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Hammer time...

Updated: Dec 11, 2019

Kids today don't know how good they have it. Not only do they have a million channels, if they have cable/satellite at all, but they can stream on several services. When I was a kid, even with cable it was quite a feat to find exactly what you wanted to watch when you wanted to watch it. Oh you could get a ride, or even walk the 30 minutes to the local video rental store (I began pre-Blockbuster) and check the shelves hoping the movie you wanted was still there or had been returned recently...if they even carried it.

The younger reader may ask something like, why don't you go to Wal-Mart and buy it or just look it up on cable and hit record on the DVR. And I can only say, "You fool, you didn't buy movies back then." Who wanted to pay $100 for a VCR tape when you could rent it for a buck? Then I pull out my phone and show them the nightmare that is setting a VCR to record. And point out you still had to search the weekly TV guide, if you were lucky enough to have parents to subscribe, or go through the newspaper which didn't always include all the channels, to find the one movie or show you wanted to watch or tape. If you've ever watched a youth look something up, you understand they would never find anything as they gave up once they realized there was no search function with either choice.

Now I mention all this terrible torture children of the 80s had to endure to tell you there is a wonderful documentary on the studio that helped introduce and foster my love of the horror genre - Hammer Studios. Now if you wanted to watch horror movies in the 80s and they weren't at the theater at the time, many turned to USA, TBS, or TNT. Back in the day those stations didn't play original material. They didn't have shows or movies produced for them exclusively and they didn't run 24 hour marathons of your favorite CBS or NBC dramas. No, TNT focused more on amazing animated collections and basketball, they did play the occasional movie marathons. Sometimes they would be mysteries, romances, and on good days horror. TBS and USA was better because they told you what days to look. Friday nights and all day Saturday. And it was glorious...but edited.

Back then unless you paid for specific channels, hello HBO or Showtime, your cable was edited. Scenes were cut and curse words were replaced with everyday words that made no sense in the context they now appeared in. It was here that you could sit down and absorb hours and hours of uninterrupted horror movie masterpieces. Or terrible movies to be honest but beggars couldn't be choosers back then. Our choices were what was on TV, Atari, or God-forbid going outside and playing. And it was here that I got a steady diet of classic horror monster; Frankenstein's monster, Wolfmen, Dracula, Phantoms, Fish people, Mummies, and so on. But I wasn't getting Universals' versions but the ones redone in color in the late 50s to the 70s. The ones Hammer Studios redid with Universals blessing.

Movies where Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Oliver Reed, and a revolving door of beautiful leading ladies brought these stories to life. Stories that generated multiple sequels of each monster, enhancing and broadening their stories along the way. And while these movies don't hold a candle to the amount of gore that can be seen in horror movies today, since these were some of the first to be in color these are the ones that are considered the grandfather to the modern era slasher films. Even compared to what they did in the early 80s, these movies have some truly gruesome special effects and large amounts of blood...although not all of it made it to the small screen.

And in celebration of the studio that brought you these movies, there is a wonderful documentary that can be streamed on Amazon Prime: Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror. It is filled with not only the recognizable faces of Hammer, Cushing and Lee, but with many of the behind the scenes people and other actors and actresses. If you are a fan of cinema from the 50s-70s or horror movies in general this documentary is full of wonderful tidbits.

And after you watch the movie, you can simply search for the titles that jump out or you might have missed. Many are on Prime for free or you can jump around to a few other streaming services and find them there for free. You can even search on your cable provider to find some and it will record it for you no issue. Even if they aren't free, most can be rented immediately for a couple of bucks and you don't have to do anything but click a button. Just think of all the time we could have saved in the 80s by just clicking a button.

But then I think of the fun time I had searching to see these gems and I wonder if maybe I'm wrong. Maybe we had it a little better because it wasn't so easy to get a hold of whatever we wanted whenever we wanted it and we got to enjoy the hunt as much as the actual movie once we got our grubby little hands on it. I can hear the "OK Boomer", as I finish typing this last line out...

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