Saturday, April 11, 2009

TV Review: Hammer House of Horror: Complete Series (1980)

Hammer House of Horror
HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR - Hammer anthology TV series - DVD Cover Image
The Complete Series

This series is representative of the infamous Hammer Studios' foray into the world of television. It was an un-hosted horror anthology show, each episode with its own cast and storyline that stood independent of the others. Subject matter ranged from the supernatural to the psychological, most of which followed the traditional Hammer formula of reeling you in before the credits began to roll, and then delivering a twist ending in the episode's last moments. The show was extremely short lived but has luckily been reissued on DVD by A&E (The Arts & Entertainment Network) in a complete boxed set--all 13 episodes on four discs, featuring a complete Hammer Studios filmography, a history of Hammer Studios, and a photo gallery. Stand out episodes have been marked with a star.

1) Witching Time
In the 17th century, the beautiful witch Lucinda is about to be burned at the stake. In order to escape, she conjures up a spell and travels forward through time, landing in present day. The new owner of her property is equally shocked and appalled at his visitor, and spends much time showing her the marvels of science that have developed since her day. His wife, of course, doesn't initially believe his claims and the family doctor thinks he is delusional. Soon enough, he's questioning his own grip on reality while his wife and the witch are battling for supremacy outside.

Originally broadcast on 09.13.80; written by Anthony Read; directed by Don Leaver; starring Patricia Quinn (Lucinda Jessop), Jon Finch (David Winter), Ian McCulloch (Charles)

2) The Thirteenth Reunion
Ruth Cairns is a journalist who desperately wants to break free of her "Woman's Page" at the newspaper and get into more solid subject matter. When she is assigned to cover a new weight loss program, she is anything but thrilled. Until, that is, people begin to die off and she hears rumors about body snatching. Following her leads, she winds up at a reunion dinner for the survivors of an airplane crash in the Atlas Mountains. Fans of the film Alive should get a gruesome kick out of this episode.

Originally broadcast on 09.20.80; written by Jeremy Burnham; directed by Peter Sasdy; starring Julia Foster (Ruth Cairns), Dinah Sheridan (Gwen Cox), Richard Pearson (Sir Humphrey Chesterton), Norman Bird (Basil), Warren Clarke (Ben Faraday)

3) Rude Awakening*
Real estate agent Norman Shenley awakes from a nightmare in which he murders his wife, leaving him free to continue an affair with his secretary. After a full day of activity, he wakes up to find out that it was all just a dream. That day, he really does kill his wife and continues his affair with the secretary, only to discover it was all a dream as well. It continues in this vein throughout the episode, the viewer (or Norman) never sure what is real and what is fantasy but coming closer to the answer in every fantasy sequence.

Originally broadcast 09.27.80; written by Gerald Savory; directed by Peter Sasdy; starring Denholm Elliott (Norman Shenley), James Laurenson (Rayburn), Pat Heywood (Emily Shenley) Lucy Gutteridge (Lolly) Eleanor Summerfield (Lady Strudwick)

4) Growing Pains*
The Morton's have just adopted a new son, James, to make up for the one they lost due to the father's irresponsible science experiments. James, who seems to be one of the Children of the Damned, remains eerily calm and collected throughout the various bizarre events that unfold. Mrs. Morton thinks that James is behind it and her husband is too busy to care. When James finds an old poem that William, the deceased son, had written about his parent's lack of interest in him, it conjures up more than old memories but a vengeful ghost as well.

Originally broadcast 10.04.80; directed by Francis Megahy; starring Christopher Reilly (William Morton), Barbara Kellerman (Laurie Morton) Gary Bond (Terence Morton), Matthew Blakstad (James)

5) The House that Bled to Death
In Hammer's answer to The Amityville Horror, the Peters family move into a house that has long been empty. Many years ago an old man murdered his wife in the same house and rumor has it that it has been haunted ever since. Various spooky apparitions pop up, including a severed hand and a veritable rainstorm of blood. Eventually, one of the Peters clan is hospitalized, leading to an unexpected ending.

