TV Tuesday: Hammer House of Horror (Guardian of the Abyss)
The tenth episode of Hammer House of Horror, Guardian of the Abyss, deals with the popular 1970’s subject matter of Satan worship, demonology and the occult. It opens with a terrific ritual that includes a man in a horned mask, a scantily clad woman, and a scrying glass (mirror) reflection that comes to life. If it doesn’t make an impression on us, it makes one on the scantily clad woman: she ends the scene bloodily beating her head against the wall.
After the opening credits, a similar scrying glass becomes the focus of the story. Laura (Barbara Ewing, uncredited) purchases an antique at an auction. Simon (Paul Darrow) immediately offers her “a fiver” for it, but Michael (Ray Lonnen) advises that she should get it appraised. Meanwhile, a young escapee from the “society” depicted at the beginning of the episode, Allison (Rosalyn Landor), coincidentally encounters Michael and potentially disparate plot elements converge into one.
Guardian of the Abyss drags throughout the middle portion, with the involvement of mystery man Charles Randolph (John Carson) and repetitive back and forth negotiation over the scrying glass. However, it compensates with a great final act with twists and turns, cleverly incorporating the purpose of the society’s ritual with the significance of the scrying glass. Pay attention throughout the part that drags; it holds information vital to the impact of the finale.
I’ve said it before, but if feels like the participation of Hammer horror veterans makes a difference in the quality of Hammer House of Horror episodes. They seem to better capture the feeling of Hammer horror. Of course, it could be perception, but Guardian of the Abyss, has a cast and crew containing several familiar names and, while not my favorite episode, it’s among the top four. It doesn’t offer the morality lesson of which I’m so fond, but it does have a deliciously dark ending.
Hammer Horror Film Connections:
Rosalyn Landor made her film debut in The Devil Rides Out (1968).
John Carson appeared in The Plague of the Zombies (1966), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970), and Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter (1974).
Barbara Ewing appeared in Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968).
Don Sharp directed The Kiss of the Vampire (1963) and Rasputin: the Mad Monk (1966).
Norman Warwick was director of photography for Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971).
Chris Barnes edited many Hammer horror films between The Plague of the Zombies (1966) and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974).