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If 100 minutes feels too brief for a full history of Hammer, the studio that dripped blood, it's largely because it has such a juicy history. The narration is appropriately helmed by dueling Hammer icons and cinematic nemeses Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, whose Ping-Pong-like tradeoffs bring an intimacy through their relaxed voices, in addition to their humor and appreciative insights. Their commentary enlivens the wealth of interviews with the likes of producer Michael Carreras, directors Val Guest and Roy Ward Baker, cinematographer-turned-director Freddie Francis, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, and a gallery of former Hammer scream queens and sexpots (including Caroline Munro and Raquel Welch), as do thankful moments with fan (and coproducer) Joe Dante. Writer-director Ted Newsome structures the picture through thematic threads: examining science fiction films, beginning with early Quatermass hits, then the gothic horror revival begun with the Frankenstein series, then back to follow through with the Dracula series, and so on. Newsome is dutiful in his coverage if less than compelling (the narration helps color that with a little warmth), but the only real debit is the quality of the film clips, too often culled from trailers in which the choppy montage quality hardly captures the mood of many scenes and the inferior source print quality doesn't do the representative films justice. But that's a mere caveat to a rich, well-researched documentary that should please any fan of horror, in general or of Hammer in particular.

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ANB10618 Flesh & Blood: Heritage Of Hammer VHS (1997/documentary) $5.99