and late in September of this year their huge archive of movies got a boost with a gorgeous book of lush photos called "Hammer Glamour", filled with rare and unpublished photos of the women of Hammer horror. Including:

Hammer favorites featured in the book include “glamourpuss” Stephanie Beacham (Dracula A.D. 1972), exotic Martine Beswicke (One Million Years B.C., Slave Girls, Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde), classical blonde beauty Veronica Carlson (Dracula Has Risen From the Grave, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, The Horror of Frankenstein), vampy twins Mary and Madeleine Collins (Twins of Evil), “buxom redhead” Hazel Court (The Curse of Frankenstein, The Man Who Could Cheat Death), “smoldering sexpot” Vera Day (Quatermass 2), beautiful brunette Caroline Munro (Dracula A.D. 1972, Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter), coquettish Kate O’Mara (The Vampire Lovers, The Horror of Frankenstein), iconic Ingrid Pitt (The Vampire Lovers, Countess Dracula), bombshell Barbara Shelley (The Camp on Blood Island, The Secret of Blood Island, Dracula Prince of Darkness, Rasputin the Mad Monk, Quatermass and the Pit), nymph Madeline Smith (Taste the Blood of Dracula, The Vampire Lovers, Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell) and, perhaps the most well-known of them all, the stunning Raquel Welch (One Million Years B.C.)."

More on the book here and here and here.

Even better news - the company is making movies again. First up is "The Resident", starring Hillary Swank and Christopher Lee. The story centers on Swank, a doctor who moves into a new apartment and discovers her landlord is darkly obsessed with her - horrible hijinks ensue. The movie is set for release in 2010. Sir Christopher Lee, approaching 90, recently was featured in this report from CNN.

Hammer has also joined with Overture Films for an English language version of the Swedish horror movie "Let The Right One In", a fantastic film and one of the best released movies of 2008. This children-as-vampires tale which Hammer is prepping is titled simply "Let Me In" and is being directed by Matt Reeves, the director of "Cloverfield". The official Hammer Films website has all the latest news on the movie.

And be sure to explore Hammer's website, which is loaded with images and clips from their historic heydays and plans for the future. A full archive of all their films is listed and there's even a trivia game to play.


Turner Classic Movies has a day-long Halloween marathon for Saturday, and in the wee hours between Friday and Saturday they are showing a seldom-seen low-budget horror movie shot in Florida in 1971 called "Zaat". The movie was also parodied on Mystery Science Theater 3000 under the title "Blood Waters of Dr. Z". It's no wonder MSTK3 picked it up, as the movie has a horrible guy-in-a-rubber-suit monster and builds it's terror on the lowly catfish. TCM has a great write-up on the making of the movie and here's the original (and very funny) trailer for the movie.


Still looking for a good scary movie for this Halloween? Here's five suggestions, guaranteed to chill your holiday.

NOTE -- for all the movies listed below, watch them with the lights out and the volume cranked up and you'll have one scary time!

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - the original, gut-wrenching nightmare. The remakes don't even come close to the raw terror of this first movie.

Night of the Living Dead - the ultimate zombie movie from George Romero still packs a punch, though it does start slowly and the acting is kind of weak, the grim black and white photography and the naked fear of the characters all work to create solid scares.

The Evil Dead - filmed in Morristown by director Sam Raimi, it too seems a bit silly at first, but builds and builds to some genuine terror.

Pulse - the original Japanese version of this movie is one of my favorites from the last 10 or 15 years. It's a subtle tale of terror about what happens when folks spend too much time alone on the computer and ends up as a worldwide holocaust.

Night of the Creeps - this campy comedy horror movie from 1986 just arrived this week on DVD and has aliens, zombies, teenagers and a tough-talking cop. And brain slugs. It's pure, Grade-A 1908s schlock and one of those underrated cult films which sometimes crops up on cable in various mutilated cuts. Check out the original, it's a hoot. You might like to follow it up with director Fred Dekker's other 80s cult hit, "The Monster Squad:, suitable for kids and starring Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and The Creature from The Black Lagoon!

Happy Halloween!

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