Hammer Films: The Ultimate Collection 20 Film Set – Mill Creek Blu-ray Review
Mill Creek’s Hammer Films: The Ultimate Collection is a majestic and outstanding release that collects 20 feature films from the Hammer film library, and while I only watched and reviewed 18 of the films, this 10-disc set is one of the best releases in years.
The Gorgon (1964) Plot:
In the early twentieth century, a Gorgon takes human form and terrorizes a small European village by turning its citizens to stone.
An abandoned castle on a windy hill through the woods is apparently home to the last remaining Greek creature known as a Gorgon, a female creature cursed by the gods, so much so that whomever gazes into her eyes is turned to stone. Stone statues of men adorn the periphery of the abode, and everyone in the village below has known well enough to stay away, but when two young lovers venture out too close to the castle, something horrible happens: the woman is turned to stone, and the man staggers back home, afflicted by what seems to be a disease. He dies, petrified in stone. The police assume that the man murdered his girlfriend and committed suicide or some such thing, but the man’s father, who comes to oversee a trial after the fact, disagrees. He begins to investigate, and he visits the town doctor, a studious and tight-lipped surgeon named Namaroff (Peter Cushing), who seems to know something that he’s not sharing. As the man continues to investigate, he comes to suspect that a rumor going around about a long-lost Gorgon called Megaera is still alive and living at the castle through the woods, and when he too becomes afflicted by the flesh-petrifying disease and dies, Namaroff finds himself at the center of a conflict after a roguish professor named Karl Meister (Christopher Lee) butts his nose into the goings-on in the village. Meister realizes that Namaroff is protecting his pretty assistant Carla Hoffman (Barbara Shelley) from a terrible secret that could turn catastrophic if not dealt with soon.
Expertly directed by Terence Fisher, The Gorgon is a great gothic romantic thriller with some supernatural business in the way of Greek fantasy. It’s got a fantastic atmosphere, which is par for the course for anything Hammer was doing at the time, and while Cushing takes the conflicted lead, Lee takes the supporting heroic role. The creature effects are minimal, but effective.
Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) Plot:
While King Richard is away at the Crusades, some Nottingham nobles and their Sheriff plot to confiscate estates of fallen Crusaders but Robin Hood and Maid Marian foil their plan.
Richard Greene, who played Robin Hood on TV for 144 episodes returns to play the hero again for Hammer. Filmed in Ireland, Sword of Sherwood Forest focuses on Robin’s brief adventure as he goes undercover as an enforcer and paid assassin to a team of thugs who are planning to assassinate the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Sheriff of Nottingham (Peter Cushing) thinks he can outsmart Robin and his band of merry men living in Sherwood as outlaws, and even as he offers pardons, he kills anyone who takes his “deal.” Maid Marian (Sarah Branch) tries her best to assist Robin, but the evil Sheriff and his legion soldiers really do a number on Robin’s mojo.
Nice looking and well cast, Sword of Sherwood Forest has some convincing looking archery, but Greene has to be the slowest, least coordinated Robin Hood I’ve ever seen on film. It takes him awhile to draw each arrow, and his swordsmanship needed some work. For the guy who played the character more than any other actor, he was ironically the one actor who looked the least comfortable in the role. Oliver Reed has a great few scenes as a despicable tough guy whose prized falcon is shot down by Robin Hood in an amusing scene. Directed by Terence Fisher. Hammer did two other Robin Hood movies: Men of Sherwood Forest and A Challenge for Robin Hood.
The Snorkel (1958) Plot:
A perfect murder gets a once-over by a teenaged girl who gets herself into trouble when she solves the murder of her mother.
