Review by David J. Howe
I have for many years been a secret admirer of the Hammer films. In fact, the first horror film I ever saw was Hammer's Taste the Blood of Dracula when it was presented on television late one night. I avidly collected all the original Dez Skinn House of Hammer magazines, and among the first films I kept on video were re-runs of the Hammer Draculas.
Of all the studio’s output, possibly my favourite film is Dracula, Prince of Darkness, and this was the featured subject of the second issue of Marvel Comics new Hammer Horror magazine.
The magazine itself is perhaps an uneasy mix of the ancient and the modern, with interviews with Neil Jordan on Interview With The Vampire side by side with a feature on the Hammer contribution of Francis Matthews, but overall it seems to work. The second issue kicks off with a piece on Peter Cushing’s memorial service, followed by the Jordan interview. Make Up artist Michelle Burke is interviewed next about her work on Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Interview With The Vampire and then we speak to Francis Matthews about his work on Dracula, Prince of Darkness and Rasputin the Mad Monk.
Then comes the piece de resistance. Each issue, the magazine features one of Hammer’s films in a detailed pull-out-and-keep section. In the first issue it was The Curse of Frankenstein, but this time it is Dracula, Prince of Darkness. The format is simple, the film is examined from numerous viewpoints: The characters, the story, the background to the production and development of the finished film, how it was received on release, contemporary reviews and a present day critique, finished off with a classic scene reprinted.
What makes this stand out is the level of research and detail that has obviously gone into it. Although there is deliberately no credit, Marvel’s researchers have had access to Hammer’s old files and paperwork, and the result is a detailed and informed look at the production of a film.
I loved the details on what was suggested to be cut by the BBFC once they had seen the script, what the original ideas behind Dracula’s resurrection were, and also the photographs both from the production and behind the scenes.
Finishing off the issue is an interview with Director of Photography Michael Reed, a feature on the 1957 film Cat Girl starting Barbara Shelley, a piece on a new computer game called Dracula Unleashed and finally continuing biographies of some of the Hammer luminaries, including, this issue, Roy Skeggs and Jimmy Sangster.
Hammer Horror is a very fine magazine indeed, and well worth supporting. I hope that it is able to survive past a handful of issues, as the information contained therein is very worthwhile, and to a Hammer enthusiast like myself who was never so much of a fan to buy the reportedly excellent Hammer fanzines, but who enjoyed the films immensely, it is an accessible and interesting addition to my magazine collection. Published by Marvel Comics.
This review was originally published in 1995, in the March/April issue of the BFS Newsletter (#19.2).