Friday, September 28, 2012

"Fixing" A Hammer

Being a lifelong monster-movie fan, I have a huge love for Hammer Films, the British movie company that specialized in horror, science-fiction, and adventure films in the 1950s-70s. The company has recently been revitalized due to new ownership, and one of the projects the "new" Hammer has been working on is releasing some of their classic films on Blu-ray.

These Blu-rays are, unfortunately, for the British region, which means they won't play on North American Blu-ray players. I don't own a multi-region Blu-ray machine (if you'd like to send me money so I can buy one, please feel free). One assumes that eventually these versions will reach the American market.

Having the great color Hammer films remastered and in HD sounds wonderful, doesn't it? Well, I found out something this week that worries me. THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, one of Hammer's best, is coming out soon on Blu-ray, and it has...."enhanced" special effects.

What this means is that today's technology was used to make changes to the 1968 movie. I haven't seen the Blu-ray, so I can't tell you how much was changed, or how it affects the film. But the idea kind of scares me.

ANY horror or science-fiction film made forty-odd years ago might look quaint, or silly, to a 21st Century audience. The idea that a forty-year-old film can be "fixed"--without the input of the people who originally made the film--is somewhat arrogant. SFX alone does not make a movie great. I'm sure 20...heck, maybe even 10..years from now there will be people who think THE AVENGERS is old-fashioned.

What's even worse is the Blu-ray is just going to have this "enhanced" version...there will not be an original version of the film included. (The original THE DEVIL RIDES OUT is on DVD--but why not just put the original on the Blu-ray as well?)

I don't know why Hammer is doing this--cheap publicity? A way to boost sales by attracting the curious? I certainly hope this isn't the start of a new trend. I don't need to see Peter Cushing fighting CGI vampires.

But when you think about it, it IS part of a modern-day trend. What are all these remakes, re-boots, and updates, if nothing more than "enhancements"? Sure, "Hawaii Five-O" was a great TV show, but what if you set it in today's world? And added some hot-looking women? And TOTAL RECALL was pretty cheesy...we can make a way better version. And so on..and so on...

Maybe all these "fixers" should spend less time messing with someone else's body of work and come up with their own original body of work.

You can't enhance originality.


  1. I truly understand your apprehension but it's not as bad as you think. In fact, the film (including enhancements -- which aren't as bad as I thought they would be) looks stunning on Blu-ray. There's a long featurette on the disc (produced by Marcus Hearn) that explains how and why the painstaking new effects were done with much subtlety and great care; not sure if you knew most of the effects shots in the original were rushed and incomplete (such as the spider and angel of death sequences). Being a purist, I too would have appreciated an unaltered version of the film in the same package (like Paramount did with the Star Trek original series BDs) but truth be told, I would still probably prefer the enhanced version this time. The overall clarity and image quality is a giant leap forward. StudioCanal deserves applause for their effort (unlike Lionsgate who released not one but TWO abysmal BD transfers this month for The Curse of Frankenstein) -- and Hammer chided for not standing behind this or releasing two versions. I can assure you, Star Wars debacles this is not. I suspect most fans will avoid it like the plague, which is unfortunate. The Devil Rides Out has finally been respectfully and properly restored by loving hands and is well worth a look.