Archive for Hammer Films

My Theory #2: Kubrick = Hammer

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2013 by dcairns

vlcsnap-2013-09-24-15h53m56s119

Part Two of my Big Theory. Part One concerns the influence of Universal horror movies on Orson Welles. Part Two is the influence of Hammer Horror on Stanley Kubrick.

(Welles and Kubrick, two fans of the wide-angle lens, belong together because of Welles’ description of the young SK as “a giant” — later, Welles seems to fall silent on the subject of the Bronx genius, and as an arch-humanist it seems possible he went off Kubes’ work sometime after LOLITA…)

I’m not sure how this will hold up, but let’s assess the evidence. Firstly, casting –

vlcsnap-2013-09-24-15h38m28s28

Kubrick’s first British-shot picture, LOLITA, features only one major player with Hammer associations, Marianne Stone (above), reaching a career high with her interpretation of Vivian Darkbloom (anagram of Vladimir Nabokov). Her involvement with Hammer films was off-and-on, and she also played in many British horror movies from other studios.

Hammer films before LOLITA: SPACEWAYS, THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT, QUATERMASS II,

Non-genre Hammer films before LOLITA: HELL IS A CITY

Non-Hammer horror films: CORRIDORS OF BLOOD, HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM, JACK THE RIPPER, THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE.

Hammer films after LOLITA: PARANOIAC, THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY’S TOMB, HYSTERIA, COUNTESS DRACULA, Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense. Non-Hammer horrors: WITCHCRAFT, DEVILS OF DARKNESS, THE NIGHT CALLER, CARRY ON SCREAMING, BERSERK, TWISTED NERVE, INCENSE FOR THE DAMNED, WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO?, TOWER OF EVIL, THE CREEPING FLESH, VAULT OF HORROR, CRAZE (one of many contenders for Freddie Francis’s worst film).

That’s not going to convince anybody that Stone’s Hammer work or horror movies was what brought her to Kubrick’s attention.

vlcsnap-2013-09-24-15h41m25s31

But the scene where Humbert Humbert takes his wife and step-daughter to the drive-in to see CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN might make an impression on doubters. This is the only Kubrick film to feature Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

But DR STRANGELOVE doesn’t feature anybody with major Hammer credentials, except Shane Rimmer, whose Hammer work, major though it was, was all in the future. In 2001, we have William Sylvester, who had been in GORGO, DEVIL DOLL and DEVILS OF DARKNESS, but he’s plainly been cast because he’s an American in England. But Leonard Rossiter was in THE WITCHES.

vlcsnap-2013-09-24-15h54m16s68

It’s with CLOCKWORK ORANGE that Kubrick embraces the trashier side of British culture. Most significantly, we see Alex (Malcolm McDowell) fantasizing about being Count Dracula, with long plastic fangs and red red kroovy dripping from his lips. This second overt Hammer reference clinches the Kubrick fascination for the Studio That Dripped Blood, and check the cast list –

I contend that Patrick Magee wasn’t cast for his Beckett experience, but for DEMENTIA 13, MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, THE SKULL and DIE, MONSTER, DIE! admittedly not Hammer productions but generically bang-on. Also for his unparalleled ability to form himself into  a series of living Messerschmidt Heads, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, THE FIEND, ASYLUM, DEMONS OF THE MIND and — AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS were still to come — followed by BARRY LYNDON.

vlcsnap-2013-09-24-16h08m00s122

Scottish actress Adrienne Corri had a long genre back catalogue, and her future would feature even more entries. To begin with we have DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS, CORRIDORS OF BLOOD (again), THE HELLFIRE CLUB, THE VIKING QUEEN and MOON ZERO TWO (both Hammer). Right after working for Kubrick, she made VAMPIRE CIRCUS, and later MADHOUSE. Despite Renoir’s THE RIVER, horror movies will probably always be what she’s known for (along with being stripped to her socks for Kubrick’s dubious delectation).

Aubrey “PR Deltoid” Morris made BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB the same year as CLOCKWORK ORANGE so we probably can’t count that. Dave Prowse had already done HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN and would soon shoot VAMPIRE CIRCUS and FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL. And some space thing. Steven Berkoff had done THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS, KONGA and SLAVE GIRLS, and would return in BARRY LYNDON.

The girls: Katya Wyeth, from the film’s final shot, came fresh from TWINS OF EVIL and HANDS OF THE RIPPER (in the important role of 1st Pub Whore). Virginia Wetherell had done CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR and DR JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE. Shirley Jaffe was fresh from TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA. Vivienne Maya chalked up LUST FOR A VAMPIRE and TWINS OF EVIL — her best role is as the flashback girlfriend in A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE.

Of course, I admit the difficulty of casting a dolly-bird in 1971 who had NOT been in a Hammer horror or two. But now we come to BARRY LYNDON.

vlcsnap-2013-09-24-15h34m21s137

The casting of Andre Morell strikes me as highly significant — Morell isn’t as tightly bound to Hammer in the public consciousness as Cushing and Lee, or Michael Ripper, but he should be. He was Quatermass on TV (an indirect link) and Watson to Cushing’s Holmes; THE SHADOW OF THE CAT, SHE, PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, THE MUMMY’S SHROUD, VENGEANCE OF SHE, and a number on non-horror Hammers including the terrific CASH ON DEMAND. Plus non-Hammer horrors like BEHEMOTH THE SEA MONSTER.

vlcsnap-2013-09-24-15h28m50s140

Frank Middlemass had come from FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED. Ferdy Mayne will be best remembered as Polanski’s Count Von Krolock, but also chalked up THE VAMPIRE LOVERS.

THE SHINING refers to Hammer only in its genre, but a comparison with THE EXORCIST is revealing, Kubrick having attempted to make a megablockbuster throughout his late career by patterning his films on the biggest box office smashes of history. But each of these films goes through the Kubrick funhouse looking-glass and emerges as something no sane person would expect to rake in the receipts — BARRY LYNDON purloins the child’s death from GONE WITH THE WIND, THE SHINING aims for THE EXORCIST and winds up in MARIENBAD country, and A.I. wants to be E.T. but can’t help its mechanical nature, like little Haley Joel Osment and the late Stankey K. himself.

vlcsnap-2013-09-24-16h12m23s191

FULL METAL JACKET is too American and too young to borrow Hammer actors, and by the time of EYES WIDE SHUT most of them were dead. However, with its quasi-Satanic shagging party, the movie seems to be channeling sixties and seventies horrors, particularly Corman’s MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (and maybe CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR? And if there were a film called STENCH OF THE SCARLET PENCIL I’m sure that would have been an influence too).

Taking My Big Theory to its logical conclusion, we would have to say that Welles follows the path of Whale by telling moral tales in which nevertheless the truest, deepest sympathy is with the monsters; Kubrick follows the Sangster and Fisher route by portraying a world in which the oppressive patriarchy, though corrupt and inhuman, is the nearest thing to a safe side to be on…

“What knockers!”

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on October 15, 2012 by dcairns

Light posting this week as I’m filming some mysterious goings-on Thursday-Friday. But over at Limerwrecks the Halloween countdown continues with a limerick on the last days of Hammer films, a rhyme rhapsodising on Dwight Frye’s performance in FRANKENSTEIN, co-authored with horror host Hilary Barta, and an ode to that most melancholy of monsters, Karloff.

Title from YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, of course, image from LUST FOR A VAMPIRE.

One Million B.C. (Budgetary Constraints)

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2008 by dcairns

vlcsnap-80215

For some reason this credit kind of tickled me. I wish they’d gone all the way and said “Directed by Hal Roach and Hal Roach”. Has anyone ever done that? Harold Ramis should’ve with MULTIPLICITY, it might have added the single laugh needed to allow the film to qualify as a ’90s American comedy.

Things I enjoyed — the random animal noises during dinosaur fights — elephants trumpeting, leopards growling, and a dog barking. Victor Mature makes a convincing Tarzan-type cave-dude, better than John Richardson in the remake. Carole Landis has a nice strappy top. The idea of the present-day foreword, in which a bearded expert starts to tell Carole, Big Victor, et al about prehistoric life, and then we go into flashback and the same actors are playing cavefolks. It’s like the previous year’s THE WIZARD OF OZ – “And you were there, and you, and you!”

vlcsnap-85180

Roy Seawright’s process work is excellent — humans interact with lizards, crocodiles and even an armadillo with a sproingy rubber horn glued to his snout, and the animals really do seem to be gigantic. They don’t seem remotely like dinosaurs, mind you.

vlcsnap-1304801

I was struck by how the plot was near-identical, incident for incident, with that of the Hammer remake, which added YEARS to the title and entertained me hugely as a kid. It still does. Rubber dinosaurs, cavegirls with false eyelashes, a dubbed Raquel Welch (her grunts were too American), Maltese landscapes… Where the remake departs, it generally improves — for instance, it sensibly ends with the volcanic festivities, rather than dragging on for another dinosaur fight. And the Hammer film is guilt-free, since no real animals were harmed during its making. ONE MILL duplicates a splendid set-up from the ’33 KING KONG, with humans walking in place in the foreground as a dying dinosaur tracks past in the background, but the Roaches movie appears to use either a real dying lizard, or a dead lizard that’s been rigged with a bladder to make it “breathe” in an agonised way, and a bubbling geyser of stage blood. All of which is rather unpleasant to think about despite the technical skill involved.

But I’m not so nice that I didn’t laugh at some of the reptile antics. When the inevitable earthquake-volcano apocalypse strikes, most of the lizards voluntarily hurl themselves into the chasms opening at their feet, as if anxious to enjoy as little screen time as possible. Their eagerness makes me suspect, and hope, that at the bottom of the chasm was a nice bed of lettuce, rather than searing lava as the Roaches would have us believe.

vlcsnap-87731

“Business stinks, I don’t wanna live!”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 359 other followers