Paul Decker (Peter van Eyck) murders his wife in a clever, virtually foolproof way: He drugs her, seals all windows, doors, and nooks and crannies of a room, locks it from the inside, and gases the room, but uses a snorkel attached to a house in a secret trap door under the carpet (with tubes that filter in fresh air from outside in the crawlspace), and hides in the space under the carpet until his wife’s body is discovered by a maid almost a day later. It’s irrefutable that the death of his wife is suicide. Paul emerges from the crawlspace a day later, and has an alibi and even a stamped passport saying he was in another country (granted, he’s walking distance from France), but none of this matters because his stepdaughter Candy (Mandy Miller) is onto him. She already swears that he killed her father, and so when her mother dies of “suicide,” she swears that she will discover how he “did it,” despite the fact that police insist that it’s an open and shut case. But how did he do it? As Candy persists in her quest to figure out how her stepdad killed her mom, Paul begins to realize that the only way to stop her from getting closer to solving the mystery is to murder her too. But that’s easier said than done, as Candy proves herself to be a surprisingly formidable adversary for Paul, who is a cold-blooded killer.
An unusual murder mystery with a gimmick that works, The Snorkel might even work in today’s market. What’s so striking about it is that we know right away who the killer is, but for 1958 this must have been a staggeringly chilling film to watch as van Eyck portrays such an evil killer who doesn’t hesitate to kill a little girl’s mother, her dog, and the girl herself when he believes his secret will be discovered. He truly is one of the most heartless and scary villains in a mystery of this type that I’ve ever seen, especially from that era. Guy Green directs with a deft hand, and this is something that Hitchcock would’ve been proud of.
Maniac (1963) Plot:
An American painter ends up in a little French village where he falls in love first with a beautiful young barmaid, but ends up entangled in lust with her mother, who drags him into springing her husband out of prison.
A young French maid (played by Liliane Brousse) is raped by a passing man in her village, and her father catches her rapist and tortures him to death and goes to prison for the killing. Years later, an American artist named Jeff (played by former Sinbad actor Kerwin Matthews) winds up in the same village and having nowhere to go or nothing to do, he finds himself at a dive bar where he is immediately attracted to the bar maid, Annette (Brousse). Instead of heeding her mother Eve’s (Nadia Gray) advice to stay away from the American, Annette and Jeff begin to fall in love over the next few days, but Eve steps in and draws Jeff to her using her worldly experience and charm. Jeff falls hook, line, and sinker into Eve’s embrace, and before long he becomes a pawn in her plan to use him to help her spring her incarcerated husband and his cellmate out of prison. When he goes for the trap, he finally realizes that Eve and her husband (and the cellmate) are just using him, but it might be too late, as one of the two escaped prisoners is a maniac, who will torture him to death to cover up the prison break. Annette might be the only hope Jeff has of pulling through his unfortunate predicament, but Annette will also have to deal with her conniving and domineering mother.
From director Michael Carreras, the inappropriately titled Maniac feels very much like a film noir with sultry romance, murder, and implied grisly torture and murder right out of a Hostel movie. The killer uses a blowtorch to melt his victim’s faces off, which must have been a real eye-opener back in ’63. Matthews made a good hapless hero, and there’s enough sex and violence to keep even the most jaded viewer interested, but it’s all implied, and never shown, which works just as well or even better than the real thing.
A typical “Christians are fanatical wackos” horror movie with a grating performance by veteran actress Bankhead who came from silent films, Die! Die! My Darling doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it is has a sense of claustrophobia and frustration thanks to its simple setup and execution. It’s an inherently sad story, and even though there is some redemption by the end, there’s no real satisfaction in how it all plays out. Some stylish coloring from director Silvio Narizzano and a somewhat uninspired script by Richard Matheson make this one a mixed bag.
The Terror of the Tongs (1961) Plot:
A British sea captain goes up against the Tongs in Hong Kong after they kill his daughter.
A ruthless crime syndicate that openly operates in Hong Kong in 1910 meets its match when a rough British sea captain named Jackson Sale (Geoffrey Toone) finds himself at the center of a Tong attack for apparently no reason. His beautiful teenaged daughter is brutally murdered by the Tongs (who are known for chopping off people’s fingers just to make a statement), leading Sale on a quest for vengeance that rocks the waves of not just the Tongs, but the corrupt police department as well. When Sale actually seems to be making some headway to the top of the Tong food chain (Christopher Lee plays the Chinese Tong boss), he gains an ally in the form of a disfigured man who leads an underground resistance group whose sole purpose in life is to fight the Tongs to the bitter end.
