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Faces Of Fear: Hammer Vol 4 - Faces Of Fear: Hammer Vol 4( Blu Ray Boxset) [Powerhouse Films - 2019]

Faces Of Fear is the forth boxset of Hammer films from Powerhouse films. The set severs up four very different cinematic sides of the great British film company- we go from the rewarding-if-typical gothic horror of The Revenge Of Frankenstein, onto still-gothic-though more inventive The Two Faces Of Doctor Jekyll, though to the companies first suspense/ creepy thriller Taste Of Fear, finishing off with the bleak and genre-blending The Damned- which stands as one of the companies more thought-provoking & troubling films. As with all of the past Hammer box sets Powerhouse has gone to town on a real host of new extras, as well as great new prints for each of the four films.

The first film in the set is The Revenge of Frankenstein- a 1958 production that brings together lots of familiar Hammer names- on the production side of things we have Terence Fisher directing the film- in all Mr Fisher directed 29 Hammer productions- with classics been the likes of 1959ís The Mummy, 1968ís The Devils Ride Out and the first Hammer's  Frankenstein film 1957ís The Curse Of Frankenstein. For writing credits, we have Jimmy Sangster- who wrote 35 films for the company. Moving onto the acting side of things we have the wonderful & versatile Peter Cushing in the lead role of Baron Victor Stein/ aka Doctor Frankenstein- with smaller parts going to Hammer regulars like Michael Ripper. The film starts at the end of the previous Frankenstein film, with the Baron seemingly been sent to the guillotine- where we get a brief of screen scuffle. Then we move to a pair of gravediggers looting the coffin of the Baron- to find thereís a headless priest in his place, and Cruising suddenly appears with his hunched back & bent limbed helper Karl, cause on of the diggers to have a heart attack. Flash forward three years to a small German city, and a group of doctors are meeting to discuss a fairly new doctor in the town- who is seemingly taking all their patients, but  is unwilling to join their association- and of course the doctor is Stein/ Frankenstein. For this film, initial the Dr. Frankenstein is character is painted in a better light than many of the sequels, as heís working as a seemingly caring GP, and helping out at a charity ward. But fairly soon he gets up to his old tricks again. We get a great memorable scenes like a pair of floating eyeballs & floating severed hand attached to an electric fired brain. And as the film moves on we find the Baron has decided to put the brain of his fairly clever, though physical deformed helper into the body of a new stitched together body- and as you'd expect things go very much awry. On the whole The Revenge of Frankenstein is a classic, if slightly clichťd slice of Hammer- the films an enjoyable romp with Cushing, as always doing a great job as the Baron, and the supporting cast nicely hamming things up- along the way we get some nice touches of knowing & ghoulish humour here and there. I canít say itís the most memorable of Hammers Frankenstein series, but itís well made- with all the classic elements youíd expect from the company- all making for a good opening shot to this boxset.
Moving onto the extras- we get two commentary tracks- first of these is from Hammer archivist Marcus Hearn, and film historian Jonathan Rigby- this is a laid back chatty track, thatís full with interesting facts and observations- such as pointing out set pieces and their use in other Hammer productions, comparing novelization to the finished script, press review snippets from the time and much more- the pair make it all sound so effortless, but clearly they both did a lot of research before doing the track.There is a second track too, and this features horror and fantasy authors Stephen Jones and Kim Newman- I didn't get a chance to check this out, with all of the other content to take in.
Back from the Dead: Inside ĎThe Revenge of Frankenstein- this runs for twenty-two minutes, and  finds genre experts and Hammer experts Alan Barnes, Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby discussing the films pre-planning/ pre-production, and the former US distributor dropping out, so the company started up a long-lasting deal with Colombia. Moving onto talk about the same writing/directing team returning from the first film, and how they weaved a more low key though still ghoulish plotline that  was touched by moments of dark humour. All in all a great featurette.
Next, we have A Frankenstein for the 20th Century- which is a twenty-seven-minute video essay from the always worthy genre expert Kat Ellinger-here she discusses how Hammer changed/ adjusted the original Frankenstein story by Mary Shelly, before going onto discuss themes in the film & Cushing suave-yet-deranged antihero. Again another great featurette.
Next we move onto shorter featurettes- first, thereís Arpeggios of Melancholy- a thirteen-minute appreciation of the films score by David Huckvale- who wrote Hammer Film Scores and the Musical Avant-Garde- it sees him playing/ discussing the films key cues.
Then thereís Hammerís Women: Eunice Gayson- this runs eight minutes and finds film historian Pamela Hutchinson giving lead lady Gayson a great profile, discussing not just this film but her work in James Bond films and her wider career- all told two great featurettes. On top of this, we get an eleven-minute outtake reel, Joe Dante trailer commentary, super eight version of the films first eight minutes, and imagery gallery taking in promotional and publicity materials.

