The rise and fall and rise again of the Hammer House of Horror

The homegrown blend of Victorian melodrama and gothic is back

Are you ready for Dracula Is Dead and Living in Cyberspace? Or Frankinternetstein? If the first manifestation of the resurrected Hammer films is anything to go by, they may be coming sooner than you think.

Following the acquisition of one of British cinema's most famous brands, Hammer's new owners have announced that their first production will be a web-based movie, Beyond the Rave, which will be aired on MySpace. The trailer reveals a young squaddie who goes partying for 24 hours prior to his posting to Iraq. Inevitably, things turn ghoulish.

"Feature films take a long time to get into production," says Simon Oakes, CEO of Hammer. "This was a way of keeping the name alive and also introducing it to a new generation."

The company was acquired earlier this year by a European consortium headed by Dutch-based Cyrte Investments BV, the investment vehicle of Big Brother creator John de Mol. Under the stewardship of Oakes, the Hammer marque will live again with re-mastered versions of old favourites and a production slate of new movies.

Hammer Productions Ltd was formed in 1934 by a former comedian, William Hinds, whose stage name was Will Hammer. It went into production with its first film, The Public Life of Henry The Ninth, in 1935. After some years spent churning out cheap, location-based thrillers in black and white, director Val Guest made the Quatermass Xperiment in 1955. Based on the successful television science fiction series, it was commercially successful and put Hammer on the map.

But it was the advent of Eastmancolor and subsequently Technicolor, together with the discovery of the old Universal back catalogue of Thirties horror movies The Mummy, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man that gave Hammer the fresh blood it needed. In 1957 The Curse of Frankenstein was unleashed and was quickly followed by Dracula, which was a huge hit. The fortunes of Hammer in its heyday, the Sixties, were high.

Hammer has been bought and sold several times since its decline in the 1970s, notably by a consortium headed by Charles Saatchi in 2000, which failed to breathe life into the brand.

Derided as pernicious trash by critics at the time, the films have since become an essential part of British movie history. Film-makers such as Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino often weave tributes to the studio into their own work.

Part of Hammer's success lies in the calibre of those involved in the films. Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee were great actors; Cushing had been part of Laurence Olivier's company in the 1940s, and Lee similarly brought a level of dignity to the proceedings that raised them to the realms of the mythological.

Cinematographer Freddie Francis and director Terence Fisher brought an elegance and intelligence to the work that defies belief, considering the ridiculously low budgets on which they were made. In 1956, The Curse of Frankenstein was made for 56,000; a year later, Dracula cost 75,000. They both went on to make a fortune.

Much of Hammer's work was based on the American Universal horror genre. It was also a marriage of Victorian melodrama and English gothic, with a dash of de Sade chucked in for spice. In its way, Hammer was the Merchant/Ivory of horror.

With new distribution conduits such as the internet being developed, the latest keepers of the Hammer flame have a better chance than most of re-establishing its reputation for quality horror.

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?