|Headquarters||London, United Kingdom|
|Key people||Simon Oakes|
|Parent||Exclusive Media Group|
Hammer Film Productions is a film production company based in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1934, the company is best known for a series of Gothic "Hammer Horror" films made from the mid-1950s until the 1970s. Hammer also produced science fiction, thrillers, film noir and comedies – and in later years, television series. During its most successful years, Hammer dominated the horror film market, enjoying worldwide distribution and considerable financial success. This success was due, in part, to distribution partnerships with major United States studios, such as Warner Bros.
During the late 1960s and 1970s the saturation of the horror film market by competitors and the loss of American funding forced changes to the previously lucrative Hammer-formula, with varying degrees of success. The company eventually ceased production in the mid-1980s and has since then been, in effect, in hibernation. In 2000, the studio was bought by a consortium including advertising executive and art collector Charles Saatchi. The company announced plans to begin making films again after this, but none were produced. In May 2007, the company behind the movies was sold again, this time to a group headed by Big Brother backers, the Dutch consortium Cyrte Investments, who have announced plans to spend some $50m (£25m) on new horror films. The new owners have also acquired the Hammer group's film library.
Early history (1935 to 1937) – Hammer Productions Edit
In November 1934 William Hinds, a comedian and businessman registered his own film company – Hammer Productions Ltd. – based in a three-room office suite at Imperial House, Regent Street, London. The company name was taken from Hinds' stage name, Will Hammer, which he had taken from the area of London in which he lived, Hammersmith.
Work began almost immediately on the first Hammer film, The Public Life of Henry the Ninth at the MGM/ATP studios, with shooting concluding on 2 January 1935. The film tells the story of Henry Henry, an unemployed London street musician, and the title was a "playful tribute" to Alexander Korda's The Private Life of Henry VIII which had been Britain's first ever Academy Awards 'best picture' nominee in 1934. During this period Hinds met Spanish émigré Enrique Carreras, a former cinema owner, and on 10 May 1935 they formed film distribution company Exclusive Films, operating from a single office at 60-66 National House, Wardour Street. Hammer produced a further four films distributed by Exclusive:
- The Mystery of the Marie Celeste (US: The Phantom Ship) (1936), featuring Bela Lugosi
- Song of Freedom (1936), featuring Paul Robeson
- Sporting Love (1937)
- The Bank Messenger Mystery (1936)
A slump in the British film industry forced Hammer into bankruptcy and the company went into liquidation in 1937. Exclusive, however, survived and on 20 July 1937 purchased the leasehold on 113-117 Wardour Street, and continued to distribute films made by other companies.
Resurrection (1938 to 1955) – Hammer Film Productions Edit
James Carreras joined Exclusive in 1938, closely followed by William Hinds' son, Anthony. At the outbreak of World War II, both James Carreras and Anthony Hinds left to join the armed services and Exclusive continued to operate only in a limited capacity. In 1946, James Carreras rejoined the company after demobilisation. He resurrected Hammer as the film production arm of Exclusive with a view to supplying 'quota-quickies' - cheaply made domestic films designed to fill gaps in cinema schedules and support more expensive features. He convinced Anthony Hinds to rejoin the company, and a revived 'Hammer Film Productions' set to work on Death in High Heels, The Dark Road, and Crime Reporter. Not being able to afford top stars, Hammer acquired the film rights to several BBC radio series such as The Adventures of PC 49 and Dick Barton Special Agent (an adaptation of the successful Dick Barton radio show). All were shot at Marylebone Studios during 1947. During production of Dick Barton Strikes Back (1948), it became apparent that the company could save a considerable amount of money by shooting in country houses instead of professional studios. For their next production – Dr Morelle - The Case of the Missing Heiress (another radio adaptation) – Hammer rented Dial Close, a 23 bedroom mansion next to the River Thames, at Cookham Dean, Maidenhead.
On 12 February 1949 Exclusive finally registered "Hammer Film Productions" as a company with Enrique and James Carreras, and William and Tony Hinds as company directors. Hammer moved into the Exclusive offices in 113-117 Wardour Street, and the building was rechristened "Hammer House".
In August 1949, complaints from locals about noise during night filming forced Hammer to leave Dial Close and move into another mansion, Oakley Court, also on the banks of the Thames between Windsor and Maidenhead. Five films were shot there: The Man in Black (1949), Room to Let (1949), Someone at the Door (1949), What The Butler Saw (1950), The Lady Craved Excitement (1950). In 1950, Hammer moved again to Gilston Park, a country club in Harlow Essex, which hosted The Black Widow, The Rossiter Case, To Have and to Hold and The Dark Light (all 1950).
In 1951, Hammer began shooting at its most famous home, Down Place also on the banks of the Thames. The company took out a one-year lease and began its 1951 production schedule with Cloudburst. The house, a virtual derelict, required substantial work, but it did not have the kind of construction restrictions that had prevented Hammer from customising its previous homes. A decision was therefore made to turn Down Place into a substantial, custom-fitted studio complex. Its expansive grounds were used for almost all of the later location shooting in Hammer's films, and are a key part of the 'Hammer look'.
Also during 1951, Hammer and Exclusive signed a four-year production and distribution contract with Robert Lippert, an American film producer. The contract meant that Lippert and Exclusive effectively exchanged products for distribution on their respective sides of the Atlantic – beginning in 1951 with The Last Page and ending with Women Without Men (AKA Prison Story, 1955). It was Lippert's insistence on an American star in the Hammer films he was to distribute that led to the prevalence of American leads in so many of the company's productions during the 1950s. It was for The Last Page that Hammer made one of its most significant appointments when it hired film director Terence Fisher, who went on to play a critical role in the forthcoming horror cycle.
Towards the end of 1951, the one-year lease on Down Place expired, and with its increasing success Hammer looked back towards more conventional studio-based productions. A dispute with the Association of Cinematograph Technicians, however, blocked this proposal, and instead the company purchased the freehold of Down Place. The house was renamed Bray Studios after the nearby village of Bray and it remained Hammer's principal base until 1966. In 1953, the first of Hammer's science fiction films, Four Sided Triangle and Spaceways, were released.
Hammer Horror contributors
Directors and writers
- Michael Carreras, sometimes as Henry Younger - writer and director of The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb and director/producer of The Lost Continent
- Terence Fisher - director of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Mummy and others
- Freddie Francis - director of The Evil of Frankenstein and Dracula has Risen From the Grave
- Tudor Gates - writer of The Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire, and Twins of Evil
- John Gilling - writer and director of Shadow of the Cat (1961), The Plague of the Zombies (1966), The Reptile (1966) and The Mummy's Shroud
- Anthony Hinds, as John Elder - writer of The Brides of Dracula, The Curse of the Werewolf and others
- Jimmy Sangster - writer of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein and others; director of The Horror of Frankenstein and Lust for a Vampire
- Peter Sasdy - director of Taste the Blood of Dracula and Countess Dracula
- Harry Robertson - musical director of Countess Dracula, Twins of Evil and others
The scores for many Hammer horror films, including Dracula and The Curse of Frankenstein, were composed by James Bernard.
Hammer's horror films featured many of the same actors in recurring roles; these actors are sometimes called the "Hammer repertory company".
The birth of Hammer Horror (1955 to 1959)Edit
Hammer's first significant experiment with horror came in the form of a 1955 adaptation of Nigel Kneale's BBC Television science fiction serial The Quatermass Experiment, which was directed by Val Guest. As a consequence of the contract with Robert Lippert, American actor Brian Donlevy was imported for the lead role, and the title was changed to The Quatermass Xperiment to cash in on the new X certificate for horror films. The film was an unexpectedly big hit, and led to an almost equally popular 1957 sequel Quatermass 2 – again adapted from one of Kneale's television scripts, this time by Kneale himself and with a budget double that of the original: £92,000. In the meantime, Hammer had produced another Quatermass-style horror film, X the Unknown, originally intended as a full part of the series until Kneale denied them the rights. At the time, Hammer voluntarily submitted its scripts to the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) for comments before beginning production. Regarding the script of X the Unknown, one reader/examiner (Audrey Field) commented on 24 November:
"Well, no one can say the customers won't have had their money's worth by now. In fact, someone will almost certainly have been sick. We must have a great deal more restraint, and much more done by onlookers' reactions instead of by shots of 'pulsating obscenity', hideous scars, hideous sightless faces, etc, etc. It is keeping on and on in the same vein that makes this script so outrageous. They must take it away and prune. Before they take it away, however, I think the President [of the BBFC] should read it. I have a stronger stomach than the average (for viewing purposes) and perhaps I ought to be reacting more strongly."
