Book Review: Rungs on a Ladder

Rungs on a LadderRungs on a Ladder: Hammer Films Seen Through a Soft Gauze
By Christopher Neame

Published by The Scarecrow Press, 2003. 131 pages.

If there is a book published about Hammer Films, more than likely, at some point in time, I will be adding it to my library. I mean, when you have an official Hammer section with over two dozen titles in said library already, it’s kind of a must have. So when I came across this title on Amazon, I added it to my wish list. The problem I had right away was that it was priced from $30 to $50, and it was for a book that was just over a hundred pages. That’s a tough sell, even for a diehard collector like myself. Okay, sure, I bought it eventually anyway, but just saying.

Now, let’s not get this Neame confused with the actor of the same name that appeared in a couple of Hammer titles, Dracula A.D. 1972 & Lust for a Vampire. The author Neame started at the bottom of the business and worked his way up. It was only a matter of time for him, since the film business really was in his blood. His father was Ronald Neame, a director and cinematographer, and his grandfather Elwin, was a director who worked in silent films.

Christopher Neame started as a camera trainee in 1960, eventually joining Hammer Film Production, starting as a clapper boy on Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966). He moved to an assistant director on films like Quatermass and the Pit (1966), to eventually production manager on Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969) and a few more titles. He later moved into the role as producer and working on his own features, becoming quite successful. But he never forgot his past, which is laid out nicely with the few pages of this book.

Neame talks a lot about the people that worked for Hammer and the kind of family atmosphere there during their heyday. He mentions quite a few people that were in the Hammer family at the time, but not the names of actors that you’d think. Yes, he does mention a few of them here and there, but he really talks about the people that most writing about this famous studio would leave out. The people like the cameramen, the wardrobe mistress, the 2nd and 3rd assistant directors, the makeup/prop guys, the art directors, and the rest of these unsung heroes that really made Hammer look and feel like they did. Now, Wayne Kinsey’s wonderful book Hammer Studios: The Unsung Heroes does that as well, but the difference is that Neame worked with these people in the trenches at the time, so his stories are more personal.

Sad to say that in June of 2011, Neame passed away from an aneurysm at the age of 68.

There are countless great stories within these 130 pages that any Hammer fan would love reading about and I would say it is a must for those die-hard fans. Again, it is a bit tough getting past that cost though. So if anything, I’d keep an eye out for it and maybe one day you might come across a cheaper copy.

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