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HAMMER VOLUME SIX: NIGHT SHADOWS

by Charlie Largent Jun 08, 2021

Once an upstart and now a company to contend with, Britain’s Indicator continues their series of Hammer Studio releases with Hammer Volume Six: Night Shadows, a purely generic subtitle fit for any horror film, Hammer or otherwise. What isn’t generic is Indicator’s winning formula—top notch image quality and boatloads of extra materials including documentaries, commentaries, image galleries—the works. The films in their latest set are already available stateside in more than adequate Blu ray versions—but Indicator’s work prevails on the sheer magnitude and quality of their content.

Hammer Volume Six: Night Shadows
Blu ray – Region B

Indicator
Starring Barbara Shelley, Peter Cushing, Herbert Lom, Jennie Linden
Cinematography by Arthur Grant, John Wilcox
Directed by John Gilling, Peter Graham Scott, Terence Fisher, Freddie Francis

The Shadow of the Cat – 1961
Directed by John Gilling
Starring André Morell and Barbara Shelley

Cat lovers of all stripes should have a grand time with John Gilling’s uproarious The Shadow of the Cat, the story of one formidable feline vs. three of the most hapless cutthroats in movie history. Catherine Lacey plays Ella Venable, the victim of a murder plot hatched by her husband, André Morell, and her very unfaithful servants, Freda Jackson and Andrew Crawford. One by one they shuffle, stumble, and tumble off this mortal coil thanks to the sly ways of Tabitha, Mrs. Venable’s poker-faced pussycat.

Like his frisky leading lady, Gilling is equally playful—occasionally, we see the terrified reactions of our antagonists through Tabitha’s wide eyes, a point of view photographed by Arthur Grant with a distorted lens that, if William Castle were running the show, would be part of the marquee: “Coming at you in Cat Vision!” While the villains are turned to jelly at the sight of tabby whose mere presence induces room-wrecking panic attacks, Barbara Shelley keeps her composure as the beautiful if somewhat confused Venable niece. But the real star of the show remains the imperturbable Tabitha who views the high-strung humans as naught but flesh-covered scratching posts.

Indicator’s transfer of the 1962 thriller matches up to Shout! Factory’s beautiful 2020 release, Universal Horrors Volume Six—but the wealth of Indicator’s extra material, including a  long interview with the late Ms. Shelley, makes it the clear favorite.

Captain Clegg – 1962
Directed by Peter Graham Scott
Starring Peter Cushing

In a role tailor made to his alternately kindly/beastly movie personas, Peter Cushing plays a good man with a bad past in Night Creatures, or as it’s known in Britain and around the Indicator offices, Captain Clegg. Cushing is Parson Blyss, the vicar of Dymchurch during the day and the terror of Romney Marsh at night. In the early sixties there was a burst of interest in the the Zorro-like vicar—a mild-mannered fellow who championed the proletariat in the guise of a ghostly smuggler. Not surprisingly Hammer took the bloodstained route while Disney’s Wonderful World of Color took the high road with The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh starring Patrick McGoohan as the renegade churchman—though McGoohan’s scarecrow make-up made up in Sunday nightmares what the film itself lacked in blood.

Directed by Peter Graham Scott, Clegg was part of the problematic Universal release from 2016 in a compromised transfer with a wonky aspect ratio but Indicator’s disc is the way to go, correcting the AR with a stellar image and plenty of extras.

The Phantom of the Opera – 1962
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Herbert Lom

Terence Fisher’s embattled remake of the Leroux melodrama began in dreams of big budget glory and ended as just another Hammer assembly line job. That might have been for the best—the movie’s modesty works in its favor, reflecting the sad sack status of the Phantom himself, yet another artist who just couldn’t catch a break. Herbert Lom gives a heartfelt, close to the vest performance and the second-stringers who shore up the cast, including Edward De Souza and Heather Sears, are quite likable in their unpretentious manner. There’s plenty of action on the sidelines including a murderous dwarf and his victim, a rat catcher who gets too close to the truth. The one rat who doesn’t get caught is Lord Ambrose D’Arcy, the pivotal character who brings the Phantom into being—as played by Michael Gough, D’Arcy does everything but lick his lips as the thieving music publisher who sets the plot in motion.

Indicator presents the same fine transfers from the Shout! Factory 2020 that included both 1:66: 1 and 1:85:1 versions plus the ragged but rare television cut. That said, Indictor pulls ahead with even more specially produced items.

Nightmare – 1964
Directed by Freddie Francis
Starring Jennie Linden and Moira Redmond

Freddie Francis directs a film that looks like Freddie Francis photographed it and that can only be a good thing—he even gets to hobnob with one of his most memorable camera subjects, Clytie Jessop, the pitiful and terrifying ghost of Miss Jessel in The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton and shot by Francis. The story of a boarding school student plagued by the memories of her father’s gruesome death at the hand of her mother, Francis’s film is awash in atmosphere and not much else—not necessarily a bad thing for a horror movie. A convoluted, yet completely transparent plot hobbles the film but the sight of Ms. Jessop haunting the hallways—enhanced by John Wilcox’s fine photography—more than makes up for the lack of surprises. This film was also a part of Universal’s Hammer set and once again Indicator drinks their milkshake.

