Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Trailer shows are always lots of fun. Filmex ( an extinct Hollywood retrospective film festival) used to
have them frequently, and we loved them: in earlier days of home video, Sinister Cinema's long
vhs reels of compiled trailers were always fascinating, giving us the first look at how our favorite
fantasy films were marketed. More often than not, we found that the most popular films also had
dynamite trailers, like Invaders from Mars.
Them! had such a cartoony poster,
I always wondered how they got anyone into the theaters, until I saw its wham-bam trailer.
All Day video has expanded their small but distinguished catalog of DVDs with a pair of new compilation
discs, one on Film Noir movies and this collection of trailers from the
Hammer studios. There are 53 original trailers here, arranged not chronologically, but by subject -
with the Frankensteins, the Draculas, etc., in a row. The list is pretty complete, if you don't mind
starting with 1955's The Quatermass Xperiment (here shown with its American title The Creeping
Unknown). That leaves out some early Terence Fisher items, like Four-Sided Triangle. I
also missed not seeing She and Terror of the Tongs (which I for some reason couldn't sit through on its
one TCM showing ten years ago), but there were trailers on this reel I'd never seen before, like my
ultimate favorite Science Fiction film These Are The Damned. There were also trailers for
Hammers I still haven't caught up with, such as The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (presented
under its House of Fear title), The Man Who Could Cheat Death, and Blood from
the Mummy's Tomb (soon to come out on DVD, methinks).
For those who've seen less, the disc is going to be a gold mine of Hammer goodies, essentially a moving
picture book of the images and faces of Hammer's biggest and greatest. Hammer usually showcased their
monsters prominently in the trailers, and they're all here, along with snatches of great music, trailer
graphics, and audio bites: Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes: "There are many odd things to be found
on the Moors (throws knife!) PERHAPS THIS will refresh your memory!"
Listening to the commentary tracks sounds like being in a living room watching the trailers with guys who know
the movies well, and who are trying to explain them to a general audience. Ted Newsom, who seems
the center of the talk, has an informative way of speaking, and Gary H. Smith and Stuart Galbraith IV guide and shape the discussion
as best they can. There were times when I felt they weren't speaking at their true level of
intimacy with the films, in the interest of being more accessible. If you get into a
real across-the-table discussion with these guys, the conversation soon gets into details that are a
lot more enjoyably arcane. But all in all I thought they did a good job, especially if you haven't read much
about Hammer films.
Purists are going to have immediate reservations about the quality of the trailers, which of course
varies because they obviously have come from private collections and are sourced from everything
from good 35mm to faded 16. None are really pristine, although all are intact and in reasonable shape,
something that couldn't be said about those old Sinister Cinema grab-bags. But there are some disappointingly
dark or smeary trailers here, which might be the result of inadequate transfers or insufficient work
in the digitizing process. So don't expect the kind of quality you see on other DVDs, for all but
a few titles.
The treat for real Hammer addicts are a pair of featurettes Savant didn't even know existed. From
When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, is a jaunty short subject which actually shows the Hammer headquarters
and some of the personnel pretending to choose their next leading lady. A lot of
nice publicity material surrounds the announcement of Victoria Vetri as the inheritor of the Raquel Welch
cavegirl role. The other featurette is for Dracula, A.D. 1972, which shows a lot of
Christopher Lee on and off the set, even putting his fangs on and taking them off. Both are rather interesting
considering the tackiness of the featurette format. I'm sure Hammer addicts would like to see every
bit of film shot behind the scenes on these movies, and so little exists.
There are a couple of things Savant didn't like about the programming on the disc. Someone apparently
had access to dozens of those ten-second theatrical announcement filmstrips, proudly proclaiming the
name of some unknown theater chain, announcing what starts Wednesday, etc. They come between each and
every trailer, and are a distracting nuisance, flattening the tone and padding out the running time. Oddly,
the chapter programming is all off: selecting a title lands you on the end title card of the previous
trailer, which means you have to sit through the interstitial theatrical hoohaw to get to what you
want to see.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
The Horror of Hammer rates:
Trailers: Excellent ... assuming you're a Hammer devotee
Video: variable: Fair to sometimes good
Sound: variable, but always clear
Supplements: commentary with Ted Newsome, Stuart Galbraith IV, Gary H. Smith, 2 short subjects
Packaging: Amaray case
Reviewed: July 23, 2001
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson
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