THE COMPANY IS FORMED
Exclusive Films Ltd a film distribution company was formed in 1935 by the partnership of a Spaniard named Enrique Carreras and William Hinds (stage name Will Hammer). Hammer Productions Ltd had started the previous year with Hinds as Chairman. Through their collaboration Hammer produced several films and Exclusive helped distribute these during the 1940's. After the war the company was encouraged by the ABC cinema chain to produce cheap British films, as a result of this Hammer became a subsidiary of Exclusive, and in 1949 a new company called Hammer Film Productions Ltd was born. So far the film output had consisted mainly of detective films, it was not until The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) that Hammer really started to take off, the dramatic "X" was used to emphasize the pictures X-CERT adult content.
Although Quatermass was a successful film for Hammer, they had discovered that audiences preferred monsters of a more human form than any alien incarnation. With this knowledge a spark was ignited and a move towards those horror films we all know and love was made. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) would be Hammer's first real horror film, bringing together the talents of Peter Cushing (baron) and the relatively unknown Christopher Lee. Lee was asked to play the monster primarily because of his stature (6' 5'), but after the success of Frankenstein, these two fine actors would appear together many times and dominate later Hammer films. They would also star in several pictures by the distributor Tigon. This company also enlisted the british veteran director of the supernatural, Vernon Sewell, to compete with Hammer's output. The Blood Beast Terror (1967) about a giant Death's-head moth, starred Peter Cushing. The following year Sewell directed The Curse of the Crimson Altar with Christopher lee, Boris Karloff and Barbara Steele. The reins were then taken over at Tigon by Piers Haggard who made the excellent Blood on Satan's Claw (1970).
THE DECLINING HORROR FILM INDUSTRY
The early 70's saw Hammer struggling to stay in profit, big budget Hollywood blockbusters like the Exorcist (1973), would rock the already shaky British horror film industry. In 1975 Freddie Francis, Anthony Hinds and Peter Cushing would be asked by Tyburn films to make the Ghoul and Legend of the Werewolf. These were really remakes of Hammer's Reptile and Curse of the Werewolf, both were unsuccessful in America, sending a clear message back home. Hammer's chief rival was Amicus who specialized in horror anthologies mimicking the 1950's pulp comics from EC. Torture Garden (1967), The House that Dripped Blood(1970), Asylum (1972), Tales from the Crypt (1972), The Vault of Horror (1973) and From Beyond the Grave (1975) were well made, other projects included I Monster(1970), And Now the Screaming Starts (1972) and The Beast Must Die (1973). Although Amicus made some good films they disbanded in the mid 70's.
Apart from Amicus and Hammer, the British flag was carried by Pete Walker and Norman J Warren, Satan's Slaves (1976), Prey (1977) and Terror (1979). It was Walker however with his Frightmare (1974) that made the most impact. Starring Shiela Keith as a cannibal old lady, she discovers new ways to use power tools. Next came House of Whipcord (1974) and House of Mortal Sin (1975). In the latter Anthony Sharp plays an unholy priest who kills his parishioners with poisoned communion wafers and censer's. Whilst House of long Shadows (1982) gathers Price, Lee, Cushing, Carradine and Shiela Keith together the story was not in the same vein as Walker's earlier work. The 80's saw Harry B Davenport's Xtro (1982), Harley Cokliss's Dream Demon (1987) and possibly the best horror film of the decade, Clive Barker's Hellraiser (1987).
Since the decline of Hammer, television series such as Hammer House of Horror and Hammer House of Mystery in the 80's helped keep the name alive. The company was then dissolved in 1987, and bought two years later by ex-Hammer producer Roy Skeggs who tried to reform the studios. Financial problems continued, in 1997 a large cash injection from a consortium led by advertising guru Charles Saatchi would help bail out the company. This loan would signal the rebirth of Hammer, and would eventually lead to a consortium of private investors including Saatchi and Time Warner's Larry Chrisfield buying the company in Feb 2000. This is extremely good news for fans everywhere. Lets hope the new millennium rekindles the great Hammer film tradition.
GOLDEN AGE OF HAMMER
DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS MOV 1.9MB
Poor Chris Meets An Icy Death
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