Hammer Films: Three Classic Monster Movies That Didn’t Star Christopher Lee

Hammer Films found a goldmine with its frequent pairing of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. And if you catch yourself revisiting some of their product this weekend to honor Mr. Lee, whom we lost yesterday at the age of 93, I salute you.

But even though it seems like every single film they did had the tall, dark, and evil presence of Lee or the quietly dignified Cushing, the studio still managed to put together some good stuff without their flagship performers.

If you’re looking for some good nostalgic horror to take the edge off this week, I recommend checking out the following.

Curse of the Werewolf

A mute servant girl is raped by a beggar in a dungeon. From this unholy union, on Christmas Day no less, a child is born. Leon appears to be an ordinary child until he’s taken on his first hunting trip and starts sprouting fangs, claws, and hair. Leon’s guardian, Don Alfredo, looks after him and tries to keep him out of trouble, but as a young man with young love on the horizon, his primal urges become uncontrollable. Curse of the Werewolf is a surprisingly lurid masterpiece to have been made in 1961, and it stars Oliver Reed in the lead role. Here’s the trailer.

The Kiss of the Vampire

The Kiss of the Vampire was a departure from the Hammer Films norm of having either Cushing or Lee in a lead role. Brides of Dracula, which followed Horror of Dracula (starring Lee), tried, but it still needed the presence of Cushing to hold things together. In Kiss, the cast is a new one, though the plot is somewhat familiar. A young couple honeymooning in a southern European village are targeted by a family of aristocrats with evil intent. It’s an experiment, but not too far off the beaten path to be entertaining. Check the trailer here.

The Reptile

Hammer Films made most of its money on the Dracula and Frankenstein series tied so closely to Lee and Cushing, but they did venture out into more experimental monster movies from time to time, and with The Reptile (1966), they hit pay dirt. This chiller follows a young couple, who move to a small village, where they are poorly received by the locals. One of them breaks from the pack and urges the couple, for their own good, to get out of town. From there, a string of mysterious deaths begin to plague the community that appear to be the work of a snake. The truth is more horrifying.

Which Hammer Films are your favorites? Sound off in the comments section.

[Image via Curse of the Werewolf screen grab, linked above]

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