Digi-Schlock: HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR (Synapse 5-DVD Set)

You don’t think of Synapse when you think of t.v. on DVD.  Indeed, this fan-favorite label is best known for cultish movies from all over the world rather than made-for-television fare.  However, their line of Hammer acquisitions – which has included well-reviewed titles Vampire Circus and Twins Of Evil – has led them to put out a box set of Hammer House Of Horror, a one-season anthology series produced by the famous British studio in 1980.  The results proves that not only can Synapse do t.v. fare, they can do it as skillfully as their major studio competitors.

To start with, these episodes look better than they ever have on a U.S. home video release.  Those who remember this show from the old Thriller Video tapes with the Elvira intros or the smudgy-looking DVD set from A&E will be knocked out by the Synapse presentation.  This set has all-new transfers in the original 1.33:1 ratio that feature vivid detail and rich colors.  It looks as good as any top-notch t.v. on DVD transfers you care to mention.  In terms of audio, the set retains the original 2.0 mono mixes for each episode and they sound good, with a solid blend of sonic elements and no distortion or damage.

Synapse has also added a few extras to sweeten the deal.  Each episode features an optional intro by Shane M. Dallmann: these bits last between 1 and 2 minutes and present Dallmann’s comments over animated images.  These intros pack a lot of info into a brief running time, including a lot of handy trivia about the other credits of the primarily English casts, and the imagery always complements the commentary.

There are also a pair of interviews with two actors, Kathryn Leigh Scott and Mia Nadasi, both of whom appear in the show’s “Visitor From The Grave” episode.  Like the episode intros, these bits were produced by Daniel Griffith and both pack some interesting information into a short space.  Scott talks about her history of the genre, including a stint on Dark Shadows, what it was like to work with Peter Sasdy and the many friendships she made working on this show.  Nadasi’s chat follows along similar lines but she happens to be married to Sasdy so that adds an interesting extra layer to her take on the episode.  She also talks about her career in Hungary before moving to the U.K. and how her expertise as a dancer led her to work with Sasdy on some of his features.

In short, Synapse’s Hammer House Of Horror set is not only a big improvement in technical quality for fans of the show but it also offers a thoughtfully curated treatment of the show.  Add a generous price point for the set and that makes this a can’t miss proposition for fans of old-school horror.

To read Schlockmania’s feature review for Hammer House Of Horror, click here.

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