 


Moving onto the second disc is the set, and we have from 1960 The Two Faces Of Doctor Jekyll- this was once again directed by Terence Fisher, with a screenplay by
Wolf Mankowitz- who had around forty writing credits to his name taking in classic James Bond films like Dr. No & Casino Royale. The film is, of course, an adaptation of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson gothic novella The Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde- over the years the story has had numerous adaptation made for screen- but I must say this stand as one of the more clever, original and distinct- it also features a largely great cast, great flamboyant interiors, and grim exteriors focused on recreating Victorian London.
The plot finds the serious and stayed bearded Doctor Jekyll experimenting with his serum, heís married glamorous socialite Kitty- who is having an affair with caddish Gabler Paul Allen- he also happens to be Jekyllís best friend, and the good doctor pays off Allenís debts- but is, of course, unaware of the affair. When Jekyll takes the serum, instead of turning into the animalistic and deranged Hyde from the book, he turns in the leering, hedonistic, and gleeful depravity seeker- who is both charming and sadistic.
Jekyll/ Hyde is played by Canadian actor Paul Massie- who does a stellar job in the duel role, and aside from the slightly dodgy beard prosthetics is perfect for the role- moving from the thoughtful/shy Jekyll-though-to the devil may care at times manic Hyde. Playing Paul Allen is Christopher Lee, who again does a great job as the brash playboy- who at times does show general feelings. Kitty is played by British actress Dawn Addams- and she is great too, moving from deceiving and scheming, onto glamorous and flirtations, through to troubled and hopeless.
The supporting cast is good too; most worth a mention is Norma Marla as raven-haired and mysterious snake dancer, who becomes entangled with Mr. Hyde. All in all The Two Faces Of Doctor Jekyll stands as one of the great films of Hammers horror output, and Iíve always felt it never got the praise it deserved- so hopefully this release will help change that.
On the extras side we once again get a nice selection of all-new stuff- first we get a commentary track from film historians Josephine Botting and Jonathan Rigby-  it certainly is fact-packed and interesting- the pair go from talking about Wolf Mankowitz, how he was paid twice the normal Hammer rate for his script, before going onto to talk about Mankowitz fascinating career in detail. They move on to talking about the film's costumes been designed by a French designer, which was most usually as the companies production normally used off the hook. They discuss the shooting schedule, and how it went two weeks over, as well as going over the normal expected costs for Hammer films- all told a great track.
On the featurette side we first off get Identity Crisis: Inside ĎThe Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll- this runs for eighteen minutes, it features genre experts and Hammer experts Alan Barnes, Kevin Lyons, and Jonathan Rigby- they discuss the films script and the fairly high fee Hammer paid for it, the decidedly uneven relationship between writer and director. The rather, unfortunately, beard make-up, and how Hammer tried to step away from their normal gothic fare with the film, and how at times the film becomes decidedly stagey.
Hammerís Women: Dawn Addam- runs for eleven minutes, and sees Laura Mayne discussing the female lead. Mauve Decadence- sees David Huckvale to discuss Monty Norman's score for the film; this also runs at the eleven-minute mark. The Many Faces of Dr. Jekyll- a seven-minute comparison between the cut and uncut version of the film.
Other extras take in Sam Hamm trailer commentary from 2013, Now and Then: Wolf Mankowitz- a 28-minute interview with the film's screenwriter from 1968. A ten minute 1967 audio-only interview with lead actor Paul Massie. We get the original trailer and an image gallery.

 

Moving onto the third disc inset we have 1961 Taste Of Fear(aka Scream Of Fear), and this steps away from the more classic gothic horror tropes for a 1960ís creepy thriller. It was directed by Seth Holt who also directed one of Hammer's classic thrillers The Nanny, with a screenplay by key Hammer figure Jimmy Sangster.
The film's plot finds wheelchair-bound Penny Appleby(Susan Strasberg) going to visit her father at his isolated house on the French coastline, after not see him for ten years. When she arrivals she finds her father is away on business, and sheís left in the hands of her seemingly caring & concerned Stepmother Jane(Ann Todd)- also at the house, or regularly popping up there are- charming chauffeur Robert(Ronald Lewis), and shifty French doctor Perrier Gerrand(Christopher Lee). Fairly soon Penny is seemingly seeing her fathers dead body around the house- but when others come to look, heís no longer there- so is she mad?, having a premonition?, or is something else going on?.
The film is set in moody black and white, and this nicely enhances the creepy mood and foreboding shadows of the coastal hilltop house. The whole plot nicely builds up in both itís feeling of mystery and uncertainty, with some generally eerier moments along the way. As youíd expect you get some neat twists & turns as the film goes along, and in all, itís a nicely captivating thriller with a fairly short Ďní shift runtime of one hour twenty-minute runtime. The small cast is all great, as is the films setting that moves from the dramatic rocks and crashing waves of the coastline, to the relatively modern & grand yet still creepy house. In all Taste Of Fear stands a great little 1960ís thriller, and certainly, stand in the top ten of Thrillers made by Hammer.
On the extras side, we get a commentary track from Kevin Lyons, editor of The Encyclopaedia of Fantastic Film and Television- here he gives a very fact & observation filled track- this moves from him discussing his first viewing of the film on ITV, and why itís gone onto become one of his favourite Hammer films. Moving onto discussing star and key crew bios in fascinating & interesting depth, before going onto discuss the effectiveness of the film as a thriller, the soundtrack and much more. This is certainly one of those tracks you could listen to more than once. Body Horror: Inside ĎTaste of Fearí- this runs for twenty-three minutes, and once again features the trio of Alan Barnes, Kevin Lyons, and Jonathan Rigby- they start by talking about this being the first of many suspense thrillers from Hammer, moving onto talk about the plots many twists & turns, each key cast member, how it was marketed in a similar way to Psycho, and how it went on to influence the companies later suspense thrillers- again itís a most worthy & interesting featurette.
Anxiety and Terror- this runs for twenty-five minutes and sees David Huckvale returning again- to begin he discusses the comparison between Taste Of Fear and 1955 French film Les Diaboliques, before going onto discuss how a re-watch gives you subtle clues about the plot twists. Then he, of course, goes onto talk about the films fairly minimal score and the moody use of sound effects.
Hammerís Women: Ann Todd- which is a twelve-minute profile of the films female lead by Melanie Williams
Fear Makers- a nine-minute interview with camera operator Desmond Davis and assistant sound editor John Crome discussing making the film. Also on this disc, we get archive audio interviews with the films director, writer, and cinematographer- these each run between just over an hour to nearing two.


The final film in the set is spread over two discs with its extras, and this is 1962ís The Damned(aka These Are The Damned)- which stands as one of the more original and distinctive films Hammer ever made- with its creative blend of sci-fi, creeping dread horror and punchy 1960ís drama. The films directed by creative journeyman- later art house auteur Joseph Losey, with a screenplay by Evan Jones based on a book H.L. Lawrence. The  film begins as it ends with dramatic shots of the barren shorelines of the UK- at first the film seems like itís a gritty drama- as we focus in on rough 'n' ready biker gang who roam the coastal town of Weymouth causing trouble and mugging people- the gang is lead up by the charismatic & violently unpredictable King- played by Oliver Reed in one of his best performances in a Hammer film. The gang mug middle-aged American-on -holiday Simon Wells (Macdonald Carey), but seemingly Joan (Shirley Ann Field) King's sister feels sorry for Simon and decides to run away from her controlling brother on his boat. Fairly soon both Simon & Joan find themselves washed ashore, climbing up the cliff they find a secret entranceway to a cave which leads to an underground compound where a group of cold skin & extremely clever children are been kept, in due course King also finds his way to the cave- and slowly but surely it revealed who or what the children are, and how they have great meaning to a post-nuke world that is been forecast by the civil service and armed forces leaders that are in charge of the top-secret bunker. The film is captured in brooding & moody black & white, with the story cleverly blending and blurring together the genres of sci-fi, subtle horror, and gritty/ punchy drama well- with touches of poignancy and thoughtfulness, as it moves towards its decidedly grim and doomed resolve.
Extras wise for this film we get a fair bit, the most of the boxset really- we get a commentary track from the always worthy Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan- here the pair start by talking about the genre-blending the film does, before moving onto discuss the way the film makes the seaside setting both bleak, barren and cruel. They talk about how the gang in the film would influence the likes of the Droogs in Kubrick's Clockwork Orange and other similar delinquent gangs. As we move on the pair discuss directors Losey work in general, and how the Hammer crew were rather perplexed by the more arty sides of the projects filming. Before moving to talk about the cuts BFFC cuts requested, and much more- all told an excellently researched, informative, and enjoyable track.
On the Brink: Inside ĎThe Damnedí Ė a twenty seven minute featurette featuring Alan Barnes, Kevin Lyons, Nick Riddle and Jonathan Rigby- this begins talking about the films origins and even bleaker book the films based on, before going onto discuss American director Joseph Losey who rather rubbed Hammer up the wrong way. We get discussion about the lead cast, the children, as well as the pictures mood fitting monochrome look- and apparently, it was filmed in high summer. All in all another very informative feature.
The Lonely Shore runs for twenty-one minutes and sees the return of David Huckvale- where he at first talks about the film score composer James Bernard's career in general before going onto discuss his score for the film.
Hammerís Women: Viveca Lindfors- a fifteen-minute profile of the films female lead by film historian Lindsay Hallam.
On top of this, we get six on-camera interviews/ critical appreciations of the film- these run between seven & twenty-six minutes. Over the two discs we get three versions of the film- the US and UK prints on disc one, and then one disc two the rare 82 minute cut of the film.


Without a doubt Powerhouse have really pulled out in the stops for this great boxset- really offering up genre fans literally hours upon hours of extra content- all making this not only one of the great boxset of 2019, but a highlight in the companies back catalogue of box sets. As with all of the Powerhouse's releases this region free boxset is Ltd, this time to 6000 copies worldwide- so I suggest acting sooner than later on this, and seeing what time of year it is this would make for a wonderful festive gift for the horror fan in your life.

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Roger Batty
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