A somewhat shocking and brutally violent action film, The Terror of the Tongs has enough bloody stabbings, finger hacking, point blank shooting, and fistfights to fill a Liam Neeson action film. For a movie that’s only 77 minutes long, this one packs a doozy of a punch, thanks to no-holds-barred killings (the first scene has a shocking finger hacking, and then a few minutes later a pretty blonde girl is stabbed to death in her own bedroom) and a sense of ruthless, relentless vengeance that frames the plot. One of Hammer’s better action films, this one was directed by Anthony Bushell.
The Stranglers of Bombay (1959) Plot:
In the 1800’s, the British East India Company grapples with how to deal with a secret death cult that strangles thousands of victims every year as sacrifices to Kali.
A secret death cult in Bombay has existed for hundreds of years in service of their god Kali, and their members stretch into every station in society, even reaching into the British Royal Navy. A captain stationed in Bombay with the East India Company is the first to catch on to the irregularities with which people disappear, and not just one or two, but thousands every year. The captain (played by Guy Rolfe) insists that there must be some kind of cult operating out of the area, but none of his superior officers believe him, and so after he ruffles some feathers and uncovers a critical clue, his family is targeted for harassment and death. After he’s captured by the cult (think Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which this movie seems to have inspired), he is released after the goddess Kali intervenes on his behalf, but this gives him all the proof he needs to pursue the matter to the ends of the earth, if needs be. As entire battalions are wiped out by the cult, leaving no trace, only the captain can set about proving his case and stopping the cult once and for all.
Inherently thrilling and shockingly violent, particularly for something made in ’59, The Stranglers of Bombay is a true horror adventure, with excruciating intensity, thanks to superb direction by Terence Fisher. The movie is genuinely scary and is most certainly a template for the second Indiana Jones film. The gore and implied violence is incredibly disturbing (this was filmed in black and white most likely to avoid showing gushing crimson blood), and the death cult makes for a great set of evil villains. I loved every minute of it.
The Pirates of Blood River (1962) Plot:
Ruthless pirates invade an island with a prisoner they rescued from a penal colony, but when they invade the island they’re banking on finding treasure in the settlement, where their rescued prisoner used to live before being exiled.
Resettled Huguenots from France have taken over a small island and have transformed it into a Calvanist reformed area where their strict approach to their faith almost seems Puritanical. The leader of the group is shocked to find that his son, a strapping young man named Jonathan (Kerwin Matthews from The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad) is having an adulterous affair with another man’s wife. As punishment, the group exiles Jonathan for 15 years to a nearby penal colony where he’s all but thrown in the garbage as he’s put to work with hard, unforgiving labor in extreme conditions. He’s tortured and starved, and by pure luck Jonathan manages to escape in a mad dash for survival in the tropics, where he’s rescued by a passing band of cutthroat pirates, led by a ruthless captain (played by Christopher Lee). They see in him an opportunity to use as a guide back to his home settlement where they believe a great treasure is being kept hidden. When he leads them to his people, Jonathan breaks free and tries to help those who once forsook him against the pirate invaders, but it will be a bloody battle before either side has declared a victory.
Hammer’s attempt at a pirate adventure is surprisingly robust and bawdy, with deadly piranha attacks (the first victim is a beautiful woman!), sword duels to the death, fire and brimstone preaching, and an adulterous hero making good. Matthews made a fine hero, while Lee is the perfect villain. Oliver Reed plays one of the pirates, but isn’t given a whole lot to do. John Gilling directed this, and it’s a solid dramatic adventure.
Creatures the World Forgot (1970) Plot:
Generations of a tribe of cave people, as seen through the point of view of its leaders, struggle to survive in periods of growth and warfare.
