Fear in the Night (1972)

One from the to watch pile…

Fear in the Night (1972)

Film: It seems to me that every time I reach a point where I think I have seen every Hammer film, ten more that I haven’t seen pop up. The best thing about these films is in general the reason I didn’t know about them is because I was a ravenous lover of Hammer’s monster movies, like the Frankensteins and the Draculas, but a lot of these thrillers and real fun and a great watch.

This film, Fear in the Night, is directed by one of the real creative forces of Hammer, Jimmy Sangster, who also directed Lust for the Vampire and The Horror Of Frankenstein. Being a prolific writer of Hammer films, he do-wrote this screenplay with Michael Syson, who also wrote the 1979 western, Eagle’s Wing.

Fear in the Night is a thriller starring Judy Geeson as Peggy Heller, a newly wed who is packing her things from the sharehouse she lives in so she can go with her new husband, Robert (Ralph Bates) at the boys boarding school where he is employed as a maths teacher.

On this night, though, she is attacked by a man with only one arm, and as she is someone with a history of mental issues, she is not immediately believed though the police are called and a report made.

She travels to the school where she finds it abandoned, as it is apparently end of term, and meets the headmaster, Michael Carmichael (Peter Cushing) and his wife, Molly (Joan Collins). Molly is immediately hostile towards Peggy, but Robert explains that she is apparently a bitch to everyone. Michael is a calm, studious type… WITH ONLY ONE ARM!!!!

DUM, dum, DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUM!!!

Is Michael the man who attacked her, or is there a highly detailed plot involving misdirection leading to MURDER?

Well obviously there is, this is a Hammer film for goodness sake!!

This is a beautifully shot film, with some cool cinematic subtleties throughout, for example, Geeson’s costuming changes as her state of mind becomes fractured.

Considering Geeson basically holds the film single-handedly, she is perfect for the role. Girl next door pretty and with a tragic demeanour she nails this mentally-unstable waif brilliantly. That’s not to disparage the others: Collins plays perfect bitch, Bates plays perfect cad and Cushing? Well, Cushing is Cushing, and what else would you want?

All in all, it’s a quality Hammer Horror thriller, but it telegraphs most of its surprises quite early, and whilst the pay-off works, the epilogue is somewhat lacklustre.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian, region B Bluray which runs for 94 minutes and is presented in a clear 1.66:1 image with a matching Dolby DTS-HD audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: There is not a great deal of extras on this, but what there is is quality.

End of Term: Inside Fear in the Night has various film experts from the UK like Jonathon Rigby, who wrote the amazing Euro Gothic, Alan Barnes, co-author of The Hammer Story, Kevin Lyons, the editor of eofftv.com and cultural historian John J. Johnston talking about the history and providence of the film. The only problem with this extra is it only goes for just over 15 minutes!

There is also a trailer for the film.

Score: ***

WISIA: Once the well-telegraphed twist is revealed, it doesn’t really lend itself to repeat watching.

The Brides of Dracula (1960) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Brides of Dracula (1960)

The Australian bluray release of The Brides of Dracula


Film: I have always been a champion of Hammer Horror films. I prefer them over the Universal ones just because in general I find them more compelling; still melodramatic, but more compelling.

This film, The Brides of Dracula, stands out in amongst Hammer’s Dracula films for the sole reason that it doesn’t feature Dracula in it at all. Sure there is a vampire with a bevy of evil she-demons at his hand, but no actual Count Dracula! 

Don’t worry though, Van Helsing still turns up!

The Brides of Dracula: Peter Cushing as Van Helsing


Schoolteacher Marianne Danielle (Yvonne Monlaur) has found herself abandoned by her horseman in a small town whilst on her way to her new post at a school for young ladies. Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt) offers to take her in overnight seeing as how the local boarding house has no rooms available.

The problem with the Baroness’ manor though is that she has her son, Baron Meinster (David Peel) chained up in a room. Marianne takes pity on his interment and steals a key so that he may be freed, but then she finds the horrible truth about the baron… he is a vampire!

She runs away from the castle, only to be luckily found by a certain Dr Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), who is continuing his journey across Europe, executing the undead wherever he finds them.

