Hammer Film Productions mid 20th century output is often personified with their campy, gaudy gothic horrors, decidedly British takes on the classic Universal characters of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy and more, frequently starring either or both of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in some of their more iconic roles. Indicator have been trying to buck this stereotype, however, by remastering and reissuing some of the lesser known films from the studio in lavish boutique boxed sets. Faces of Fear is the fourth of these releases and features a broad quadrilogy of films ranging from the traditional gothic style horror, to a psychological thriller and even a deeply philosophical science fiction.

The Revenge of Frankenstein

Director: Terence Fisher
Screenplay: Jimmy Sangster, Hurford Janes
Starring: Peter Cushing, Francis Matthews, Eunice Gayson, Michael Gwynn
Year: 1958
Duration: 90min
Country: UK
BBFC Certification: 12

Peter Cushing returns as the eponymous Doctor in Hammer’s second outing for Mary Shelly’s literary classic. After escaping the guillotine for his monster making crimes, Baron Frankenstein holes up in another town, taking on the name of simply Stein, masquerading as a surgeon while continuing his diabolical work in his quest to create life out of death.

Revenge of Frankenstein is classic Hammer horror camp, full of gaudy imagery, bright red blood and a scenery chewing Peter Cushing. While it offers a different take on the monster, this time focussing on a crippled man who willing gives his brain to science in exchange for a new, more powerful body, it’s meanderingly paced with an abrupt conclusion that feels more like a collection of ideas than a coherent whole.

It’s certainly an entertaining watch with Francis Matthews joining Cushing as a new assistant who soon realises he’s out of his depth, and a great turn from Michael Gwynn as the new body that quickly rejects its damaged brain. Eunice Gayson is a good presence as a local woman who takes a liking to the “creature” but is sadly underused. Not one of Hammer’s best, but not a bad film.

The 4K transfer on this set is, however, gorgeous and gives the sets and cinematography a chance to pop.

The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll

Director: Terence Fisher
Screenplay: Wolf Mankowitz
Starring: Paul Massie, Dawn Addams, Christopher Lee, David Kossoff
Year: 1960
Duration: 88min
Country: UK
BBFC Certification: 15

Paul Massie stars as the titular Doctor in the Hammer take on the classic tale. After discovering his wife is unfaithful, reclusive scientist Henry Jekyll consumes his own mind altering drug and becomes the charming but unhinged Mr Hyde whom immediately begins to plot revenge against both the man who contained his personality and the woman who has cheated him.

The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll is easily the weakest film in this box set and suffers from the crime of being terminally boring. The story creeps along at a snails pace with little material to work with and features the most bizarre performance from Paul Massie. His Jekyll is played under heavy and obvious prosthetics, affecting a deep and strange accent, while his Hyde is handsome, but with an odd, distant stare that seems to be attempting to capture a sense of aloofness but simply conveys an attitude of disinterest.

Elsewhere, Christopher Lee is as good value as always here as the devilishly caddish Paul Allen, the man with whom Jekyll’s wife is having an affair. Lee obviously relishes the opportunity to play the villain, but Allen, despite his faults, is also a somewhat sympathetic character, woefully in debt and certainly not as popular as he believes himself to be. Lee elevates the film to another level every time he’s on screen and is infinitely more watchable than the main character.

Ultimately this can’t save what is a painfully dull film with an obnoxiously mean spirited finale. Not the best adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde and certainly not the best film here.

Taste of Fear

Director: Seth Holt
Screenplay: Jimmy Sangster
Starring: Susan Strasberg, Ronald Lewis, Ann Todd, Christopher Lee
Year: 1961
Duration: 81min
Country: UK
BBFC Certification: 12

When wheelchair bound Penny returns to her father’s estate for the first time in ten years, following the traumatic suicide of her best friend, she finds her father away and the stepmother who she has never met keeping the house. When she begins to have visions of her father, dead, she questions if her trauma has affected her mind or if something more sinister is at work.

I’ll say up front that, hands down, Taste of Fear (or Scream of Fear to give its international title) is the best film in this collection and possibly the best Hammer production of the era I’ve seen. Playing out in the mold of a psychological thriller very much in the style of Hitchcock or Clouzot, the film is shot in a stark black and white, full of slow moving dolly shots as Penny moves through the eerie house that her father has seemingly abandoned, watchful of things in the shadows.

