Hammer Films returns to revamp horror classics

HAMMER Films, which chilled a generation of horror fans, is set to return after a Hollywood studio agreed an injection of fresh blood.

The film company, believed to be long-dead after receivers put a stake through its heart, has signed a four-year deal with Warner Brothers to remake many of the films which scared audiences during its heyday in the 1960s.

Roy Skeggs, who bought Hammer Films from the receiver eight years ago, signed the deal with Warner Brothers to revamp the old titles and make new Hammer pictures.

The first will be the science fiction thriller The Quatermass Experiment, expected to get under way early next year at a cost of up to dollars 40m (pounds 27m). Shooting will take place in Los Angeles and London.

'We are scripting five films at the moment, which Warner Brothers will bankroll, but there are also plans for a mini-series and a 44-episode TV series,' said Mr Skeggs, who first joined Hammer 30 years ago and rose to become a production supervisor on Frankenstein films.

'This could be incredibly good news for the British film industry and might give a big break to some young actors as well.'

He said there were plans to update The Devil Rides Out and the Stolen Face and produce a new film, Hideous Whispers, to be directed by Richard Donner, director of such films as Superman and The Omen.

Mr Skeggs said there were no immediate plans to revive Hammer's Dracula. Frankenstein will also remain on the shelf as Mr Skeggs feels too many other film-makers are already tackling the two.

'We are making a new film called Vlad The Impaler, who inspired the Dracula story, which will be shot in Romania next year,' he said.

A Warners Brothers spokesman said the agreement was with Hammer and Donner/ Schuler-Donner Productions and gave Warner exclusive rights to the Hammer library and new material developed by the company.

The Elstree-based company made more than 200 films for television and the cinema before it withdrew from film production in the 1970s. The films included classics such as The Mummy, Curse of Dracula, Frankenstein and Plague of the Zombies.

The company became synonymous with horror films although it made other films, and won the Queen's Award to Industry. The company collapsed in 1980 when its last film, The Lady Vanishes, performed disastrously.

The company made international stars of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

It continued making television programmes and the Hammer House of Horror series enjoyed a revival in the 1980s.

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