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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Adventure > Pirates > Swords > Swashbuckler > War > Icons of Adventure Collection (Pirates Of Blood River/Devil-Ship Pirates/Stranglers Of Bombay/Terror Of The Tongs/Hammer Films/Sony DVD)

Icons of Adventure Collection (Pirates Of Blood River/Devil-Ship Pirates/Stranglers Of Bombay/Terror Of The Tongs/Hammer Films/Sony DVD)


Picture: C+ (color)/C (Black & White)     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Films: C+



Though the Hammer Studios are known for Horror films overall, they made films other genres before mixing them in their final years as a last-ditch effort to save the studio.  Besides some of Britain’s more interesting Film Noir entries, they made Action/Adventure films in the swashbuckler and Alexander Korda mode.    Eventually, the Bond films and Spy genre overtook them in this respect, but their work in this genre was as ambitious and entertaining as anything else they had made.  Sony is now issuing four of the films in one set called Icons of Adventure that Columbia Pictures distributed and arte not as seen or talked about.



Stranglers Of Bombay (1960) has the distinction of being the first-ever movie script by David Zelig Goodman (Monte Walsh, Straw Dogs, Logan’s Run, Eyes Of Laura Mars) to become a feature film, telling the interesting tale of a kill-for-thrill cult from India when it was still part of the empire.  It has some surprisingly dark moments, as helmed by the great journeyman director Terence Fisher, a Hammer favorite.  I just wish this print looked better, but maybe the Blu-ray will show improvements.  Guy Rolfe, Jan Holden, Arthur Cruickshank and Allan Cuthbertson star.



Terror Of The Tongs (1961) deals with yet another deadly secret organization, this time in English-owned-at-the-time Hong Kong, was penned by the great Jimmy Sangster and includes Christopher Lee, Geoffrey Toone, Roger Delgado, Ewen Solon and Burt Kwouk leading a good cast as Lee plays the head of the killers!  Actor turned Director Anthony Bushnell, who helmed episodes of The Saint and Danger Man (both reviewed elsewhere on this site) does a decent job as this has a few interesting moments.  The organization has become increasingly popular in films ranging from the 1967 Bond film You Only Live Twice to Michael Mann’s Manhunter, so that and Lee and Sangster make this a curio too.



Pirates Of Blood River (1962) reunites Lee with a Sangster story (with a script by John Hunter and John Gilling, who was also a longtime director and directs this film) in this swashbuckler that is far more entertaining that the comical Johnny Depp Pirates franchise, as a man (Kerwin Mathews) is sent by his father (!) to a penal colony where an invasion is about to take place and he has an unexpected fight on his hands.  Christopher Lee, Andrew Keir, Glenn Corbett, Oliver Reed and Desmond Llewellyn also star.



Devil-Ship Pirates (1964) makes it three Sangster/Lee films as a Spanish ship attacks England, circa 1588, as the Spanish Armada is about to crumble.  Like the other films, some of the sets, costumes and effects have dated, but the acting, look, craftsmanship and attempt to do a seriously good film make up for much of that.  This was a transitional film for Director Don Sharp (sometimes a writer) who next helmed Curse Of The Fly, the two Lee/Fu Manchu films and some of the wildest of the Linda Thorson/Tara King Avengers episodes.  Some of that same sense of fun is here.  Barry Warren, Suzan Farmer, John Cairney, Michael Ripper, Duncan Lamont, Philip Latham and Andrew Keir also star.



All the films are presented in anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 MegaScope (aka HammerScope) and color, except Tongs is 1.66 and color, while Bombay is black and white, 2.35 scope and has the poorest definition for whatever reason and despite that fact that the case says all are “Remastered in High Definition” as at least the color films can look.  The Directors of Photography for all of the films is Arthur Grant, except for Devil as handled by the amazing Michael Reed (Z.P.G., On Her Majesty’s Secret Service).  Grant began in the early 1930s and continued to make fine-looking genre films until the he passed in 1972.  He did many for Hammer and is in part responsible for their distinct look.


All films are Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono and sound good for their age, though Bombay can show its age more.  James Bernard supplied the music for Bombay and Tongs, having scored some of Hammer’s most important films.  He would continue to do so until the studio folded and had TV shows.  Gary Hughes scored the other two films, Rover and Devil, only handling a few feature films in his career.   He’d orchestrate others and no Horror genre work is on his resume.  The result is two underrated composers delivering solid, good old movie music across the board.


Extras are included for all the films and include several audio commentary tracks, including Sangster on several of them and Goodman also shows up along with Marcus Hearn, Don Mingaye and Chris Barnes.  You also get trailers for all four films and more, Hammer releases, the first chapter of the Columbia serial The Great Adventures of Captain Kidd, live-action two-reel comedy Hot Paprika with Andy Clyde and The Merry Mutineers, a three-strip Technicolor cartoon from the Columbia archive with Scrappy.  The color could be a little richer, but it is good and send-ups movie stars with caricatures.


This is the kind of interesting set Sony needs to issue more often, especially considering how underrated and under seen the Columbia archive is.  Icons of Adventure will hopefully inspire more releases.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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