The first time in my life I leave the lights on to ease my soul.
These are just a few words that I would use to describe the horror films produced by Hammer, a British film production company. While still putting out films today, most notably Let Me In and The Woman in Black, it is the horror films of the 50s through the 70s that I enjoy the most. Known for oddly charming leads, dramatic soundtrack, and buckets of technicolor blood, it is no wonder that Hammer Horror Films are among my favorites.
“But BECK, why didn’t you write about it when you counted down your favorite horror films?” That is because I knew I was going to do a separate countdown, and truthfully, deciding on the placement of 1 and 2 was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. Let’s face it, Hammer deserves a list of its own.
Honorable Mention: Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
The second Hammer film I have ever seen, it is also the only sequel on my list. It’s an honorable mention for a reason, as it’s really more of a guilty pleasure than anything else. I find it interesting, however, as it comments on the soul in relation to the body, and attempts to explore more metaphysical aspects of raising the dead. A somewhat silly tale of revenge, rife with gore and fanservice, it’s unique among the Frankenstein films.
5. The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960)
This film is a particularly interesting take on the tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. While certainly not a successful movie, I find the general premise interesting enough to put it on my list. Unlike the original novel and most iterations of the tale, Mr. Hyde in this film is an attractive man. This is a comment on the allure of evil, and how anyone can be a monster without “looking” like one. The premise lands it on my list, but the execution places it at the bottom.
4. The Vampire Lovers (1970)
Carmilla is a novella that many people are surprised that I have read and enjoy. Honestly, the story is more interesting than that of Dracula to me, and hey, lesbian vampires! There is a trilogy of films put out by Hammer that are inspired by the novella, but The Vampire Lovers has the closest semblance to the plot. It’s the raciest film on my list, but not without the trademark Hammer blood and gore.
3. The Mummy (1959)
The top three films have two things in common; they star Peter Cushing and feature Christopher Lee as a monster. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with that combination. The Mummy is actually the highest rated Hammer Horror film on Rotten Tomatoes, with good reason; my own preferences aside, it is the most well-made of the classic monster films, and yet some people haven’t even heard of this one. If you haven’t seen it, give it a watch. I like it just as much as the 1999 version.
2. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Placing this movie as number two on my list was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. The original novel by Mary Shelley is one of my favorite books ever, and the monster is one of my favorite classic creations. What makes this film so utterly enjoyable to me is not the creature, which, while terrifying, merely exists to be terrifying and to kill people, but rather Baron Victor Frankenstein himself. Cushing’s Frankenstein is a schemer, a womanizer, and a complete monster, which is extremely different from the novel’s depiction of the character. However, it works and I love it. Definitely give this one a watch if you haven’t.
And my favorite Hammer Horror movie is…
- Dracula/The Horror of Dracula (1958)
This is the film that most people think of when they think of Hammer Horror, and that’s because of how iconic it is. Christopher Lee’s Dracula is known for being terrifying and imposing, and Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing is undoubtedly my favorite portrayal of the character. This film has all hallmarks of a good Hammer film; a veneer of elegance over the vibrant red blood. It’s beautiful and garish; grotesque and grandiose, and it’s one of my favorite horror films ever. While, as I said, it was very hard to decide between this and The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula is one of those films that is firmly cemented in history. I’m sure people will still be talking about this one hundreds of years from now. If you haven’t seen it, what are you doing?!