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on 22 February 2009
Let it be said, first of all, that I don't own a copy of this boxed set. In spite of that, I feel that I know the films well enough to review them.
The reason I don't own a copy of this boxed set is that, by the time it was issued, I already had on DVD thirteen of the twenty-one films. Ten of these movies duplicate the contents of the earlier boxed sets "Hammer Horror Selection" and "Hammer Horror Resurrected". I also owned (as one-off DVDs) those pieces of essential viewing - "Dracula Prince of Darkness", "She" and "One Million Years BC" - plus quite a lot of Hammer films omitted from this collection. Other Hammer fans who were buying DVDs before the release of this set will probably find themselves in a similar position. It is chagrining to find that, at the time of writing, it would cost me about twelve pounds more to buy individually the eight films I didn't already have than to buy this boxed set. But this is not the reason for me to award only three stars.
At least one potential star deserves to go for the set's sins of omission. Most startlingly, all three of Hammer's seminal colour monster films are missing. I refer to "The Curse of Frankenstein", "Dracula" (US title "The Horror of Dracula"), and "The Mummy". These three films, to my mind, should form the core of any Hammer collection, yet all three are missing. Also absent are all three of the "Karnstein Trilogy" of films. In all, about half of the twenty-one Hammer films I'd have selected are not present. That's half of the reason for titling this review "Half Right".
The other half of the reason for the title lies in the sins of commission. "One Million Years BC" certainly deserves to be included - but the less than half baked sequel "Prehistoric Women"? "She" is essential viewing - but "The Vengeance of She"? Above all, perhaps the crowning ingloriousness of the roster of shame included here is "Viking Queen". Why, oh why? Another reviewer wrote that the only reason to watch this turkey was to spot the Viking wearing a wrist watch. It's good to know that someone managed to find a reason to watch it!
But, if you don't already have a substantial proportion of these films on DVD, you should buy this immediately! Try to avoid the dross, and revel in such Hammer classics as "Dracula Prince of Darkness", "The Plague of the Zombies", "Quatermass and the Pit", "Rasputin the Mad Monk", "She", "One Million Years BC", and "Blood from the Mummy's Tomb". Admittedly, it is odd that the last named is the only mummy film to be included - as it is distinctly short on the hallmark of mummy films, bandaged monstrosity. That said, who could wish the lovely Valerie Leon obscured by bandaging?
With the inclusion of just another three or four unmissable Hammer classics, I would have given this boxed set five stars. But omitting Christopher Lee's first and finest outing as Dracula? Whoops! There goes at least one potential star!