Image Entertainment presents
Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror (1997)
"The success of Curse of Frankenstein was way out of proportion to what was expected. I think if that picture hadn't been as successful as it was in America, there might not have been any other big Hammer films."- Joe Dante
Stars: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing
Other Stars: Raquel Welch, Veronica Carlson, Caroline Munro, Ingrid Pitt, Jimmy Sangster, Hazel Court, Martine Beswicke, Freddie Francis, Val Guest, Ray Harryhausen, Roy Ward Baker, James Bernard, Michael Carreras, Joe Dante, Anthony Hinds, Andrew Keir, Francis Mathews, Ferdy Mayne, Christopher Neame, Yutte Stensgard
Director: Ted Newsom
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, horror violence, gore, some language)
Run Time: 01h:39m:34s
Release Date: 2004-10-05
DVD ReviewThe horror genre was changed irrevocably by the legendary Hammer studios of England. Though they started off primarily as distributors, they soon started making their own films, becoming one of the principal exporters in England. With a combination of Gothic trappings, Technicolor gore and ever-increasing sexiness, Hammer captured the imaginations of a generation and set in motion a spiral of ever-increasing explicitness that eventually outpaced its own ability to compete. This documentary takes a look at the history of the studio's rise and fall.
That history is told primarily through interview snippets and clips, with a narration by Hammer stalwarts Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. The story isn't told in a strictly chronological fashion; after introducing the studio and its early efforts in science fiction such as the Quatermass pictures and other cerebral projects, it switches to examination of the Frankenstein series, then the Dracula and Mummy films in turn, wrapping up with a miscellany of pictures. This probably makes the most sense thematically, though it does on occasion provide a bit of chronological confusion.
While the Hammer studio was famous for its production values on the cheap, this documentary follows in that tradition by using clips from the public domain trailers rather than the films proper. That's not all that objectionable, since the trailers usually contain the best bits anyway and most of the ones used here are in very nice condition. Lee's narration is enthusiastic and affectionate, but Cushing sounds like he was recorded on his deathbed; his familiar voice is hardly recognizable. He does appear onscreen in interviews from the 1970s and 1980s, however, filling in details of his essential role in these classic films.
The documentary is very dense with information, with a quite amazing array of folks happily chatting about their memories of the studio. There are some fascinating facts here, including the startling revelation that Cary Grant wanted to play the title role in their 1962 remake of The Phantom of the Opera, the role eventually going to Herbert Lom instead. There is plenty of rare artwork on display, as well as some behind-the-scenes footage. This is a very solid introduction to the studio that also contains plenty of good material for hardcore Hammer fans. I only wish it were longer.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A-
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Image Transfer Review: Since this appears to have been prepared for television (there are regular fades to black for commercial), it is in full-frame aspect. Most of the film clips are however provided in various widescreen formats, so this presentation is quite a bit better than most such compilations. Picture quality is generally quite acceptable, though the stills frequently suffer from serious combing and aliasing. Most of the source material is in very nice condition, with a few clips faded to pinkish.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: The mono English track sounds fine, with little distortion, hiss or noise apparent. The talking heads and the narration are clear throughout, with only occasional muddiness.
Audio Transfer Grade: C
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 41 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: Unfortunately, there's little here for extras beyond a trailer that doesn't appear to have been intended for theatrical purposes. Chaptering is extremely thorough, with practically every film mentioned getting a chapter stop. I do wish that additional interview material outtakes could have been included because clearly there's more to be told about this story.
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsA fascinating and detailed look at the Hammer studios, with a decent transfer for the most part, but little in the way of extras.
Mark Zimmer 2004-10-28