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Here’s the list of extras for Hammer Volume Six: Night Shadows, direct from Indicator’s site:

THE SHADOW OF THE CAT

  • 2K restoration
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary by film historian Bruce G Hallenbeck (2020)
  • In the Shadow of Shelley (2020, 25 mins): in-depth interview with the legendary horror actor Barbara Shelley
  • Cat People (2021, 5 mins): assistant costume designer Yvonne Blake and Peter Allchorne, of the property department, share their memories of working on the film
  • Special FX Catastrophe (2014, 4 mins): audio interview with assistant special effects artist Ian Scoones
  • Hammer’s Women: Freda Jackson (2021, 9 mins): profile of the distinctive actress by academic Lucy Bolton
  • Kim Newman Introduces ‘The Shadow of the Cat’ (2021, 11 mins): appreciation by the critic and author
  • Catmotifs (2021, 18 mins): appreciation of Mikis Theodorakis’ score by David Huckvale, author of Hammer Film Scores and the Musical Avant-Garde
  • Shadow Play: Inside ‘The Shadow of the Cat’ (2014, 26 mins): documentary featuring Hammer historians Alan Barnes, Marcus Hearn, Denis Meikle, Jason Morell and Jonathan Rigby
  • Double-bill TV spot
  • Image galleries: promotional and publicity material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Limited edition exclusive 36-page booklet with a new essay by Craig Ian Mann, excerpts from original press material, an archival interview with Barbara Shelley, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits
  • UK premiere on Blu-ray

CAPTAIN CLEGG

  • High Definition remaster
  • Two presentations of the film: Captain Clegg, with the original UK title sequence, and Night Creatures, with the alternative US titles
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with film historian and filmmaker Constantine Nasr (2021)
  • The BEHP Interview with Peter Graham Scott (2004, 201 mins): career-spanning filmed interview, made as part of the British Entertainment History Project, featuring Graham Scott in conversation with Darrol Blake and John Sealey
  • Hammer’s Women: Molly Arbuthnot and Rosemary Burrows (2021, 14 mins): overview of the prolific Hammer wardrobe mistresses by film historian Josephine Botting
  • Kim Newman Introduces ‘Captain Clegg’ (2021, 14 mins): appreciation by the critic and author
  • Peter Cushing: Perspectives (2021, 29 mins): documentary looking at the life and work of Peter Cushing, featuring contributions from actors Derek Fowlds, Judy Matheson and Madeline Smith
  • Smugglers’ Gothic (2021, 22 mins): David Huckvale, author of Hammer Film Scores and the Musical Avant-Garde, on Don Banks’ score and the influence of the head of Hammer Films’ music department, Philip Martell
  • Making of ‘Captain Clegg’ (2014, 32 mins): documentary narrated by actor John Carson, with insights from film historian Wayne Kinsey
  • The Mossman Legacy (2014, 7 mins): Kinsey discusses the contributions of transport historian and collector George Mossman to Hammer productions
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Image galleries: promotional and publicity material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Limited edition exclusive 36-page booklet with new essays by Frank Collins and Kieran Foster, extracts from original press materials, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

  • 2K restoration
  • Optional 1.66:1 and 1.85:1 presentations of the original theatrical version (85 mins)
  • Alternative TV cut (99 mins): extended version with unique scenes, presented open matte in Standard Definition
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with author Steve Haberman and film historian Constantine Nasr (2020)
  • Audio commentary with film historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson (2020)
  • Down in the Sewers (2020, 6 mins): special effects artist Brian Johnson fondly recalls the production
  • Hammer’s Women: Liane Aukin (2021, 7 mins): profile of the actor, writer and director by the academic Rachel Knightley
  • Kim Newman Introduces ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ (2021, 13 mins): appreciation by the critic and author
  • The Men Who Made Hammer: Anthony Hinds (2020, 28 mins): Richard Klemensen, editor and publisher of Little Shoppe of Horrors journal, revisits the career of one of Hammer’s most renowned screenwriters and producers
  • Phantom Triumphant: Edwin Astley and Hammer’s Horror Opera (2020, 16 mins): David Huckvale, author of Hammer Film Scores and the Musical Avant-Garde, dissects the classic score
  • Herbert Lom: The Soul Behind the Mask (2020, 16 mins): film historian and screenwriter C Courtney Joyner shares personal memories of time spent with the legendary actor
  • Making of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ (2014, 31 mins): documentary presented by actor Edward de Souza, including interviews with film historian Richard Golen, sound recordist Alan Lavender, and de Souza himself
  • Original theatrical trailers
  • Brian Trenchard-Smith trailer commentary (2013, 3 mins): short critical appreciation
  • Image galleries: promotional and publicity material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Adam Scovell, Terence Fisher on The Phantom of the Opera, extracts from original press materials, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits

NIGHTMARE

  • High Definition remaster
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with film historians Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby (2021)
  • The BEHP Interview with Freddie Francis (1994, 83 mins): career-spanning audio interview, made as part of the British Entertainment History Project, featuring Francis in conversation with Alan Lawson and Syd Wilson
  • Jennie Linden: Memories (2016, 15 mins): interview with the Nightmare and Women in Love actor
  • Hammer’s Women: Moira Redmond (2021, 10 mins): profile of the film, television and theatre actor by critic and film historian Pamela Hutchinson
  • Kim Newman Introduces ‘Nightmare’ (2021, 8 mins): appreciation by the critic and author
  • Something Lurking in the Chords (2021, 30 mins): appreciation of Don Banks’ score by David Huckvale, author of Hammer Film Scores and the Musical Avant-Garde
  • Madhouse: Inside Hammer’s ‘Nightmare’ (2016, 15 mins): Hammer historians Alan Barnes, John J Johnston, Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby revisit the production
  • ‘Nightmare’ in the Making (2016, 28 mins): documentary with film historian Wayne Kinsey, featuring interviews with actor Jennie Linden, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster and art director Don Mingaye
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Image galleries: promotional and publicity material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Emma Westwood, extracts from original press materials, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits