Tuesday, 4 April 2017
The Birth of Hammer Horror
When I was 12 I didnt know hardly anything about film studios, sure I watched a heck of a lot of films but I tended to be drawn by the subject matter or by the actors, however in the world of Video Games I was a little bit more knowledgable If I saw particular logo's on video game boxes such as the Capcom Logo then I was almost certain I was going to get a certain quality of product, a product which would provide a certain kind of experiance. So when I read what none other than Martin Scorsese had to say about Hammer Films in the following quote well I knew exactly what he meant “When I was 11 or 12, and went with groups of friends to see certain films, if we saw the logo of Hammer Films we knew it was a certain kind of film. A surprising experience, usually… and shocking.”
Hammer Films are by and large quality films, the company has a reputation, on of excellence, its a historical studio, one with a legacy, one which has and should never be forgotten but where did it all begin? Well it all began back in November 1934 with a man who went by the name of William Hinds, he was a comedian and businessman, he registered his film company, a company which was called Hammer Productions Ltd. The company was housed in a three-room office suite at Imperial House, on Regent Street in London. The company name came from William Hinds' stage name, which was Will Hammer, he had takken the name Hammer from the fact he lived in an area of London called Hammersmith. This was not the birth of Hammer as we really know it though, during this time though William Hinds met a man called Enrique Carreras a former cinema owner and they formed a film distribution company called Exclusive Films. Hammer was forced in to bankruptcy due to a slump in the British film industry and therefore went into liquidation in 1937. Hammer was gone for the time at least but Exclusive survived.
It was from Exclusive that Hammer would once again rise and it all began when James Carreras joined Exclusive in 1938, he was closely followed by William Hinds' son, Anthony. In 1946, James Carreras resurrected Hammer as the film production arm of Exclusive Films. Hammer was resurrected to supply'quota-quickies' (cheaply made domestic films designed to fill the gaps in cinema schedules). James and Anthony really put Hammer on the board properly with its production of Nigel Kneale's BBC series, The Quatermass Xperiment in 1955. The success of this project encouraged these young producers to find another fantasy based story to turn into a new production, and they found this with the out of copyright book Frankenstein, which they turned into the film The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), It has been argued that this was the most important horror film since Universal released Dracula way back in 1931. Wether you agree with this statment or not I am sure you will agree that it was a very important fim for both Hammer and the world of Horror films in general. Dracula had kick started the age of Universal films and Frankenstien did the samme for Hammers age of Horror, it seemed only fitting that Hammer would then turn to Dracula for there next film
As for The Curse Of Frankenstein though well it was a genre defining picture, it allowed us brits to usher in the return of gothic horror, gothic horror in colour and with lashings of gore at that. This wasnt the only thing that made it a heck of a landmark film though, no you can thank the director Terence Fisher and the fabulous acting team of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing for a lot of what makes this film a legendary piece. Lee manages to bring a certain sense of sympathy to the monster without ever saying a word and yet Cushing manages to remind us that Frankenstein is the man and not the monsster, in fact he breaths so much life into the Doctor that you almost expect him to break out of the screen and become a fully fleshed out person. There is a reason why both of these men both togther and seperatly appear in so many horror films and it is because they are quiet simply masters of the macabra, and they are so linked to Hammer in my mind that to see them makes me think of the very company itself.
This was the birth of the real Hammer the one we all remember and look back on fondly