Director: Jeff Herberger
Alpha Video

Although the studio had been around since the mid 1930s, briefly halting its production through World War II, it wasn't until 1955 and the release of THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT, released stateside as THE CREEPING UNKNOWN, that Hammer Film Productions hit its stride, discovering what would become its most profitable and memorable genre: horror. Aided by the classically trained Peter Cushing and the undeniable presence of Christopher Lee, Hammer Films found success in their resurrecting and updating of such classic monsters as Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy. Standing out from the crowd with its liberal doses of both gore and nudity, Hammer flourished throughout the 1960s and early 1970s with such memorable films as ONE MILLION YEARS B.C., FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB, COUNTESS DRACULA and THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH. Continuing its series of meditative documentaries on cult film trends and heavy hitters, The Fanex Files blends archival video interviews, behind-the-scenes photographs, quad posters and lobby cards with talking head commentators to present an expansive look back at the studio that dripped blood.

The first half of the documentary is spent on the life and careers of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and rightfully so as they would quickly become the most recognizable faces for the studio, starring in their most successful and memorable vehicles. While there are no interviews with Cushing included, numerous colleagues and friends are present to provide insight into his career and craft. Especially endearing are remarks by his friend and co-star, Christopher Lee, particularly his remembrance of their fondness for the old Warner Brothers cartoons. Lee even briefly provides a bit of comedic relief with a small taste of his impression of Sylvester the cat. The film makes its way through the series of Frankenstein films before turning its attention on Hammer's other icon of horror, Dracula, and its star Christopher Lee. Running down the series of Dracula pictures, the documentary makes only brief stops to highlight a handful of Christopher’s non-blood sucking roles such as Sir Henry in Terence Fishers THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES. The film features several entertaining clips of an extended interview with Lee as he reflects on both his accomplishments and his regrets, such as his displeasure with several of the Dracula sequels, which he felt strayed too far from the roots of Bram Stoker’s novel.

In comparison to the Fanex Files' previous outing, which covered the life and times of American International Pictures founder Samuel Z. Arkoff, their retrospective look at Hammer Films benefits greatly from a variety of interviews. Director Val Guest, composer James Bernard and writer/director Jimmy Sangster all get to throw in their two cents, revealing what it was like to work for and around producers James Carreras and Anthony Hinds. Sangster in particular is quite lively in his recollections of having to write a script for THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN solely based around a poster that had already convinced American distributors to invest in the project. The film also covers such other notable Hammer horrors as RASPUTIN: THE MAD MONK, THE DEVIL RIDES OUT and DOCTOR JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE, as well as actors Michael Ripper, Caroline Munro and Ingrid Pitt. If I had any complaint about this release it would be that too little time is spent with the ladies of Hammer Films, who are only briefly discussed towards the end, along with mentions of the Cave Girl series of pictures and rival Amicus Productions.

Midnight Marquee Productions and Longthrow Multimedia International look back on Hammer Films is presented full frame with varying degrees in picture quality, due to its editing together of both archived and cotemporary interviews. Interviews with Val Guest and Jimmy Sangster fair far worse than those with Ingrid Pitt, as they appear to be older or at the very least, filmed with a much older video camera. Audio is likewise erratic with many interviewees, including Christopher Lee, difficult to understand without cranking up the volume. Of course it also doesn’t help that Mr. Lee holds the microphone so close to his mouth that most of his words get jumbled as they make their way through the speakers. It should be noted that the screener provided only contained the feature itself and makes no mention of any additional features which may be present upon its official release. However, their previous release, highlighting the films of AIP and producer Samuel Z. Arkoff, included no extras save for a screen selection menu. (Jason McElreath)

NOTE: This DVD is coming soon from Alpha Video, but there is no specific street date at this time. Please keep checking their WEBSITE for more information.