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3 months ago
Does the World really need another book about Hammer movies?
Since the mid-1990s hardly a year has gone by without the release of at least one publication dedicated to the history of Britain’s most influential horror film studio. We had gloriously produced general overviews (Marcus Hearn/Alan Barnes: The Hammer Story), extensive film by film reviews of every single Hammer film production since The Public Life of Henry the Ninth from 1935 (Tom Johnson/Deborah DelVecchio: Hammer Films – An Exhaustive Filmography), two very in depth tomes about the production and release history (Wayne Kinsey’s Hammer Films – The Bray Studio Years and its follow up The Elstree Studio Years) and an accountant’s view of the company’s history (Denis “Will I ever write a book about films I actually like?” Meikle: A History of Horror – The Rise and Fall of the House of Hammer).
And these are just the good ones. On top of that there are a number of others, some good, some bad and very few plain ugly. And let’s not forget some truly excellent Hammer magazines, most notably Little Shoppe of Horrors and the now defunct Dark Terrors. [And of course Wayne Kinsey's very own The House That Hammer Built! Can't believe I forgot to mention this in my original review.]
So is there really a need to release yet another book about a studio that, though highly important, has become more of a niche interest with a very dedicated, but ultimately small number of raving fans?
Tomahawk’s new publication Hammer Films – A Life in Pictures is officially attributed to Hammer scribe Wayne Kinsey, though his actual text really plays second fiddle to this book’s ultimate raison d’être, a huge collection of ultra rare photos that Kinsey had unearthed during his research in the British Film Institute.
Hundreds of those negatives had for decades been safely stored away in the BFI’s archives, though it took a year of Kinsey’s research to identify their value and to properly attribute them to the films and the talent involved in their production. A small number of those images had subsequently been exhibited at the BFI South Bank, but it is safe to say that the vast bulk of those photos have never been seen up to the release of this book.
The majority of those are black and white pictures, though the book also has 16 pages of coloured prints. Apart from simply being able to see some very rare pictures of Hammer productions, there are another two reasons why this book should prove fascinating for every Hammer - but also general Brit Horror - Fan.
First of all it is important to notice that every film production was invariably accompanied by a photographer who captured the atmosphere on set. In contrast to most other books about the studio, this means that its famous horror movies are not the only genres that are covered here. Instead the book focuses equally on all the different types of projects that Hammer was involved in and therefore covers Hammer Noir as well as the Frankenstein, Dracula and general Horror films and also its forays into Science Fiction, Psychological Thrillers, Drama, War, Fantasy, Comedy and Swashbuckler productions. Very few other books have ever given equal coverage to all those genres when dealing with its subject.
Secondly, it is quite obvious that a large number of those images were not necessarily intended for publicity purposes, so even though we have a good number of glamour shots or star photography, we also have a very large chunk of on set photography giving us all a good idea of Hammer as a truly “working” production company.
It was fascinating watching the crews at work and play. I had previously heard about the accident that caused the ship to capsize during the filming of The Devil Ship Pirates, though now was able to actually view what happened. Amazing to see how some utterly crazy and dangerous stunts were filmed. (Not a good idea to really have a noose around your neck while you’re sitting on a bolting horse.) And nothing demonstrates the joviality and camaraderie on set better than a tombstone saying “Alfred Hitchcock R.I.P” designed for ex-Hitchcock Blonde Joan Fontaine during The Witches’ shooting.
All in all, this is a gorgeous piece of cinema history, an absolute Must Have for everyone only remotely interested in the history of Hammer or Brit Horror in general and, as this is strictly limited to 2500 copies, something you may want to quickly arrange as a Christmas present for either yourself or your loved ones.
1. 9 Hammer MoviesWe also have another four blogs that are willing to give this a shot. It would be great to have at least 9 blogs in total involved in this exercise, so if there's anyone out there who is interested in participating, please let me know. It is not too late to join yet and a number of the other 999 Challengers have also opted to not just limit this to films only.
