SDCC '15: High Def Horrow – Hammer Horror Meets Harryhausen With Joe Dante

By Joshua Stone

IMG_0213As a big fan of the classic horror films from the 50s and 60s, I was very excited to attend this panel. The panel was moderated by Gary Miereanu, and the panel featured Warner Archive Podcast hosts George Feltenstein, D. W. Ferranti, and Matthew Patterson. The special guest for the panel was director Joe Dante (Gremlins, Innerspace, The 'Burbs). Feltenstein talked about the upcoming Horror Classics, Volume One Collection which will feature the first ever Blu-ray release of the Hammer Films by Warner Bros. Included in the set will be The Mummy, starring Christopher Lee, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, starring Peter Cushing, Dracula Has Risen From The Grave, starring Christopher Lee, and Taste The Blood Of Dracula, again starring Christopher Lee. The set is due out in October.

Dante said that The Curse Of Frankenstein was the first Hammer Film that he ever saw, and that the success of that film influenced Italian horror filmmakers, such as Mario Bava, and American filmmaker Roger Corman, as they took notice of the success of the film and its unique style. The panel then showed us the original trailers from all four movies, and it was really nice to see them up on a big screen, and to really see the power that Christopher Lee exuded when he played these iconic characters. Feltenstein said the reason The Curse of Frankenstein and other earlier Hammer Films were not being included in this first volume Blu-ray release of the movies is that the prints still need more restoration work done on them. He also said that the set was called Volume One for a reason, as more will be following.

Next the panel spent a few minutes talking about the recently deceased Christopher Lee, and they showed a video honoring his memory with clips from various films he had been in during his illustrious career. It was quite moving to watch, and after the panel was over I popped in my headphones and listened to Lee's heavy metal rendition of The Little Drummer Boy which I highly recommend.

Next the panel discussed the upcoming Blu Ray release from Warner Bros., Special Effects Collection. The set will feature four special effect heavy films – Son Of Kong, Mighty Joe Young, Them, and The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. Dante said that Them is "a seminal movie and a quintessential 50s movie."

Dante then discussed his film Innerspace, which is being released on Blu-ray in August. He said that making Innerspace was probably the most fun he had making a movie because the cast was so much fun. He said that initially the movie wasn't seen as being successful as it didn't do well at the box office, and he felt that was probably because of the film's title. When it came out on home video it took off, and developed the large following that it still has today. As a kid I actually went and saw it when it came out in the theaters because I was a big Martin Short fan and didn't realize that it wasn't actually a big hit at the time.

Overall a good panel, definitely worth the time, but I just wished that there had been a panel at SDCC that was just dedicated to the work of Christopher Lee. Maybe next year.