directed by Marcus Hearn
by Walter Chaw An affectionate if standard talking heads-plus-clips documentary covering those last years of the hale British studio's run as they tried, from the late-'60s on, to compete with the new era of permissiveness and transgression in film, Hammer Horror: The Warner Bros Years, from Hammer authority Marcus Hearn (who's published multiple volumes on the subject), is lockstep, even dry alas, but indisputably informative. I was most interested in the revelation that Hammer had wanted to work with director Michael Reeves post-Witchfinder General but that Reeves died prematurely, leaving the very weird Hitchcock riff Crescendo as the relic of a lost collaboration. Anecdotes like how Madeline Smith from 1970's Taste the Blood of Dracula was a "complete virgin" fresh from convent school and thus badly-equipped to deal with that film's brothel scene and its accompanying male "naughty bits" are interesting-verging-on-appalling. Actually appalling are the recollections of the same movie's John Carson, who tells the story of how someone else on set hysterically went over the line and sexually harassed a co-star. There's another bit about the late addition of a rape to sex things up in the rapidly-changing social environment that is frankly unforgivable. The rest of it plays a lot like a Spinal Tap sort of thing where an increasingly desperate studio does a hippie movie with aged thirty-somethings (Dracula A.D. 1972) and allies itself with Run Run Shaw. All to capture zeitgeist in a bottle--to no avail. Hammer Horror: The Warner Bros Years is a nice piece as far as it goes, though as it's about curiosities that only the most die-hard fans will have seen, it feels like it should be a special feature in a comprehensive DVD box set rather than a standalone documentary.