The history of Hammer Horror

Hammer Films’ first production was The Public Life of Henry the Ninth in 1934. Set up by William Hinds, a businessman and comedian with the stage name Will Hammer, the company operated out of a three-room suite in Regent Street.

The studio was forced into bankruptcy in 1937 when the British film industry slumped but was revived in 1946 with a view to making so-called quota-quickies -- low budget domestic features designed to fill gaps in cinema schedules and support more expensive productions.

In 1951 Hammer began to make inroads in the US market after it signed a four year production deal with US producer Robert Lippert. It was during this time that the studio appointed Terence Fisher, the film director, who played a key role in the forthcoming horror boom.

Hammer FilmsIt was the success of the 1955 film The Quatermass Xperiment which led to Hammer’s move into horror. Hits such as The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula (1958) followed, making stars out of actors such as Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Oliver Reed and elevating the studio to worldwide prominence.

A run of gothic horror movies followed, with Hammer consolidating its success by making sequels of its biggest hits. By 1974, no less than six sequels to The Curse of Frankenstein and eight to Dracula had been produced.

In the 1960s, deals with the likes of 20th Century Fox led to more horror classics, while Hammer also started to foray into new territory, producing psychological thrillers, adventure films, comedies and war movies. In 1968 the studio received the Queen’s Award to Industry for its contribution to the British economy.

By the 1970s, Hammer Horror had started to become a parody of itself. Christopher Lee’s last appearance was in 1973 in The Satanic Rites of Dracula, then called Dracula is Dead... and Well and Living in London, a film he described at a press conference as "fatuous, pointless, absurd". Thereafter, unable to compete with the gore of new American productions, Hammer Horror began to play up its sexual content with films such as The Vampire Lovers and Lust for a Vampire.

Hammer’s last horror film was To the Devil A Daughter in 1976, starring Honor Blackman. However a television series, Hammer House of Horror, ran for 13 episodes in the early 1980s, with appearances by Diana Dors and a young Pierce Brosnan as a murder victim. It was followed by the Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense which also ran for 13 episodes.

In 2007 the studio behind the classic movies was sold to the creator of Big Brother. Hammer Film Productions was bought for an undisclosed sum by a consortium led by Dutch media tycoon John de Mol, the founder of BB producer Endemol. Its premiere release, Beyond the Rave, was the first Hammer Horror film in over 30 years and broadcast in episodes on MySpace before being released on DVD.


Source: written by Hannah Strange

 

Fanged Films

UK, 1958
Horror of Dracula / Dracula 1958 / Le Cauchemar De Dracula
USA, 1961

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

Drawn to Vamps?

Vol. 1 No. 9
Dracula
Vol. 1 No. 8
Into the House of Terror