The Brits certainly give good fright. Don’t Look Now, 28 Days Later, The Descent, Alfred Hitchcock, and Clive Barker are all pretty eerie, but the proper anglophile knows if you want to get bloody freaked out U.K.-style on All Hallows’ Eve, you do so with a Hammer. Back in the mid-20th century, Hammer Films Ltd., England’s most prolific horror company, turned out schlocks and shocks to beat the band from their cozy manor house studio in Bray. Hammer movies range from the camp — witness Peter Cushing hunting vampires with a sickle in 1971’s Twins of Evil — to the genuinely creepy, like 1952’s Stolen Face, directed by Hammer mainstay Terence Fisher. The story focuses on Paul Henreid, a plastic surgeon in love with a concert pianist who refuses to marry him, so he reproduces her face on a young criminal and weds her instead. Think of it as Vertigo with a scalpel and extra dose of rage.
Hammer’s greatest output stars Cushing or Christopher Lee — or, as in Fisher’s Curse of Frankenstein, both. The company also boasted a stable of directors and writers unparalleled in the scare world, like Fisher, Roy Ward Baker (Quatermass and the Pit), and Jimmy Sangster (Fear in the Night). Sangster penned the best film on Sony’s new Icons of Horror Collection: Hammer Films set, Scream of Fear. Shot in shiny black-and-white and set in the damp Riviera, Scream stars Picnic’s Susan Strasberg as paraplegic visiting her father’s French villa for the first time in 10 years. The problem: Daddy’s not home, but stepmommy, pop’s chauffeur and creepy doc are, and the woman keeps seeing his corpse around the house.
Scream is joined on Sony’s Hammer collection by The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (with Lee as Jekyll’s doomed, double-crossing best bud), The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (featuring a man doomed to eternal life because the only one who can kill him is the brother he previously murdered — wrap your brain about that!), and The Gorgon (about a forest-dwelling mythological monster so ugly she petrifies people to death, starring Cushing as the doctor helping the local authorities keep it all hush hush).
Watch this clip from Scream, then check out the trailers for Jekyll and Gorgon after the jump. And tell me, what are your favorite British scary movies?
Scream of Fear
The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll
Your Bits and Bobs Calendar for the week:
Monday (Oct. 27th): The Andrew Davies-penned Little Dorrit began airing on BBC1 yesterday, so now is the time to start searching YouTube and BitTorrent sites for clips. Spooks (aka MI-5) with new lead Richard Armitage starts tonight, so wait about eight hours and then do the same for that one. (I don’t know about you, but I’m seriously considering investing in a Sling Box just for this). Or just watch Ricky Gervais and Thandie Newton read the Sarah Palin porn film on Graham Norton.
Tuesday: Writer Christoher Fowler’s latest installment of his Peculiar Crimes Unit series, The Victoria Vanishes, hits bookstores. Snow Patrol drops their new CD, A 100 Million Suns.
Wednesday: Visit Funnyordie.co.uk.
Thursday: Check out the music suggestion at Dead Flowers: Anglophiles Anonymous (okay, they’re not all British, but we’ll forgive him).
Friday: If the Hammer films don’t float your boat, check out MPI’s Classic British Thrillers DVD set, which features Michael Powell’s The Phantom Light and Red Ensign.
Saturday: Jonathan Ross chats with Little Dorrit’s Matthew Macfadyen on the his BBC Radio 2 show. You can catch it here. Daniel Craig plays an Oxford historian on a quest for the Holy Grail in Archangel on Ion at 8 p.m.
Sunday: In case you’ve missed them, see full episodes of The Last Enemy online here and then watch the finale tonight on PBS at 9 p.m.