Originally broadcast 10.11.80; written by David Lloyd; directed by Tom Clegg; starring Emma Ridley (Sophia Peters), Nicholas Ball (William Peters), Rachel Davies (Emma Peters), Brian Croucher (George Evans), Pat Maynard (Jean Evans), Milton Johns (A.J. Powers)

6) Charlie Boy*
Graham, a young entrepreneur, inherits an African fetish--similar to a voodoo doll--upon his uncle's death. He and his girlfriend Sarah name the fetish 'Charlie Boy', and Graham finds it to be therapeutic to take out his aggression towards those who wronged him on the doll. It also proves effective, as those people begin dying off. He inadvertently curses everyone in a photograph, including Sarah and himself. The people in the photo are being killed in the order in which they were standing, and Graham has to find a way to stop it before Charlie takes his next victim. The whole 'Death's design' aspect involving the photograph is an eerie forerunner to Final Destination. This episode features a rather swingin' score that is most evident during the William Tell death scene.

Originally broadcast 10.18.80; written by Bernie Cooper and Francis Megahy; directed by Robert Young; starring Leigh Lawson (Graham), Marius Goring (Heinz), Angela Bruce (Sarah), David Healey (Peter), Michael Culver (Mark), Michael Deeks (Phil) Jeff Rawle (Franks)

7) The Silent Scream*
Fresh out of prison, Chuck Spillers takes a temporary job with Martin Brueck, a Nazi concentration camp survivor who visited him on the inside. Brueck is sort of a modern day mad scientist, whose back room at his pet shop is devoted to experiments to imprison wild animals without the use of bars but rather electrical fields. Brueck is not what he seems, as it turns out, and Chuck's job as an assistant quickly turns to being a subject of the experiments himself. Chuck's wife Annie steps in to save him but is captured as well. Upon their escape, they learn that perhaps they haven't escaped anything at all.

Genre icon and Hammer mainstay Peter Cushing portrays the mad Brueck magnificently and is the standing achievement for this somewhat ridiculous--but ultimately enjoyable--episode. Sadly, this was Cushing's final role for Hammer.

Originally broadcast on 10.25.80; written by Francis Essex; directed by Alan Gibson; guest starring Peter Cushing (Martin Brueck), Brian Cox (Chuck Spillers), Anthony Carrick (Inspector Aldridge), Elaine Donnelly (Annie Spillers), Terry Kinsella (Lionel), Robin Browne (Police Officer)

8) Children of the Full Moon*
Upon awakening from what he is told was a dream about a family of werewolves who captured he and his wife in the country, Tom Martin's nightmare has just begun. His wife, Sarah, has noticeably changed. She's much more animalistic when they make love and has developed a strange appetite for undercooked meat. It's possible that her newly discovered pregnancy has stirred up these changes, but Tom has reason to believe it's something more and that maybe, just maybe, their newborn son will take quite a liking to the rays of Lady Luna.

The effective use of spooky children, nursery rhymes and echoing laughter make for some quite chilling moments.

Originally broadcast 11.01.80; written by Murray Smith; directed by Tom Clegg; guest starring Diana Dors (Mrs Ardoy), Christopher Cazenove (Tom), Celia Gregory (Sarah), Robert Urquhart (Harry), Jacob Witkin (Woodcutter), Adrian Mann (Tibor) Sophie Kind (Eloise), Victor Wood (Sophy), Natalie Payne (Irenya), Daniel Kipling (Andreas)

9) Carpathian Eagle
Police are investigating a string of murders committed by a mod sex-kitten who goes home with men for a one night stand and then tears their hearts out. The murders closely resemble a generations-old legend that had recently resurfaced in a book so the police enlist the author to assist them in their investigation. Every time a new female character is introduced, you think to yourself "it's definitely her," and so it's effective as a murder mystery but as horror it falls a bit flat. Features a few of the funkiest bedroom sets ever seen on television.

Originally broadcast 11.08.80; written by Bernie Cooper and Francis Megahy; directed by Francis Megahy; guest starring Anthony Valentine (Inspector Clifford), Suzanne Danielle (Natalie), Pierce Brosnan (Last Victim), Siân Phillips (Mrs Henska), Barry Stanton (Tony), Jonathan Kent (Tadek Kuchinsky), Matthew Long (Andy), Gary Waldhorn (Bacharach), Jeffry Wickham (Edgar)

10) Guardian of the Abyss
Australian antique dealer Laura Stephens wins an odd looking mirror at an estate auction, following the advice given to her by her horoscope. A devilish looking man by the name of Simon Andrews offers to purchase the mirror from her for a measly sum, which she almost accepts, but her friend and fellow dealer Mike Roberts offers to have it appraised before she sells it. Suddenly, Simon ups his offer ten-fold, and it is obvious that this mirror is worth much more than Simon is letting on.

