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‘When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth,’ J.G. Ballard’s Hammer film
08:49 am


J.G. Ballard
Hammer Films

“Ballardian” is a word that will only gain currency during 2017 and the years to come. If there were a stock market for words, I would be bullish on this one. Today’s jobs, homes, vacations, grocery stores, politicians, kinks, vehicles, riots, drugs, disasters, wars, and surgeries all seem to have come out of a Ballard novel.

But the feature that gave Ballard his first film credit (as treatment writer “J.B. Ballard”), When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970), is so uncannily prescient as to resemble raw news footage of the day after tomorrow. Watch it alongside any 24-hour cable network and you’ll see: it’s like the screenplay of Dinosaurs was ripped from the headlines.

In his last book, the autobiography Miracles of Life, Ballard recalled the meeting that gave life to the movie:

The first time I saw my name (even if misspelled) in the credits of a film came in 1970, with the British release of When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. This was a Hammer film, a sequel to the Raquel Welch vehicle One Million Years BC, itself a remake of the 1940 Hollywood original starring Victor Mature and Carole Landis. Hammer specialized in Dracula and Frankenstein films, then much despised by the critics. But their films had tremendous panache and visual attack, without a single wasted frame, and the directors were surprisingly free to push their obsessions to the limit.

I was contacted by a Hammer producer, Aida Young, who was a great admirer of The Drowned World. She was keen that I write the screenplay for their next production, a sequel to One Million Years BC. Curious to see how the British film world worked, I turned up at the Wardour Street offices of Hammer, to be greeted in the foyer by a huge Tyrannosaurus rex about to deflower a blonde-haired actress in a leopard-skin bikini. The credits screamed ‘Curse of the Dinosaurs!’


Young brought Ballard up to date on the status of the project (“Raquel Welch would not be available”) and escorted him into the office of Hammer’s Tony Hinds, where Young narrated the entire story of The Drowned World for the studio boss. Hinds muttered something about water being “trouble” and asked Ballard for his ideas; the writer described a few that had occurred to him on the drive between Shepperton and Soho.

‘Too original,’ Hinds commented. Aida agreed. ‘Jim, we want that Drowned World atmosphere.’ She spoke as if this could be sprayed on, presumably in a fetching shade of jungle green.

Hinds then told me what the central idea would be. His secretary had suggested it this morning. This was nothing less than the story of the birth of the Moon–in fact, one of the oldest and corniest ideas in the whole of science fiction, which I would never have dared to lay on his desk. Hines stared hard at me. ‘We want you to tell us what happens next.’

I thought desperately, realizing that the film industry was not for me. ‘A tidal wave?’

‘Too many tidal waves. If you’ve seen one tidal wave you’ve seen them all.’

A small light came on in the total darkness of my brain. ‘But you always see the tidal waves coming in,’ I said in a stronger voice. ‘We should show the tidal wave going out! All those strange creatures and plants . . .’ I ended with a brief course in surrealist biology.

There was a silence as Hinds and Aida stared at each other. I assumed I was about to be shown the door.

‘When the wave goes out . . .’ Hinds stood up, clearly rejuvenated, standing behind his huge desk like Captain Ahab sighting the white whale. ‘Brilliant. Jim, who’s your agent?’

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Glorious, gory & (sometimes) goofy foreign film posters for horror films of the 1960s and 1970s

The Giant Spider Invasion (Japan)
The Giant Spider Invasion (Japan). Based on the low-budget 1975 film produced by Transcentury Pictures, directed by Bill Rebane
As a huge fan of horror films, especially those of the vintage variety, I really enjoyed pulling together this post that features foreign-made film posters advertising various horror films from the 1960s and 1970s.
Suspiria movie poster (Italy)
Suspiria (1977) movie poster (Italy)
The best thing about movie posters made for consumption outside the U.S. is that they are so much more adventurous. Few of these posters would have ever seen the light of day in a U.S. theater lobby due to their their liberal use of unorthodox imagery and nudity. Some of what follows may be considered NSFW—which is precisely why you MUST see them!
The Exorcist movie poster (Turkey)
The Exorcist (1973) movie poster (Turkey)
Dracula AD movie poster (Italy)
Dracula A.D. (1972, Hammer Films) movie poster (Italy)
More of these marvelous posters after the jump…...

