Hammer Horror, the long deceased master of gore is set to rise from the grave.
Thursday 29 May 1997
To celebrate, the first Hammer movies, The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy are released on video for the first time this month. And hard-core obsessives can follow up with a season of Hammer movies on the Sci-Fi Channel. So what is the appeal of Hammer? Marcus Hearn, co-author of a new history of Hammer, puts its success down to three key elements : "First of all was horror: they were the first British company to produce an 'X' certificate film, The Quatermass Experiment in 1955. Then came colour with The Curse of Frankenstein in 1957, you could actually see blood for the first time, eyeballs dropped in jars and bodies dissolving in acid and finally sex. Dracula in 1958 was full of girls who enjoyed being bitten, giving orgasmic yelps, and leaving their windows open for him."
Housed in Pinewood and Bray Studios, a small team of producers and directors produced a steady and bloody stream of over 60 shuddering films boasting gore and cleavage. But it was the surprise success of one BBC serial adaptation, The Quatermass Experiment, which first revealed the potential of horror.
Looking for a follow-up, Michael Carreras, owner of Hammer, noticed that there had been no colour remake of Frankenstein or Dracula. They made The Curse of Frankenstein which broke box-office records. This vivid bloody colour-fest starred Peter Cushing as Baron Victor Frankenstein who brings his hideous monster (Christopher Lee) to life. The film, directed by Terence Fisher delighted in wallowing in its 'X' certificate. The critics hated it: "For sadists only" screamed The Telegraph. The public loved it. The follow-up, Dracula, featuring Christopher Lee as a sexually charged version of Bram Stoker's count, cost just pounds 80,000 to make but made profits of more than pounds 4m. Hammer became the world-market leader in horror movies, an achievement which was later acknowledged with a Queen's Award to Industry in 1968.
Production was stepped up and in the Sixties a decision was made to make the films back-to-back using the same cast, crew and locations. The release schedules were then carefully shuffled so that the audience didn't notice that Dracula lived in the same castle as Fu Manchu. The films became formulaic, leading even Christopher Lee to say in public that the series of Dracula movies had become repetitious and deadening. The series reaches its nadir with two Dracula films set in modern-day London: Dracula AD 72 and The Satanic Rites of Dracula left audiences giggling with delight rather than shivering with fear as high-budget American shockers like Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist left Hammer looking, well, quaint.
Despite a few TV projects since, the last movie was made in 1979, but with Hollywood directors including Martin Scorsese and Wes Craven about to grasp the mantle, the beast looks set to rise again n
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 3 UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 4 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 5 Men behaving badly: Urinating while standing, 'manspreading' and the gendering of selfishness
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors: 'I think as far as coloured actors go it gets really difficult in the UK'
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction
Pixie Geldof signs recording deal with Stranger Records
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd