The Hammer House of Horror typifies English Gothic cinema, which is at once genuinely creepy, camp and a little bit on the cheap side. As with Roger Corman's films in the US, the low budgets often had pleasant side effects: the recurring sets and locations ended up creating a kind of Hammer universe where story took place. There's a joy in spotting a familiar sofa or henchman. The film I watched last night was Dracula Prince of Darkness. It's got some great moments, but perhaps the most noteable thing is that Christopher Lee doesn't have a single line in the whole film. It's almost as if he's only been partly resurrected. He is an animal presence with blood shot eyes. The only thing that weakens the film is that he is so out-matched and out-numbered. He only manages one victim, poor chap. His final come-uppance also makes him look a bit of a klutz, wobbling about on the shifting ice like a contestant from an old Transylvanian edition of It's A Knockout . I'm going to be watching a few of these as I'm researching a character for a novel who worked with Hammer.
Now I'm quite looking forward to the opportunity.
John Bleasdale is a writer. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, Il Manifesto, as well as CineVue.Com and theStudioExec.com. He has also written a number of plays, screenplays and novels.