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Vintage UK trading cards based on classic Hammer horror films
09:25 am


Trading Cards
Hammer Films

Topps Shock Theater card #30 Dracula AD (1976 UK version)
Topps Shock Theater trading card #30 Dracula A.D. (UK version 1976)
Back in 1976 trading card company Topps produced a collection of cards called “Shock Theater” that were based on the films of the legendary British cult film company, Hammer.

Part of Hammer’s long-running appeal was due to its use of gore and sex, a tactic they used in excess to try to stay relevant during the 70’s. So it’s more than a little confusing as to why they marketed the cards to kids (the packs came with that nasty, cardboard flavored pink gum we all spit out after chomping on it for 30 seconds). For example, the Karnstein Trilogy (1970 and 1971), featured three films, The Vampire Lovers starring Ingrid PItt, Lust for a Vampire, and Twins of Evil, that contained explicit sex scenes and lesbianism that had not yet been seen much in English-speaking films. The storyline for 1970’s Taste the Blood of Dracula (one of many Hammer/Dracula films starring the late Christopher Lee), has three swingers turning to black magic to help boost their dwindling libidos.

As far as gross-outs are concerned, 1970’s Scars of Dracula (Hammers very first Dracula movie given an R rating), has a scene that shows dismembered corpses lying in a church with blood-stained walls. To say nothing of the part when a giant bat regurgitates blood all over Dracula’s ashes. And if you’ve never seen 1972’s Vampire Circus, I’ll just say this. There’s a woman dancing around naked, covered in tiger-looking body paint, and loads of sex and blood. In other words, it’s an excellent film.
Shock Theater #34 Taste the Blood of Dracula trading card
Topps Shock Theater trading card #34 Taste the Blood of Dracula (UK version, 1976)
Shock Theater Hammer trading card #36 Dracula A.D.
Topps Shock Theater Hammer trading card #36 Dracula A.D. (UK version, 1976)
Topps put out two sets of Hammer-themed cards, one in the U.S. in 1975, and a second, nearly identical set in the UK in 1976. The cards are amusingly captioned, a feature that perhaps helped tone down the image on the cards. The back of the cards also had jokes on them as well as a brief description of the scene from the film it depicted. In mint condition, both sets of cards can go for more than two-thousand dollars. Expertly preserved proofs can sell for over $400 apiece. But, if you dig this kind of thing, cards in various conditions can easily be found for less than $20 bucks on eBay.
Hammer Shock Theater trading card #35 Dracula A.D. (UK version, 1976)
Topps Shock Theater Hammer trading card #35 Dracula A.D. (UK version 1976)
Topps Shock Theater trading card #49 The Satanic Rites of Dracula (UK version, 1976)
Topps Shock Theater trading card #49 The Satanic Rites of Dracula (UK version, 1976)
More Hammer horror fun, after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Vampire Lesbians of Hammer
12:28 pm


Hammer Films

With all the hubbub about sexy vampires these days, courtesy of Twilight, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries, it’s time to take a short stroll down memory lane to the “golden age” of vampire lesbian cinema with Hammer’s so-called “Karnstein Trilogy.”


The first of the series, The Vampire Lovers, starred beautiful Polish actress Ingrid Pitt, who had previously played Elizabeth Bathory in Countess Dracula for Hammer. In The Vampire Lovers, Pitt played Carmilla Karnstein, the literary prototype for all vampire lesbians, a character created by author J. Sheridan Le Fanu in 1872. I saw the film on a late night “chiller theater” TV slot in the mid-seventies and while it’s actually a pretty decent, serviceable period piece horror film, uh, whatever... let’s get real here, the real attraction were the bare breasts of Ms. Pitt and crew! Without them no one would probably remember this film at all.

But ask any guy who grew up in the seventies —and a few gals, too, of course— who watched horror movies and they will know all about this film and its two sequels, which were often aired—astonishingly—with the nude scenes intact. Back in the seventies, this was a cause for celebration for teenage boys. I used to scour the TV Guide searching for weird things to watch and whenever there was a screening of one of these films, I can assure you that I didn’t have anything better to do that night!

The second film in the Karnstein Trilogy was 1971’s Lust for a Vampire starring blond Danish hottie Yutte Stensgaard. Again, ask any middle-aged guy in America or England who watched horror films as a kid and… they will know the name Yutte Stensgaard, who is seen bare-breasted and smeared with blood in the film.
A still from this scene made frequent appearances in monster movie books and magazines devoted to the genre, providing somewhat unwholesome masturbatory fodder for an entire generation of horror film geeks (Sidestepping the implications of this matter entirely, here Stensgaard is seen signing it at a fan convention).

More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Turntables of terror: A bloody good mix of goth rock and horror movie trailers
09:20 am


Hammer Films

Here’s a little pre-Hallloween gothic fright fest featuring some dark rock and roll and spooky clips from Hammer films and more.

Reptile - Creaming Jesus
We’re So Happy - Danse Society
Pagan Love Song - The Virgin Prunes
Black Madonna - Theatre Of Hate
Now I’m Feeling Zombified - Alien Sex Fiend
Propaganda - Play Dead
Preacher Man - Fields Of Nephilim
Snake Dance - The March Violets
Monkeys On Juice -  Red Lorry Yellow Lorry
Aere Perenium - Docdail
Time Machine - Satori
After Dark - Seraphim Shock
Romolus And Remus - High On Fire
Sonic Reducer (live) - Dead Boys
Orphans - Teenage Jesus and the Jerks

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
‘Dracula-Prince of Darkness’: Behind-the-scenes footage with Christopher Lee

There is always something about behind-the-scenes footage that reminds me of my childhood. It’s perhaps the memory of those holiday movies the slightly-posh-neighbors-along-the-road used to show after spending a fortnight in Fuengirola or Benidorm, sometime in the 1970s. The invited guests would be entertained with “Viva Espana” on the record player, a fondue set, a bottle of Rioja and a selection of dips, before the overly-tanned holiday-makers talked through their 8mm films: “That’s Pedro, oh he was nice, and there’s Auntie Jean, look, pink as a lobster.”

I suppose it’s the commentary, which is here supplied by Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley and Francis Matthews, who all get similarly excited when recognizing old friends and past pleasures: “Look, there’s Bert.” “There’s Roy.” “We’re doing the crossword!” The main difference here, of course, is that this home movie is something far more special: a 16mm-reel of behind-the-scenes footage from Dracula—Prince of Darkness, and it’s all good fun.

Dracula—Prince of Darkness (1966) was essentially Hammer Films’ sequel to their classic interpretation of Dracula from 1958. Indeed DPOD opens with archive of Peter Cushing, as Professor Van Helsing, using candlesticks to despatch the Christopher Lee’s Count. 

It’s interesting footnote that while previously Lee’s Dracula had spoken in the original film, in DPOD he only hissed. Christopher Lee claimed this was because he read the script.

‘I didn’t speak in that picture. The reason was very simple. I read the script and saw the dialogue! I said to Hammer, if you think I’m going to say any of these lines, you’re very much mistaken.’

However, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster disagreed with this version of events in his autobiography Inside Hammer wrote:

‘‘Vampires don’t chat. So I didn’t write him any dialogue. Chris Lee has claimed that he refused to speak the lines he was given ... So you can take your pick as to why Christopher Lee didn’t have any dialogue in the picture. Or you can take my word for it. I didn’t write any.’

Whichever version you choose to believe, we can all agree that Dracula—Prince of Darkness is a classic Hammer Horror.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Happy Birthday Christopher Lee

Happy Birthday Sir Christopher Lee, actor, singer and cinematic icon, who celebrates his 91st birthday today.

I can still recall the fabulous thrill of seeing Lee’s performance as the gruesome “Creature” in The Curse of Frankenstein (1956), where he managed to make the brutally disfigured creation both pitiful and terrifying. He achieved greater success as the Count in Dracula (1958), a performance that established him as an international star. Lee made the role of Dracula his own by bringing a charm, sophistication, intelligence and sexual attraction to the role.

In both films, Lee played against his friend and colleague Peter Cushing (who would have been 100-years-old yesterday) and together they dominated the box-office from the late 1950s-to mid-1970s, with a range of classic Horror movies, including The Gorgon, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, The Skull, Scream and Scream Again, The House That Dripped Blood, Dracula 1972 A.D., Nothing But The NIght, The Creeping Flesh, and Horror Express.

Of course, there were also his solo turns with The Devil Rides Out, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, The Wicker Man, The Three Musketeers and The Man With The Golden Gun.

But unlike Cushing, or Vincent Price (whose birthday is also celebrated today), Lee wanted to be more than just a Horror actor, and therefore moved to America in the 1970s, where his starred in a variety of films—some good, some not-so—which ranged from Airport ‘77, 1941 and Gremlins 2.

Most careers would have finished there, but not Lee’s. He return to form and greater success with roles in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow (1999) and then the BBC TV-series Gormenghast (2000), all of which led onto Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy and episodes 2 and 3 of Star Wars.

