Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)
Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968)
Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)
Titles that have already been released on blu-ray in the UK by Lionsgate:
Horror of Dracula (1958)
The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
The Mummy (1959)
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Why THESE Hammer Titles are Important
In 1957, a tiny film studio on the banks of the Thames River in England changed the horror genre forever. Hammer Film Productions did not invent the Gothic horror film, but their technicians, artisans and actors certainly perfected it. The Curse of Frankenstein, Hammer’s first Gothic horror film featuring their classic team—stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, director Terence Fisher, composer James Bernard and art director Bernard Robinson—was released in the United States by Warner Bros to spectacular box office results. It was the first Frankenstein film in color, and the first to feature Hammer’s signature style: lavish period detail, a bold sexual element and far more gore than audiences were accustomed to at the time.
Hammer quickly became a household name around the world and the company still thrives today; their 2012 theatrical release The Woman In Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe, became the most successful British horror film in more than twenty years. In the United Kingdom, three classic Hammer titles have been released on blu-ray during the past year: The Curse of Frankenstein;
There are four other classic Hammer horror films to which Warner Bros own the American distribution rights that have not been released on blu-ray anywhere. They are: Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) and Dracula A.D. 1972. In my recent books The Hammer Vampire and The Hammer Frankenstein, I have pointed out why these films are important, not just to the horror genre but to the history of cinema itself.
Directed by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Freddie Francis (The Elephant Man, 1980), Dracula Has Risen From the Grave was the most financially successful of the seven Hammer classics in which Christopher Lee starred as Count Dracula. Warner Bros’ advertising campaign in the U.S. capitalized on the sexual angle of the film (in France it was called Dracula and the Women) to huge box office success. Visually, it is one of the most stylish of all Hammer horrors and, in Francis’ skilled hands, Dracula Has Risen From the Grave becomes a religious allegory in which the title character ends up impaled on a huge golden cross.
Terence Fisher’s Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is the most nihilistic film in the entire Hammer Frankenstein saga. The fifth film in the series, it reflects the pessimism of the times and the changing morals of that era. The film has no heroes and the character of Baron Frankenstein himself (Peter Cushing) has never been more ruthless or psychopathic. This dark classic has been rightly called by more than one critic “Hammer’s finest Frankenstein film!”
Peter Sasdy’s Taste the Blood of Dracula is another film very much of its era in which Count Dracula’s revenge becomes a metaphor for teenage rebellion against an older generation whose hypocritical moral values no longer have any relevance. Perhaps the most “adult” of Lee’s Dracula films, it features excellent performances by Lee, Linda Hayden, Ralph Bates, Geoffrey Keen, John Carson and others.
Dracula A.D. 1972 carries the teenage rebellion theme even further; Lee’s Dracula is now reborn in contemporary times thanks to a black mass performed by some thrill-seeking London youths. But who is the most dangerous to society, Count Dracula or the pot-smoking “heroes?” Co-starring Bond girl Caroline Munro (The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977) and Stephanie Beacham (star of TV’s The Colbys and Dynasty), Dracula A.D. 1972 is a bona fide cult classic.
All seven of the above-mentioned films cry out to be restored on blu-ray so that a new generation of fans (as well as the older generation!) can appreciate the thrills, color and style of Hammer horror at its best. They are not only a huge part of the history of Hammer Film Productions, they are an important part of the history of Warner Bros as well.
~ By Bruce G. Hallenbeck
Bruce G. Hallenbeck is a Rondo Award-winning author of such books as Comedy-Horror Films, The Hammer Vampire, Hammer Fantasy and Sci-Fi, and The Hammer Frankenstein, and has been writing cover stories for Little Shoppe of Horrors since 1981.