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Archive for the tag “Hammer Films”

Prehistoric Women

They might contain more smoke-and-mirrors special effects, but today’s theatrical trailers for movies don’t hold a candle to those from the 1950s and 1960s. Take this original trailer for Prehistoric Women, the 1967 action-adventure starring Martine Beswick as the comely, but cruel leader of a tribe of warrior women, living deep in the jungle — without men.  Released by Britain’s Hammer Films as part of its unofficial “fur bikini” trilogy, the picture was a companion piece to One Million Years B.C. (1966) and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970).

Vampire Circus

Today’s Trillion Dollar Movie, Vampire Circus, marked the end of an era. This 1972 release wouldn’t be the last picture from Hammer Films, but it was the last vampire movie from the British studios that gave us The Horror of Dracula, Dracula Prince of Darkness, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave and so many other vampire titles with a rabid cult following.

Vampire Circus differs from its predecessors in that no one as well-known as Christopher Lee stars. Hammer Films, being on its last legs, went with a no-name cast, and also made a more exploitative and disjointed film. But Vampire Circus isn’t without its attributes. The scenes of vampire seduction are among Hammer’s sexiest ever. And there are plenty of kinky twists, centering upon the arrival of a freakish circus in a Serbian town under quarantine and suffering from a devastating plague.

A generation ago, the town’s fathers destroyed a rock star-handsome vampire count named Mitterhaus. On his deathbed, before shriveling up in his crypt, he vows revenge. Now, payback has come in the form of the plague and the strange circus, run by a Gypsy woman (Adrienne Corri) whose minions include a malevolent midget, a dancing naked tiger girl and a panther that can shape-shift into a human. Plotwise, the story covers familiar ground, but the visuals are quite overheated and often erotic. One thing’s for sure: These vampires have longer and more glistening fangs than any I can recall seeing on the screen.

Lynne Frederick, playing the young rose of a heroine, subsequently caught the eye of comedian Peter Sellers, who married her. She ruined the promise of a budding movie career through a wicked drug habit that left her dead at age 39. The strongman of the circus is David Prowse. You probably don’t recognize him, but you assuredly have seen him act — as he appeared, under mask, as the villain Darth Vader in all of the Star Wars adventures.

Do enjoy Vampire Circus, and be sure to return again next Friday for another Trillion $ Movie.

The Reptile

The Reptile, today’s Trillion Dollar Movie, comes from Britain’s Hammer Films horror factory that produced scores of Frankenstein, Dracula and Mummy movies. The monster in this 1966 feature is a little different — a she-devil who can transform into a venomous Queen Cobra snake. Her victims turn sickly green and begin foaming at the mouth before succumbing to what local villagers euphemistically call “the black death.”

It all takes place, circa 1900, in Clagmore Heath, a remote town nestled among the moors of Cornwall, England. This is prime, howling-at-the-moon werewolf territory, but here the monster is instead an Oriental occult freak. Her father, a doctor of theology, had traveled to India, Java, Sumatra and Borneo to study secret Asian religious sects. After he got too close to a deadly snake cult in the jungles of Borneo, its high priests put a curse on his family — transforming his winsome daughter into the killer snake woman.

Horrified, the doctor has returned with her to England, hoping to break the evil spell and find a cure for her malignant condition. She is actually quite beautiful, kind and artistic — for instance, she plays a mean sitar. But when temperatures rise, better not go walking out on the moors or you might slither into her hideous, scaly alter-ego. Her presence mortifies the locals, who are already a cold and suspicious bunch, shunning all outsiders. As the village idiot, Mad Pete, blurts out, “This is an e-e-e-evil place, corrupt and e-e-e-evil.”

The Reptile has a few gaping plot holes and doesn’t contain a lot of gore, but it’s got chilling atmosphere to spare, and is well-mounted by director John Gilling, especially considering that, in a cost-saving measure, he was simultaneously shooting Plague of the Zombies at the same time, using the same locales, sets, props and many of the same actors. Australian Ray Barrett plays the obstinate newcomer who goes poking around to solve the mystery of the moors. Noel Willman is the creepy Dr. Franklyn and Jacqueline Pearce his ill-fated daughter. This film later served as one of the many inspirations for Ken Russell’s Lair of the White Worm. Enjoy and return next Friday for another Trillion $ Movie.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, the full movie has been removed from YouTube. Until or unless it is reposted, here is the trailer.

Trillion Dollar Movie (7-27-12)

In honor of the Olympics opening in London, today’s Trillion Dollar Movie is Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, the most original of the four mummy movies produced by that bastion of British cinema, Hammer Films. The 1971 release is adapted from Bram Stoker’s novel Jewel of the Seven Stars, which also served as the source for The Awakening, starring Charlton Heston.

Valerie Leon

Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb differs markedly from your run-of-the-mill mummy movie, starting with the title character, the Egyptian sorceress Queen Tera. She’s never wrapped in linen swathings, but instead wears a trifling, chain-metal outfit even more revealing than Princess Leia’s bikini. All the better to show off the voluptuous charms of Valerie Leon, a James Bond Girl from The Spy Who Loved Me, who plays dual roles as Tera and as Margaret Fuchs, an Egyptologist’s daughter possessed by the evil spirit of the sorceress. One note: Leon did have a nudity clause, though, so in the fleeting scene where you catch a flash of Margaret’s tush, that’s a body double!

It’s an elaborate thriller, full of star-crossed secret cults, madmen, some blood-tingling gore and even hints of incestuous necrophilia. Peter Cushing originally was supposed to play Professor Fuchs, but left the cast after his longtime wife died. Misfortune struck again when director Seth Holt succumbed to a heart attack a week before the production wrapped.  Perhaps the film should have been renamed Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, but it holds together quite well, even after all the setbacks. Enjoy, and return next Friday for another Trillion ($) Movie.

UPDATE: The full movie has been removed from YouTube. Until or unless it’s reposted, here is the trailer.

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