Even though the slick of this Bluray claims that this film has ‘some of the best acting, photography and period detail of the Hammer Dracula series’, I honestly don’t see it. I found it to be staged, melodramatic and overwrought and difficult to remain engaged with it.

The whole process of the story seems to take far to long to sell to the viewer, and unfortunately, I didn’t find Peel’s vampire to be very threatening at all. In actual fact, he appears more like Rocky from The Rocky Horror Picture Show than a threatening undead figure.

The Brides of Dracula: David Peel as Baron Meinster


The film has several examples of Hammer glamour in it though. Yvonne Monlaur is exquisitely beautiful, and is juxtaposed nicely by Andree Melly’s unusual fairy-ish looks.

One weird thing I notice about this film is the soundtrack’ I almost get a Friday the 13th vibe off it. It’s possibly just me, but I just hear elements of the score in there.

All in all it’s not an awful film, it’s just somewhat of a trial to get through.

Score: **


Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian region B bluray release which runs for approximately 85 minutes. The 16×9 image is bright but grainy (with an odd artefact) to the point of distraction. The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is pretty good though.

Score: **

Extras: Only a trailer for the film.

Score: *

WISIA: The film is extraordinarily slow and the 85 minutes it runs for feels like 3 days, and I won’t have 3 days to waste ever again.

The Brides of Dracula: Yvonne Monlaur as Marianne

Scream of Fear (1961) Review

One from the re-watch pile…
Scream of Fear aka Taste of Fear (1961)

Madman’s release of Scream of Fear on Bluray


Film: I have mentioned regularly, not just here (such as in my review of The Nanny) but also in other websites I have reviewed horror films for, that I am a big fan of Hammer films, and that I love some of these earlier, less gory and more psychologically driven thrillers.

This film initially caught my attention for the same reason the aforementioned The Nanny did, it is written by Jimmy Sangster, who did a great job of adapting the book that The Nanny was based upon, but also gave us the Hammer versions of Dracula (in The Horror of Dracula) and The Mummy. It’s directed wonderfully by Seth Holt, who directed The Nanny, but also is responsible for my favourite Hammer film, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, which stars the stunning Valerie Leon.

Scream of Fear: Susan Strasberg as Penny


Speaking of stunning, this film stars Susan Strasberg as Penny Appleby, a woman who has an unreasonable fear of everything, and is bound to a wheelchair after an accident where a horse fell on her a broke two of her vertebrae. She is returning home to her estranged father’s (Fred Johnson) house in the French Riviera after not being in too much contact with him for 9 or 10 years, based on an invitation he sent to her.

Upon returning she is picked up from the airport by kindly chauffeur, Robert (Ronald Lewis) who takes her to her father’s house only to find that he has gone away, and she is left in the arms of her step-mother, whom she has never met, Jane (Ann Todd).

The two bond quickly, but Penny starts to suspect something is amiss when she finds what appears to be her father’s corpse sitting in one of the rooms. When she tells Jane and Robert though, the corpse mysteriously has disappeared.

Penny quickly suspects that something is going on, and enlists Robert in her quest for the truth, even though her step-mother, and her father’s friend, Dr Gerrad (Christopher Lee) suggest that maybe she is having flights of fancy… or do they have a more sinister plan in mind…

Scream of Fear: Christopher Lee as Dr Gerrad


Filmed in glorious black and white, Scream of Fear is a wonderful example of a thriller. It unfortunately didn’t find much success in the USA but was a hit in Europe and had several imitators, according to Marcus Hearn in his book The Hammer Vault (if you are a Hammer fan, this MUST be in your collection). 

The performances are melodramatic as one would expect from a film of this vintage, and Christopher Lee’s French accent is of dubious pedigree, but it really adds to the atmosphere of the film.

More twists than a strand of DNA, this film is a wonderful watch, and will keep everyone guessing almost to the very end. 

Score: ****

Madman’s Scream of Fear menu screen: no extras here!


Format: The version of this film reviewed was the Australian, region B bluray which runs for approximately 82 minutes. The film is presented in a grainy, and occasionally blurry 1.85:1 image with a Dolby Digital mono soundtrack which sounds pretty good. One can’t expect a film of this age to look perfect, but there are many films from this time and earlier which look much better due to various restoration processes.

