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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hammer Time

September 24, 2014:  The letters have poured in—many of them postage due; others addressed to Current Resident—but the message has been clear: Blah-ugh! Readers (and see, I’m capitalizing you all now, out of respect and fear) have been wondering about my failure to file new and exciting entries for the past few days (and I believe there’s been about 215 of them ... days, I mean ...) …

Well, it hasn’t been for lack of trying, but I’ve found myself easily distracted by REAL work, familial conflicts & commitments and this new lava lamp I bought which I just can't seem to take my eyes off. In fact, I’ve started quite a few entries, but they’ve consistently failed to materialize because of a new spiritual practice I’m exploring called laziness. (It’s incredibly fulfilling, and I will write about it when I get round, perhaps in the latter 21st century.)

But as the groundswell has seemed to swell, and I had an hour to kill, I felt it might do this dilapidated forum service to actually keep it alive with a feeble injection of humor, wisdom, words and whining.

Just this week I made a brilliant purchase of an eight-movie Hammer Films Horror Pack on DVD. DVDs, as you know, are those little shiny round discs that people take out of the library to use as bases when they play pick-up softball games. What you probably didn’t know was that they can also be used to play magical classic films, such as Night Creatures and The Evil of Frankenstein.

My ever-growing allegiance to Hammer Films has been soundly augmented by this new collection, which I proudly put alongside my various Christopher Lee Dracula movies, the underrated Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, and of course the terribly sexy Vampire Lovers, which offers some of the most sensitive and titillating vampiric lesbianism one is likely to find in British cinema.

I’m yet to explore each selection in this lovely collection, but I can assure you it’s already proving to be a veritable cornucopia of English joy. I decided to watch The Phantom of the Opera first, as it had perhaps the lowest attraction for me compared to some others in the collection. (The Curse of the Werewolf, featuring Oliver Reed, is the one that I’ve long hoped to find, for I don’t remember ever seeing it, and so I’m saving that for last.) Much to my sincere surprise, however, I found this 1962 version of 'Phantom,' featuring the great Herbert Lom—whom most of you know as Inspector Clouseau’s twitching foil—an absolute delight. One of their delicious Technicolor Victorian-era pieces, it’s got all the elements—likable hero, sweet heroine and a most heinous bad guy played by the great Michael Gough, who you’ll also remember from Horror of Dracula.

My second foyer (and I hope I'm spelling that right) into this collection—Paranoiac—was equally as thrilling, even though it took a few more minutes for me to get into. Reed shows up here too and makes it clear why he’s one of the creepiest character actors in the tradition of, say, Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Peter Lorre and perhaps Dame Judy Dench. Filmed in luscious early-sixties black and white, it’s both visually and narratively a treat.

And today I have popped in The Kiss of the Vampire and let me tell you, from the awesome opening scene, it’s awesome! While a fool might argue that it’s somewhat predictable—and really, what movie isn’t, except perhaps Darjeeling Limited—I challenge anyone to find a predictable ride that offers more in the way of a satisfying classic gothic soft horror trip. They don’t make ‘em like they used to.

Well, I could go on, as many of you know, but I think it’s better to get something completed and up rather than try and perfect it, or try to expand too long, or try too hard, or try at all, for that matter. So I hope you enjoyed this autumnal offering and will look forward to other offerings which I hope will come presently—among them a closer look at coffee shops and the conversations people hope to have there, as well as a unique examination of what might have happened if Hitler got into art school.