At 91, Sir Christopher is making 2-to-3-films-a-year, and has just recorded and released a Heavy Metal album, Charlemagne: The Omens of Death.

Happy Birthday Sir Christopher and thanks for all the thrills!

Behind the scenes with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing on ‘Dracula 1972 A.D.’

A preview of Christopher Lee’s heavy Metal album ‘Charlemagne: The Omens of Death’
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Double Horror: Vincent Price & Peter Cushing tell thrilling tales behind the scenes of ‘Madhouse’


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Quatermass and the Pit’: The original, classic TV series by Nigel Kneale

Workers at a building site in London excavate what appears to be human remains. On closer examination, these turn out to be something far more sinister, and when a space capsule is discovered, a series of disturbing events lead Professor Bernard Quatermass and his team to face a deadly martian threat and consider far darker origin to humanity.

This is the plot of Nigel Kneale‘s classic science-fiction series Quatermass and the Pit, which was originally shown on BBC Decemebr 22, 1958, to January 26, 1959.

Quatermass was an incredibly successful and influential series, which ran for 3 seasons from 1953-1959. Its success was in no way diminished by a change in lead actor - not once but 3 times.

Reginald Tate played the Professor in the opening series The Quatermass Experiment. and was about to film Quatermass II in 1955, when he dropped dead of a heart attack outside his London home. Tate was replaced by John Robinson, who proved quite successful, but due to other commitments he could not film Quatermass and the Pit in 1958. This allowed the man most associated with Quatermass, André Morell to take over.

All this proves is that a great character and a brilliant script can work with any number of different actors.

When the series moved to the big screen, it was believed an American star would guarantee box office success in the States, so Brian Donlevy was brought in to star in Hammer Film’s versions of The Quatermass Experiment and Quatermass II. By 1967, it was all change again as Scottish actor Andrew Keir played the professor in the first color version of Quatermass and the Pit.

And it didn’t stop there: Kneale revived Quatermass for a new TV series in the 1970s, with John Mills this time as the maverick scientist. While the BBC tried their hand with a live performance of The Quatermass Experiment, which starred Jason Flemyng in 2005.

Though I have great liking for Keir’s performance, this original TV version of Quatermass and the Pitt starring André Morell is, in many ways, the best. Part of the reason for this is the three-and-half hours of air time, which allowed Kneale far greater opportunity to develop ideas that a 90 minute film could not hold.

Understandably, Quatermass has cast a long shadow over TV, film and fiction for more than 50 years, and has inspired Stephen (Tommyknockers) King, John Carpenter (who wanted Kneale to write Halloween III), and series such as Dr Who and The X Files.

This was because Nigel Kneale was such a brilliant writer, who was sadly often side-lined by the idiotic snobbery of critics, who saw him as a mere scriptwriter of speculative science-fiction and pulp thrillers. But as Mark Gatiss rightly pointed out at the time of Kneale’s death in 2006:

‘Kneale is amongst the greats—he is absolutely as important as Dennis Potter, as David Mercer, as Alan Bleasdale, as Alan Bennett…’

Now here’s your chance to watch a master writer at his height, producing one the greatest TV dramas ever made, Quatermass and the Pit.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘The Horror of Frankenstein’: Rare behind-the-scenes footage from 1970

A behind-the-scenes report on the making of The Horror of Frankenstein, Hammer Film’s seventh Frankenstein movie, and their first without Peter Cushing playing the eponymous Baron. This time the role was taken-up by Ralph Bates, who added a certain amount of loucheness to Victor. The film also marked, what has lately been described (see The Ultimate Hammer Collection) as a “bold departure into comedy horror”, which it is, and therefore slightly misfires, undermining the films more horrific elements. But still, there is much to enjoy in The Horror of Frankenstein - Bates’ performance, the always watchable Dennis Price, and great supporting roles portrayed by Kate O’Mara, Jon Finch (soon to be Polanski’s MacBeth), Veronica Carlson, and Dave (Darth Vader) Prowse, who looks as if his make-up as the monster inspired the Kirgan’s in Highlander. Even Cushing makes a cameo on the doctor’s slab.

I am great fan of Cushing, who could be both polite and menacing, a rare talent, and he was never less than convincing in any role he played. Here in an interview Cushing discusses his thoughts about Baron Victor Frankenstein, while Bates discusses his approach to the role. First broadcast on the BBC April 28th, 1970.

With thanks to Nellym

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment