Greasepaint and Gore is a two-part documentary exploring the special effects used to create some of the most memorable creatures in the Hammer horror movies.
Part one explores the creations of Phil Leakey, the first effects guy employed at Hammer and the first makeup artist, ever, to get his name in the credits of a movie.
Leakey terrorized Christopher Lee who, jokingly, threatened to kill Leakey for, as he thought at the time, ruining his career. Lee believed he would be forever typecast as a movie monster. Leakey did the opposite, and helped propel Lee to legendary status through his innovative Dracula makeup.
In all fairness, Lee probably was quite just in his threat to kill Leakey as he quite often had to spend hours under experimental makeup. Bear in mind, effects makeup in those days was in its infancy and all sorts of bizarre, and probably dangerous, materials were used.
The documentary discusses some of the more well known films that Leakey worked on for Hammer, films such as: Stolen Face; The Quatermass Experiment; The Creeping Unknown; The Curse of Frankenstein and, of course, Dracula!
Although he’s quite old and shaky now, Leakey actually demonstrates how he did some of the makeup! Which is a really nice touch, and also displays some of the actual props he made, such as Dracula’s (blood squirting) fangs and the rather horrendous looking ‘contact lenses’ that Lee had to wear in some shots as Dracula. When I say ‘contact lenses’ they are actually entire eye covers, think of putting one half of a ping-pong ball over your eyeball (under the eyelid) and you’ll get the idea, must have been horrible to wear them, my eyes were watering just thinking about it! It really is amazing when you see how such simple materials work so well when in the hands of a master.
Many stories are told throughout the documentary from people such as Hammer directors and actors. And you can tell from the stories that they really did have fun while churning out those old classics. Stories such as Hammer being allowed to do a Frankenstein movie but were forbidden to make it look anything like the Karloff version. Leakey did one version which, both him and Lee agree, was God awful. A second test was done where Lee and Leakey were informed that time was up and that it’d have to do. Thankfully it was a good second test!
Part two begins with the departure, from Hammer, of Leakey (for reasons unknown, as it’s not explained in the documentary) and the entrance of his replacement, Roy Ashton.
Ashton first worked on The Hounds of the Baskervilles. But went on to do many other films including: The Man Who Could Cheat Death; The Mummy (where it was Ashton’s turn to terrorize Lee); The Curse of the Werewolf; The Evil of Frankenstein; Rasputin and several others.
Unfortunately Ashton passed away before the documentary was made so there’s no interviews with him, or demonstrations from him, but he left behind a library of sketches and audio tapes which are shown, and played, throughout part two. His wife also reads from documents he left behind.
I have to be honest here and say that I’ve not seen that many Hammer movies, but after watching this, I think I’ll have to invest in a box set, or something, as not seeing them is, to be honest, nothing short of criminal.
The only drawback to these two documentaries is the (thankfully sparse) narrator. He is reading, badly, from his script and sounds bored out of his skull. But thankfully most of the information is conveyed through other means.
If you like your old Hammer classics then this is definitely for you, same if your curious about early makeup effects. It’s also a good taster for what the Hammer films are like and which are the best.