A volcanic eruption decimates a tribe of prehistoric cave people. Shortly thereafter the rites to leadership are called into the fore, and a new leader stands taller after killing his opponent. This man (played by Brian O’Shaughnessy) carries forth into the untamed wilderness with his tribe in tow. At his side is The Old Crone (Rosalie Crutchley), a witch who helps him decide and direct in important matters like choosing a path or adapting to an environment or not. When the tribe runs into a fair-haired tribe, they intermingle and mix, and move on, and the leader’s mate bears him twin sons – a fair child and a dark-haired boy – and we see the father teaching his sons the ways of the world: how to hunt, how to survive, how to thrive. The Dark son grows up (to be played by Robin John) to be hateful towards his brother, who is the tribe’s favorite to succeed leadership, and the Fair son (to be played by Tony Bonner) gets all the hot women, including the new witch-in-training (played by Marcia Fox) and a new inductee to the tribe – The Girl (played by Julie Ege) – who joins the tribe after The Fair son kills her mate in a battle. It all comes down to the day when The Father is killed by a horned animal; who will be the next leader?
If I’d seen Creatures the World Forgot as a youngster, it would’ve likely changed my life in the same way that The Beastmaster and Sheena had. It’s a strange, somewhat haunting and weird caveman movie with weird horror elements and a bizarre tone that hovers only just this side of an unforgettable dream or nightmare. There’s no dialogue whatsoever to the film (just grunting), but there’s really no need for it. Just like in the following decade’s classic Quest For Fire, it doesn’t depend on conventional storytelling to tell its tale. The plot is simple, and the vistas on screen (it was shot in Namibia and South Africa) are authentic and awesome. This is likely one of the most definitive caveman movies ever made. It’s got lots of shots of brief nudity (not complaining here), and the violence is harsh and fairly graphic. From director Don Chaffey (Jason and the Argonauts) and writer Michael Carreras.
Yesterday’s Enemy (1959) Plot:
A British brigade takes control of a Burmese village and discovers a plan by the Japanese during World War II, but when the tables are turned, the British are at the mercy of the Japanese.
A small British brigade – including a journalist and a priest – take control of a tony village in Burma during World War II: It’s not an easy fight, but they kill the Japanese soldiers there and discover a crucial plan that the Japanese have to attack the British in two weeks. To completely understand the plans, the British captain (played by Stanley Baker) fully understands and accepts that he must commit war crimes against the Burmese people, which doesn’t settle well with his men. Soon after, the Japanese cunningly invade the village and entire area and get the drop on the British soldiers who are too late to figure out what’s happening, and just like that – the Japanese have killed most of the British, leaving only a handful to use as pawns in a similar way that the British did to the Burmese people, proving that both sides are virtually identical in their war ethics.
A brutal and chilling war film that can leave you feeling depressed if you don’t have the stomach for bleak endings, Yesterday’s Enemy is anything but fun or entertaining, but it’s a very well made movie from director Val Guest. I can only imagine what audiences thought of it back in ’59: It’s completely unflattering to Britain and to war in general, and there’s nothing here that glorifies anything relating to war.
Cash on Demand (1961) Plot:
A cunning thief walks into a bank and convinces the manager that his family is being held hostage and demands that he empty the vault or else his family will be killed.
Two days before Christmas, a bank opens its doors first thing in the morning, and the strict, unpleasant bank manager Harry Fordyce (Peter Cushing) makes all of the employees – especially his direct subordinate Pearson (Richard Vernon) – uncomfortable with petty accusations of embezzlement and untidiness around the office. In walks the first customer of the day, a put together man who calls himself Colonel Gore Hepburn (Andre Morell), who instantly convinces Fordyce and Pearson that he’s with the general office and is performing a systematic check-up of the bank branch. He proceeds to utterly convince Fordyce that men are at his home and are holding his wife and son hostage upon threat of death, and that if Fordyce does not help him unlock the bank vault and empty its entire contents immediately, that his family will be killed. In short order, Fordyce has compromised everything in his willpower as a bank manager to forfeit the bank’s fortune into the other man’s possession, but when Pearson calls the police (as he should have), everything turns upside down when Fordyce realizes he’s been had.
