I just pulled out my DVD of Hammer’s PIRATES OF BLOOD RIVER last night and watched it through, finding it an eminently entertaining film with a very good transfer. Well-acted, great cast, nice music score, pleasant visuals, etc. And wow, Christopher Lee looks great in black! Tonight I will listen to the commentary track. I suspect that this and DEVIL SHIP PIRATES and a couple more of the adventure series will appear on a future Indicator box set. (I also suspect a future Hammer box from them will contain the sci-fi titles such as THESE ARE THE DAMNED…hope they can go beyond the Columbia titles and include X-THE UNKNOWN and QUATERMASS II, neither of which have been released on true 1080p Blu-ray anywhere in the world).
Most Hammer fans do not think of the adventure/oriental thriller (TERROR OF THE TONGS, STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY) films to be on the same level as its horror titles, but some of them certainly rival many of the 70’s horror titles. The suspense box that includes CASH ON DEMAND, NEVER GIVE SWEETS TO A STRANGER, etc. has some terrific stuff as well. Time to begin re-evaluating the non-horror Hammer titles! Indicator will help fill in the gaps, perhaps on region-free Blu’s, but domestically we may see some of this from Mill Creek.
Moving on, many of the Hammer’s that have been released on Region B-only Blu-rays in Europe (BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB, THE REPTILE, PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, SCARS OF DRACULA, etc.) are not yet released domestically. This need not be an issue if those who complain about it would simply invest in an inexpensive region-free player. I know it is a well-worn topic on HTF to try to convince region-locked collectors to make this small but important purchase, but it is so true…being region-free opens up a whole new world of available Blu-rays to all, including a generous number of Hammer films.
Even so, a few titles remain m.i.a. LUST FOR A VAMPIRE and the aforementioned QUATERMASS II and X-THE UNKNOWN (mistakenly thought to be true Blu-ray on a triple-bill with QUATERMASS XPERIMENT) are as yet unreleased anywhere on Blu worldwide. And, of course, Warner Bros. continues to sit on what might be improved transfers of CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and THE HORROR OF DRACULA. From the UK, FRANKENSTEIN is almost unwatchable for me — blurry to the point to showing nearly zero detail — and DRACULA, which I find OK after the first reel or two, although there is a bluish color balance — can both look better, and we look to WB to offer them.
So, although the last couple of years have brought out dozens of sought-after Hammer titles, which is great. But much remains undone, and it may be up to Indicator & Studiocanal to get these out.