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I found this documentary to be very interesting. Although most of the clips from the Hammer films were in the format of theatrical trailers (due to actual film clips being too expensive), I found that there was enough of a mix of interviews and clips to keep most people happy. The narration was good (as you would expect from Peter Cushing & Christopher Lee) but was also tinged with sadness, as when it was shown in the UK (on consecutive Saturday evenings) Peter Cushing died before the second part was shown. It can truly be seen as his swansong for Hammer, for whom he made so many classic films.
Perhaps no other studio has been linked with the horror genre more so than that of the English Hammer Studio. Flesh and Blood is the story of that studio and its meteoric rise in the late fifties and its crashing demise in the late seventies. The chronicle is related to the audience through the voices of the studio's biggest stars...Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. This was Cushing's last project before his death in 1994, and it is thrilling just to hear him speak of his days of old with Hammer. Christopher Lee adds more insights into his films and about those people that worked in front and behind the camera. Among those interviewed are Hammer starlets Raquel Welch, Veronica Carlson, Ingrid Pitt, delicious Hazel Court, and Caroline Munro, Hammer producers and directors Anthony Hinds, Michael Carreras, Jimmy Sangster, Freddie Francis, and Val Guest, and other notables such as actor Andrew Keir. This documentary starts out with the studio's success with the Quatermass movies and then spends a good amount of time going over the breakthrough film The Curse of Frankenstein and its sequels and then The Horror of Dracula and its sequels. Ted Newsom certainly has done a great job with this definitive story of the House that Hammer Built!
Hammer Films was the most successful independent production company in the
history of the British film industry. Starting in the 1950's, they
a memorable series of low budget science fiction and gothic horror films.
These films were marked by high production values, solid technical work,
strong acting, and intelligent writing and directing.
Their breakthrough came in 1957 with the release of THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. This low budget film became one of the most profitable films in the history of British cinema, as well as the most influential genre film to be released since the end of the Second World War. Today, numerous film makers acknowledge Hammer Films as an influence on their work. They include, George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, Martin Scorcese, Joe Dante, John Landis, and John Carpenter, to name only a few.
Ted Newsom, the writer and director of FLESH AND BLOOD, originally made it in 1994, when it was shown on British television. The Anchor Bay Video Edition is Copyright 1997. Ted Newsom has succeeded in capturing a moment in time when a number of the people who made these films were still with us. Now, a few short years later this is no longer the case.
This was the last project that Peter Cushing completed before his death in 1994. He is heard in the off camera narration and seen only in film clips. Cushing's old friend Christopher Lee joins him in the off camera narration and in an on camera interview, as well as in film clips. The other interviews are candid and informative. Most of these people remember working for Hammer with real affection.
The one drawback in this documentary is that the film clips are taken from trailers. This avoided paying fees to distributors, but limits the choice and quality of the footage. On the other hand, FLESH AND BLOOD is well organized and researched. It presents a view of a memorable era in British film production with clarity and insight. For anyone who is already a Hammer fan, this is a must. For anyone who is just getting acquainted with their films, this will serve as an excellent introduction.
I grew up watching the Hammer horror films on TV in the late 1970s. Even
though some of them were severely edited (for violence and time) they still
scared me silly and I was impressed by the acting and lush settings. In
1994 (a few years before Peter Cushing's death) they got together him and
Christopher Lee to narrate a documentary on Hammer films. They also had
tons of interview footage of Hammer directors, producers, editors,
composers, executives etc etc talking about productions. Also many actors
of the various Hammer movies talked about their roles and the productions
themselves. Raquel Welch and Martine Beswick give very amusing commentaries
and Veronica Carlson talks about a disgusting rape scene she was forced to
act in for "Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed". It was (thankfully) cut from
the final print but the footage is here.
If you're a horror fan (like me) this is a just engrossing insight into how some of the best horror films of the 1950s-1970s were made. This isn't a whitewash job either. The actors and executives do complain about issues and problems they had with scripts and productions. Just fascinating from beginning to end. My only complaint--the footage from Hammer films is in pretty poor shape. Couldn't they have gotten some better prints?
This is a rather nice 100 minutes lasting outline of the history of
Hammer Film Productions ans simply a must-see for every Hammer movie
I did not only wanted to see this documentary because of its subject and I'm a big fan of the Hammer studios movies but also because this was the last project Peter Cushing worked on. He died in the same year as the release of this documentary. He also sounded really old and just not 100% healthy during his narrations. The other part of he narration is being handled by his old buddy Christoper Lee. Together they starred in dozens of Hammer movies. It also feels right that this was Peter Cushing's last project, since he spend most of his career playing in Hammer movies and is also a reason why he is still so well known and loved, due to all the fine and iconic roles he has played in Hammer productions.
A lot of persons appearing in this documentary has died ever since so obvious the documentary is better than it could had been as it was made at this current day and time, although this movie also uses a lot of archived interviews. The documentary got made at the right time, after the Hammer reign had already ended.