A pretty standard heist drama that puts Peter Cushing through the ringer – he gets slapped around, humiliated, and dehumanized – Cash on Demand isn’t exactly pleasant Christmastime viewing, but it works for what it is. It feels like an episode of The Twilight Zone, in a way. It’s basically a morality play. The entire movie is set in the bank, and it becomes a little tiresome by the end. From director Quentin Lawrence.
Scream of Fear (1961) Plot:
A wheelchair-bound woman comes home after the death of her father, but nothing is as it should be when her father’s corpse keeps showing up, scaring the wits out of her.
After learning of her wealthy father’s death, wheelchair-bound Penny Appleby (Susan Strasberg) returns home to deal with her late father’s affairs along with her stepmother (played by Ann Todd) and a sinister family friend (played by Christopher Lee). Penny is already unsettled enough as it is with dealing with her father’s death, and so when the old man’s corpse keeps showing up in the night (sitting on a chair in her room in the dark, floating in a pool, etc.), but somehow disappearing as soon as she screams for help, she is at her wit’s end and on the verge of insanity. Luckily, she has a little romantic interest in another family friend (played by Ronald Lewis) who not only consoles her but feeds into her loneliness and sadness with his company and attention. But what’s her dad’s corpse doing showing up all the time? Is she going crazy? Is there a plot to make her seem crazy so she can’t inherit her father’s estate? Or is something else going on?
A genuinely surprising shocker of a mystery, Scream of Fear works really well if you’re not expecting it to pull a few fast ones on you, and Strasberg makes a fine leading lady in the film, particularly as she’s required to be bound to a wheelchair for virtually all of her scenes. Lee adds some nice menace in a small supporting role, and the movie has a real strong humdinger of an ending. From director Seth Holt.
Never Take Candy From a Stranger (1960) Plot:
A new family moves into an idyllic Canadian town to start a new life, but when their young daughter wanders into a wealthy old man’s house on an innocent pretense, her parents are shocked to learn that the old man asked their daughter – and another little girl – to dance naked for him … and that both girls complied, which leads to a messy trial in the town that has rallied around the old man to protect him.
Peter Carter (Patrick Allen) moves his family from England to Canada to begin a new life together after he’s offered a job as the new high school principal in a town that has a generational lifeblood embedded in every aspect of the township, thanks to the Olderberry family, which runs virtually all the businesses in town, including law and order. Peter’s young daughter Jean is out playing with another little girl in the neighborhood when the other girl invites Jean to the Olderberry mansion to have some candy, which results in the two girls being asked to take off all their clothes to dance naked in front of the Olderberry patriarch Clarence (Felix Aylmer), an old creep who gets off on asking little girls to do such things. Jean comes home and tells her parents what happened (not realizing that it was wrong or bad), which forces Peter to get the police involved. What he doesn’t realize at first is that the police protect the Olderberry family – and have for generations – because the Olderberry family basically built the town from the ground up. Peter and his family have no idea that they’ve kicked the hornet’s nest by reporting the incident involving their innocent daughter, and in the blink of an eye they are at the center of a trial that will put them – and their daughter – through the wringer in the public’s opinion. But if they don’t go through the grueling process of the trial and see it to the end, the old creep might repeat the crime … or do worse to someone else’s child.
A cautionary tale that really goes to uncomfortable places, Never Take Candy From a Stranger is surprisingly confrontational and gritty for a film made in 1960. Hammer’s treatment of front-page news stories really does have a ring of authenticity to it, despite the opening text of the film proclaiming that this is not based on fact … but that it could be. The performances are all uniformly solid and strong, and the weirdness and taboo nature of the plot might even go a little too far, but it has to in order to make its point. Directed by Cyril Frankel.
