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Some classic episodes and a nice set but has quite a few duds on it as well.
on 19 December 2014
The Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense premiered on TV screens in the winter of 1984 and rewatching these episodes recently it all came flooding back. I could only remember snippets of scenes that terrorized me as a youngster- thinking for all these years that what I had watched had been from a movie. I was wrong many flashbacks came back to me and they were from this TV series. You could well classify this as a follow up to the 1980 TV series Hammer House of Horror, though the title of this will lead you to expect that the supernatural is not too be found here. You'd be wrong, the majority of episodes are from the beyond.
What we get there then are 13 mini movies running roughly 70 mins each. This show was geared for an American market so in almost every episode we have an American as a main cast member. The episodes are all filmed in England with many locations in London.
Upon watching the series it does have its highs but it also has its lows, and the first Hammer Horror from 1980 was far superior, but that show isn't a complete loss. So let's take a look at the episodes on offer.
We start off with the effective CZECH MATE starring Susan George as a woman in love who follows her ex husband to the then called Czechoslovakia. But all is not what it seems..... Very good episode that has a devastating ending.
A DISTANT SCREAM has a great pairing of both David Carradine and Stephanie Beacham who looks stunning here. It appears that an older Mr Carradine is warning Beacham's character of things to come. This is certainly passable if not remarkable.
THE LATE NANCY IRVING is riveting stuff but is let down by a so so ending- it is certainly predictable but the acting is good and the dialogue is solid. Cristina Raines stars in the main role.
The Brian Clemens story, THE SWEET SCENT OF DEATH is awful- indeed it is the worst episode here, a waste of 70 mins despite again decent acting. BLACK CARRION is another episode that shows much promise but is simply filled with hogwash, you get an empty feeling at the end of it, and the episode feels like it was being re written to get a good ending, but they still failed on this one. PAINT ME A MURDER doesn't really go anywhere and yet the acting pulls this one through and you the viewer are compelled to watch to see how the finale plays out, this one involves a painter faking his own death so his paintings will start selling.
By now we are in need of some good juicy episodes and this is kickstared by MARK OF THE DEVIL, starring The A Team's very own Dirk Benedict. This is a good story where Benedict a gambler in debt gets more than he bargained with when he rips off the local Chinese tattooist. LAST VIDEO AND TESTAMENT is another stand out story. More revenge flick than supernaturel but it is the acting of David Langton that wins this one over. Indeed Langton's performance is the best of the entire show. Assured, confident and most importantly genuine. This has a great bleak ending to boot. AND THE WALL CAME TUMBLING DOWN had much promise, a great plot but sadly treats us with utter contempt, an extremely weak script doesn't help matters and the actors seem like they are sleepwalking for an easy pay day.
IN POSSESSION is the best episode of the series. A genuinely scary and creepy one about a couple who seem to see ghostly happenings in their flat- there is a superb 5 min segment where the footage is all slowed down and plays out like an enxtended nightmare. Has a great twist ending that only Hammer could have conjured up.CHILD'S PLAY is really out of the box stuff, feels very much like it was inspired by The Twilight Zone. A family awaken only to find that a wall surrounds their entire house and their memories are fading fast........ Classic ending, stars Mary Crosby, daughter of Bing. THE CORVINI INHERITANCE stars David McCallum as a security expert who wants to protect his neighbour played by Jan Francis who is being stalked. Francis is a decent actress but seems to have no motivation to her character, did she feel that this role was below her? TENNIS COURT finishes off proceedings and this is a real mix match. Some great scenes an interesting plot and a bleak ending. But it has no end product and the make up is fairly poor. It could well be that you just can't make a tennis court scary. Great net kill death scene nonetheless.
Overall this series is 3 star material. It hits high at some points and generally speaking the acting is very good. unfortunetly the writing wavers a bit and some scenes are dragged out. But this is still good television. Is it dated? Of course it is, it was made in the 80s and it shows, quite a few episodes deal with technology and yuppies in the modern age. But one must just set their minds back to that point in time to fully enjoy what is on offer.
As for this DD release, you get two 16 page booklets stacked with info on the show and on the DVDs, Hammer expert Marcus Hearn interviews some surviving directors from the show. This show is also available on two separate volumes. Beware these DVD will cost you a lot of money as they are long out of print. If you feel you're taking a chance you may want to leave the series. From the 13 episodes and as a fan of Hammer and 80s television I found only 5 to be very good. The other 5 were decent enough and 3 were poor. If you are a fan and know what to expect, this is still worth getting. Remembering each episode is 70 mins long, it is like you are getting 13 movies. Below is my top 5 episodes from the show.
1. IN POSSESSION
2. CHILD'S PLAY
3. LAST VIDEO AND TESTAMENT
4. MARK OF THE DEVIL
5. CZECH MATE