HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR


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HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR … producers of Dracula, Frankenstein and other film classics.

Terrifying tales produced by legendary horror studio Hammer.

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 filmmarket, 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.

Sequels (1959 to 1974)

Frankenstein

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:

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.

Dracula

Hammer also produced eight other Dracula films between 1960 and 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.

The Mummy

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).

Cave Girls

Hammer also produced a series of ‘cave girl’-themed films, directed by Michael Carreras:

These films were parodied in Carry On Up the Jungle (1970).

Psychological thrillers

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 byFreddie 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).

Others

Other films include:

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.

 

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