Scream Factory continue their descent into the Hammer Horror Vaults
We’ve been praising Shout!/Scream Factory for a few months now with their efforts to bring unseen gems from the Hammer Horror vaults to home video. The legendary British studio, best known for their collaborations with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, while prolific in their output, saw many titles never reaching these shores or being inaccessible for a long period of time. This week, Hammer love expands with Shout! Factory delivering a double bill of terror, each backed up by some fine extra features.
Lust for a Vampire (1971)
A mysterious man performs the rites of black magic … bringing the notorious female vampire Carmilla Karnstein back to life. Looking to quench her bloodlust for the fairer sex, she enrolls at an exclusive girl’s school as the young debutante Mircalla (Yutte Stensgaard), and begins to feast on her fellow students as well as indulging in her unholy desires for a teacher … With the death toll mounting at both the school and the nearby village, can anyone stop Carmilla’s evil ways?
The film takes place at a girls’ finishing school with all the pupils played by women twice the age they should be — to make the sensual content more acceptable, no doubt. A new student happens to be the last remnant of the Karstein vampire bloodline, Carmilla (Yutte Stensgaard). Assuming the name Mircalla, and accompanied by her mother Countess Herritzen, she joins the girls in their studies (to hide? to bide her time? to learn manners?), embarks on a love tryst with teachers Richard Lestrange (Michael Johnson) and Janet Playfair (Susanna Leigh), and uncovers the complicated motives of headmaster Giles (Ralph Bates), who has knowledge of the legend and prophecy of the Karnsteins, all while the local villagers grow increasingly fearful of the return of the bloodsuckers of legend when the drained bodies start to pile up.
It’s a film that takes all the vampire horror tropes you’ve seen and throws them together. There’s a Gothic atmosphere with a hint of campiness and a fine flourish from some gory special effects, with overall production values impressing, as you’d expect from Hammer. While solid, there is a sense that there is little to really set the film apart from others of its ilk. You get the sense that a spark or key performance is needed to really shake things up and make things a little more memorable.
The Gothic majesty of a Hammer production is on full display in Lust for a Vampire, and it is shown up well in this new 4K restoration. Detail impresses, as does color; grain is on the heavier side but it feels appropriate to the title. Two alternate aspect ratios are also available to watch. Extra features are top notch, continuing Shout! Factory’s support of these releases:
- NEW Audio Commentary by Author/Film Historian Bruce Hallenbeck
- Audio Commentary by Director Jimmy Sangster, Star Suzanna Leigh, and Hammer Films Historian Marcus Hearn: Sangster and Leigh give insight to the on set activities, while also playfully ribbing the film itself.
- NEW Interview With Actress Mel Churcher: The actor largely discusses two key scenes from the film, but also shares her memories on set, relationships with the cast and crew, as well as her relationship with director Ralph Bates.
- Theatrical Trailer
- Radio Spots
- Still Galleries
The Reptile (1966)
A deadly epidemic is spreading through the remote Cornish village of Clagmoor Heath. As darkness falls, its victims are found foaming at the mouth with savage wounds on their necks. After his brother falls prey to the “black death,” Harry Spalding (Ray Barrett, Terror From Under The House) travels with his new wife (Jennifer Daniel, The Kiss Of The Vampire) to Clagmoor to investigate his sibling’s mysterious death. With little help from the unfriendly locals, Harry follows a trail of clues that leads him to the sinister Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman, The Vengeance Of She), the doctor’s strange, but beautiful daughter (Jacqueline Pearce, Doctor Who) … and a horrific family secret.
This Hammer creature feature is set in a cozy village in the South of England, where a mysterious outbreak dubbed the “black death” has been claiming the lives of several townsfolk in horrific fashion. Its turns out these deaths are actually the result of a Malayan curse upon a young woman, creating a monster that is feeding its way through the populace.
Folk vibes combine with a murder mystery element, creating a fine balance of sweet and tragic elements. The Reptile is a film that lulls you in; it’s carefully paced, working in some creeping horror and some effective jump scares. The film also showcases some really excellent prosthetic work (for the time), as well as a committed effort from the cast. Overall it’s a really enjoyable slice of Hammer horror.
As above, the quality is solid with this transfer. Largely free of damage, a natural grain is preserved, with detail being good and colors being strong but natural. Extra features again impress:
- Presented In Two Aspect Ratios — 1.66:1 And 1.85:1
- NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historians Steve Haberman, Constantine Nasr, and Ted Newsom
- NEW Interview With 1st Assistant Director William P. Cartlidge: Stories about working on The Reptile, as well as his long association with Hammer studios.
- The Serpent’s Tale — The Making Of The Reptile: Critics and fans (some famous) lend their voices to this delve into the film’s production.
- World Of Hammer — Wicked Women: Another more general Hammer studios featurette; as the title suggests, it looks at the darker female characters that have popped up in their films.
- Theatrical Trailers
- TV Spot
- Still Galleries