Monster Madness (2008)

My Instagram Post 04 October 2019

Don’t bother with this one.

Okay, okay. It’s not all bad. It’s an examination and history of the rise of Hammer Studios and, as the subtitle says, the subsequent revival of gothic horror in the 60s and 70s. This is a pretty key time in horror cinema and my favorite era, hands down. So it deserves better than this poorly organized, leering mess.

A little digging revealed that this doc is considered a sort of “best of” collection of panels from the FANEX Film Convention, held from 1984-2004 in the DC area. It was made under a different title in 2008 as a way to capture panel Q&As with former Hammer stars like Ingrid Pitt and Veronica Carlson. The reason behind the new title I watched it under is lost to the mysteries of distribution rights.

While the clips of actors reminiscing about their experiences in Hammer films are pretty fascinating, they are interspersed with a number of “film historians” who get very excited talking about which topless scenes of Pitt’s or Caroline Munro meant the most to them as adolescent boys. And that is the extent of their commentary – yet they have plenty of insights about the actual performances and character of the male stars of Hammer. The juxtaposition was so jarring yet so sadly unsurprising.

Add in a really incoherent pace and a timeline that was all over the place (how hard is it to stick with a chronology when your subject is…a chronology?) and you’ve pretty much lost me. Except…The FANEX clips were fun to see, though the audio was really poor in spots. It was lovely to actually hear from some of the women of Hammer films, which made it so much more frustrating that their contributions were reduced by the “historians” to just exactly how undressed they were. There were also some great bits of archival interview with the always charming Peter Cushing, dynamic young Oliver Reed, and a lot of the famous names behind the scenes at Hammer. Someday, I’d love to see the full personhood and craft of the women of Hammer get the same amount of respect.

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