Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror is a 1994 British/American feature-length documentary film written and directed by Ted Newsom (The Naked Monster; 100 Years of Horror series; Ed Wood: Look Back in Angora; Monsters and Maniacs; et al). It was originally shown on British television in two parts.
“Explore the most legendary horror studio of all time with this fascinating, frightening journey hosted by terror titans Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. England’s most successful independent film company, the “fear factory” of Hammer Studios, has a history filled with feuds, censorship battles and streaks of luck both good and bad.
Now the legacy of horror returns, featuring interviews with such Hammer legends as Raquel Welch, Veronica Carlson, Caroline Munro, Ingrid Pitt, Jimmy Sangster, Hazel Court, Martine Beswicke, Freddie Francis, Val Guest and Ray Harryhausen.
This DVD also includes behind-the-scenes home movies and nonstop shock scenes from over forty classic films, including Horror of Dracula, Curse of Frankenstein, The Devil Rides Out, Curse of the Werewolf and many more. The definitive study of one of the greatest names in horror!” – Press release
Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror is released on DVD in the UK on May 28, 2018, by Wienerworld. Order DVD via Amazon.co.uk
In the USA, S’More Entertainment is releasing the documentary on DVD on July 10, 201. Order via Amazon.com
Though it started out a typical British film distributor, Hammer Films became a brand name in gothic-horror and fantasy, after one of their many radio/TV show adaptations to the screen, The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), about no-nonsense alien-fighter Professor Quatermass, showed unexpected legs/tentacles at the box office.
Following that success, logically, with more of the same, Hammer turned into a monster factory, revisiting the mythology of werewolves, mummies, Dracula and Doctor Frankenstein. Ace cast members like Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are here examples of what top-drawer talent, plus atmospheric (if inexpensive) sets, unprecedented gore, inventive makeup, increasing erotic content and lurid ads could do for a somewhat tapped-out genre.
Despised at the time by critics, Hammer successes such as Dracula aka Horror of Dracula (1958) are revered today. Compilation-specialist Newsom takes an interesting angle telling the studio’s story, first by tracking the arcs of the assorted franchises — Quatermass, Frankenstein, Dracula — and only afterwards charting the company’s history from heyday to decline.
Early in the 1960s, Hammer tried to ease back into the mainstream, diversifying its portfolio with realistic police thrillers. But neither the public nor those same snooty critics supported the transformation. So it was back to the wellspring, for dinosaur/cavegirl sagas One Million Years B.C., lesbian vampires, and even ahead-of-their-time attempts to blend gothic vampire-horror with Hong Kong martial arts and swordplay, The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires and Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter.
Despite Brit box office successes with spin-offs of the dire TV comedy On the Buses, the company finally withered in the mid-’70s amidst a field of lookalike competitors plus Exorcist and Texas Chain Saw Massacre-intense movies that once again upped the ante on shock and viscera (although Hammer had one last horror fling in 1976 with To the Devil a Daughter). Those bobbing puppet-vampire-bats-at-mullioned-windows just weren’t the same any longer, though Hammer players and titles would continue to be fondly remembered.
Most fans will find this irresistible dish, with Lee (who says that Hammer’s distribution deals with Universal Pictures saved Universal from bankruptcy, though I’ve heard Abbot and Costello fans make the exact same claim about their heroes), Cushing (who died of prostate cancer subsequently to recording his narration), assorted scream queens, directors and producers. American filmmaker/fan Joe Dante serves as a stand-in for the American kids who grew up on Hammer.
Among amazing Hammer fun facts: a much-maligned 1962 edition of The Phantom of the Opera, with Herbert Lom, was originally conceived for an ageing Cary Grant, thinking of trying the horror genre (thus a far less baneful and murderous phantom than audiences expected). Grant instead chose to retire from films altogether… Think of it though, Cary Grant and Hammer. The mind boggles.
Charles Cassady Jr, MOVIES and MANIA
“It’s formulaic but pleasantly fast-paced. It doesn’t let one person needlessly say more than the other and the documentary features a wide variety of interviewees, which makes this a pleasant and always nice paced and insightful documentary. An essential movie for the Hammer lovers.” Boba_Fett1138
“Flesh and Blood is pretty much all-inclusive, though it tends to only skim over some important topics (the “Karnstein” trilogy for example), and unnecessarily chastise Hammer’s later films when they discuss the company’s “fall.” But with its minor flaws, Flesh and Blood is an irresistible scrutiny of a name in horror that will never die in the public’s eye…” DVD Drive-In
“At 103 minutes, Flesh and Blood is both leisurely and detailed, and pretty much covers all the bases. Written, directed, and co-produced by Ted Newsom, the project clearly is a labor of love. It’s both affectionate and informative, entertaining in of itself, anecdotal yet also a useful reference.” DVD Talk
Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror was previously released on DVD in the United States by Image Entertainment on October 5, 2004.