Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Posts tagged “Hammer Horror

Honor Blackman

Honor Blackman (born 22 August 1925) is an English actress, known for the roles of Cathy Gale in The Avengers (1962–64) and Bond girl Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964).

Blackman was born in Plaistow, Newham, London. She was educated at Ealing Girl’s School in west London and trained as an actress at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Blackman’s film debut was a nonspeaking part in Fame is the Spur (1947), followed by Daughter of Darkness, a 1947 British film, with macabre overtones, released in January 1948, So Long at the Fair (1950) a British thriller directed by Terence Fisher, and the Titanic drama A Night to Remember (1958).

She played the role of the goddess Hera in one of my favourite movies, Jason and the Argonauts (1963). Starring Todd Armstrong as the titular mythical Greek hero in a story about his quest for the Golden Fleece. Directed by Don Chaffey in collaboration with stop motion animation expert Ray Harryhausen, the film is noted for its stop-motion creatures, and particularly the iconic fight with the skeletons. The score was composed by Bernard Hermann (Psycho), who also worked on other fantasy films with Harryhausen, such as Mysterious Island and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. 

Her most famous role was as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964), the third film in the James Bond series. Pussy Galore was Goldfinger’s personal pilot and leader of an all-female team of pilots known as the Flying Circus. Based on the novel of the same name by Ian Fleming, the film stars Sean Connery as Bond,  Gert Fröbe as the title character Auric Goldfinger, along with Shirley Eaton as Bond girl Jill Masterson, famous for her ‘covered in Gold paint death.’

Blackman was selected for the role of Pussy Galore because of her role in The Avengers and the script was rewritten to show Blackman’s judo abilities. The character’s name follows in the tradition of other Bond girls names that are double entendres: apparently concerned about censors, the producers thought about changing the character’s name to “Kitty Galore”, but they and Hamilton decided “if you were a ten-year old boy and knew what the name meant, you weren’t a ten-year old boy, you were a dirty little bitch. The American censor was concerned, but we got round that by inviting him and his wife out to dinner and [told him] we were big supporters of the Republican Party.” During promotion, Blackman took delight in embarrassing interviewers by repeatedly mentioning the character’s name. Whilst the American censors did not interfere with the name in the film, they refused to allow the name “Pussy Galore” to appear on promotional materials and for the US market she was subsequently referred to by the title ‘Miss Galore’ or ‘Goldfinger’s personal pilot’.

She made a few British horror films in the 70’s, Fright (1971), about a homicidal escapee from a mental asylum terrorises a babysitter who is looking after his son. To the Devil… A Daughter (1976), a Hammer horror film, directed by Peter Sykes and based on the novel of the same name by Dennis Wheatley. It starred Richard Widmark, Christopher Lee, Honor Blackman, Denholm Elliot, and a young Nastassja Kinski.

The black comedy, The Cat and the Canary (1979).  Tale of the Mummy (“Talos – the Mummy”, Talos is the name) is a 1998 British-American horror film, directed by Russel Mulcahy, featuring Christopher Lee. More recently, she has had small roles in the films Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) and Jack Brown and the Curse of the Crown (also 2001).


Christopher Lee – Part 1

Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, CBE, CStJ (born 27 May 1922) is an English actor and musician. Lee was born in Belgravia, Westminster, as the son of Lieutenant-Colonel Geoffrey Trollope Lee, of the 60th King’s Royal Rifle Corps, and his wife, Contessa Estelle Marie (née Carandini di Sarzano).

Notable roles include Francisco Scaramanga in the James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), Saruman in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (2001–2003), and Count Dooku in the final two films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy (2002, 2005). He has collaborated with director Tim Burton in five films, most recently with Dark Shadows (2012).

Lee considers his most important role to be his portrayal of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah in the biopic Jinnah (1998); however, he considers his best role to be that of Lord Summerisle in the British cult classic The Wicker Man (1973), which he also believes to be his best film. Lee is well known for his deep, strong voice and imposing height. He has performed roles in 275 films since 1946 making him the Guinness World Record holder for most film acting roles ever. He was knighted for services to drama and charity in 2009, and received the BAFTA Fellowship in 2011.

In 1946, Lee gained a seven-year contract with the Rank Organisation. He made his film debut in Terence Young’s Gothic romance Corridor of Mirrors (1947). Throughout the next decade, he made nearly 30 films, playing mostly stock action characters.

Lee initially portrayed villains and became famous for his role as Count Dracula in a string of Hammer Horror films, however his first film for Hammer was The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), in which he played the Monster, with Peter Cushing as the Baron. A little later, Lee co-starred with Boris Karloff in the film Corridors of Blood (1958), but Lee’s own appearance as Frankenstein’s monster led to his first appearance as the Transylvanian vampire in the 1958 film Dracula (known as Horror of Dracula in the United States).

