Countdown to Halloween: Hammer’s Godzilla And The British Studio’s Best

Hammer Horror Films were atmospheric, moody, bloody, and filled with overt sexual voraciousness. The talk of Warner Bros’ reboot of Godzilla getting a sequel, and maybe crossing over with King Kong has sparked our memory to an online video of what Hammer’s version of Gojira might have looked like. We thought this might be a good time to look back at it, and some of our favorite moments from Hammer themselves.

cleeOne of the latest of a slew of online videos feature Godzilla as the subject of a re-imagining of the titular ‘King of the Monsters’ had Hammer Films acquired the franchise back in the 1970s. There was much talk between Toho and Hammer about possibly making a Loch Ness Monster film (titled appropriately enough as Nessie) so the crossover isn’t as far-fetched as you might think.

Take a look at YouTuber Sanjid Parvez’s video and see if the auditory atmosphere and foreboding style of so many Hammer horror films was accomplished.

The background score and clips came from Gojira, Quatermass and the Pit, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, and Island of Terror, which gives us an idea of what we can expect in many actual Hammer titles.

If you’ve never seen a Hammer film or maybe just looking to revisit a couple, tgrgfbfake a look at some of the better movies to come out of the British Horror Factory:

The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957)

The one that started it all. Hammer’s first foray into the classic horror monsters brought a brutal and violent edge to the story of Victor Frankenstein and his cursed Creature. The movie is brimming with color and sullied with the dirt and grime of dug-graves and acidic-laden laboratories. It was also the first outing of the now iconic Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. The sadness of the creature in this version is only matched by his outright violence towards an incredibly more sadistic Frankenstein than Universal Studios ever produced. Though they sacrificed much of the poetry of words and images, they make up for it with the visceral quality of the visuals and gory details. As if Mary Shelley’s tale had been dipped in candy-colored blood.

The Brides Of Dracula (1960)

Some say Brides Of Dracula is quite possibly Hammer’s finest horror picture. All the familiar trappings of any successful Hammer horror are present; from the set design and costuming to the horror action, it is all top-notch for the era. We get an even more eerie aristocratic vampire villain with a sordid family background than Christopher Lee’s mostly silent Dracula. The villain, Baron Meinster (If it sounds like ‘monster’, that’s probably intentional) takes on the role and offers a little bit more in the physical action department than Lee’s interpretation had done previously. The Brides of Dracula also showcases Cushing as the titular Van Helsing once more. This film appears in The Matrix Reloaded as a possible visual explanation that an older version of the Matrix may have been inhabited by the likes of “werewolves” and “vampires”.

The Gorgon (1964)

Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, along with director Terence Fisher, were the team to beat at the studio. Though The Gorgon is often criticized for its lackluster reveal of the monster, the overall mood of the movie cannot be denied. The film’s subject matter and its overall tone is Infused with a sense of fear so palpable that characters are literally turned to stone. Cushing’s character is dealing with inner-demons while Lee is rather straightforward for a Hammer horror. The Impressive mix of characters, action, and thrills ends with what is a memorably bleak ending, even by horror standards.

The Plague Of The Zombies (1966)

When locals refuse to work in the village Lord’s hazardous tin mines, he kills and resurrects them with voodoo rites.  With an utterly chilling dream sequence and genuine sense of dread, this film was a definite influence on George Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead. This film was shot so quickly that the same sets were utilized for The Reptile at the same time. Plague Of The Zombies was Hammer’s most memorable foray into the now overwrought sub-genre of “zombie horror”.

The Devil Rides Out (1968)

Writer Richard Matheson scripted this film about a satanic cult being foiled by a skilled professor of all things magic and the occult. Christopher Lee and Charles Gray (where’s your neck?) both give their sophisticated best, with Lee portraying one of his better roles that didn’t require him to wear fangs, scars, or bandages. The set-pieces are imaginative and showcase a vast amount of satanic symbolism as well as an all-around genuine camaraderie between the strong cast. Also notable as one of the most thoughtful and serious attempts to realistically portray the practice of magic both satanic and divine. The film was re-titled as The Devil’s Bride In America so as not to confuse audiences, who might have assumed the film was a western.

themesThe list could go on; mentioning any of the seven more times Christopher Lee donned the cape of Dracula, or Hammer’s many forays into Black & White psychological horror such as Nightmare or Scream Of Fear, not to mention a personal favorite, Curse Of The Werewolf.

Just get out there and see a few for yourself. Who knows, you may like what you see. Hammer horror films were ahead of their time, and no other studio has been as successful at producing quality, low-budget horror films for the masses since.


Images: Toho Co., Hammer Studios, Universal Studios, Warner Bros.

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