It has an intensely slow burning atmosphere that is kept moving thanks to the brisk 81 minute run time and features a brilliantly minimalist sound design and some superbly nuanced performances from the key players. Hammer stalwart Christopher Lee, who has little more than a cameo here as a psychologist, argued that this was his all time favourite Hammer film and it’s hard to disagree. The sinister tension builds to a devilish double twist and it’s a film that almost demands a rewatch. It’s rightfully the cover star of this box set.

The Damned

Director: Joseph Losey
Screenplay: Evan Jones
Starring: Macdonald Carey, Shirley Anne Field, Viveca Lindfors, Alexander Knox, Oliver Reed
Year: 1962
Duration: 87min
Country: UK
BBFC Certification: 12

When an American tourist holidaying in Weymouth begins an affair with the sister of a local gang leader they are pursued by the thugs, taking refuge in the bowels of a nearby military installation that houses a terrible secret hidden in a group of children.

The Damned is a curious film. A fine film, nonetheless, but most certainly curious. Part Brighton Rock, part Quatermass, its opening scenes shot on location around Weymouth seafront and nearby Portland set the scene for the stories pervading atmosphere of hopelessness and isolation. A tricky tale full of philosophising on the human condition, pertinent post WWII questions of nuclear superiority and a streak of desire for freedom from mundane normality, The Damned is initially a plodding film with seemingly disconnected ideas which only really shows its true hand in the last 15 minutes.

Despite pacing and narrative issues, however, it’s a compelling watch featuring a fabulous early performance from Oliver Reed and some fantastic black and white cinematography which is only let down by some incredibly duff compositing in one or two scenes. Visually it receives a 2K restoration here and looks all the better for it.

Bonus Features

THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN

  • New 4K restoration
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with film historians Marcus Hearn and Jonathan Rigby (2019)
  • Audio commentary with horror and fantasy authors Stephen Jones and Kim Newman (2019)
  • Back from the Dead: Inside ‘The Revenge of Frankenstein’ (2019, 22 mins): new and exclusive documentary, featuring Alan Barnes, Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby, exploring aspects of the film’s production
  • Hammer’s Women: Eunice Gayson (2019, 8 mins): profile of the Hammer star by film historian Pamela Hutchinson
  • A Frankenstein for the 20th Century (2019, 27 mins): video essay by film historian Kat Ellinger and Dima Ballin
  • Arpeggios of Melancholy (2019, 13 mins): appreciation of composer Leonard Salzedo’s score by David Huckvale, author of Hammer Film Scores and the Musical Avant-Garde
  • Outtakes reel (1958, 12 mins, mute): rare, unseen on-set footage
  • Super 8 version (8 mins, b&w, mute): cut-down home cinema presentation
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Joe Dante trailer commentary (2013, 2 mins): short critical appreciation
  • Image gallery: promotional and publicity materials
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Limited edition exclusive 36-page booklet with a new essay by Marcus Hearn, Kieran Foster on Hammer’s unrealised Tales of Frankenstein television series, Jimmy Sangster on The Revenge of Frankenstein, a selection of promotional materials, an overview of contemporary reviews, and film credits
  • UK premiere on Blu-ray

THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL

  • High Definition remaster
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with film historians Josephine Botting and Jonathan Rigby (2019)
  • Identity Crisis: Inside ‘The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll’ (2019, 19 mins): new and exclusive documentary, featuring Alan Barnes, Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby, exploring aspects of the film’s production
  • Hammer’s Women: Dawn Addams (2019, 11 mins): profile of the Hammer star by British cinema expert Laura Mayne
  • Interview with Paul Massie (1967, 10 mins): archival audio recording of the film’s star
  • Now and Then: Wolf Mankowitz (1968, 28 mins): archival interview featuring the screenwriter in conversation with broadcaster Bernard Braden
  • Mauve Decadence (2019, 11 mins): appreciation of composer Monty Norman’s score by David Huckvale, the author of Hammer Film Scores and the Musical Avant-Garde
  • The Many Faces of Dr. Jekyll (2019, 7 mins): an overview of the censorship history of The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Sam Hamm trailer commentary (2013, 3 mins): short critical appreciation
  • Image gallery: promotional and publicity materials
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Limited edition exclusive 36-page booklet with a new essay by Kat Ellinger, a selection of promotional materials, an overview of contemporary reviews, and film credits
  • UK premiere on Blu-ray 