Lee returned to the role of Dracula in Hammer’s Dracula: Prince of Darkness in 1965. This film set the standard for most of the Dracula sequels in the sense that half the film’s running time was spent on telling the story of Dracula’s resurrection and the character’s appearances were brief. His roles in the films Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969), and Scars of Dracula (1970) all gave the Count very little to do, but were all commercially successful.

Lee’s other work for Hammer included The Mummy (1959). Lee portrayed Rasputin in Rasputin, the Mad Monk and Sir Henry Baskerville (to Cushing’s Sherlock Holmes) in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959). Lee later played Holmes himself in 1962’s Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, and returned to Holmes films with Billy Wilder’s British-made The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), in which he plays Sherlock’s smarter brother, Mycroft. Lee played a leading role in the German film The Puzzle of the Red Orchid (1962), speaking German, which he had learned during his education in Switzerland.

He was responsible for bringing acclaimed occult author Dennis Wheatley to Hammer. The Devil Rides Out (1967), is generally considered to be one of Hammer’s crowning achievements. According to Lee, Wheatley was so pleased with it that he offered the actor the film rights to his remaining black magic novels free of charge. However, the second film, To the Devil a Daughter (1976), was fraught with production difficulties and was disowned by its author. Although financially successful, it was Hammer’s last horror film and marked the end of Lee’s long association with the studio that brought him fame.

Like Cushing, Lee also appeared in horror films for other companies during the 20-year period from 1957 to 1977. Other films in which Lee performed include the series of Fu Manchu films made between 1965 and 1969, in which he starred as the villain in heavy oriental make-up; I, Monster (1971), in which he played Jekyll and Hyde; The Creeping Flesh (1972); and his personal favourite, The Wicker Man (1973), in which he played Lord Summerisle. Lee was attracted to the latter role by screenwriter Anthony Shaffer and allegedly gave his services for free, as the budget was so small.


Terence Fisher

Terence Fisher (23 February 1904 – 18 June 1980) was a film director who worked for Hammer Films. He was born in Maida Vale, a district of London, England.

Fisher was one of the most prominent horror directors of the second half of the 20th century. He was the first to bring gothic horror alive in full colour, and the sexual overtones and explicit horror in his films, while mild by modern standards, were unprecedented in his day. His first major gothic horror film was ‘The Curse of Frankenstein’ (1957), which launched Hammer’s long association with the genre and made British actors Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee into leading horror stars of the era.

Fisher’s career and Hammer would become inextricably linked. When Hammer decided in the mid-1950s to remodel itself as a horror factory, Fisher became its main director. He was part of the team that produced all the ‘classic’ Hammer horrors – including the aforementioned The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), as well as ‘Dracula’ (1958), ‘The Mummy’ (1959), ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ (1959) and ‘The Curse of the Werewolf’  (1961).

Given the low budgets involved and the breakneck production schedules, the quality of these films was inevitably uneven, but some of them, and especially Dracula, were remarkable achievements, albeit ones that were not generally feted by critics at the time of their initial appearance. After the box-office failure of The Phantom of the Opera (1962), Fisher worked less often for Hammer, although his later Hammer films arguably comprise his best work, reflecting as they do both a technical maturity and a willingness to innovate. Although Fisher is regularly accused of representing a conservative moralistic force within British horror, films like ‘Frankenstein Created Woman’ (1967) and ‘The Devil Rides Out’ (1968) show a tentative and questioning attitude to social authority and morality.

It is only in recent years that Fisher has become recognised as an auteur in his own right. His films are characterised by a blend of fairy-tale, myth and sexuality. They may have drawn heavily on Christian themes, and there is usually a hero who defeats the powers of darkness by a combination of faith in God and reason, in contrast to other characters, who are either blindly superstitious or bound by a cold, godless rationalism (as noted by critic Paul Leggett in Terence Fisher: Horror, Myth and Religion, 2001). For a detailed discussion of Fisher’s works, see The Charm of Evil: The Films of Terence Fisher by Wheeler Winston Dixon.


The Woman in Black – Producer Interview

Hammer Films and their television series have been a staple of visual delight for all ages for over seventy years and we owe it all to the late William Hinds who started the company in its humble beginnings during 1934.

Hammer’s movies contained a dynamic recipe of elements that included vampires, werewolves and unknown entities that creep around in the night that intelligent scientists, swashbuckling adventurers and Everyman heroes faced, combined with this writer’s personal favorite – saucy, scantily dressed buxom women.

Check out this Starburst Magazine interview with Simon Oakes and Nigel Sinclair of Exclusive Media, the duo behind the new Hammer Film, The Woman In Black.


Caroline Munro

Caroline Munro (born 16 January 1949) is an English actress and model known for her many appearances in horror, science fiction and action films of the 1970s and 1980s.

According to Munro, her career took off in 1966 when her mother and photographer friend entered some headshots of her to Britain’s The Evening News “Face of the Year” contest. This led to modelling chores, her first job being for Vogue magazine at the age of 17. She moved to London to pursue top modelling jobs and became a major cover girl for fashion and TV advertisements while there. 1969 proved to be a good year for Munro, because it was then that she began a lucrative 10 year relationship with Lamb’s Navy Rum. Her image was plastered all over the country, and this would eventually lead to her next big break.

1971 saw her appear alongside Vincent Price in ‘The Abominable Dr. Phibes’, playing the deceased Mrs. Victoria Regina Phibes. She would reprise the role in the sequel, ‘Dr. Phibes Rises Again’ in 1972. Her first film for Hammer proved to be something of a turning point in her career. It was during the making of ‘Dracula AD 1972’ that she decided from this film onward she was a full-fledged actress. Up until then, she had always considered herself to be a model who did some acting on the side. Munro completed her contract for Hammer with ‘Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter’ in 1974.

Munro has the distinction of being the only actor ever signed to a long-term contract by Hammer Films. She would later turn down the lead female roles in Hammer’s ‘Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde’, ‘Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell’, and the unmade ‘Vampirella’ because they required nudity.

Director Brian Clemens later helped her get the role of Margiana, the slave girl in ‘The Golden Voyage of Sinbad’ (1974). Other appearances during this time included ‘I Don’t Want to be Born’ (1975) with Joan Collins, and ‘At the Earth’s Core’ (1976) with Peter Cushing and Doug McClure. She appeared also as Tammy, a nursing employee of a sinister health farm, in “The Angels of Death” (1977).

In 1977, Munro turned down the opportunity to play villainess Ursa in ‘Superman’ in favor of what would become her most celebrated film appearance, the ill-fated helicopter pilot Naomi in the Bond film ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, who seductively winks at Bond while trying to gun him down from her helicopter. In her role as Naomi, she holds the distinction of being the first woman ever undeniably killed by James Bond.

Munro continued to work in numerous British and European horror and science fiction films throughout the 1970s and 1980s, most notably ‘Starcrash’ (1979) with David Hasselhoff and Christopher Plummer.

Munro’s career continued to thrive in slasher and Eurotrash productions. Her first film shot on American soil was the William Lustig production ‘Maniac’ (1980). This was soon followed by the “multi-award winning, shot during the Cannes Film Festival” shocker ‘The Last Horror Film’ (1982) (directed by David Winters), in which she was reunited with her Maniac co-star Joe Spinell. She also had a cameo role in the cult classic slasher ‘Don’t Open ‘Til Christmas’ as a singer (1984), ‘Slaughter High’ (1986), ‘Howl of the Devil’ (1987), and Jess Franco’s ‘Faceless’ (1988). She reteamed with Starcrash director, Luigi Cozzi, for ‘Il Gatto nero’ in 1989. This would be Caroline’s last major film appearance.


Ingrid Pitt

Ingrid Pitt (21 November 1937 – 23 November 2010) was an actress best known for her work in horror films of the 1960s and 1970s. Pitt was born Ingoushka Petrov in Warsaw, Poland to a German father of Russian descent and a Polish Jewish mother. During World War II she and her family were imprisoned in a concentration camp.

In the early 1960s Pitt was a member of the prestigious Berliner Ensemble, under the guidance of Bertolt Brecht’s widow Helene Weigel. In 1965 she made her film debut in ‘Doctor Zhivago’, playing a minor role. In 1968 she co-starred in the low budget science fiction film The Omegans and in the same year played “Heidi” in ‘Where Eagles Dare’ (1968) opposite Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood.

It was her work with Hammer Film Productions that elevated her to cult figure status. She starred as “Carmilla/Mircalla” in ‘The Vampire Lovers’ (1970), and played the title role in ‘Countess Dracula’ (1971), a film based on the legends around Countess Elizabeth Bathory. Pitt also appeared in the Amicus horror anthology film ‘The House That Dripped Blood’ (1971) and had a small part in the film ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973).

During the 1980s, Pitt returned to roles in mainstream films and on television. Her role as Fraulein Baum in the 1981 BBC Playhouse Unity, who is denounced as a Jew by Unity Mitford (played byLesley-Anne Down, who had played her daughter in Countess Dracula), was uncomfortably close to her real-life experiences.

