Hammer House of Horrors

                                                                              

 

 

 

Hammer Film Productions is a film production company based in the United Kingdom. First founded in 1934, the company is best known for a series of Gothic "Hammer Horror" films made from the mid-1950s until the 1970s. Hammer films may have had low budgets, but nonetheless appeared lavish, making use of quality British actors and cleverly designed sets. During its most successful years, Hammer dominated the horror film market, enjoying worldwide distribution and considerable financial success. This success was due, in part, to distribution partnerships with major United States studios, such as Warner Brothers. There were other British based film producers (ie Amicus) around that produced movies that were often mistaken for the output of the better-known Hammer Films, to which they are similar in visual style, and with which they share many stars, including Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Form me Hammer movies (and perhaps others I have included from producers such as Amicus) were all about the presence of Cusing and Lee.

 

Christopher Lee & Hammer

Lee's first film for Hammer was The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) in which he played Frankenstein's monster, with Cushing as the Baron. A little later, Lee co-starred with Boris Karloff in the film Corridors of Blood (1958), but Lee's own appearance as Frankenstein's Monster also led to his first appearance as the Transylvanian vampire in the 1958 film Dracula (known as Horror of Dracula in the US). Stories vary as to why Lee did not feature in the 1960 sequel The Brides of Dracula. Some state Hammer were unwilling to pay Lee his current fee, but most tend to believe that he simply did not wish to be typecast. Lee did, however, return to the role in Hammer's Dracula: Prince of Darkness in 1965. Lee's performance is notable in that he has no lines, merely hissing his way through the film. Again, stories vary as to the reason for this: Lee states he refused to speak the poor dialogue he was given, but screenwriter Jimmy Sangster claims that the script did not contain any lines for the character. This film set the standard for most of the Dracula sequels in the sense that half the film's running time was spent on telling the story of Dracula's resurrection and the character's appearances were brief. Lee has gone on record to state that he was virtually 'blackmailed' by Hammer into starring in the subsequent films; unable or unwilling to pay him his going rate, they would resort to reminding him of how many people he would put out of work if he did not take part.

His performances in the following three films Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969) and Scars of Dracula) (1970) all gave the Count very little to do, but were all commercially successful. Although Lee may not have liked what Hammer were doing with the character, worldwide audiences embraced the films which are now considered classics of the genre. Lee starred in two further Dracula films for Hammer in the early 1970s, both of which attempted to bring the character into the modern day era. These were not commercially successful. Lee's other work for Hammer included performances as The Mummy (1959). Lee was well suited for the role of Kharis the Mummy standing over 6'5" and in great physical shape. This was one of Lee's best performances, despite only being able to convey emotion through his eyes for the majority of the film. Lee's performance as the Mummy was exceptional and is considered by many to be Hammer's best film and Lee's greatest performance. Lee also portrayed Rasputin in Rasputin, the Mad Monk (Lee apparently met Rasputin's assassin Felix Yussupov when he was a child), and Sir Henry Baskerville to Cushing's Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959). He auditioned for a role in The Longest Day (1962), but was turned down as he did not look like a military man (despite having served in the RAF during World War II).

He was responsible for bringing acclaimed occult author Denis Wheatley to Hammer. The company made two films from Wheatley's novels, both starring Lee. The first, The Devil Rides Out (1967), is generally considered to be one of Hammer's crowning achievements. According to Lee, Wheatley was so pleased with it that he offered the actor the film rights to his remaining black magic novels free of charge. However, the second film, To the Devil a Daughter (1976), was fraught with production difficulties, and was disowned by its author. Although financially successful, it was Hammer's last horror film, and marked the end of Lee's long association with the studio that brought him fame.

Like Cushing, Lee also appeared in horror films for other companies during the 20 year period from 1957 to 1977. Other performances included the series of Fu Manchu films from 1965 to 1969, starring as the eponymous villain in heavy oriental make-up. the Jekyll and Hyde roles in I, Monster (1971), The Creeping Flesh (1972) and his personal favourite The Wicker Man (1973). Lee was attracted to the latter role by screenwriter Anthony Shaffer and apparently gave his services for free as the budget was so small. Lee also appeared in Billy Wilder's British-made film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), in which the actor plays Sherlock Holmes' decidedly smarter brother, Mycroft and in Eugenie (1970) unaware that it was softcore pornography, as the sex scenes were shot separately.

 

Peter Cushing and Hammer

His first appearances in his two most famous roles were in Terence Fisher's films The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula (1958). Cushing is closely associated with playing Baron Victor Frankenstein and Lawrence Van Helsing in a long string of horror films produced by Hammer Horror. He later said that career decisions for him meant choosing roles where he knew the audience would accept him. "Who wants to see me as Hamlet? Very few. But millions want to see me as Frankenstein so that's the one I do." He also said "If I played Hamlet, they'd call it a horror film."

Cushing was often cast opposite the actor Christopher Lee, with whom he became best friends. "People look at me as if I were some sort of monster, but I can't think why. In my macabre pictures, I have either been a monster-maker or a monster-destroyer, but never a monster. Actually, I'm a gentle fellow. Never harmed a fly. I love animals, and when I'm in the country I'm a keen bird-watcher," he said in an interview published in ABC Film Review in November 1964.

In the mid-1960s, he played the eccentric "Doctor" in two movies (Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 AD) based on the television series Doctor Who. He made a conscious decision to play the part as a lovable, avuncular figure, in an effort to escape from his perceived image as a "horror" actor. "I do get terribly tired with the neighbourhood kids telling me 'My mum says she wouldn't want to meet you in a dark alley'." he said in an interview in 1966. He also appeared in the cult series The Avengers and then again in its successor, The New Avengers. In 1986, he played the role of Colonel William Raymond in Biggles. In Space: 1999, he appeared as a Prospero-like character called Raan.

 

 

 

 

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The Curse of Frankenstein

Dracula

The Revenge of Frankenstein

The Mummy

The Flesh and the Fiends

The Brides of Dracula

The Evil of Frankenstein

The Gorgon

Dr Terror's House of Horror's

The Skull

Island of Terror

Torture Garden

Twins of Evil

From Beyond the Grave

Asylum

Taste the Blood of Dracula

Scars of Dracula

Blood from the Mummy's Tomb

The Horror of Frankenstein

Dracula has risen from the Grave

Dracula Prince of Darkness

The Curse of the Werewolf

The Plague of the Zombies

The Mummy's Shroud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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