Driving home with the mirror, Mike picks up a terrified hitchhiker on the road, a young girl named Alison who has narrowly escaped from a satanic cult that had horrible plans in store for her. Alison sees the mirror and tells Mike that it is actually a scrying glass, used in occult practices and possibly made by a famous alchemist named John Dee. When Mike isn't looking, Alison takes the glass and disappears into the night.

Mike vows to find the glass and return it to Laura, but his investigation leads him into the arms of the dangerous cult from which Alison herself had barely escaped.

Originally broadcast 11.15.80; written by David Fisher; directed by Don Sharp; guest starring Rosalyn Landor (Alison), Ray Lonnen (Michael Roberts), John Carson (Charles Randolph), Paul Darrow (Simon Andrews), Barbara Ewing (Laura Stephens), Caroline Langrishe (Tina)

11) Visitor from the Grave*
When Penny, a former mental patient, is threatened and nearly raped by professional gambler Charlie Willoughby, she shoots him with a shotgun. Penny's boyfriend Harry returns the next morning and encourages her to cover up the murder, telling her that they will institutionalize her again if anyone were to ever find out. She goes along with the idea because she has no intentions of going back to the asylum, but it's not long before Penny begins seeing ghostly visions of Charlie. They enlist the help of a mediocre medium and a powerful swami, but has Charlie really returned from the grave or is Penny merely cracking up again? Or is there something even more nefarious at work here?

Originally broadcast 11.22.80; written by John Elder; directed by Peter Sasdy; guest starring Kathryn Leigh Scott (Penny), Simon MacCorkindale (Harry), Gareth Thomas (Richard/Gupta), Mia Nadasi (Margaret), Stanley Lebor (Charles), Gordon Reid (Max)

12) The Two Faces of Evil
Janet Lewis and her family are on a holiday drive during a torrential downpour. When they see a man walking through the rain, they stop to offer him a ride. The stranger accepts but once the car is moving again he attacks Mr. Lewis who is driving and causes a horrible accident. All three of the family members awake in the hospital, banged up but alive, and are told that the stranger did not survive the crash. Returning home from the hospital, Janet finds that her husband is acting very strangely, almost like a completely different person. Could this be a case of British body-snatchers with bad teeth? It looks like it just might.

On an interesting side note, excerpts from this episode were supposedly later used in a public service announcement that warned drivers about the hazards of picking up hitchhikers.

Originally broadcast 11.29.80; directed by Alan Gibson; guest starring Jenny Laird (Mrs. Roberts), Jeremy Longhurst (Dr. Cummings), William Moore (Mr. Roberts), Anna Calder-Marshall (Janet Lewis), Gary Raymond (Martin Lewis), Paul Hawkins (David Lewis), Philip Latham (Hargreaves), Pauline Delany (Sister), Brenda Dowling (Nurse Davies), Mike Savage (P.C. Jenkins), Malcolm Hayes (Attendant)

13) The Mark of Satan*
An unstable man undergoes emergency surgery after puncturing his brain with an electric drill in order to rid himself of the devil he believes has possessed him. He dies on the operating table and the coroner who works up his corpse injures himself while sewing the body back up. Because of this blood sacrifice, as it were, the coroner has been chosen as the devil's next disciple. Or perhaps he has just gone mad. A conspiracy of evil, crooked cops, matricide, debilitating paranoia and numerology all add up to create a hellacious good ride.

Originally broadcast 12.06.80; written by Don Shaw; directed by Don Leaver; guest starring Annie Dyson (Mrs Rord), Conrad Phillips (Dr Manders), Emrys James (Dr. Harris), Georgina Hale (Stella), Peter McEnery (Edwyn Rord), Peter Birrell (Markham), Anthony Brown (Priest), Peter Cartwright (Surgeon), James Duggan (Simpson), Andrew Bradford (Steve), James Curran (Pritchard), Crispin Gillbard (Policeman)

September 1980-December 1980
60 minutes per episode
Network ITV1
United Kingdom



  1. Still havent picked this one up but Im very interested, thanks for the synopsiseses didnt realize the series was so short!

  2. where can you get the DVD collection on DVD region 1 USA,Canada Formate?


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