A few years ago I sat down and watched Hammer's late 60s/early 70s run of Frankenstein films and found myself transfixed by just how great the series was. While the company's influential and fun Dracula flicks eventually felt dated, gimmicky and repetitive, their Frankenstein cycle continually reinvented itself and – in my mind – reached its pinnacle with FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969). Not just the best of an excellent series, DESTROYED is a fine example of just how smart, scary and great a horror film can be.
Though the good doctor still had some life in him, I was disappointed by how the series ended with DESTROYED's follow up, FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (1974). Peter Cushing's creator didn't go out with a bang but a whimper, still stuck in the asylum at film's end, though steadfast in his desire to keep on experimenting.
In a few years John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN (1978) would change the horror film landscape radically and though often cut from similar cloth, the hulking, revenge-driven monsters of the Frankenstein flicks would find themselves taking a backseat to their slasher film brethren.
Fast forward to 2011 and I may finally be getting my wish to see the ol' Baron go out on a high note. This time, though, his sequel isn't coming to the big screen but drenched in four-color fear courtesy of the new comic series FLESH & BLOOD.
Written by Robert Tinnell and illustrated by Neil Vokes, FLESH & BLOOD: Book One (available from recently-minted horror comic publisher Monsterverse) is like the fevered monster mash that many a Hammer-watcher craved. While Universal never missed an opportunity to pit their box-office baddies against one another, Hammer steadfastly kept their mummies, vampires, wolfmen and reanimated monsters on their own separate cinematic paths. And while that vision made for focused (if a smidge rigid) silver screen outings, FLESH & BLOOD shows just how much action-packed horror fun was to be had by letting loose with these characters.
Not to spoil much of the joy to be had in the opening installment's fast and furious pages but let's just say that there's a plan to spring the good Baron and his new cellmate to help thwart a vampire scourge, multiple attacks by various beasties and monsters, and some swashbuckling that brought to mind what may be my favorite Hammer film of them all, CAPTAIN KRONOS: VAMPIRE HUNTER (1974).
Tinnell's story draws upon everything from monster lore to Hammer history (and I'd probably pick up even more of the references and sly nods were I better versed in both areas... damn you feeble brain!) while Vokes' panels seamlessly segue between sinister forces attacking pitchfork-wielding villagers, blood-soaked mayhem, two-fisted action and some of the most eye-poppingly eye-popping she-creatures to ever seduce a damsel.
As if this tale of mortals and monsters battling for our very existence wasn't enough, FLESH & BLOOD: Book One comes packed with an introduction from VIDEO WATCHDOG publisher Tim Lucas, a historical perspective on vampire cinema by Bruce Hallenback, an art gallery featuring work by Vokes, Adrian Salmon and Mike Oeming and even the first part of a Quatermass-esque tale called OPERATION SATAN (from Tinnell and artist Bob Hall). Whew!
Like previous collaborations with each other and others (THE BLACK FOREST, THE WICKED WEST, FACELESS, SIGHT UNSEEN, PARLIAMENT OF JUSTICE, THE LIVING AND THE DEAD), Tinnell and Vokes have delivered another blast of prose and graphics with pages that drip with their enthusiasm and love for all things horror. Not merely an homage to the days when the House of Hammer ruled the genre, FLESH & BLOOD is a fitting continuation of the sagas we never wanted to see end.
FLESH & BLOOD: Book One is available at Amazon.
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