Hammer Film’s early ‘70s output is often maligned, but the films the studio released during this period have had something of a re-appraisal over the past few years. The four movies featured in the Australian boutique label Imprint’s box set benefit from a fresh set of eyes and are backed up with a wealth of special features that add to the collection’s value.
The four films included here are Countess Dracula, Twins of Evil, Hands of the Ripper (all 1971), and Vampire Circus (1972). What’s surprising about these movies is that Hammer stalwart Peter Cushing only appears in one, Twins of Evil. Despite the lack of the main talent that was synonymous with the studio, these films have a freshness that some of the numerous sequels that Hammer was churning out were lacking.
Where this new box set really excels is the numerous bonus features. Each film has at least two highly informative commentary tracks, and there is a nice mix of brand-new features and some ported over from previous releases. Among the highlights is a feature-length look at the Karnstein trilogy on the Twins of Evil disc, which is an essential watch and is full of information. Countess Dracula features two new visual essays by Kat Ellinger - on Ingrid Pitt and the depiction of Countess Bathory on film - that are equally impressive. Vampire Circus includes a bonus disc (exclusive to the box set, we presume) that features an upscale of Ted Newsom’s superb documentary Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror. This started out as a two-part doc that screened on BBC TV in 1994 and features the last appearance (albeit in voiceover only) of Peter Cushing. It’s now been updated and expanded and is arguably the definitive word on the studio.
There are plenty more extras in store on these discs, and these make this set a worthy purchase alone. The movies are presented in the best condition possible and are definitely worth another watch if you haven’t seen them for several years. Imprint has set a very high standard with this release.