The Curse of FrankensteinEdit
- Main article: The Curse of Frankenstein
As production began on Quatermass 2, Hammer started to look for another U.S. partner willing to invest in and handle the American promotion of new product. They eventually entered talks with Associated Artists Productions (a.a.p.) and its head, Elliot Hyman, a man reputed to have American underworld connections. During this period, two young American filmmakers, Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky, who later established Hammer's rival Amicus, submitted to a.a.p. a script for an adaptation of the novel Frankenstein. Although interested in the script, a.a.p. were not prepared to back a film made by Rosenberg and Subotsky, who had only one film to their credit. Eliot Hyman did, however, send the script to his contact at Hammer. Rosenberg would often claim he 'produced' Curse of Frankenstein, an exaggeration repeated in his obituary.
Although the novel by Mary Shelley was long since in the public domain, Anthony Hinds was unsure about the script, as Subotsky's script adhered closely to the plot of the 1939 Universal film Son of Frankenstein, featuring a second-generation Baron Frankenstein emulating his father, the original monster-maker. This put the project at risk of a copyright infringement lawsuit by Universal. In addition, a great deal of polishing and additional material was needed as the short script had an estimated running time of only 55 minutes – far less than the minimum of 90 minutes needed for distribution in the UK. Accordingly, comments on the script from Hammer's Michael Carreras (who had joined his father James as producer in the early 1950s) were less than complimentary:
"The script is badly presented. The sets are not marked clearly on the shot headings, neither is DAY or NIGHT specified in a number of cases. The number of set-ups scripted is quite out of proportion to the length of the screenplay, and we suggest that your rewrites are done in master scene form."Further revisions were made to the script, and a working title of Frankenstein and the Monster was chosen. Plans were made to shoot the film in Eastmancolor – a decision which caused further worry at the BBFC. Not only did the script contain horror and graphic violence, but it would be portrayed in vivid colour.
The project was handed to Tony Hinds who was even less impressed with the script than Michael Carreras, and whose vision for the film was a mere black and white 'quickie' made in three weeks. Concerned that Subotsky and Rosenberg's script still had too many similarities to the old Universal films, Hinds commissioned Jimmy Sangster to rewrite it as The Curse of Frankenstein. Sangster's treatment impressed Hammer enough to rescue the film from its place on the 'quickie' treadmill and to make it as a colour film.
Sangster submitted his own script to the BBFC for examination. Audrey Field reported on 10 October 1956:
"We are concerned about the flavour of this script, which, in its preoccupation with horror and gruesome detail, goes far beyond what we are accustomed to allow even for the 'X' category. I am afraid we can give no assurance that we should be able to pass a film based on the present script and a revised script should be sent us for our comments, in which the overall unpleasantness should be mitigated."
Regardless of the BBFC's stern warnings, Hinds supervised the shooting of a virtually unchanged script.
The film was directed by Terence Fisher, with a look that belied its modest budget. Peter Cushing's performance as Baron Victor Frankenstein, and Christopher Lee's as the imposingly tall, brutish monster provide the film with a further veneer of polish. With a budget of £65,000 and a cast and crew that would become the backbone of later films, Hammer's first Gothic horror went into production. The use of colour encouraged a previously unseen level of gore. Until The Curse of Frankenstein horror films had not shown blood in a graphic way, or when they did it was concealed by monochrome photography. In this film, it was bright red, and the camera lingered on it.
The film was an enormous success, not only in Britain, but also in the USA, where it inspired numerous imitations from, amongst others, Roger Corman and American International Pictures. It also found success on the European continent, where Italian directors and audiences were particularly receptive.
- Main article: Dracula (1958 film)
The huge box office success of The Curse of Frankenstein led to the inevitable desire for a sequel in The Revenge of Frankenstein, and an attempt to give the Hammer treatment to another horror icon. Dracula had been another successful film character for Universal in the past, and the copyright situation was even more complicated than for Frankenstein. A full legal agreement between Hammer and Universal was not completed until 31 March 1958 – after the film had already been shot – and was 80 pages long.
Meanwhile, the financial arrangement between a.a.p. and Hammer had broken down when money promised by a.a.p. had not arrived. Hammer began looking for alternatives, and with the success of The Curse of Frankenstein signed a deal with Columbia Pictures to distribute the sequel The Revenge of Frankenstein and two films from the defaulted a.a.p. deal The Camp on Blood Island and The Snorkel. Hammer's financial success also meant the winding down of the parent film distribution company Exclusive, leaving Hammer to concentrate solely on filmmaking.
