Monday, October 18, 2010

Behind The Barbed Wire - Halloween Edition

Well, October is finally here! My favorite time of year and the home for my favorite holiday..Halloween! Now I know a lot of you have yer holiday traditions and such and also that many of you out there are horror movies geeks like I was at one time in my life. There is a series of films that I'm STILL a geek for and that is those made by the English film company HAMMER. Most of Hammer's horror films were period pieces set way back in the 1800's and early 1900's. They were shot in brilliant color and showed lots of blood.....and BOOBS! Hammer had a stable of some of the most beautiful actress in the world and weren't afraid to show them off. I can just imagine what all those low cut blouses and protruding cleavage shots did to young men when they went to see these on the big screen!!!

Ingrid Pitt

But boobs & blood aside, the sets, scripts (most of em), the scores and the acting were top of the line. The company's biggest stars hands down was Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Together, these guys made the greatest series of Dracula / Van Helsing films in movie history...IMHO.

Peter Cushing as Van Helsing

I'm gonna write about this company up until the end of the month to give those who might be interested time to Netflix, Blockbuster, or Ebay any of these films in time for Halloween. Since I mentioned the Dracula series I'll go ahead and start there. In 1958...yeah, 58, Hammer released HORROR OF DRACULA. This film was loosely based on the old novel by Bram Stoker and the story most people know of Jonathan Harker visiting the Castle in Transylvania.In this adaptation Harker, comes to take the job as Count Dracula's Librarian. All relation to the novel ends there pretty much.

The highlights of this are of coarse, Lee's portrayal of the main character. A smooth and sophisticated, if not somewhat peculiar host and then to a feral, snarling, fang bearing creature of the undead! The final battle...(.final? yeah right) between Dracula and Van Helsing is pure a cinematic classic! watch the damned trailer.

The next installment in the series is DRACULA : PRINCE OF DARKNESS from 1966. Cushing did a non LEE Dracula film called BRIDES OF DRACULA which I will cover in the next installment when we discuss Hammer's various vampire films.Cushing would drop out of the seires after BRIDES and resurface later on in the role of Van Helsing's kinfolk. Apparently in POD , Lee felt he wasn’t getting paid enough to reprise the role so as a FU to the powers that be, he refused to learn any lines so therefore has NO spoken dialogue in the whole damned movie!!! That's bad ass if ya ask me! STICK IT TO 'EM CHRIS! Anyway, he still pulls the role off with lots of great hissing and stink eye shots. Dracula's demise in this one is a bit different, A monk shoots the ice around the Counts feet as he stands on a frozen river, which has running water under the ice. Maybe not the goriest of endings but there's plenty of the red stuff (and great cleavage) in the rest of the film.

The next film is my favorite of the series...1968's DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE. Lee makes Dracula a hellbent for vengeance bad ass in this flick. The Count is thawed from the ice by the blood of a priest's brow and all hell breaks loose when he finds a giant cross blocking his entry to his own castle. Since the Count needs a place to sleep he makes his priest servant (Ewan Hooper) dig up a grave and dump the corpse out in a kinda gruesome scene that RULES in my book! One of the most ass kickin' scenes is when slave priest boy insists that after Paul (Barry Andrews) plunges a wooden stake into the Count's heart, he prays to make sure the extermination is blessed by the lord therefore permanent. Well, being an atheist , Paul assures slave priest that his prayers wont be considered valid by the almighty so while they argue this point, Drac pulls the bloody stake out of his own chest and then throws it at the bastards!! CLASSIC!!!!!

Next came TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA in 1970. IMHO this was the weakest of the bunch. I'll still take it over the current crop of teeny bopper computer graphic block busters any day. Basically a kind of Hellfire Club type of group (bunch of rich dudes going out once a month to indulge in all sorts of debauchery) and want to resurrect the Count for kicks.......Watch

1970 also saw SCARS OF DRACULA....maybe this was the weakest link....still really good. I mean, ya cant go wrong with an entire village's population of women being eaten by giant rubber bats can you?

1972 gave us DRACULA AD 1972. Now the shit starts kicking again. For one reason, Cushing is back as a descendant of Van Helsing in modern London....imagine Austin Powers mixed with a classic Hammer vampire film and you got a good idea of what your in for. Now I don’t mean that as an insult, this movie is bad-fucking-ass and has a GREAT soundtrack that was composed by one of the dudes in Manfred Mann. Its almost has a real Blaxploitation feel to it. The cast also features super foxy Stephanie Beacham & Caroline Munro! Meow!!!!

Anyway....there is a scene at the opening where a group of crazy hippies and swinging Londoners crash a society party and rock group Stoneground plays a couple tunes while the kids wreak havoc on all the uptight suits. Rumor has it that Rod Stewart and the Faces were supposed to be the band in the film but for some reason or another that didn’t happen.....that would have been BAD ASS!!!!!

and just to confirm how bad ass it would have been to have the Faces....

1973 rolled right along with THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA. Still set in modern London, this time the Count is so god damned pissed off that he wants to wipe out the entire human race by unleashing the Black Plague on the earth!!!!! Well, a lot of other good shit happens before all that goes down. Cushing returns as Van Helsing and this will be Lee's last time in the role of Dracula....seems he was getting tired of being typecast and all. Hmmm. Well, anyway this movie has a pretty innovative way to dispose of the Lord of the Undead, he gets tangled in a patch of thorns, the type used in Christ's crown of thorns, and then falls into a pit of stakes. God damn, that’s some good ass shit!!!!!!!

Cushing would play Van Helsing one last time in 1974's LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES. This shit was right up my alley....Hammer Horror mixed with Kung Fu!!!! I ain’t shittin' ya either! Filmed on location in Hong Kong with The Shaw Brothers (Martial Arts film legends)Dracula takes the form a Chinese monk gone bad and travels to China to fuck shit up on a new continent. With the help of the 7 Golden vampires he does just that. ...even though he only appears in the whole film for a total of about 10 minutes. Dracula is played by John Forbes-Robinson....all I can say is, ole John had some awful big shoes to fill replacing Lee and fell short by about a mile. Other than that, there’s all kinds of great stuff going on, zombies, dismemberment, boiling blood baths, kung fu, naked Chinese chicks, golden vampires getting pissed off about there golden bat getting stolen and even more kung fu! Say what you will, but I LOVE this goddamned movie.

Well, I hope this blog entry will give y’all some good ideas for your Halloween viewing. Next time Ill talk about Hammer's werewolf , Frankenstein , and various vampire films. OK this wouldn’t be BEHIND THE BARBED WIRE unless I did a little shameless advertising...We are doing two FREE...yeah I said FREE....(damn, FREE?) shows for Halloween.

First ... Friday October, 29th at The THIRSTY BEAVER in Charlotte, NC. We'll be strumming the strings about 11 o'clock. This place is s m a l l....could be a really fun night!!! Come on out!

The next night we will be playing on the front porch of REPO DEPOT RECORDS in beautiful Lenoir, NC. Repo Depot is owned and operated by ANTiSEEN's own Mighty Joe Young. The noise will begin at 8pm. Hope to see every damned one of ya's there!