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Get Hammered’ Serves Up A Full Flight Of Hammer Horror

Film series pays tribute to British studio’s brand of Gothic horror

Christopher Lee stars as the famous blood sucking count in

Credit: Hammer Films

Above: Christopher Lee stars as the famous blood sucking count in "Horror of Dracula."

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando previews Get Hammered, a yearlong tribute to Hammer horror films.

Transcript

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If you grew up in the 1960s and '70s then Hammer Films might have given you your first cinematic scare. Get Hammered is a yearlong monthly film series at the Digital Gym Cinema dedicated to Hammer Horror. Here’s a preview.

"Come with us if you dare into a twilight world of unspeakable horror …"

So begins a typical trailer for a Hammer film. There would also usually be blood soaked title graphics and a "Cert X" rating, which meant no children allowed.

For almost two decades, starting in the late 1950s, you could count on the British studio for breathtakingly lurid Gothic horror tales that served up vampires, werewolves, monsters and luscious ladies. It turned Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing into icons, and gave a generation of kids their first taste of terror in bold Technicolor reds that practically dripped off the screen.

Hammer Films was not always associated with horror. Founded in 1934, Hammer began by producing a small number of modest films distributed by its company Exclusive Films. But it wasn't until 1955, when the studio decided to adapt a popular TV to the big screen that it hit upon a winning formula.

"The Quatermass Xperiment" dropped the "E" from the word experiment in order to emphasis it's "Cert X" rating, cast an American star (Brian Donlevy) in the lead, and served up a sci-fi horror tale. It was a hit. But "The Quatermass Xperiment" (known in the U.S. as "The Creeping Unknown") and its sequel "Quatermass 2" were both in black and white.

But in 1958, Hammer horror discovered color.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Hammer Films

Peter Cushing as Dr. Frankenstein proves to be more the monster than his creation in "The Curse of Frankenstein."

Get Hammered Film Schedule

Sundays at 1:00 PM

2/28 - "Horror Of Dracula"

3/20 - "Curse Of The Werewolf"

4/17 - "Paranoiac"

5/22 - "Curse Of Frankenstein"

6/19 - "The Nanny" & "Die, Die, My Darling"

7/31 - "Countess Dracula" & "Brides Of Dracula"

8/21 - "The Reptile" & "The Gorgon"

9/25 - "The Mummy"

10/2 – "Plague of the Zombies"

10/23 - "Vampire Lovers" & "Vampire Circus"

11/20 - "Twins Of Evil"

12/11 - "Devil Rides Out"

"The Curse of Frankenstein" looked to Mary Shelley's classic novel "Frankenstein," which was very attractively in public domain and loosely adapted it into a Gothic horror film filmed in bold, vivid color to emphasize the blood. The film was directed by Terence Fisher and starred Peter Cushing as Frankenstein and the towering Christopher Lee as the doctor's creation. That film would launch the Hammer brand, a brand that held strong up into the 1970s.

It was followed in quick succession by "Dracula" (called "Horror of Dracula" in the United States) with Lee as the blood-sucking count and "The Mummy" in which Lee again played the monster.

The studio went dormant in the 1980s but came back to life in the new millennium and produced the successful "The Woman in Black" in 2012 that tapped into the old Gothic horror brand.

Get Hammered is a yearlong tribute to the best of Hammer horror that I curated with Miguel Rodriguez of Horrible Imaginings Film Festival. The series serves up classic Hammer titles every month on select Sundays at 1 p.m. at the Digital Gym Cinema. The series kicks off Sunday, Feb. 28 with Christopher Lee in "Horror of Dracula."

Rodriguez and I are part of The Film Geeks at the Digital Gym Cinema, a group of volunteer programmers dedicated to bringing a diverse array of films to San Diego.

Discounted yearlong VIP passes are available until Feb. 28.

For the series kickoff this Sunday I will be making chocolate crucifixes for everyone to protect themselves from vampires. Hope to see some Hammer fans, or better yet some people who have never experienced Hammer on the big screen on Sunday. Get Hammered is the perfect follow up to last year's Universal Suspects that paid tribute to the black and white creature features of the 1930s through '50s.

I also have a special podcast dedicated to Hammer horror.

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Photo of Beth Accomando

Beth Accomando
Arts & Culture Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.

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