Hammer House of Horror Blu-ray Review
It's never looked better and it's still scary after all these years
Hammer House of Horror terrified an entire generation when it was first televised in 1980.Hammer had moved to the small screen for this anthology series which was originally shown on ITV and ran for 13 episodes, each with a running time of approximately 50 minutes. These episodes were self-contained and featured plot twists which usually saw the protagonists fall foul of a particular horror at the end. The series featured a different kind of horror each week, including witches, werewolves, doppelgängers, ghosts, devil worship and voodoo, but also included non-supernatural horror themes such as cannibalism, confinement and serial killers.All the stories were set in contemporary England and featured an excellent cast of British talent that naturally included Hammer stalwart Peter Cushing. Although conceived as a TV series Hammer House of Horror was shot on 35mm film as thirteen short features and brought a previously unseen level of gore to British TV screens (especially the episode 'The House that Bled to Death') as well as some late 70s Hammer nudity. The series may be nearly forty years old but it still retains both an ability to scare and an enjoyably satirical edge.
Picture QualityHammer House of Horror was shot on 35mm, which was highly unusual for a UK TV series at the time, but Hammer effectively treated the series as thirteen short feature films. They also clearly had an eye on the American market and the use of film would help to sell the series in a market where that was common practice in TV production. The UK region B locked Blu-ray release uses a high definition restoration of the 35mm camera negative in the original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is encoded at 1080/24p using the AVC codec.
Originally shot on 35mm film, this new Blu-ray release looks superb
The level of clarity in the image is exceptional and for those who actually remember the late 1970s the photography is often like looking back in time. The streets, the cars the clothes are all delivered in marvellous high definition with plenty of detail within the picture. There is a layer of fine grain, as one would expect, and this gives the image a lovely film-like appearance. The colours appear saturated, especially that classic Hammer bright red blood, but flesh tones appear natural. The blacks are largely solid, although there is occasionally some noise in nighttime scenes but overall this is a clean transfer that is free of digital artefacts or compression issues. This is undoubtedly the best that Hammer House of Horror has ever looked and the images are so good at times that it's hard to believe they're nearly forty years old.
Sound QualityWhen Hammer House of Horror was originally shown back in 1980 the audio was obviously in mono due to broadcast limitations at the time. However, as with the 35mm photography, Hammer clearly treated this series as essentially thirteen short films and so the audio was mixed in stereo even though it couldn't be heard that way when broadcast. The Blu-ray includes a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix that reflects the sound as created at the time but there's also a new DTS-HD Master Audio lossless 5.1 mix for all thirteen episodes.
Whilst not demo quality, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack adds to the scares
The lossless multi-channel mix is certainly the preferred option, with a more open sound that adds greater impact to each episode. If sound is fifty percent of the audio/visual experience then it's probably even more for horror films and the 5.1-channel mix is able to add plenty of scares to the various stories. This isn't a demo quality soundtrack but dialogue is clear and focused on the screen, the music is mixed across the frontal array and the sound effects use the surrounds to add more atmosphere and a few jumps. The dialogue betrays looping at times, the fidelity of the original recordings are limited and there's minimal bass but this is still a fun soundtrack that compliments the lovely visuals.
ExtrasThis Blu-ray release is composed of all thirteen episodes – 'Witching Time', 'The Thirteenth Reunion', 'Rude Awakening', 'Growing Pains', 'The House that Bleed to Death', 'Charlie Boy', 'The Silent Scream', 'Children of the Full Moon', 'Carpathian Eagle', 'Guardians of the Abyss', 'Visitor from the Grave', 'The Two Faces of Evil' and 'The Mark of Satan' – spread across three discs with five episodes each on the first two and three on the third disc. There are also a number of extras on the third disc as well:
Commercial Break Stings – These are the brief stings used for the commercial breaks when the series was first aired on ITV.
Rude Awakening Opening Montage Raw Takes (HD, 12:39) – This raw footage without dialogue forms the basis of the opening montage at the start of the episode 'Rude Awakening' and considering the final cut goes on for less than a minute it shows how much footage is shot for just a single montage.
Guardians of the Abyss in Widescreen – The episode Guardians of the Abyss is presented in 1.66:1 widescreen and with an LPCM stereo soundtrack. The image is matted to 1.66:1 and sometimes appears a little tight in terms of framing but otherwise it is basically the same as the 1.33:1 version, although the slightly larger image has a bit more grain structure.
Image Gallery – Promotional material and images from the series.
Blu-ray VerdictThis Blu-ray release of Hammer House of Horror includes all thirteen episodes of the ground-breaking TV series from 1980. The series was shot on film and brought a previously unseen level of gore to UK TV screens with stories that combined plot twists about witches, werewolves, doppelgängers, ghosts, devil worship and voodoo with non-supernatural horror themes such as cannibalism, confinement and serial killers. The series is as enjoyable and exciting now as it was nearly forty years ago and is a must for fans of Hammer and horror in general.
Great picture and decent sound make this Blu-ray a must-buy for fans of this classic series
The Blu-rays themselves do the series justice and use a new restoration of the original 35mm camera negative which results in a lovely high definition image that has plenty of detail and natural colours with a light layer of grain. There's also a DTS-HD Mater Audio 5.1-channel soundtrack that ensures the series looks and sounds better than ever, along with a few extras which round out a great three disc set that is sure to please fans.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £25.99
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