Her popularity with horror film buffs saw her in demand for guest appearances at horror conventions and film festivals. Other films Pitt has appeared in outside the horror genre are: ‘Who Dares Wins’, (aka The Final Option), ‘Wild Geese II’, and ‘Hanna’s War’. Generally cast as a ‘baddie’, she usually manages to get killed horribly at the end of the final reel. “Being the anti-hero is great – they are always roles you can get your teeth into.”

It was at this time that the theatre world also beckoned. Pitt founded her own theatrical touring company and starred in successful productions of Dial M for MurderDuty Free (aka Don’t Bother to Dress), and Woman of Straw. She also appeared in many TV shows in the UK and US –  Ironside, Dundee and the Culhane, Doctor Who (The Time Monster, Warriors of the Deep), and Smiley’s People.

Pitt made her return to the big screen in the 2000 production The Asylum. The film starred Colin Baker and Patrick Mower, and was directed by John Stewart. In 2003, Pitt voiced the role of “Lady Violator” in Renga Media’s production ‘Dominator’. The film was the UK’s first CGI animated film.

After a period of illness, Pitt returned to the screen in 2006 for the Hammer Films-Mario Bava tribute, ‘Sea of Dust’. In 1998, Pitt narrated Cradle of Filth’s “Cruelty and the Beast” album, although her narration was done strictly in-character as the Countess she portrayed in Countess Dracula.

Pitt died in a south London hospital on 23 November 2010, a few days after collapsing, and two days after her 73rd birthday. Seven months before she died, Pitt finished narration for “Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest,” an animated short film on her experience in the Holocaust, a project that had been in the works for five years. Character design and storyboards were created by two-time Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Bill Plymton. The film is directed by Kevin Sean Michaels; and drawn by 10-year-old animator, Perry Chen.


Peter Cushing

Peter Cushing was born in 1913 in Kenley, Surrey, England. At an early age Cushing was attracted to acting, inspired by his favorite aunt, who was a stage actress. While at school Cushing pursued his acting interest in acting and also drawing, a talent he put to good use later in his first job as a government surveyor’s assistant in Surrey. At this time he also dabbled in local amateur theater until moving to London to attend the Guildhall School of Music and Drama on scholarship. He then performed in repertory theater, deciding in 1939 to head for Hollywood, where he made his film debut in ‘The Man in the Iron Mask’ (1939). He featured in a few other Hollywood films such as ‘A Chump at Oxford’ (1940) with Laurel & Hardy. However, he soon returned to England by way of a stint on Broadway in New York. Back in hisEngland he contributed to the war effort during World War II by joining the Entertainment National Services Association.

After the war he performed in the West End and had his big break appearing with Laurence Olivier in ‘Hamlet’ (1948), in which Cushing’s future partner-in-horror Christopher Lee had a bit part. Both actors also appeared in ‘Moulin Rouge’ (1952) but didn’t meet until their later horror films. Towards the end of the decade he began his legendary association with Hammer Film Productions in its remakes of the 1930s Universal horror classics. His first Hammer roles included Dr. Frankenstein in ‘The Curse of Frankenstein’ (1957), Dr. Van Helsing in ‘Dracula’ (1958) and Sherlock Holmes in ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ (1959).

Cushing continued playing the roles of Drs. Frankenstein and Van Helsing, as well as taking on other horror characters over the next 20 years. ‘The Revenge of Frankenstein’ (1958), ‘The Mummy’ (1959), ‘The Brides of Dracula’ (1960), ‘The Evil of Frankenstein’ (1964), ‘The Gorgon’ (1964), ‘She’ (1965)’ ‘Frankenstein Created Woman’ (1966), ‘Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed’ (1969), ‘The Satanic Rites of Dracula’ (1973) and his last outing as Frankenstein in ‘Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell’ (1974). He also appeared in films for the other major horror production company Amicus Productions where he made a couple of Dr. Who films (1965, 1966), ‘The House that Dripped Blood’ (1971), ‘I, Monster’ (1971) and ‘The Beast Must Die (1974), among others. By the mid-1970s these companies had stopped production, but Cushing, firmly established as a horror star, continued in the genre for some time thereafter.

Perhaps his best-known appearance outside of horror films was as Grand Moff Tarkin in ‘Star Wars’ (1977). He made appearances on television shows ‘Hammer House of Horror’ (1980) and ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ (1983). Cushing’s retired in 1986. I grew up watching Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee on television every weekend, they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Universal horror legends.

In 1989 he was made an Officer of the British Empire in recognition of his contributions to the acting profession in Britain and worldwide. Peter Cushing died in August 1994 aged 81. Legend.