Preview: Exhibition: It came from out of the Fifties
Wednesday 03 December 1997
One hundred years after Bram Stoker's Dracula first put the wind up us, horror, especially the horror flick, still holds us in its thrall. Audiences flock to the latest slasher movie while the the celluloid gore with which the genre has become associated ensures that the frenzied scribblings of the moral majority clutter up the letters pages.
You'll have a hard time laying the blame at the feet of the film though. We harbour an affection for the late Friday night Brides of Dracula or Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, rivalling in its quirky Englishness the national regard for Marmite, Antiques Roadshow and The Prodigy. Inevitably, Momi's exhibition is aiming to perpetuate the ironic value of camp titillation we think the Hammer films still hold for us: how to distinguish a vampire from an ordinary person, a special effects lab, "real vampire-slaying staves" and "barely restrained cleavage".
The exhibition also looks back over the history of Hammer and reminds us that in our present collective nostalgia for the films it's easy to forget the impact they made in the 1950s. "People were fed up with watching war films and patronising comedies," explains Gill Slaney, the exhibition's researcher. "The advent of television represented a major challenge to cinema and Hammer, who had been going since before the war, realized that it had to come up with something new and different to keep their audiences."
That angle was recasting the gothic horror classics in lurid colour and bathing them in blood and plenty of hammy sex in order to lure the newly liberated teenage pound into the cinema. According to Slaney, the films' producers thoroughly enjoyed themselves in the process, notching up the largest filmography of any British feature film company, but were perplexed by Sixties pop culture which came to cherish The Curse of Frankenstein and The Mummy's Shroud precisely for their trashy disposability. The revival has been in full swing now since the late Eighties. "People look back on them as a golden age," concludes Slaney and any doubters need only turn on their TV in the small hours of any Saturday morning for proof.
To May 1998 pounds 5.95 (concs pounds 4, NUS pounds 4.85) Museum of the Moving Image, South Bank, Waterloo, London SE1 0171 401 2636
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