It lets actors, directors, studio executives and everything in between speak about their own personal experiences and the history of the Hammer film studios, from the '30's to their peak at the '50's, '60's and '70's and the end later less successful years. It of course mostly focus on the horror productions, for which the Hammer studios are so well known. The movies had a very unique and distinctive style, which gave them a very large cult following, which was the reason why the Hammer movies were so successful at their time. They putted new life into the declining horror genre in the '50's.
The documentaries provides some unique behind the scenes footage and stories. It's also filled with footage from the actual movies and interviews with all those involved. It isn't just only about their successes but also about the bad choices they made and they also don't pretend like they were making "Citizen Kane" sort of movies at time and their movies were all perfect in every way thinkable.
The documentary is mostly insightful into the history of the Hammer studios and explains why they did things their way. It's perhaps not as insightful on the actually movies and some of its stars and directors, so just don't expect to learn a whole lot of new things about some of the Hammer classics.
Also the actual style of the documentary itself just isn't anything special. It's formulaic but pleasantly fast paced. It doesn't let one person needlessly say more than the other and the documentary features a wide variety of interviewees, which makes this a pleasant and always nice paced and told insightful documentary.
An essential movie for the Hammer lovers.
Another feature-length history of the infamous British film studio
that, as the narration proudly says here, changed the face of cinema
and, more precisely, the vivid depiction of screen violence forever.
However, being a longer piece than usual, it takes care to deal with
its 1930 origins (including 1935's THE MYSTERY OF THE MARY CELESTE aka
PHANTOM SHIP starring legendary horror icon Bela Lugosi), its 1940s
radio successes-to-screen adaptations and its 1950s "quota-quickie" run
headed by Hollywood second leads like Paul Henried. Furthermore, it
also delves into the studio's efforts in other genres like
swashbucklers and thrillers but, somewhat disappointingly, not in
enough detail to do them proper justice. Therefore and the title is
clear indication enough the bulk of the feature is dedicated to their
phenomenally successful cycle of Gothic horrors, Sci-Fi and Prehistoric
The roster of interviewees is pretty impressive and quite definitive: apart from Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee (who also act as narrators) we have Hammer stars like Martine Beswick, Veronica Carlson, Hazel Court, Andrew Keir, Francis Matthews, Ferdy Mayne, Caroline Munro, Christopher Neame, Ingrid Pitt, Yutte Stensgaard and Raquel Welch in a combination of archive and newly-shot footage; as for the creative Hammer staff there are Roy Ward Baker, James Bernard, Michael Carreras, Freddie Francis, Val Guest, Ray Harryhausen, Anthony Hinds and Jimmy Sangster as well as Hollywood fanboy Joe Dante. Apart from marking the historic final step in the working relationship of Cushing and Lee, the documentary inadvertently also served as an epitaph for the former and Michael Carreras who would both die soon after it premiered on TV! Apparently, according to its maker Ted Newsom, a longer "Director's Cut" will be unveiled in the near future, a full 20-plus years after it was originally shot
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a wonderful documentary for any fan of Hammer. It's all here
from the rise of Hammer as the King of Gothic Horror with The Curse of
Frankenstein to the tragic downfall in the mid-70s. I have seen dozens
of Hammer films over the years and to hear the stories about these
films from the people who were there is an absolute joy. Even though
the film is narrated by Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, the best
stories are from Hammer directors like Roy Ward Baker and Val Guest and
by Hammer writers like Jimmy Sangster and by Hammer producers like
Michael Carreras. And they don't hold back. I appreciated their
honesty, especially that of Carreras, concerning the demise of Hammer.
My only complaint would be with the film clips selected for use in Flesh and Blood. Little effort appears to have been made to clean-up or restore the clips. The quality is lacking at best.
A more complete and fascinating study of the heritage left behind by Hammer Studios will not likely ever be done quite this well in this format again. To hear the narrative thoughts of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee on their time with Hammer and its eventual rise and fall prove fascinating as do the many comments and interviews from the likes of Jimmy Sangster, Val Guest, Hazel Court, Ingrid Pitt, Caroline Munro, Michael Carreras, Raquel Welch, James Bernard and Tony Hinds's son. This is sure to thrill and delight any true fan of Hammer Horror. In fact it's a must-have!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ted Newsome writes and directs this very interesting documentary paying homage to the legendary horror studio that frightened and titillated us in the theaters and drive-ins of the 60s and late night TV in the 70s. If it came from Hammer, it had to be good. The blood curdling The Horror of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Curse of the Werewolf, The House of Usher, Hound of the Baskervilles and the many spin offs of Dracula and so many more. Flesh and blood sells; more flesh and blood sells better. Those great movies where the blood wasn't just red, it was "Hammer red". And the beautiful women with magnificent bosoms. Great Britian's Hammer Studios showed the American studios how to make horror, fantasy and Sci-Fi.Thoughts and interviews featuring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Hazel Court, Ingrid Pitt, Ray Harryhausen, Raquel Welch, Veronica Carlson, Martine Beswilcke, Jimmy Sangster and so many others in front and behind the cameras. A journey about two hours long that features the ins and outs; the ups and downs and many clips from those exciting trailers from of the "fear factory"...Hammer Studios.
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