Hammer House Of Horror

Hammer House Of Horror (1980)
A&E Home Video
Extras: Hammer Films Filmography, Photo Gallery, History of Hammer Studios

The films produced by England’s Hammer Studios hold a special place in the hearts of horror fans. Combining atmospheric settings, voluptuous damsels in distress, and over-the-top, often full-color gore, Hammer Films revolutionized the moribund horror
movie genre in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Always low-budget affairs, the films nevertheless boasted talented cast and crew members who somehow managed to make do with very little.

The move toward more overt sex and violence in horror cinema that was initiated by Hammer Studios also led to its downfall in the late 1970s as deep-pocket American film studios began churning out their own lurid fare. Hammer’s last gasp of horror on the big screen was 1976’s "To the Devil a Daughter."

In a final effort to save the studio, Hammer attempted to parlay its name recognition into success on the small screen and was commissioned to create a 13-part miniseries for the BBC entitled "The Hammer House of Horror" which aired in 1980.
Unfortunately, this endeavor just wasn’t enough to keep the studio afloat and soon thereafter Hammer closed up shop.

At long last the complete miniseries is available on DVD from A&E through their exclusive North American distribution agreement with Carlton UK. Previously seen either edited for content or hosted by Elvira (gasp!), this four-DVD set finally presents these 13 individual, hour-long stories unedited and uninterrupted.

Episode Guide Disc One

Witching Time — A film composer goes to check on his horses after a terrible storm and finds a mysterious naked woman who claims to be a witch from the 17th century.

The Thirteenth Reunion — An investigative journalist uncovers the terrible secret behind a successful weight-loss clinic.

Rude Awakening — An estate agent (Denholm Elliott) finds himself experiencing recurring nightmares regarding a mysterious mansion.

Disc Two

Growing Pains — A young boy is adopted by a couple who has lost their own son and, you guessed it, no good comes of it.

The House that Bled to Death — A young family moves into their new house blissfully unaware of the violent murders that took place there.

Charlie Boy — A carved African fetish is used in a voodoo ritual that quickly gets out of his control.

Disc Three

The Silent Scream — An ex-con (Brian Cox) takes a job tending a pet store’s collection of wild animals and can’t quite resist dipping into the till. The owner, Nazi concentration camp survivor Martin Brueck (Peter Cushing), has his own peculiar ideas
about handling criminals.

Children of the Full Moon — In classic werewolf fashion, a man awakens in a hospital from what he believes to have been just a bad dream.

Carpathian Eagle — Investigating a serial killer, a police inspector comes upon a possible clue in the story of the legendary Carpathian Countess.

Disc Four

Guardian of the Abyss — An antiques dealer purchases a mirror with mysterious, dark powers.

Visitor from the Grave — A woman kills the man who was trying to rape her and buries his body with the help of her husband. But is the man really dead?

The Two Faces of Evil — A vacationing family picks up a lone hitchhiker who turns out to be a homicidal maniac — just like mom always warned you.

The Mark of Satan — A young man starts his new job at the hospital morgue and, well, with a setting like that scary happenings soon ensue.

"The Complete Hammer House of Horror" is presented in its original <$PS,full frame> format. As a made-for-television miniseries from 1980 I wasn’t expecting too much in the way of image quality but, once again, the folks at Carlton UK and A&E have done a
fine job preparing these DVDs. Colors are spot-on for a Hammer production — meaning that the blood is redder than red and everything else looks natural. Black levels are bit weak at times with some of the darker scenes losing almost all detail while
at other times the blacks are quite solid. The transfer is also free of all but a few minor blemishes. The overall image is just a tad soft but again this is standard for Hammer films. All in all, the video looks quite good.

Audio is presented in a <$DD,Dolby Digital> 2.0 mono mix that has been cleaned up a bit but not altered significantly from the original soundtrack. Dialogue is always clear with a small amount of distortion appearing on occasion. Music and sound effects are
well-balanced but the lack of dynamic range limits their impact and leads to a bit too much harshness. But, for an unremixed 1980s TV soundtrack this soundtrack sounds just fine.

A few bonus features are included on Disc One. First up is a text-based history of Hammer Studios that is quite informative and doesn’t hesitate to offer up some very valid criticism of the famed studio. Next is the complete Hammer Studios filmography
that lists every movie in chronological order. Finally, a handful of publicity photos are presented.

So then, how do these small screen horrors stack up against their big screen brethren? While they certainly lack the depth of talent associated with Hammer’s classic films, these television episodes nevertheless retain much of what made Hammer so
special. A pervading sense of dread coupled with the obligatory cheesecake shots (yes, there is some nudity in certain episodes) and colorful gore makes for an enjoyable few evenings of entertainment. While none of these shows come close to
duplicating the best that Hammer had to offer, they remain quite good in their own right.

I’m a big fan of Hammer films so I’m naturally predisposed toward recommending "The Complete Hammer House of Horror." Video quality is surprisingly good and the audio is certainly adequate so the set gets high marks for technical merit. I also
appreciate the fact that A&E has elected to release the complete miniseries at once in a single box set. Hammer fanatics and those who enjoy intelligent horror with just the right amount of titillation and tingles won’t be disappointed.