Okay, so Hammer Films died back in the mid-’70s–the cinema home of icons Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing–and then was reborn as a tv show, “House of Hammer,” on BBC. Then the brand languished until the late 2000s, when a rejuvenated studio with new owners produced Let Me In and The Woman in Black.
While that studio is still in the business of making scary movies, there are other creators who are infusing their works with the blood and sexual vitality of the Hammer spirit. I count myself and the novel I just finished, Ghostflowers, among them; but this amazing trailer captures the best and the worst of the true Hammer spirit in vintage style. I feel like I’m watching a movie in the drive-in again.
Some of you probably don’t remember when there were only three networks on television, and when less than a handful of channels were available to watch on UHF channels and the distant channels flickering with static from out of town. It was considered really late night viewing to watch Johnny Carson between 11:30 pm and 1:00 am, at first, and then 11:30 to 12:30 when he went to just an hour. There were only a few other late night shows, premiering mostly in the late ’70s; but in mid-1972 there were only Carson, Cavett…and the CBS Late Movie.
Here is a true fan’s comprehensive list of movies and shows that ran late night on the CBS Late Movie. It was a great time to be a movie fan who was starved for entertainment, because finally you’d be able to see movies and tv shows you had only heard about before. For me, that meant some of the movies mentioned in my favorite magazines, The Monster Times and Famous Monsters of Filmland.
The best newspaper ever.
Occasionally, at some point in ’72 or ’73, CBS would promote and broadcast one film, and then, during the broadcast, announce that a second film would follow. This didn’t happen often, but, on one occasion, they showed a second, unheralded movie that I had been afraid I would never get the chance to see. (And, if you’re wondering, the list I linked to only gives the titles of the first movies broadcast at 11:30.)
Think about that, now, here, in the 21st Century, when almost every old movie is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, YouTube, Hulu, Vudu, Netflix, or BitTorrented…
The movie I refer to is, as far as I’m concerned, the finest adaptation of the novel Draculaever filmed. Horror of Dracula, produced by the great Hammer Film Studio in 1958, is as primal and as sensually powerful as it was 56 years ago.
However, over the years, the distributor, Warner Bros., or Hammer lost some of the footage due to censorship issues around the world. I have Horror of Dracula on DVD, and it is not the same film I saw on CBS in the ’70s. Specifically, Dracula’s death scene has been cut in every recording I’ve viewed ever since. It was, perhaps, the most powerful demise of Dracula I’ve ever seen, simply because it was so visceral, so groundbreaking, for 1958. And that is why portions of the scene were cut from the finished film.
This is part of the death scene that has been unseen in this country since the early 1970s.
For decades, I wondered what happened. Now, that scene has been restored to all its phantasmagoric glory, along with at least one scene I don’t remember, in a Blu-Ray produced for Region 2…the UK and Europe. But not for us here in the States.
The Blu-Ray was released in spring of 2013, and carefully restores and color corrects the vintage film. But it’s not yet available here. Okay, I don’t get it. I know that there’s a built-in audience in Hammer’s native England, but the sheer numbers of horror lovers are enormous right here in the US. To me, the restored is a natural for horror fans, Dracula scholars.
It has been almost two years. It’s time to offer this Blu-Ray to the vampire lovers in the States. Warner Video…get this into the stores! Until then, the death scene is viewable on YouTube…