Work continued on the script for Dracula, and the second draft was voluntarily submitted to the BBFC. Audrey Field commented on 8 October 1957:
"The uncouth, uneducated, disgusting and vulgar style of Mr Jimmy Sangster cannot quite obscure the remnants of a good horror story, though they do give one the gravest misgivings about treatment. [...] The curse of this thing is the Technicolor blood: why need vampires be messier eaters than anyone else? Certainly strong cautions will be necessary on shots of blood. And of course, some of the stake-work is prohibitive."
Despite the success of Curse of Frankenstein, the financing of Dracula proved awkward. Universal was not interested, and the search for money eventually brought Hammer back to a.a.p.'s Eliot Hyman, through another of his companies, Seven Arts (which later merged with Warner Bros., ironically now the successor-in-interest to a.a.p.). Although an agreement was drawn up, the deal was never realised and funding for Dracula eventually came from the National Film Finance Council (£32,000) and the rest from Universal in return for worldwide distribution rights.
With an eventual budget of £81,412, Dracula began principal photography on 11 November 1957. Peter Cushing starred as Van Helsing and Christopher Lee as Count Dracula, with direction by Terence Fisher and set design by Bernard Robinson that was radically different from the Universal adaptation – so radical, in fact, that Hammer executives considered paying him off and finding another designer.
Dracula was an enormous success, breaking box-office records in the UK, the United States (released as Horror of Dracula), Canada, and across the world. On 20 August 1958 the Daily Cinema reported:
"Because of the fantastic business done world-wide by Hammer's Technicolor version of Dracula, Universal-International, its distributors, have made over to Jimmy Carreras' organisation, the remake rights to their entire library of classic films".
- Main article: The Mummy (1959 film)
With the agreement in place, Hammer's executives had their pick of Universal International's horror icons and chose to remake The Invisible Man, The Phantom of the Opera and The Mummy's Hand. All were to be shot in colour at Bray Studios, by the same team responsible for Dracula, Curse of Frankenstein and Revenge of Frankenstein. The Mummy (the title used for the remake of The Mummy's Hand, which also incorporated significant story elements from that film's sequel, The Mummy's Tomb) was made in 1959, The Phantom of the Opera followed in 1962, and Hammer collaborated with William Castle on a remake of The Old Dark House (1963), but The Invisible Man was never produced.
Principal photography for The Mummy began on 23 February 1959 and lasted until 16 April 1959. Once again it starred both Peter Cushing (as John Banning) and Christopher Lee (as the Mummy, Kharis), and was again directed by Terence Fisher with a screenplay from Jimmy Sangster. The Mummy went on general release on 23 October 1959 and broke the box-office records set by Dracula the previous year, both in the UK and the U.S. when it was released there in December.
During the period 1955-1959 Hammer produced a number of other, non-horror films, including The Hound of the Baskervilles starring Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes, and comedies such as Don't Panic Chaps! Nevertheless, it is the three films, The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy that set the direction and provided a template for many future films, and for which the company is best known.
Sequels (1959 to 1974)Edit
Hammer consolidated their success by turning their most successful horror films into series. Six sequels to The Curse of Frankenstein were produced between 1959 and 1974:
- The Revenge of Frankenstein (1959)
- The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)
- Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
- Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)
- The Horror of Frankenstein (1970)
- Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)
All starred Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein, except The Horror of Frankenstein (not a sequel, but a tongue-in-cheek remake of The Curse of Frankenstein), where Ralph Bates took the title role. The Evil of Frankenstein stars Cushing but has a re-telling of the Baron's history in flashbacks and a Baron Frankenstein with a very different personality and thus is not a sequel in the sense of a chronological continuation.
Hammer also produced a half-hour pilot titled Tales of Frankenstein (1958) that was intended to premiere on American television; it was never picked up but is now available on DVD. Anton Diffring played Baron Frankenstein.
Hammer also produced eight other Dracula films between 1960 and 1974:
- The Brides of Dracula (1960)
- Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
- Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)
- Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969)
- Scars of Dracula (1970)
- Dracula AD 1972 (1972)
- The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
- The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)
The first five were direct sequels to the original film. Brides of Dracula did not include Dracula himself, but Peter Cushing repeated his role as Van Helsing to battle vampire Baron Meinster (David Peel). The Kiss of the Vampire did not include Van Helsing or Dracula, but continued the theme of Brides of Dracula, showing vampirism as a plague infecting other pockets of unfortunates. Christopher Lee as Dracula returned in the following six films, which employed much ingenuity in finding ways to resurrect the Count. Hammer upped the graphic violence and gore with Scars of Dracula in an attempt to re-imagine the character to appeal to a younger audience. The commercial failure of this film led to another change of style with the following films, which were not period pieces like their predecessors, but had a then-contemporary 1970s London setting. Peter Cushing appeared in both films playing a descendant of Van Helsing.
It is worth noting that while the contemporary films featuring Dracula star both Lee and Cushing, they are not the same series due to the lack of correspondence to the Victorian-Edwardian era films. The first film is set in 1885, whereas the flashback sequence in Dracula AD 1972 is set in 1872 – long before the first meeting of Van Helsing and Dracula in the original film.
Christopher Lee grew increasingly disillusioned with the way the character was being taken, and with the poor quality of the later scripts – although he did improve these slightly himself by adding lines of dialogue from the original novel. (Lee speaks at least one line taken from Bram Stoker in every Dracula film he has appeared in, except for Prince of Darkness – in which the Count does not speak at all (Lee had been appalled by his dialogue in that film).) He was also concerned about typecasting. After Satanic Rites, he quit the series.
Further "mummy" movies were unrelated to the 1959 remake and one, The Mummy's Shroud, was relegated to second feature status. The films were The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (1964), The Mummy's Shroud (1966) and Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971). The latter was a modern day version of Bram Stoker's The Jewel of Seven Stars and featured Valerie Leon as a reincarnated Egyptian Princess, rather than an actual mummy. The same novel also served as the basis for the 1980 Charlton Heston film The Awakening and a later direct-to-video feature called Bram Stoker's The Mummy, starring Lou Gossett Jr..
By the mid-1960s, the Mummy series and some of Hammer's other horror output were intended for double billing. Two films would be shot back-to-back with the same sets and costumes to save money. Each film would then be shown on a separate double-bill to prevent audiences noticing any recycling, as for example in The Plague of the Zombies and The Reptile (both 1965).
Hammer also produced a series of 'cave girl'-themed films, directed by Michael Carreras:
- One Million Years B.C. (1966), with Raquel Welch.
- Slave Girls (1968), released in the US as Prehistoric Women
- When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970)
- Creatures the World Forgot (1971)
Running alongside production of the Gothic horror films, Hammer also made a series of what were known as "mini-Hitchcocks" mostly scripted by Jimmy Sangster, and directed by Freddie Francis and Seth Holt. These very low-budget suspense thrillers, often in black-and-white, were made in the mould of Les Diaboliques, although more often compared to the later Psycho. This series of mystery thrillers, which all had twist endings, started with Taste of Fear (1961) and continued with Maniac (1963), Paranoiac (1963), Nightmare (1964), Hysteria (1965), Fanatic (1965), The Nanny (1965), Crescendo (1970), Straight on Till Morning (1972) and Fear in the Night (1972).
Other films include:
- The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas (1957)
- The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960), a version of Robert Louis Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde
- Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (1960), starring Patrick Allen and Felix Aylmer
- The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), Oliver Reed's first starring role
- The Phantom of the Opera (1962), starring Herbert Lom
- The Gorgon (1964) ,
- She (1965), based on the novel of the same name by Rider Haggard
- The Witches (1966)
- Quatermass and the Pit (1967); US title "Five Million Years to Earth" (1968)
- The Anniversary (1968), with Bette Davis
- The Lost Continent (1968) starring Eric Porter
On 29 May 1968, Hammer was awarded the Queen's Award to Industry in recognition of their contribution to the British economy. The official presentation ceremony took place on the steps of the Castle Dracula set at Pinewood Studios, during the filming of Dracula Has Risen from the Grave.
Market changes (early 1970s)Edit
As audiences became more sophisticated in the late 1960s, with the release of artfully directed, subtly horrific films like Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (1968), the studio struggled to maintain its place in the market. It responded by bringing in new writers and directors, testing new characters, and attempting to rejuvenate their vampire and Frankenstein films with new approaches to familiar material.
While the studio remained true to previous period settings in their 1972 release Vampire Circus, their Dracula AD 1972 and The Satanic Rites of Dracula, for example, abandon period settings in pursuit of a modern-day setting and "swinging London" feel. These films were not successful, and drew fire not only from critics, but from Christopher Lee himself, who refused to appear in more Dracula films after these. Speaking at a press conference in 1973 to announce The Satanic Rites of Dracula, then called Dracula is Dead... and Well and Living in London, Lee said:
"I'm doing it under protest... I think it is fatuous. I can think of twenty adjectives - fatuous, pointless, absurd. It's not a comedy, but it's got a comic title. I don't see the point."
The film itself also indulges the turn toward self-parody suggested by the title, with more humour appearing in the script, undercutting any real sense of horror.
Hammer films had always sold themselves, in part, on their violent and sexual content. After the release of films like Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and The Wild Bunch (1969), audiences were increasingly able to see more explicit gore, more expertly staged, in relatively mainstream films. Night of the Living Dead (1968) had also set a new standard for graphic violence in horror films. Hammer tried to compete as far as possible - Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974), for example, features a scene where the Baron kicks a discarded human brain - but realised quickly that, if they couldn't be as gory as new American productions, they could follow a trend prevalent in European films of the time, and play up the sexual content of their films.
Hammer Films also had commercial success with some atypical output during this period: the film version of the ITV situation comedy series On the Buses (1971). This was popular enough to produce two sequels, Mutiny on the Buses (1972) and Holiday on the Buses (1973).
The Karnstein TrilogyEdit
In the Karnstein Trilogy, based loosely on J. Sheridan Le Fanu's early vampire novella Carmilla, Hammer showed some of the most explicit scenes of lesbianism yet seen in mainstream English language films. Despite otherwise traditional Hammer design and direction, there was also a corresponding increase in scenes of nudity in the films during this era. The Karnstein Trilogy comprises:
- The Vampire Lovers (1970), featuring Polish actress Ingrid Pitt
- Lust for a Vampire (1971)
- Twins of Evil (1972)
These three were written by Hammer newcomer Tudor Gates, who was recruited at about the same time as Brian Clemens (creator of The Avengers). Clemens wrote two unusual films for Hammer. Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) featured Ralph Bates and Martine Beswick, and Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter (1974), which Clemens also directed, were not successful at the time, but have since become cult favourites. The experimental films of this period represented a genuine attempt to find new angles on old stories, but audiences did not seem interested.
Later years of film production (later 1970s)Edit
In the latter part of the 1970s, Hammer made fewer films, and attempts were made to break away from the then-unfashionable Gothic horror films on which the studio had built its reputation. Neither The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974), a co-production with Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers which attempted to combine Hammer's Gothic horror with the martial arts film, nor To the Devil a Daughter (1976), an adaptation of the Dennis Wheatley novel, were very successful. Hammer's last production, in 1979, was a remake of Hitchcock's 1938 thriller The Lady Vanishes, starring Elliot Gould and Cybill Shepherd. The film was a failure at the box office and all but bankrupted the studio.
The Hammer Horror films were often praised by critics for their visual style, although rarely taken seriously. "Altogether this is a horrific film and sometimes a crude film, but by no means an unimpressive piece of melodramatic storytelling" wrote one critic of Dracula in The Times in 1958. Critics who specialise in cult films, like Kim Newman, have praised Hammer Horror more fully, enjoying their atmosphere, craftsmanship and occasional camp appeal.
Television series (1980s)Edit
Hammer House of HorrorEdit
- Main article: Hammer House of Horror
In the early 1980s Hammer Films created a series for British television, Hammer House of Horror, which ran for 13 episodes with 51 min per episode. In a break from their cinema format, these featured plot twists, which usually saw the protagonists fall into the hands of that episode's horror. These varied from sadistic shopkeepers with hidden pasts, to witches and satanic rites. The series was marked by a sense of dark irony, its haunting title music, and the intermingling of horror with the commonplace.
Hammer House of Mystery and SuspenseEdit
- Main article: Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense
A second television series, Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense, was produced in 1984 and also ran for 13 episodes. The stories were originally to have been the same 51 min. length as their previous series, but it was decided to expand them to feature-length so as to market them as 'movies of the week' in the US. The running time became from 69 to 73 min. The series was made in association with 20th Century Fox (who broadcast it as Fox Mystery Theater) and as such, some of the sex and violence seen in the earlier series was toned down considerably for US television. Each episode featured a star, often American, well known to US viewers. This series was Hammer's final production of the 20th century, and the studio went into semi-permanent hiatus.
In the 2000s, although the company has seemed to be in hibernation, frequent announcements have been made of new projects. In 2003, for example, the studio announced plans to work with Australian company Pictures in Paradise to develop new horror films for the DVD and cinema market.
On 10 May 2007, it was announced that Dutch producer John De Mol had purchased the Hammer Films rights via his private equity firm Cyrte Investments. In addition to holding the rights to over 300 Hammer Films, De Mol's company plans to restart the studio. According to an article in Variety detailing the transaction, the new Hammer Films will be run by former Liberty Global execs Simon Oakes and Marc Schipper. In addition, Guy East and Nigel Sinclair of L.A.-based Spitfire Pictures are on board to produce two to three horror films or thrillers a year for the U.K.-based studio.
The first output under the new owners is Beyond the Rave, a contemporary vampire story which premièred free online exclusively on Myspace in April 2008 as a 20 x 4 min. serial.
The company began shooting for a new horror/thriller film in Donegal in 2008, backed by the Irish Film Board. The film is titled Wake Wood and was scheduled for release in the United Kingdom in the Autumn of 2009. The film was produced in collaboration with the Swedish company Solid Entertainment who themself made the vampire film Frostbiten, which pays homage to the Hammer vampire films among others. It was given a limited UK/Ireland theatrical release in March 2011. In production in the U.S. as of Summer 2009 is The Resident, a thriller directed and co-written by Finnish filmmaker Antti Jokinen and starring Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Christopher Lee.
In 2009 it was announced that Hammer Films and Alliance Films are producing a film adaptation of The Woman in Black scheduled for a 2012 release. Daniel Radcliffe will star as lawyer Arthur Kipps. Jane Goldman will write the film.
Tribute and parodyEdit
The initial success of the Hammer Horror series led to a number of tributes and parodies:
- Carry On Screaming (1966) pays tribute to the Hammer Horror films in particular as well as satirising the horror film genre overall.
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) has many locations, sets, and props that were used by Hammer Horror films. The "pretty" monster is, perhaps, a reference to The Revenge of Frankenstein (though no ulterior motive by Baron Frankenstein is present in the Hammer film).
- Bloodbath at the House of Death uses Hammer Horror films as inspiration for its setting.
- The British TV series Dr. Terrible's House of Horrible (2001) featured spoofs of Hammer Horror films. Particularly noteworthy in this regard was the episode entitled "Lesbian Vampire Lovers of Lust".
- Singer Kate Bush immortalised the range of films in her song, "Hammer Horror", referencing The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dracula and Frankenstein.
- British rock band Maxïmo Park paid tribute to the series with their song "Hammer Horror", from their B-sides collection Missing Songs.
- The dark feel of the Hammer Horror films were the inspiration for the atmosphere used in the comic-horror, Dracula: Dead and Loving It.
- In the DVD commentary of Sleepy Hollow, director Tim Burton credits Hammer horror films as a primary influence for the film. Sleepy Hollow featured Hammer veterans including Michael Gough and Christopher Lee.
- The faux trailer for Don't featured in Grindhouse was intended to be a spoof of the Hammer Horror series.
- Tom McLoughlin claims that Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives was heavily influenced by the Hammer films.
- The parody serial "The Phantom Raspberry Blower", in British comedy sketch series The Two Ronnies, was highly evocative of the Hammer Horrors, particularly the Dracula series of films.
- Much of the dark side of the BBC comedy series The League of Gentlemen written by and starring Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton and Mark Gatiss is based on the Hammer Horror films of which they and co-writer Jeremy Dyson are great fans.
- In 2010, Mark Gatiss devoted a large part of the second episode of his BBC documentary series A History of Horror to Hammer Horror films, including interviews with key Hammer figures.
- The British black/death metalgroup Akercocke have drawn considerable influence from the Hammer House of Horror, adopting in their earlier works the tropes of devil worship and sexuality present in the 1980s series and going so far as to base an entire album (Choronzon) on the episode 'Guardian of the Abyss'. On the VCD included with Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone, guitarist/vocalist Jason Mendonca briefly discusses the Hammer influence on Akercocke's lyrical content, a theme which is discussed in greater detail in a Friday, July 13, 2007 BBC 6 Music interview with Bruce Dickinson.
- The British radio dramatist Marty Ross has acknowledged a debt to Hammer with regard to his two serials for BBC Radio 7; Ghost Zone, influenced by Hammer science fiction such as The Damned and the Quatermass films, and Catch My Breath, influenced by the likes of The Kiss of the Vampire and The Brides of Dracula.
- Sinclair McKay (2007) A Thing of Unspeakable Horror: The History of Hammer Films. Aurum: London.
Notes and referencesEdit
- ↑ Flintoff, John-Paul (25 October 2009). "The horror, the horror". The Sunday Times (London). http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/article6886151.ece. Retrieved 21 August 2010.
