I don’t know anyone in our area of the film world that doesn’t at least have a passing familiarity with Hammer films. For those who aren’t familiar with them, Hammer is a famous British film studio that put out a large number of great horror films, frequently starring the likes of Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and a long list of very beautiful women. Hammer House of Horror is a thirteen show anthology television series from the studio that hit television screens in 1980.
I think the best way to describe this show is that it’s a more sophisticated mix between Tales From the Darkside, Monsters and Alfred Hitchcock, but with that classic Hammer look and style. As the show originally aired on British television at the time, there’s even some brief nudity here and there.
There’s no way I could possibly go through and review each episode individually without turning this review into a book. I will say this as way of a general, all emcompassing comment however. There’s not a bad episode in this series. There are some that are better than others obviously, but even the weakest episode is good, and they only go up from there.
The episodes themselves cover a variety of themes. The first episode has a witch escaping getting burned at the stake by transporting herself to 1980, where she devastates the lives of a film musician and his actress wife. Another episode has conspiracy to create horrific, ghostly events in an old home where a elderly man had murdered his wife and cut her body up, all so they could sell a book about it. Another has Peter Cushing as a man who runs a pet store, but who has a secret basement where he’s training animals to live without cages through the use of electrical shocks, and is now trying to prove that it can work with humans as well. If you want monsters, there are monsters as well. For example, one particularly creepy episode has a young couple staying in a house full of werewolf children after their car breaks down. There are about eight children in the home, and let me tell you, they are seriously creepy.
This new release from Synapse is a five-disc DVD set that includes all thirteen episodes of the show, and includes the following special features:
Episode introductions with film historian Shane M. Dallmann.
Grave Recollections: A Visit with Kathryn Leigh Scott (featurette)
Hammer Housekeeping: A Visit with Mia Nadasi (featurette)
Animated stills gallery.
It’s really a shame that we don’t have shows like this anymore. I know there have been some, over the years that have tried to do something similar, but there’s never been anything that really grabbed my attention as being a quality series. This however…this is a quality series, and one that any horror fan will want to add to their collection.
If you’d like to find out more about this release, you can check out it’s page on the Synapse Films website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself (highly recommended), you can get the DVD set from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.