Color, 1967, 95 mins.

Directed by Michael Carreras

Starring Martine Beswick, Edina Ronay, Michael Latimer, Stephanie Randall, Carol White, Alexandra Stevenson, Steven Berkoff / Written and Produced by Michael Carreras / Music by Carlo Martelli

Letterboxed (2.35:1) / Dolby Digital Mono

Format: DVD - Anchor Bay (MSRP $29.98)

Following the unexpected and resounding success of One Million Years B.C. (boosted most obviously by Raquel Welch in her fur bikini), the prolific Hammer Films began churning out a number of historical period pieces which became known as "Hammer Glamour" thanks to their blend of fetching starlets and visual opulence on a stretched budget. One of the first and most amusing of these entries, Prehistoric Women, is more or less a remake of the goofy 1950 American film of the same title and was most widely seen in a heavily truncated 77 minute version, sometimes under the title Slave Girls. Thankfully, the good folks at Anchor Bay have made sure that the complete, uncut, and utterly strange original is now available to U.S. viewers in all its widescreen glory.

David (Michael Latimer), your standard young great white hunter, finds his African hunting expedition stalled when he winds up in a cave devoted to the mysterious white rhino god. Suddenly he's magically transported back in time (or maybe he's dreaming, we never really know for sure) back to the early days of man - or, more precisely, woman. David finds himself in a land ruled by, uh, brunettes, who are using blonde women as their slaves. The wicked brunette ruler, Kari (Martine Beswick), tries to use David for her own ends, unhappy with the fact that he may be falling for the perky and vacuous Saria (Edina Ronay). After much catfighting and hairstyle changes, everything sorts itself out, but not after the cast has delivered reams of campy, quotable dialogue in the process.

Nicely shot and rarely dull, Prehistoric Women comes nowhere near One Million Years B.C. (no cool Harryhausen dinosaurs, for one thing) but does work as a comical sexy cave fantasy. The film remains worth watching primarily for Beswick, a compelling actress in the Barbara Steele mold who had a few moments in the sun with Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, Seizure, and a couple of James Bond films. Although she previously appeared as Nupondi in One Million Years, Beswick rarely got juicy lead roles, a shame considered what she was capable of when given the chance. Anchor Bay's lavish DVD treatment seems almost surreal, consisting of a poster reproduction card, trailers, and another one of those entertaining Hammer British television program, "Lands Before Time," hosted by Oliver Reed. (The same program also appears on the other two Hammer titles covered below.) The scope framing looks just right and the color and clarity are sensational, so toss out those old pan and scan tapes. Hammer didn't film in scope all that often, but when they did, look out!

Color, 1967, 91 mins.

Directed by Don Chaffey

Starring Don Murray, Carita, Donald Houston, Andrew Keir, Adrienne Corri, Niall MacGinnis, Wilfred Lawson / Written by Clarke Reynolds / Music by Gary Hughes

Letterboxed (1.85:1) / Dolby Digital Mono

Format: DVD - Anchor Bay (MSRP $29.98)

Sporting one of the better Hammer girl film casts, The Viking Queen never transcends its basic pinup intentions but does continue to hold up as a fast-moving, literate, and eye-catching costume actioner. Perhaps because it features the same director as Jason and the Argonauts and One Million Years B.C., the robust, straightforward treatment here keeps the silly chuckles in check for the most part, with an emphasis on story progression and brutal battle setpieces.

The shapely Carita (a make-up artist who gave up acting after this lone venture) portrays the titular queen, Salina, a peace-loving woman caught in the power struggles between England and Rome as an uprising stirs among the grumbling Druids. As Justinian, American action star Don Murray lends some weight to the proceedings as Salina's forbidden love, while the well chosen supporting cast should please Hammer fans and horror buffs alike: Andrew Keir (Professor Quatermass himself), Adrienne Corri (Vampire Circus, A Clockwork Orange), and Niall MacGinnis (Jason and the Argonauts, Curse of the Demon), to name the most obvious. An entertaining and fairly stylish film, this is the kind of popcorn muncher completely forgotten after viewing. As usual, the Anchor Bay DVD looks marvelous, perfectly letterboxed and boasting some truly dazzling candy-like color schemes. If an obscure film like this can look so ravishing, why the heck can't something be done about Horror of Dracula or The Mummy?

Color, 1968, 101 mins.

Directed by Cliff Owen

Starring John Richardson, Olinka Berova, Edward Judd, Colin Blakely, Derek Godfrey, Andre Morell / Produced by Aida Young / Written by Peter O'Donnell / Music by Mario Nascimbene

Letterboxed (1.66:1) / Dolby Digital Mono

Format: DVD - Anchor Bay (MSRP $29.95)

Another cinematic spinoff from H. Rider Haggard's novel, Vengeance of She has been largely overshadowed by the popular original film, which featured Ursula Andress in one of her best roles. Ayesha, Andress' glamorous female ruler, was doomed to a fated romance with Killikrates (John Richardson), a tale which is continued in this sequel. Richardson returns again, this time convinced that Ayehsa has been reincarnated as Carol (Olinka Berova), a young girl oblivious of her past who is summoned to the land of Kuma after a bizarre modern day opening in the Riviera. After many bad dreams and telepathic encounters, Carol begins to accept her destiny as a ruler, with the expected action-filled and violent consequences.

Less opulent than its predecessor but still compulsively entertaining, Vengeance of She boasts a more laid-back continental atmosphere accentuated by Mario Nascimbene's wonderful score, which effortlessly bounces from catchy lounge to full blooded orchestral adventure attacks. The performances are fairly wooden for the most part, understandable given the tone of the subject matter, though Richardson still manages to mine some emotional texture out of his character. As Carol/Ayesha, Berova (who vanished for some reason) is little more than a clotheshorse here but manages to fill the challenging boots of Ms. Andress quite nicely. Like the other Hammer DVDs, the quality is absolutely stellar in every respect. It's nice to see Hammer is preserving all of its titles so well, and the immaculate presentation of these prints really goes a long way to restoring the entertainment value to films once dismissed completely as ragged-looking late night TV fodder. As with the other titles, this includes both the trailer and TV spots, as well as a repro of the European poster design (with a very funny tagline that makes this look like some kind of fashion-conscious S&M epic).

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