- ↑ Meikle, Denis (1996). A History of Horrors - The Rise and Fall of the House of Hammer. The Scarecrow Press. pp. 3.
- ↑ Hearn, Marcus and Barnes, Alan (1997). The Hammer Story. Titan Books. pp. 8.
- ↑ Sheridan, Bob (March 1978). "History of Hammer Pt.1: Pre-Horror Hammer 1935–1956". The House of Hammer 2 (6): 40.
- ↑ "BFI Most Wanted: The Public Life of Henry the Ninth" BFI Retrieved 28 October 2010
- ↑ Kinsey, Wayne (2005). Hammer Films: The Bray Studios Years. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. pp. 9. ISBN 1-903111-44-7.
- ↑ Hearn and Barnes, op cit, p. 9
- ↑ Kinsey. op cit p. 11.
- ↑ http://www.whirligig-tv.co.uk/radio/pc49.htm
- ↑ Little Shoppe of Horrors #4. Edited by Richard Klemensen. p. 38. Michael Carreras interview.
- ↑ Kinsey. op cit p. 13.
- ↑ Kinsey. op cit p. 16.
- ↑ Kinsey. op cit pp. 20-22.
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 Kinsey. op cit p. 22.
- ↑ Kinsey. op cit p. 50.
- ↑ Pixley, Andrew (2005). The Quatermass Collection – Viewing Notes. London: BBC Worldwide. pp. 18. BBCDVD1478.
- ↑ Kinsey. op cit p. 41.
- ↑ Michael Carreras' letter to Max Rosenberg, quoted in Kinsey, p51.
- ↑ Kinsey. op cit p. 80.
- ↑ Kinsey, p60
- ↑ 21.0 21.1 Kinsey. op cit p. 63.
- ↑ The original title of the script was Blood of Frankenstein.
- ↑ The agreement was between Cadogan, a Hammer subsidiary, and Universal. Kinsey. p. 86.
- ↑ Kinsey. op cit pp. 67, 91.
- ↑ Kinsey op cit p. 94
- ↑ Universal itself was having financial difficulties at the time. The talent agency MCA would buy out the company in 1962.
- ↑ Kinsey op cit p. 92.
- ↑ Kinsey, p96
- ↑ Kinsey. op cit p. 99
- ↑ Kinsey, p144
- ↑ Kinsey. op cit p. 166.
- ↑ Hammer Horror Frankenstein Series
- ↑ Sinclair McKay (2007): A Thing of Unspeakable Horror: The History of Hammer Films: 105
- ↑ Hardy, Phil (1986). Encyclopedia of Horror Movies (1st ed.). London: Octopus Books. pp. 137. ISBN 0-7064-2771-8.
- ↑ Rigby, Jonathan, (2000). English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. ISBN 1-903111-01-3.
- ↑ Haining, Peter (1992). The Dracula Scrapbook. Chancellor Press. ISBN 1-85152-195-X.
- ↑ The Times, May 28, 1958, p10.
- ↑ "Cameras roll on new Hammer horror". BBC News. 2008-09-24. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7629245.stm. Retrieved 24 September 2008.
- ↑ Fear.net
- ↑ The Resident at the Internet Movie Database
- ↑ "Reborn Hammer Films to Remake Let the Right One In". Twitch. 2008-04-29. http://twitchfilm.net/site/view/reborn-hammer-films-to-remake-let-the-right-one-in/.
- ↑ "Hammer Films Acquires Black List Writer's 'Wake'". http://www.bloody-disgusting.com/news/20459.
- ↑ "A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss - Q&A with Mark Gatiss". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00vcwm7. Retrieved 2010-11-12.
- ↑ http://www.akercocke.com/media/AkercockeRadio62007.mp3
- ↑ Little Shoppe Of Horrors No. 21, Sept. 2008. Page 6.
- Official Hammer web site
- Hammer Film Productions at the Internet Movie Database
- Online Dictionary of Hammer Horror
- Hammer Film Productions BFI Screenonline article
- Hammer Horror BFI Screenonline article
- The Quatermass Trilogy - A Controlled Paranoia
- British Horror Films - site devoted to UK horror cinema, with several articles about Hammer
- 'The Joy of Hex' - brief but humorous plot summaries of Hammer vampire movies
- The Hammer Story - Review
- AMC: Horror Hammer is Back!
- Hammer House of Horror - site devoted to Hammer's 1980s TV series
- Hammer Horror Films - Hammer Film Synopses
-  - The TV Series and Locations Guide