THE LOST CONTINENT

Director: Michael Carreras

Starring: Eric Porter, Hildegard Knef, Suzanna Leigh

THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES

Director: John Gilling

Starring: Andre Morell, Diane Clare, John Carson  

THE REPTILE

Director: John Gilling

Starring: Noel Willman, Jennifer Daniel, Jacqueline Pearce

RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK

Director: Don Sharp

Starring: Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Suzan Farmer

Anchor Bay has built a very representative collection of Hammer discs. They began by recycling the series of laserdiscs released by Elite, but have more recently started releasing titles previously only available on VHS. These four releases will certainly find an appreciative home with every fan of the studioís output. Plague of the Zombies is one of the finest horror films of the 60s, placing it in the top ten or so films in the Hammer canon. Originally released as the B-movie in a double bill with Dracula Ė Prince of Darkness, Plague is one of Hammerís most atmospheric productions. The film is presented in anamorphically-enhanced 1.85:1 ratio. The source material is marked here and there, but the colours are robust and generally the film is in excellent shape, and the sound is considerably tighter than the audio on the UK video versions. The disc also contains two theatrical trailers, including one for the Prince of Darkness double bill, and an episode of the vapid The World of Hammer TV series, Mummies, Werewolves & The Living Dead.

The Reptile is a fairly traditional monster story, similar to the studioís 1964 effort The Gorgon. Itís an exotic story, involving a cult of snake worshippers, but played with conviction by a very compelling ensemble cast, which includes Jacqueline Pearce, who would later find a degree of fame and notoriety as the title character's nemesis in the BBC space series Blake's 7. The film is presented in 16:9-enhanced 1.85:1 ratio, and is supported by a theatrical trailer, and a couple of short TV adís (for the filmís double-bill appearance with Rasputin Ė The Mad Monk). Another World of Hammer episode, Vamp, completes the package.

1968ís The Lost Continent eluded British collectors for many years, and when it did eventually turn up it was in a version created for the American market that ran about eight minutes shorter. Happily Anchor Bayís DVD version presents the film in its original form, from what is apparently the only surviving full-length print. None of the added material contributes much to the bizarre and often surreal story, (about explorers who discover an isolated civilisation and some giant crab-like creatures), but almost every character gains a new scene or two, and since much of the enjoyment from watching a Hammer movie is derived from seeing their stock troupe of character actors performing, the net benefit is considerable. The disc, which contains a letterboxed (1.77:1, 16:9-enhanced) version of the film, also contains a delirious theatrical trailer; a couple of TV adverts and a familiar World of Hammer episode, Lands Before Time.

Apart from a few gory moments thereís little overt horror in Rasputin Ė The Mad Monk, but the production reeks of Hammer anyway. The film is a lascivious biopic, constructed as a vanity role for Lee, who rises to the challenge with considerable gusto. The film was shot with an outdated - and therefore cheap! - Cinemascope lens, which introduced considerable distortion. This has meant that the home video version has been cropped slightly, resulting in a version with an aspect ratio of about 2.1:1, (enhanced for 16:9 playback). Itís still a considerable improvement on previous versions, however. The disc contains a commentary track by Lee, Shelley, Farmer and Francis Matthews, which alone would be worth buying the disc for. Lee has excellent recall, and itís evident that he meticulously researched the role. He also shares a number of personal anecdotes. Lee is notoriously dismissive of many of his horror roles, and his time with Hammer particularly, and so itís nice to hear him enthuse so positively about one of their productions. The disc also contains a couple of TV adverts, a theatrical trailer and the Hammer Stars: Christopher Lee instalment of The World of Hammer.

 

 

 

 

 

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