The Camp on Blood Island (1957) Plot:
POWs in Japan realize that the Japanese will kill them all if Japan surrenders. When Japan surrenders, the POWs get desperate to escape or fight back before the soldiers at the concentration camp realize the war is over.
At the tail end of World War II, there are two concentration camps in Japan full of POWs – one camp full of British soldiers and westerners, and another camp full of their wives and other foreign women culled from Asia – and for three long, hard years the occupants of the camps have endured unimaginable degradations, torture, malnutrition, and the slow, agonizing death of their comrades, with little to no hope left to any of them. When the British captives realize that Japan has surrendered and that the war is over before their cruel and sadistic captors realize it, they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Japanese will slaughter them all out of spite – including the nearby camp full of women (and a little boy) – they formulate a desperate plan to fight back and escape, even though it will most certainly mean that many of them will be killed in the attempt.
From director Val Guest, The Camp of Blood Island begins with a shocking scene of a malnourish British soldier digging his own grave and then a Japanese gunner plowing him full of bullets, so the tone is set right away for what kind of movie this is going to be. It’s incredibly realistic and chilling, and for a film made in ’57, it still packs an indelible punch. There’s never a false moment in the movie, and the film takes extra special care in detailing even the most cruel and heartless treatments from the Japanese to the POWs. Graphic, violent, and powerful at only 80 minutes, the movie will most certainly stay with you for a long time afterwards.
Stop Me Before I Kill! (1960) Plot:
After a racecar driver gets in a bad car accident, his head injury changes his personality to the point of being homicidal, which puts his marriage at risk.
On the day of their marriage, racecar drive Alan Colby (Ronald Lewis) and Denise (Diane Cilento) get into a terrible car crash, and the accident causes Alan’s entire personality to alter to the point of a hair trigger temper and homicidal tendencies with his wife. To try to escape the mounting stress on their marriage, they travel to France for some fun, but Alan brings his temper and his bizarre inclination to strangle Denise with them. Denise is remarkably patient and understanding with him, and when they meet a French psychiatrist (played by Claude Dauphin) who says he can help Alan work through his predicament, Alan sees the doctor as a threat to their marriage, while Denise becomes desperate for help the more violent and angry Alan becomes. When their vacation is over, Denise begins seeing the doctor privately, which further enrages Alan, who doesn’t quite understand that Denise is just trying to rescue their marriage, and so Alan reluctantly agrees on his own private sessions with the psychiatrist, who slowly begins working on his inner psyche to try to cure him of his unusual personality disorder and homicidal tendencies. But what neither of them realize is that the doctor has his own plans with this couple that have nothing whatsoever to do with curing Alan, but to mastermind a carefully thought-of plan to have Denise for himself …
Slightly overlong at nearly two full hours, Stop Me Before I Kill! relies heavily on trying to like and accept the main character as the hero, but that’s tough as he’s a jerk who continues trying to murder his innocent wife, who loves him unconditionally. It’s a weird process in getting on board with that plot device, but the movie also works as a bit of a mystery / thriller when you come to understand that the movie is trying to seduce you into feeling comfortable with the plot it casually lays before you, only to reveal a twist ending. On that front, this is a solid Hammer drama with a dark side, and as directed by Val Guest, the movie works on several different dimensions.
The Old Dark House (1963) Plot:
A fuddy duddy American car salesman ends up staying the night at a creepy old mansion full of weirdoes in England.
Through a series of events, a clumsy nerd of a car salesman named Tom (Tom Poston) ends up stopping at a remote old English mansion at night, and finds himself welcomed with open arms by the strange inhabitants – the Femm family – of the mansion, one of whom is a remarkably lovely and incredibly sweet blonde young woman (played by Janette Scott). Tom is smitten, but the Femm clan is basically the Addams family or one of those wacky midnight mansion weirdoes from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Over the course of the night, Tom finds that he cannot escape the old dark house no matter how hard he tries, and he also quickly comes to understand that everyone in the house except him is completely crazy and out of their minds and want to keep him as part of their menagerie.
