Horror History: Jimmy Sangster

sangster1Jimmy Sangster
Born Dec. 2nd, 1927 – Died Aug. 19th, 2011

When discussing the Hammer family, Jimmy Sangster was there at the start of their rise, not to mention having a big part of it. He started with Hammer at the bottom, working his way up through the ranks, as second unit director, assistant director, production assistant, production manager, then finally into writer, producer and director. But while he may have held many different titles in the industry, it was as a writer where he made his real mark.

By the time that Hammer was going to do their version of Frankenstein, Sangster had worked on over 30 films as either Production Manager, or Second Unit Director or Assistant Director. He had written screenplays for one short film and one feature by then, both for Hammer. The short film was A Man on the Beach and the feature was X the Unknown (1956), sort of their version of The Blob (1958) even though that came out two years later! But he was given the task to write this new version of Shelley’s tale, but told to make sure he stays away from Universal’s version, in fear of getting sued for copyright infringement. He decided to focus more on the creator than the creation, which started Hammer toward their path to being know as The House of Horror!

The thing about writing for Hammer, or any studio, is keeping in mind of the budget. While writing Curse, he was told to keep it keep and avoid any costly things, such as the villagers. As explained in his autobiography, Do You Want It Good or Tuesday?, “Villagers cost money, so eighty-six the villagers. Talk about them if you like. Threaten to get their help. Hear them baying in the background. But keep them off screen.” But when all said and done, Sangster gave us an incredible story that was brought to life by Hammer and which still remains a classic to this day.

He would go on to write many other titles for Hammer, like their follow up Horror of Dracula (1958), as well as other great titles like Blood of the Vampire and The Crawling Eye, both in 1958. In 1970, he was asked by Hammer to help doctor a script, where the offer was then added to produce, and then finally direct. The film was Horror of Frankenstein. He would go on to director two more titles for Hammer, Lust for a Vampire (1971) and  Fear in the Night (1972).

Sangster continued to work as a writer on tons of movies and TV shows during his career, even publishing some novels. Had it not been for his creative thinking, Hammer might not ever grew into the famous Studio that Dripped Blood.

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