From beyond the grave, Hammer speaks to us still

Photographs discovered in old boxes show that the classic horror studio was into far more than Gothic mansions and frilly shirts.

Andrew Johnson
Sunday 16 November 2008 01:00
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A detective clutching a Manchester rooftop in a tense crime showdown is not an image that conjures up the corny horror for which the British company Hammer Film Productions became famous. The scene from the 1960 film Hell Is a City has none of the Gothic mansions or frilly shirts found in the studio's cult horror classics such as The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) or Dracula (1958).

Yet Hammer produced much more than horror through the heyday of British cinema up to its demise in 1979. Its most successful productions were On the Buses (1971) and One Million Years BC (1966), with Raquel Welch famously spilling out of a fur bikini. Now a book with more than 600 previously unseen pictures puts the record straight, showing the making of hundreds of films, including the classic horrors, war films, crime thrillers and swashbuckling epics.

The photos were discovered in 38 boxes at the British Film Institute's archives by Hammer expert Wayne Kinsey. Some were exhibited at the BFI last year. The rest, which also reveal that Oliver Reed, Betty Davis and Joan Fontaine joined Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee on the payroll, have been gathered in to Mr Kinsey's book

"The images had been donated years ago and were gathering moss," he says. "As soon as I started scanning them I realised the importance of the collection. The stills photographers were in the studio every day, so they took shots of scenes that were filmed but never made it into the final edit."

'Hammer Films: A Life in Pictures' is published by Tomahawk Press next week

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