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TV Tuesday: Hammer House of Horror (Rude Awakening)



As I hinted last week, the third episode of Hammer House of Horror, Rude Awakening, is my favorite one yet, which is probably due to several reasons. For one, it’s the first to feature a well-known (at least to me) star. For another, it gets closer to feeling like an episode of The Twilight Zone (always a plus for me.) For another, it has an ending that provides a satisfying twist.

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The star is Denholm Elliott. It’s tough to say from where you would most recognize him. I always remember him from Brimstone & Treacle (1987), but IMDb says he’s “known for” Trading Places (1983), A Room with a View (1985), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade (1989). He’s terrific in anything and portrays a real scumbag here.

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He plays Norman Shenley, a real estate broker that cheats on his wife, Emily (Pat Heywood), with his secretary, Lolly (Lucy Gutteridge.) He awakens from a series of nightmares, one by one, to find his world has changed slightly every time. Is he experiencing a dream within a dream within a dream… Which one is his reality, if any? (Lolly is the clue when something’s different; watch her appearance change.)

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Besides this strange story that evokes The Twilight Zone, Norman is a character that deserves what’s coming to him. You know he’s going to be punished for his actions. Part of the fun is that he may be experiencing his punishment in the present for actions he has yet to commit in the future. That gives the story, written by Gerald Savory, a dash of fate versus free will. Can we change our destinies?

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Savory has interesting genre credits immediately preceding and following Rude Awakening. He wrote the 1977 version of Count Dracula starring Louis Jourdan and the 1980 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde starring David Hemmings. Like the previous episode, The Thirteenth Reunion, Hammer veteran Peter Sasdy directed Rude Awakening.

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The twist at the end isn’t necessarily a surprise; at a certain point, you can see it coming. But it’s good, committing to answering some of the questions I’ve raised above. If there’s any flaw, it’s the final few seconds. Similar to a particularly weak sketch on Saturday Night Live that doesn’t know how or when to end, Hammer House of Horror likes to tack on one final stinger that is entirely superfluous.

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Hammer Horror Film Connections:

  • Denholm Elliott appeared in To the Devil a Daughter

  • Peter Sasdy directed Taste the Blood of Dracula, Countess Dracula and Hands of the Ripper

Season 1

Episode 3

Written by Gerald Savory

Directed by Peter Sasdy

Starring Denholm Elliott, James Laurenson, Pat Heywood, Lucy Gutteridge, Eleanor Summerfield, Gareth Armstrong Aired September 27, 1980 (UK) RT 52 min.

Home Video Synapse (Blu-ray)

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