Two of the books in a planned series under Arrow’s new Hammer imprint are now out. Peter Curtis’s The Witches and Francis Cottam’s The Resident.
The Witches is something of an oddity. Peter Curtis is the pseudonym of prolific historical fiction writer Norah Lofts, and the book was first published under the title of The Devil’s Own (Macdonald, 1960) and has also been published under the title of The Little Wax Doll (Corgi, 1970) (and also, according to a number of websites, under the title Catch as Catch Can, although no one seems to have seen an edition or knows who the publisher was). I should say that the dreadful cover of this new edition, which seems to be trying to sell the book as a paranormal romance, is completely misleading and to say the least a misguided choice. I didn’t expect to like this book at all, but I did (I know someone’s jaw will be dropping on reading that) and so am planning a review of the two books together. Here is the synopsis of The Witches:
Walwyk seemed a dream village to the new schoolteacher, Miss Mayfield. But dreams can change into nightmares… When one of her students accuses his friend Ethel’s grandmother of abusing her, Miss Mayfield cannot let it go. But Ethel won’t say anything, despite the evidence of Miss Mayfield’s own eyes. But as she attempts to get to the truth of the matter, she stumbles on something far more sinister. Walwyk seems to be in the grip of a centuries-old evil, and anybody who questions events in the village does not last long. Death stalks more than one victim, and Miss Mayfield begins to realise that if she’s not careful, she will be the next to die…
The Devil’s Own was made into a film entitled The Witches in 1966, adapted by Nigel Kneale, directed by Cyril Frankel, and starred Joan Fontaine (it was her last screen role), Alec McCowen, Kay Walsh, Ann Bell and Ingrid Boulting. It was not one of the more memorable Hammer films, being cursed by the most embarrassingly bad rendition of a witches sabbat ever captured on film.
The second book is Francis Cottam’s The Resident, which is the first in the Hammer imprint’s planned ‘novelisations’. I haven’t seen this one yet, and am a little wary, having some concerns about novelisations generally, and particularly this one of a film that had a limited UK release and went straight to dvd in the US. Here is the synopsis:
Every year, three million single women in America move into an apartment for the first time. Few of them change the locks. Juliet Devereau can’t believe her luck: after weeks of looking for a place to live, she’s found a beautiful, spacious apartment overlooking Brooklyn Bridge. It almost seems to good to be true. It is… Over the weeks, a chilling sense of being watched stalks Juliet. Strange sounds wake her in the night, the mirror in the bathroom trembles, and doors she thought shut are open. Then the silhouette of a man standing in her living room makes her realise that she’s not alone in there. But what’s haunting her is far more terrifying than a malevolent spirit; it’s alive, strong and obsessed. Suddenly Juliet is caught up in a deadly game of cat and mouse, and there’s no guarantee that she’ll come out alive…
The film is directed by Antti Jokinen and stars Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and, giving some Hammer authenticity, Christopher Lee.
The reviews have been less than complimentary, with the film scoring 36% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Here’s the trailer:
And if you want to find out more about the new Hammer generally, here is the Hammer Books trailer:
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