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Hammer Horror Introduction

"IT'S ALIVE! IT'S ALIVE!" That's what horror fans were saying of their favorite genre during the 1950s through the early '70s, when the British studio Hammer Film Productions was producing a steady supply of old-fashioned Gothic fright films.

With American horror dying off in favor of sci-fi effects, there was no more shivery or stylish guilty pleasure than the Hammer movies, whose low budgets were belied by striking direction, imaginative sets and slumming star actors having the campy time of their lives. The gore quotient was quite high for the time, so much so that British censorship of some bloody sequences was not relaxed for years.

This salute to Hammer's heyday includes the studio's two breakthrough horror films, both directed by Terence Fisher and making stars of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee: The Curse of Frankenstein [1957], starring Cushing as the mad scientist and Lee as his monster, and Horror of Dracula [1958], with Lee as the bloodsucking count and Cushing as Van Helsing.

Among seven TCM premieres are such provocative titles from director Fisher as The Brides of Dracula [1960], which imbues the vampire myth with hints of incest, sadomasochism and homosexuality, and Frankenstein Created Woman [1966], with former Playboy centerfold Susan Denberg as the suicidal beauty given a new lease on life by the good doctor [Cushing again].

Appropriately enough, the festival leads into Halloween weekend, which offers a collection of "Deadly Jealousy" films on Saturday and movies about "Haunted Houses" on Halloween itself. So tune in to TCM during October for a full month of frightfully good fun!

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