Score: **1/2

Extras: None, which is a shame, though considering pretty much well everyone who worked on the film is no longer with us, not surprising. A film of this quality at least deserves some kind of commentary or featurette from Hammer enthusiasts, film critics or other directors who champion it.

Score: 0

WISIA: A beautifully shot film with a stunning lead, not to mention Christopher Lee, but as with a lot of these sorts of films, once the secret is out, the impact of the film is lessened. That, however, doesn’t make it an occasional rewatch pile contender as it is entertaining.

Scream of Fear: father’s locked piano!

The Gorgon (1964) Review

One from the to watch pile…
The Gorgon (1964)

The cover of the Australian Bluray of The Gorgon


Film: Hammer horror films are some of my favourite horror films, and I have been a champion of them for many years, even to the point I once had a letter published in an early issue of Kitbuilders Magazine wondering why there were hundreds of Universal Horror characters available in model kit form, but Hammer horror characters didn’t seem to get much respect from those in the ‘kitbashing’ and resin model kit hobby.

Thankfully those days are gone and those still in that hobby, of which I am no longer one (due mainly to time restraints), have many Hammer characters to choose from.. and perhaps I like to think I may have had a small part in that.

The Gorgon: Peter Cushing as Dr. Namaroff


These films have had us see heaps of exposure to wonderful actors like Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Michael Ripper and their female counterparts, the so-called Hammer Glamour set, such as Caroline Monroe, Stephanie Beacham and Madeline Smith. The most famous of their films were about Dracula, or Frankenstein, but their forays into other creatures, like zombies, in The Plague of Zombies, or lizard-women, like in The Reptile were also occasionally incredibly entertaining.

Which leads us to this film, The Gorgon.

Paul Heinz (Richard Pasco) has travelled to a small village to investigate the death of his father, Professor Jules Heinz (Michael Goodliffe) and his brother, Bruno (Jeremy Longhurst), who apparently killed himself after murdering his pregnant girlfriend.

The doctor who pronounced them both dead, Dr. Namaroff (Peter Cushing) seems to be hiding something from Paul’s investigation though, which may or may not involve his assistant, Carla (Barbara Shelley), and legends of the mythical Gorgon, Megaera, keep turning up in conversation.

Thankfully, Paul’s mentor, Professor Karl Meister (Christopher Lee) turns up to assist, but can they solve the mystery before either one of them get… ahem… stoned?

The Gorgon: Patrick Troighton and Christopher Lee


Immediately this film is notable as it has Lee and Cushing in it, so Hammer fans should sit up and take notice, and the performances of all concerned are melodramatic, as one would expect. Special note should be made that this film also features second Doctor Who Patrick Troughton as the chief of police, and Prudence Hyman, who starred in other Hammer films like The Witches and Rasputin The Mad Monk. Hammer direction stalwart Terrance Fischer uses his talent to create some great sequences, but the joy stops there.

The story was written by one time movie writer, J. Llewellyn Devine, and developed into a screenplay by yet another Hammer regular, John Gilling, a writer/ director who is possibly best known for another Hammer film, The Mummy’s Shroud. This film, from a story point of view, unfortunately, is little more than a derivative of a werewolf film, with the big mystery being WHO is the normal person who changes, and that is telegraphed so early you could turn off the film at the 20 minute mark and know the result.

That would be a shame though, as the Gorgon make-up is magnificently cheesy.

In effect, it’s not that is a bad film but from a story point of view, it’s just disastrously generic, and bereft of surprises.

Score: ***

The Gorgon Madman Bluray menu screen: no extras for you!


Format: The reviewed copy is the Australian region B bluray, which runs for approximately 1 hour and 24 minutes, and is presented in a quite clear 1.75:1 image with a decent Dolby Digital Mono audio 

Score: ***

Extras: Nothing!

Score: 0

WISIA: Tragically, this is probably a Hammer film I won’t revisit just because the story is done so much better by so many other werewolf films, even though this isn’t a werewolf film.

The Gorgon: Barbara Shelley as Carla