From gimmicky director William Castle and Hammer, The Old Dark House somewhat resembles an old Abbott and Costello horror movie, but it’s an odd and uninspired mix of spoof and creepy. It might have made an audience laugh then, but now it feels antiquated and limp. The film was shot in color, but was shown in black and white, but this film collection presents the movie in color.
The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964) Plot:
Archeologists unearth an Egyptian prince’s sarcophagus and bring it to London, leading to disastrous results when the mummy is revived and begins killing those who brought it back from its slumber.
In 1900, a small team of archeologists in Egypt unearths a sarcophagus, and the benefactor of the dig – a businessman named Alexander King (Fred Clark) – immediately sees the potential to exhibit the artifact in a traveling show all over the world, with the intention to make a fortune from the find. This upsets the locals who helped with the dig, but it doesn’t stop King from putting the mummy on a ship to London. Team leaders John (Ronald Howard) and Annette (Jeanne Roland) don’t necessarily agree with King’s proposal, but they go along with it anyway, and on their voyage home the team is attacked by Egyptians who consider their endeavors sacrilegious. To their rescue is a mysterious man named Adam (Terence Morgan) who seems to have an ulterior motive. Turns out Adam is an immortal prince – and brother to the prince who was mummified – and when he gets involved, the mummy is revived in London and begins killing those who awakened it from its slumber.
A not-too-shabby mummy film that might’ve spiced up the film a bit with more mummy attacks, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb has a nice supernatural angle that works, but the ending is a little pat and too on-the-nose convenient. It almost feels like they made up the ending on the spot. At only 81 minutes, the movie still feels full, and depending on your taste for mummy movies, this one is more than adequate. From director Michael Carreras.
These Are the Damned (1962) Plot:
A motorcycle gang in England accidentally find themselves involved in a doomsday plot when they discover a secret lab run by the government.
On holiday, an American tourist with a small yacht meets a troublesome, but beautiful young woman, who leads him into a trap to be mugged by her motorcycle gang, led be her intense brother. The tourist, named Simon (Macdonald Carey) wakes up, stunned, for being beaten and robbed, but he carries on. Later on, the young woman, named Joan (Shirley Ann Field) tries again with Simon, only this time she’s sincere and wants to run away from her life, and while on Simon’s boat, they’re chased by her vindictive brother King (Oliver Reed) who acts as though he’d murder an entire army to retrieve his sister and continue controlling her every move. Fleeing King, Simon and Joan end up washed ashore beneath a cliff where they stumble upon a small laboratory full of strange children who seem almost otherworldly and innocent, completely clueless to the world outside. The children have been living in a locked down facility run by the government, and have been a part of an intensive experiment that is preparing them for the nuclear holocaust, but when Simon and Joan (and later King) arrive, it puts the lives of everyone – including the children – at great risk of death. As the children appeal to the adults to help save them from captivity, the adults (even King) feel responsible for the safety of the these kids, but saving them could also risk great peril for the world outside, as the children are highly toxic with radiation.
Radically unique and unpredictable, These Are the Damned is a devastating apocalyptic thriller that makes quite a statement. It’s quite unlike any other movie ever made, and while it seems like one kind of movie, it ends up being something completely different and unexpected. It’s incredibly bleak, but it really does pack an incredible punch. It’s like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone, but so much harsher. Joseph Losey directed it.
Mill Creek’s Hammer Films: The Ultimate Collection is a majestic and outstanding release that collects 20 feature films from the Hammer film library, and while I only watched and reviewed 18 of the films, this 10-disc set is one of the best releases in years. The films are all wonderfully presented in high definition (easily the best Mill Creek release so far), and there are six new audio commentaries, plus newly produced featurettes, including “Hammer at Columbia Pictures,” “The Actors of hammer,” and two retrospectives. High marks all around.