Friday, March 30, 2007

I've finally been able to take a little time to mark the passing of a giant: Hammer great & two-time Oscar winner Freddie Francis died on March 17th. He had not one but two major careers; that of cinematographer and director. Freddie Francis started out as a camera operator on such films as the Bogart film "Beat the Devil" and "Moby Dick" with Gregory Peck. Francis then went on to DP/cinematographer on classic ghost film "The Innocents" starring Deborah Kerr, "The Elephant Man", "The French Lieutenant's Woman", "Glory", and the remake of "Cape Fear". But Freddie Francis stands tallest in my estimation as the director of some classic horror films that I've grown up watching: classic Hammer Horror's "Paranoiac" starring Oliver Reed, "Nightmare", "Dracula Has Risen From the Grave" starring Christopher Lee, and "The Evil of Frankenstein" with Peter Cushing. Francis also directed some of the best horror films mounted by Hammer's rival Amicus: the classic "Dr. Terror's House of Horrors" starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Donald Sutherland, "Tales From the Crypt" starring Sir Ralph Richardson, Joan Collins and Patrick Magee, the Lee/Cushing teaming "The Skull", "Torture Garden" starring Burgess Meredith, Peter Cushing and Jack Palance, as well as the moody, Lovecraftian "The Creeping Flesh" with Cushing and Lee and "The Ghoul" with Peter Cushing and John Hurt. The films Freddie Francis directed were perhaps not as stately as his Hammer predecessor Terence Fisher, but they moved along at a fast clip and kept things interesting. Perhaps the best thing one can say about Freddie Francis is that his films were just so damn enjoyable. That's a scarce commodity nowadays. Good night, Mr. Francis. You'll be greatly missed.

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