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 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.
In May 2007 the BBC reported that: "At least $50m (£25m) will be spent on new horror films after British company Hammer Film Productions was sold to Dutch consortium Cyrte Investments." A press release on the Hammer Films website confirms the sale, adding that "Spitfire Pictures founders Guy East and Nigel Sinclair will join the board as non-executive directors."
The release mentions "film and television"production, but isn't clear on whether new features will be put out under theatre release, or go straight-to-DVD. No doubt those sort of announcements will be made in due course; early days yet.
The company has also acquired the rights to Hammer's back-catalogue of around 300 horror film titles, including classics such as Dracula, The Mummy, and The Curse of Frankenstein along with many of the sort of racier vampire-sex-kitten flicks that have been a formative and staple part of many a young lad's fantasy (and many a young lass's too, undoubtedly) for many a year.
The new Dutch owners are planning a campaign to develop Hammer's "great British brand"and "global potential", which will presumably translate into a fresh batch of DVD releases - maybe even new novelisations and tie-in books? - alongside stated plans to "target a new generation of horror lovers via mobile phones and the internet".
Shrieking-heroine ring-tones, anyone?
- THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) - Terence Fisher 82mins Eastman colour PIC
- DRACULA (1958) -Terence Fisher 82mins Eastman colour (USA-HORROR OF DRACULA) PIC1 PIC2 PIC3 WMV 13.9MB
- THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958) - Terence Fisher 89mins Technicolor PIC
- THE MUMMY (1959) - Terence Fisher 88mins Technicolor WMV 15.7MB
- THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH (1959) -Terence Fisher 83mins Technicolor
- THE STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY (1960) - Terence Fisher 80mins Megascope PIC
- THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (1960) - Terence Fisher 88mins Technicolor PIC
- THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960) - Terence Fisher 85mins Technicolor PIC
- THE TWO FACES OF DR JEKYLL (1960) - Terence Fisher 88mins (USA-HOUSE OF FRIGHT) PIC
- THE TERROR OF THE TONGS aka TERROR OF THE HATCHET MEN (1961) - Anthony Bushell 79mins Technicolor PIC
- THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1962) - Terence Fisher 84mins Technicolor
- CAPTAIN CLEGG (1962) - Peter Graham Scott 82mins Technicolor (USA-NIGHT CREATURES) PIC
- MANIAC (1963) - Michael Carreras 86mins PIC
- THE DAMNED (1963) Joseph Losey 87mins Hammerscope (USA-THESE ARE THE DAMNED 77mins) PIC
- KISS OF THE VAMPIRE (1964) Don Sharp 87mins Eastman colour PIC
- THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN (1964) Freddie Francis 84mins Eastman colour PIC
- THE GORGON (1964) Terence Fisher 83mins Technicolor
- THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB (1964) Michael Carreras 80mins Technicolor Techniscope
- FANATIC (DIE DIE MY DARLING) (1965) Silvio Narizzano 96mins Technicolor (USA 105mins)
- THE NANNY (1965) Seth Holt 93mins
- DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966) Terence Fisher 90mins PIC
Poor Chris Meets An Icy Death
- ONE MILLION YEARS BC (1966) Don Chaffey 100(91mins) PIC
- THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES (1966) John Gilling 91mins Technicolor PIC
- RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK (1966) Don Sharp 91mins Technicolor Cinemascope PIC
- THE REPTILE (1966) John Gilling 91mins Technicolor PIC1 PIC2
- THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1966) William Castle 77mins (USA 86mins)
- THE WITCHES (1966) Cyril Frankel 91mins Technicolor PIC
- FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1967) Terence Fisher 86mins Technicolor PIC
- THE MUMMYS SHROUD (1967) John Gilling 84mins Technicolor PIC
- THE VIKING QUEEN (1967) Don Chaffey 91(80mins) PIC
- THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (1968) Terence Fisher 95mins Technicolor (USA-THE DEVIL'S BRIDE) PIC WMV 9.59MB
- DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM HIS GRAVE (1968) Freddie Francis 92mins Technicolor PIC
- FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969) Terence Fisher 97mins Technicolor PIC
- TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1970) Peter Sasdy 95mins Technicolor PIC
- HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN (1970) Jimmy Sangster 95mins Technicolor PIC
- SCARS OF DRACULA (1970) Roy Ward Baker 96mins Technicolor PIC
- THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970) Roy Ward Baker 91mins Technicolor (USA 88mins) PIC1 PIC2 WMV 3.6MB WMV 9.1MB
- WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (1970) Val Guest 100(96mins) PIC
- LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971) Jimmy Sangster 95mins Technicolor PIC WMV 11.4MB
- COUNTESS DRACULA (1971) Peter Sasdy 93mins Eastman colour PIC1 PIC2
- HANDS OF THE RIPPER (1971) Peter Sasdy 85mins Technicolor PIC1 PIC2
- TWINS OF EVIL (1971) John Hough 87mins Eastman colour PIC WMV 15.2MB
- DR JEKYLL & SISTER HYDE (1971) Roy Ward Baker 97mins Technicolor PIC1 PIC2
- BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB (1971) Seth Holt/Michael Carreras 94mins Technicolor PIC
- CREATURES THE WORLD FORGOT (1971) Don Chaffey 92mins PIC1 PIC2 PIC3
- VAMPIRE CIRCUS (1972) Robert Young 87mins Colour PIC WMV 15.8MB
- DEMONS OF THE MIND (1972) Peter Sykes 89mins Technicolor PIC1 PIC2
- DRACULA A.D.1972 (1972) Alan Gibson 97mins Eastman colour PIC1 PIC2
- THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973) Alan Gibson 87mins Colour
- FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (1973) Terence fisher 93mins Colour
- CAPTAIN KRONOS - VAMPIRE HUNTER (1973) Brian Clemens 91mins PIC WMV 13.9MB
- LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1973) Roy Ward Baker 110(89mins)
- TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER aka DIE BRAUT DES SATANS (1976) Peter Sykes 93mins PIC