Obituary: Michael Carreras (CORRECTED)
Friday 22 April 1994
Michael Henry Carreras, director, producer, screenwriter; born London 21 December 1927; producer and managing director, Hammer Films 1971-79; married (three sons); died London 19 April 1994.
MICHAEL CARRERAS was known mainly as a producer of horror-fantasy films for Hammer Films, the company founded and headed by his father, Henry Carreras.
He was a teenager when he entered the film industry in 1943. Although his first interest at the time was in music (he retained a great enthusiasm for jazz, even running a Hammer Jazz Club for his Wardour Street friends in the early 1970s), he found himself performing various tasks in the booking, sales, accounts and publicity departments of his grandfather's Exclusive Films, which at that time was primarily a distribution company. On his return from military service in the Grenadier Guards in 1948 he rejoined Exclusive and, as assistant to the producer Tony Hinds, he got his first real taste of working in the film industry. After learning the basic craft of film production in the cutting rooms, the story department and casting, he was given his first film as producer (at the age of 24), Vernon Sewell's low-budget thriller The Dark Light, in 1951.
It was while both Hinds and Carreras were producing films using country mansions, for the sake of economy, that the decision was made to turn one country estate into a full-time working studio. Bray Studios, near Windsor, came into being and was for nearly 15 years the home of Hammer Films. Under a co-production deal with the American company Robert Lippert Productions, which gave Hammer their first foothold in America, Carreras produced Mantrap, starring Paul Henreid, and Four-Sided Triangle (both 1952), Blood Orange and Murder By Proxy / Blackout (both 1953), and in 1954 The Stranger Came Home, featuring Paulette Goddard.
He first started directing in the mid-1950s with a series of British dance band shorts (Cyril Stapleton and the Showband, Parade of the Bands, Edmundo Ros Half Hour and others). While Carreras continued producing - including The Steel Bayonet (which he also directed), The Phoenix, Yesterday's Enemy and Hell is a City - his father James Carreras pursued overseas co-production and distribution associations, resulting with Hammer's first international success, The Quatermass Experiment (1955), which was to lead them on to a whole new style of film-making and the cream of Hammer's Gothic horror. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), executive- produced by Michael Carreras, was an international blockbuster (grossing over pounds 2m world-wide, against the production cost of somewhere around pounds 60,000) and became the key to Hammer's success with stylised colour reworkings of The Mummy (featuring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing), The Curse of the Werewolf (starring Oliver Reed) and The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll genres.
Michael Carreras and Hammer Films continued their successful trend until Carreras broke away from Hammer in 1961 to form his own company, Capricorn Productions. Under this banner he produced and directed two of his favourite films: The Savage Guns (1962), the first American/Spanish co-production filmed in Almeria, and the pop musical What a Crazy World (1963). Following on from this, by way of producing She (1965) and Lost Continent (1968), he virtually created the prehistoric fantasy genre with One Million Years BC (1966; which he also scripted), Slave Girls / Prehistoric Women (1966) and Creatures the World Forgot (1970; which he scripted) for Hammer.
He rejoined the company as head of production in 1971 and eventually bought total control from his father in 1972 to become managing director. One of his later productions, which was also a personal favourite that he had been trying to make for many years, was the Elliott Gould / Cybill Shepherd starring version of The Lady Vanishes (1979).
Although it is said that Michael Carreras would have preferred to produce more 'serious' film subjects, his contribution to the British film industry of the 1950s and 1960s and to Hammer Films in particular helped make that company name an international trademark of genre style and quality.
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