TASTE OF FEAR

  • High Definition remaster
  • Original mono audio
  • Two presentations of the film: Taste of Fear, with the rarely seen original UK title sequence, and Scream of Fear, with the alternative US titles
  • New audio commentary with Kevin Lyons, editor of The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Film and Television
  • Body Horror: Inside ‘Taste of Fear’ (2019, 23 mins): new and exclusive documentary, featuring Alan Barnes, Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby, exploring aspects of the film’s production
  • Hammer’s Women: Ann Todd (2019, 12 mins): profile of the Taste of Fear actor by Melanie Williams, author of Female Stars of British Cinema: The Women in Question
  • The BFI Southbank Interview with Jimmy Sangster (2008, 68 mins): archival audio recording of the celebrated filmmaker and screenwriter in conversation with Marcus Hearn at London’s BFI Southbank
  • The BEHP Video Interview with Jimmy Sangster (2008, 117 mins): archival video recording, made as part of the British Entertainment History Project, featuring Sangster in conversation with Jonathan Rigby
  • The BEHP Interview with Douglas Slocombe, Part Two: From Hammer to Spielberg (1988, 82 mins): archival audio recording featuring the renowned cinematographer in conversation with Sidney Cole
  • Fear Makers (2019, 9 mins): camera operator Desmond Davis and assistant sound editor John Crome recall the making of the film
  • Anxiety and Terror (2019, 25 mins): appreciation of Clifton Parker’s score by David Huckvale, author of Hammer Films’ Psychological Thrillers, 1950–1972
  • Super 8 version of Scream of Fear (20 mins): original cut-down home cinema presentation
  • Original US Scream of Fear theatrical trailer
  • Sam Hamm trailer commentary (2013, 2 mins): short critical appreciation
  • Image gallery: promotional and publicity materials
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Limited edition exclusive 36-page booklet with an essay by Marcus Hearn, Jimmy Sangster on Taste of Fear, an archival on-set report, a selection of promotional materials, an overview of contemporary reviews, and film credits
  • UK premiere on Blu-ray

THE DAMNED

  • 2K restoration
  • Original mono audio
  • Alternative presentations of the complete 96-minute version, playable as either The Damned or These Are the Damned
  • Box-set exclusive presentation of the rarely seen original 87-minute UK theatrical cut of The Damned
  • Audio commentary with film historians Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan
  • On the Brink: Inside ‘The Damned’ (2019, 27 mins): new and exclusive documentary, featuring Alan Barnes, Kevin Lyons, Nick Riddle and Jonathan Rigby, exploring aspects of the film’s production
  • Hammer’s Women: Viveca Lindfors (2019, 15 mins): profile of the renowned actor by film historian Lindsay Hallam
  • Looking in the Right Place (2019, 10 mins): actor Shirley Anne Field recalls working with Oliver Reed and Joseph Losey
  • Children of ‘The Damned’ (2019, 24 mins): former child actors David Palmer, Kit Williams and Christopher Witty discuss their experiences of making The Damned
  • Something Out of Nothing (2019, 7 mins): screenwriter Evan Jones reflects on his first feature-film credit
  • Smoke Screen (2019, 12 mins): interview with camera operator Anthony Heller
  • Beneath the Surface (2019, 26 mins): interview with filmmaker Gavrik Losey, son of director Joseph Losey
  • Beyond Black Leather (2019, 15 mins): academic I Q Hunter discusses The Damned
  • No Future (2019, 26 mins): appreciation by author and film historian Neil Sinyard
  • The Lonely Shore (2019, 21 mins): appreciation of James Bernard’s score by David Huckvale, author of James Bernard, Composer to Count Dracula: A Critical Biography
  • Isolated music & effects track
  • Original US theatrical trailer
  • Joe Dante trailer commentary (2013, 4 mins): short critical appreciation
  • Image gallery: promotional and publicity materials
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Limited edition exclusive 36-page booklet with a new essay by Richard Combs, Joseph Losey on The Damned, a look at the US pressbook, an overview of contemporary reviews, and film credits
  • UK premiere on Blu-ray

As with their previous releases, Indicator have packed this box set with a lavish selection of bonus features to accompany each film. There are numerous featurettes and interviews both short and long, delving deep into the making of, mythos and legacy of each of the films present.

There are also four 36 page booklets included, one for each film, which are chock full of essays and archive materials for you to browse. We had a chance to look at these and they are wonderful.

Hammer Volume 4: Faces of Fear is a somewhat uneven set but it contains two fascinating films from the studios 60’s output, as well as a wealth of bonus material. For those with an interest in the studio it’s an essential purchase, but if you only have a passing interest it’s easy to recommend on the strength of Taste of Fear alone.

Hammer Volume 4: Faces of Fear
4.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)

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