Blu-ray: Hammer Volume Three: Blood & Terror
Containing 4 movies from the Hammer vaults (all released on Blu-ray for the 1sttime) covering the time period of 1958 – 61, these are cinematic classics that you may well not be too familiar with.
The Camp on Blood Island (1958)
WWII is coming to an end, and deep in Malaya people are being held captive in Blood Island prison camp where the sadistic commandant Yamamitsu (Ronald Radd) has already stated that he will murder everyone if his country suffers defeat.
Sabotaging the camp radio buys them some time, but when an American pilot crashes nearby and is brought into the camp, panic begins that he may well give the game away and let on that the war is over.
British officer Col. Lambert (André Morell) leads the male prisoners, while teaming up with Kate (Barbara Shelley) and the women’s prisoners in arming everyone in an attempted takeover before Yamamitsu can come true on his murderous promise.
The Camp on Blood Island features some harrowing imagery, especially when an emancipated male prisoner is forced to dig his own grave at gunpoint before facing a firing squad.
The female prisoners however, are presented as being a bit more glamorous, and their curvy figures suggest that they were being given the lions share of the camps food supplies.
The stark black and white photography adds an extra layer of bleakness to the proceedings, while the constant threat of violence and an ever ticking countdown to when/if Yamamitsu will hear the news about the war, keeps the tension high.
The short 81 minute running time goes by in a flash and leaves you with sweaty palms and a heartbeat that is definitely raised from when the opening credits began.
Yesterday’s Enemy (1959)
Continuing the WWII theme, Yesterday’s Enemy has Captain Alan Langford (Stanley Baker) leading the remnants of his British Army Brigade through the Burmese jungle after the Japanese invasion.
Taking over an enemy-held village, Langford orders Sergeant McKenzie (Gordon Jackson) to shoot 2 innocent villagers in an attempt to persuade a Japanese informer to relinquish vital war information.
When the Japanese forces re-take the village, Langford’s ruthless tactics are forced back upon him and his men to extract similar information from them.
I have to admit that Yesterday’s Enemy is my favourite in this box set and I was enthralled throughout its entirety.
Eschewing the slight romanticism that was present in The Camp on Blood Island, this presents a pressure cooker atmosphere which is claustrophobic and unforgiving in the way that characters act and react to their situations.
Despite being filmed entirely on a sound stage, director Val Guest creates a very atmospheric feel of being trapped in a hot and humid jungle.
Almost 60 years after its release, and Yesterday’s Enemy still packs an emotional punch at the fragility of human life and the futility of war.
The Stranglers of Bombay (1959)
As more and more people go missing and trade becomes ever more difficult, the British East India Company is forced to act.
Unfortunately they overlook the obvious candidate for the job, and instead send out an upper-class officer who has no real idea of what to effectively do.
The Stranglers of Bombay has an ‘Indiana Jones’ vibe to it, though is slightly let down visually by being one of Hammer’s last movies to be in black and white. The vibrant colours of India would certainly have added another layer to the onscreen action.
The ‘true story’ aspect of its narrative is definitely intriguing, but even without that, The Stranglers of Bombay has enough about it to hold your attention.
The Terror of the Tongs (1961)
Despite starring Christopher Lee (whom I’ve always admired in every performance that he’s given) in a role that could be described as ‘Fu Manchu-lite’, The Terror of the Tongs is, for me at least, the weakest in this box set.
However, that in no way means that it is a bad film, just that it compared unfavourably to the other 3.
Set in Hong Kong in 1910, Christopher Lee is the leader of The Red Dragon Tong; an organization that used torture and murder to keep the city under its rule.
When a sea Captain’s daughter is murdered, revenge and violence ensue.
Suffering from English actors playing the majority of the ‘Chinese’ characters, The Terror of the Tongs often comes across as an ‘end of pier’ play where people of the correct ethnicity could not be found. Couple this with a budget that is obviously too low for its expectations and a running time that seems stretched even at a moderate 78 minutes, and Terror of the Tongs most definitely suffers against the other movies in this box set.
By no means a classic, but still worth watching.
Overall, Hammer Volume 3: Blood & Terror is yet another stunning Indicator release that should proudly be adorning your shelves. The superlative special features which accompany each of the 4 movies is the icing on what is already a very tasty cinematic cake.
Eat it all up and enjoy.
INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY BOX SET SPECIAL FEATURES:
- High Definition restorations of all four films
• Original mono audio
• New and exclusive audio commentary for The Camp on Blood Islandwith Hammer icon Barbara Shelley and horror novelist Stephen Laws
• Two alternative presentations of Yesterday’s Enemy: the original, uncensored UK theatrical version; and the US theatrical version, with toned-down dialogue
• Three presentations of The Stranglers of Bombay: the original UK and US theatrical versions; and as a newly-created ‘integral’ version compiling all existing footage
• Audio commentary for The Stranglers of Bombaywith screenwriter David Z Goodman
• Audio commentary for The Terror of the Tongswith writer Jimmy Sangster, assistant editor Chris Barnes and film historian Marcus Hearn
• The Guardian Interview with Val Guest(2005): archival audio recording of the celebrated filmmaker in conversation with Jonathan Rigby at London’s National Film Theatre
• Four new, title-specific documentaries, written and directed by Hammer expert Marcus Hearn, narrated by Claire Louise Amias and featuring film historians Alan Barnes and Jonathan Rigby
• Hammer’s Women(2018): new profiles of actors Mary Merrall, Edwina Carroll, Jan Holden and Yvonne Monlaur
• From Light to Dark(2018): Professor Steve Chibnall, author of British Horror Cinema, looks at Val Guest’s career and the making of The Camp on Blood Island
• Return to Blood Island(2018): a new and exclusive interview with Hammer script supervisor, Renée Glynne
• Stephen Laws Introduces ‘Yesterday’s Enemy’(2018): a concise appreciation by the acclaimed horror author
• New Territory(2018): an analysis of Yesterday’s Enemyby British-film expert Professor Steve Chibnall
• Frontline Dispatches(2018): second assistant director Hugh Harlow and props chargehand Peter Allchorne recall their time working on Yesterday’s Enemy
• ‘The Stranglers of Bombay’ and the Censor(2018): ex-BBFC examiner Richard Falcon on the film’s history with the Board
• Musical Orientalism(2018): a new appreciation of James Bernard’s The Stranglers of Bombayscore by David Huckvale, author of Hammer Film Scores and the Musical Avant-Garde
• The Stranglers of Bombaytrailer commentary (2013): a short critical appreciation by Brian Trenchard-Smith
• Stephen Laws Introduces ‘The Terror of the Tongs’(2018): a scene-setting appreciation by the acclaimed horror author
• Hammer and Tongs(2018): a new appreciation of James Bernard’s The Terror of the Tongsscore by David Huckvale
• Shear Terror(2018): a new interview with The Terror of the Tongsassistant costume designer Yvonne Blake
• Original theatrical trailers
• Image galleries: promotional photography and publicity material
• Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklets for each film, with new essays by Kim Newman, Neil Mitchell, James Oliver and Samm Deighan, archival cast and crew interviews, original pressbook extracts, contemporary critical reviews, and film credits
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• World premieres on Blu-ray
• Limited Edition Box Set of 6,000 numbered units
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