2. 9 Movies directed by Hammer directors (non-Hammer)
3. 9 Movies starring Hammer actors (non-Hammer)
4. 9 Movies starring Hammer actresses (non-Hammer)
5. 9 Movies that I haven't seen before starring non-Hammer Horror icons (such as Vincent Price, Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff)
6. 9 Rivals of Hammer (Movies from Amicus or Tigon, 1960s and 70s Brit Horror in general)
7. 9 Mario Bava movies
8. 9 Giallos
9. 9 Movies to be watched in the cinema (i.e. 5 more than I managed this year, sad I know)
1. 9 different interpretations of Sherlock HolmesDoug from Divine Exploitation will focus on:
2. 9 instalments of "Avalard's Box of Obfuscation" podcast (if I don't add this, I'm worried I might get lazy as the new year starts...)
3. 9 novels (considerably more than I manage most years!)
4. 9 Hitchcock films (need to work my way through the acres of dvds I've got cluttering the office)
5. 9 films at the cinema (I see plenty, but I never write about them!)
6. 9 Michael Caine films
7. 9 classic Britcom television series (only 1 episode of each!)
8. 9 British horror films
9. 9 episodes of the Avengers (at least one from each year of the original 60s run)
1. 9 Jess Franco Films I haven't seenComic Artist Extraordinaire and all round nice guy Neal Vokes from That's All, Vokes will concentrate on:
2. 9 films with people from Franco films that he didn't direct.
3. 9 zombie films I haven't seen
4. 9 minicomics.
5. 9 movies in the 50 pack I bought last year and and still haven't gotten around to watching.
6. 9 novelizations of movies. (The movie had to come first.)
7. 9 non fiction books dealing exclusively with film in some fashion.
8. 9 viewings of the film A Virgin Among The Living Dead with a write up of each time and what I may have missed each time.
9. 9 exploitation films made before 1950
And last not least my buddy Davy Z from Tomb It May Concern (just love the name of this blog!) will accept the challenge with the following categories;
1- 9 western films (but only ones from the 90s-1990 to 1999- to keep a theme going here-westerns were virtually non existent by then-should be a challenge-lol )
2- 9 horror films (the same goes for these and the next couple film genres-this helps keep me more focused i think-besides, i haven't bothered with a whole lot of "new" films in the horror/comedy/sci fi/foreign genre-should be enlightening)
3- 9 comedies (same)
4- 9 Sci Fi films (same)
5- 9 foreign films (same)
6- 9 TV series on dvd (I'll keep it to one episode per show to be realistic -
i have at least nine box sets of various shows sitting amongst my dvd collection)
7- 9 books (i have more than nine on my "to read" shelf already-and just added more this Xmas!)
8- 9 albums/cds (again i want to try to listen to bands i haven't before-or at least paid little attention to-also between 1990 to 1999)
9- 9 chapters of a comic strip (i borrowed this idea from fellow blogger Davy Z) I'm not sure about what yet-something i haven't done before, i think-maybe semi autobiographical in nature?
as soon as i've picked the exact films,etc that will be on the list I'll update the entry...;o)
1) 9 Jess Franco films that I have already viewed more than twice. (Every time I revisit a Franco after a few years-and several other films-they tend to inform each other. I'm going to revisit some favorites and see what has changed.)Again, there's ample room for more bloggers to join us. It should be a very fun, productive and focused year for us all. :-)
2) 9 Videogames that are not First Person Shooters. (I play a lot of shooters and love the genre-so it is time to go for something different. RPG, Racing, Casual gaming...we'll see what pops up.)
3) 9 complete runs of horror comics produced between 2001 and 2009. (I have had a lot of trouble connecting to many recent comics-but with some searching, I bet I could locate nine series that would be interesting. For my purposes, mini-series are going to count as one, though I won't cheap out and simply read a bunch of 30 Days Of Night books. The art might make my eyes bleed if I did.)
4) 9 British Horror films. (I'm fairly weak on my britsploitation knowledge. This won't change that fact at all, but may shovel a little sand in to the tide of my ignorance.)
5) 9 Eurospy films that I have not seen. (So many to catch up with, this should be easy!)
6) 9 Peplum Films. (I have a 50 pack that is only 1/3 watched!)
7) 9 Spaghetti Westerns (There are dozens piled up in my backlog)
8) 9 Guy N. Smith novels
9) I'm wondering if actually creating a work of fiction in 9 parts would count. I'll ask those involved and see if it does. If so, then I'll post a 9 part story in 2009. If not...I'm sure I can find something else!