Hammer House of Horror Blu-ray Review
Written by Joel Harley
Blu-ray released by Network Releasing
Directed by Don Sharp
Written by David Fisher
1980, 702 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Blu-ray released on 23rd October 2017
Ray Lonnen as Michael Roberts
Rosalyn Landor as Allison
John Carson as Charles Randolph
Paul Darrow as Andrews
Caroline Langrishe as Tina
Sophie Thompson as 1st Girl
Almost thirty years before it became the trendy thing to do, the tie-in TV series of a popular horror brand. Hammer House of Horror makes more sense than most though, being an anthology series which brought Hammer to the small screen in 51 minute chunks, like mini (slightly) less star-studded movies.
Frankenstein, Dracula and the big horror icons remain firmly in their corner, the TV series being smaller affairs, less cinematic but equally atmospheric in places. Indeed, Hammer House of Horror is surprisingly gory and lurid for an 80s TV series (especially for the relatively stringent standards of ITV, where it originally aired in 1980). It’s unexpectedly steamy too, especially in the voodoo-hex episode Charlie Boy, which is just as concerned with its lovers’ rutting as it is the central murder mystery. Those who figured 80s Brit TV for a stilted, chaste affair may be frequently shocked by the concoction of sex and gore presented here. While it’s certainly tame when compared to the likes of American Horror Story or Hannibal (to name but two), it plays like a far steamier version of Tales of the Unexpected or The Twilight Zone. The Hammer brand is in no way diminished by the move to TV.
As with most anthology series, the bag is a mixed one, but there should be something for most tastes. Its breakout classics are The Silent Scream and The House that Bled to Death; the former of which stars the mighty Peter Cushing, the latter having featured as one of Channel 4’s ‘100 Scariest Moments’ of TV and cinema. The rest stand up reasonably well too, although some are inevitably sillier than others. Of the lesser episodes, the aforementioned Charlie Boy is one of the most fun, and Carpathian Eagle tells a fine (if predictable) serial killer story, with an appearance from one baby-faced, tracksuit wearing Pierce Brosnan. Age may have diminished most of the stories’ twist endings through repetition and imitation, but they remain worthy for the authentic Hammer style in which they are presented.
All thirteen episodes are presented here across three discs, beautifully restored for our time. Those who have only ever experienced the series on DVD or television will find experiencing the episodes all over again a revelation: Network have done an incredible job with the HD transfer. Likewise, new fans – or at least, those who aren’t snootily above old TV and movies – have a great treat in store for them, both in terms of story and presentation. There’s never been a better time for a visit to the Hammer House of Horror.
Video and Audio:
Those who have only ever experienced the series on TV or DVD will find this Blu-ray upgrade well worth their time. Having been given the proper HD treatment, this is an astonishingly crisp transfer, with the colours practically bleeding from the screen. It looks better than most modern TV series. The theme tune has never sounded better either.
Special features include a widescreen version of the episode Guardians of the Abyss (restoring the extra frame missing from its original aspect ratio), alternate, unedited takes from Rude Awakening’s opening montage, an image gallery and the series’ original commercial break stings. Although the Blu-ray includes some PDF extras – behind the scenes photographs and promotional material – those hoping for commentary or documentary will come away wanting.