Thursday, 9 February 2012
The Hammer House
“We can’t really tell you much about it but we really are looking at it. I’ve been saying that we’d never remake the films per se, but we would do our own versions of it. Certainly in my time with Hammer we will definitely do a Dracula. We will do a Frankenstein if we can find a route in. It’s about finding a route in that makes it your film.” Simon Oakes
Hammer are healthy again which is a good thing for movie lovers – the studio may have considered its output to be B-movies but they have become iconic and the very name conjures up images of gothic horror - This studio may have lost all relevance when it started churning out big screen versions of popular sitcoms like On The Buses and Love Thy Neighbor, but no one really doubted that the studio would one day rise from the dead.
Hammer originally started out in the 1930′s when Will Hammer founded Hammer Productions. He was soon joined by Enrique Carreras and together they formed a distribution company called Exclusive Films. They produced a few comedies during the Thirties as well as a thriller The Mystery of the Mary Celeste which starred Hollywood’s Count Dracula, Bela Lugosi. But by the Forties Hammer were no longer producing films and it wasn’t until the two founder’s sons took control that the Hammer we know and love started to form. Right from the start James Carreras displayed a shrewd business mind and he reckoned that by ensuring none of their films had a budget larger than £20.000 and by making five films a year they could turn over a profit annually of £25,000. Hammer could not afford big name stars and so it was decided to concentrate on the domestic market and produce movie versions of popular radio shows. They scored some success with versions of PC49 and Dick Barton but it wasn’t until 1955 and The Quatermass Experiment that Hammer really came into its own. And from there it was a hop, skip and jump to 1957′s, The Curse of Frankenstein, which gave Hammer its first real bite out of the lucrative American market. The film also started a cycle of gothic horror films for which the studio have become synonymous.
The Hammer Frankenstein and Dracula cycles went on into the Seventies and ended on a high point for the baron with Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell and an all time low for Drac with The Satanic Rites of Dracula. However the Dracula movies led to an interesting series of films based loosely on the Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla story – The Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire and Twins of Evil, but by now the boom years had ended and Hammer dwindled into a shadow of its former self. They’re fighting fit now, though.
So Hammer is dead, long live Hammer.