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High and Low (Brow) – Episode 2.3 – Hammer Time

Posted on Mar 30, 2010 by | 3 comments

And we’re back! And with this quick turn around we are once again back on schedule to complete twelve episodes of High and Low (Brow) this year. Hopefully you are as excited by that prospect as we are.

In this episode we focus on the two works from the vaunted Hammer Films, a British movie studio best known for its modern takes on Universal horror classics such as Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy. But along with those films Hammer produced a vast number of films in the horror and thriller genres and as we discovered, they weren’t adverse to making films about the fantastic either.

We sat down with the 1972 film Vampire Circus, a film filled with curses, lycanthropes, mutilations, titillation and devoured children. Not to be outdone we follow that up with the science fiction epic Quatermass and the Pit, a film widely regarded as the finest film Hammer ever produced. Will it live up to the hype? And of course make sure to stick around for our selection process for next month’s episode as James once again tries his hand at picking the theme and the films so I can have a much deserved month off.

If you have any recommendations for films we could watch for the podcast, or want to suggest a potential theme for us to use, or simply want to tell James how awesome he is, feel free to email us and tell us your ideas. If you enjoy the show make sure to subscribe through iTunes or our RSS feed so you can catch every new episode. Also, please friend James on Facebook. Because it will frighten and confuse him. And while you’re there be sure to join our relatively new Facebook group devoted to Where the Long Tail Ends.

One more thing, if you enjoy the show feel free to donate to it through PayPal in either a single installment or as a recurring donor. We’d love to upgrade some of our equipment and anything you donate will go directly towards us getting some decent mics and perhaps even pop screens that aren’t made out of cotton balls.

As always, thanks for listening!

Opening Music – Adonai by Ennio Morricone
Closing Music – Big Wheel by Jim Croce

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Matt Gamble
I review movies. I run a movie theatre. I annoy people. I let my dogs lick my face whenever they want. Sometimes I'm even a halfway decent human.
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  1. Nice podcast. Some additional thoughts and information.

    Quatermass and the Pit is listed on Netflix, but they don’t have any copies for rent. All you can do is Save it for when it becomes available. Quatermass 2 is available through Amazon. The Quatermass Xperiment is unavailable. There are thoughts that with Hammer’s recent revival that they’ll try to regather the rights that they shipped off over the years.

    I’d suggest that Julian Glover’s Col. Breen doesn’t think it’s a German weapon simply because of stupidity. I think it’s just the easiest thing to grasp on to because he’s at heart frightened of the implications if Quatermass is right.

    I’m kind of surprised how you didn’t get much into the big ideas of race memory and the ties to superstition. The pit has satanic connections, of course. And the use of iron and water (through wet earth) at the end. It’s really amazing how the movie telescopes from a simple archeological find into something truly epic.

    Nigel Kneale also tied the inherited violence into stuff like the arms race and race riots. That’s more apparent in the original BBC serial than it is in the movie.

    It’s interesting that the movie made it to America in 1968. The same year as 2001: A Space Odyssey. Both cover some of the same ground, alien influence on evolution, but in vastly different ways.

    You’re right that John Carpenter is a Quatermass fan. He used the pen name Martin Quatermass for Prince of Darkness. He also borrowed the names of some supporting characters from The Quatermass Xperiment for characters in that film.

    Stephen King also lifted the basic premise for The Tommyknockers.

    Vampire Circus really is a unique vampire film. Probably doubly so since Hammer had put out about a dozen vampire films previously and yet they were able to come up with something different.

    It’s not often when you see that many children end up victims in a horror film. There’s a real pedophile undercurrent to the movie. These definitely aren’t sparkly vampires.

    The nomadic vampires seem to be a precursor to Near Dark. With their stopping to pursue revenge being their downfall. Arguably, you see the collapse of different types of communities. The aristocrat at the beginning. The town elders. And the circus. The only thing that survives is the healthy family.

    That tiger lady sequence is really something. I don’t know where they came up with that, but it’s one of the most unique sequences I’ve ever seen in a movie.

    One of the things that I really appreciate about Hammer is that they set out to make real movies. There’s attention to writing, art direction, cinematography, and acting. Yeah, they’re exploitive, but they genuinely try for more than simple shocks and a reason to clutch your girlfriend. At least in most of their better features. How many modern horror films can claim that?

    • I think your assessment of Breen is spot on. It seems like he simply leaps to that conclusion and holds onto it dearly as it is grounded in the only reality he knows.

      And I wish I’d remember the satanic connections that it had discussed, as that was one aspect of the film I really enjoyed. Iron also plays an important role in vampire Circus as well, which would have been a nice tie in between the two to discuss. I’ll blame James for this lack of foresight as he brought notes while I was flying blind.

  2. Following up, I think the major problem with Vampire Circus is one of plotting. The villagers seem eager to jump on the circus when nothing is going on, and when children start disappearing, at least some of the villagers seem eager to defend the circus. There’s a bit of marking time before the climax.

Would you like to say more?