Hammer Complete: The Films, the Personal, the Company
Published by McFarland, 2018. 992 pages.
By Howard Maxford
It’s really hard to be not excited when a book comes out on one of your favorite studios that is just a few pages shy of a 1000! Sure, some of you that ask, “do we really need another book on Hammer Films?” Well if it is as massive and thorough as this one, then that would be a definite yes! I have been waiting on this book to come out since McFarland announced it well over a year ago, but had no idea how colossal of a tome this would be. Maxford states in his introduction that it has taken over 15 years to complete this and it looks like it.
I’ve been reading and researching and learning about Hammer Studios and the people behind it for somewhere around three decades, but there is always still more to learn. That was proven once again as I started browsing through this before I read some little tidbits that I didn’t know about. Such as that Jimmy Hanley, who played the friendly bartender in The Lost Continent (1968), is actually the father of Jenny Hanley, who appeared in Scars of Dracula (1970)! Sure, it’s just a little bit of trivia, but that is a sign of a good reference book.
Born: Sept. 20th, 1925 – Died: July 12th, 2001
There are some composers that make a cinematic impact, just as much as an actor or director. James Bernard is one of them. The music he created for films, especially the ones he did for Hammer Films, became part of the movie’s unique look and feel. When the music started, you knew you were watching a Hammer picture, just from the sound of it. It was always able to grab your attention and never let go.
His score for Horror of Dracula (1958) will be remembered as one of the greatest opening titles ever known to fans of cinematic music. It is still as powerful today as it was then. But he also created music for films like Curse of Frankenstein (1957), The House of the Baskervilles (1959), The Plague of the Zombies (1966), as well as the first two Quatermass films.
Most composers are hidden figures in the movie world, with only a few making a name where film fans would actually recognize. When it comes to horror fans, Bernard’s name is right up there at the tope. Thankfully a lot of his work has been archived on CD so we can still enjoy it, as well as fans to come. Truly a great and talented man.
Coming in 2019, Hammer fans will finally get the complete scores from Horror of Dracula and The Curse of Frankenstein, created by the late, great James Bernard. The scores have been reconstructed by Leigh Phillips, with booklet notes by David Huckvale, and produced by James Fitzpatrick and Leigh Phillips. They will be created through the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Nic Raine.
To say that I’m excited to see these two scores finally get a release is a slight understatement. Hopefully they can get the right sound and feel of the originals, but I know I’ll be adding them to my audio library once they come out. Once I hear more info, I will pass it on here.
Yeah, I know this was all over Facebook yesterday, but damn if I’m not going to help spread the word a bit more! While I may be a huge Hammer fan, their 1966 film The Plague of the Zombies is one of my all time favorites of theirs. So I am more than thrilled to see this hit Blu-ray, thanks to Shout Factory!
This was Hammer’s only movie that dealt with zombies, though these are the voodoo type, not the flesh-eating type. Maybe because Romero didn’t unleash his until two years later. But this is a prime example of what Hammer did best. They had an great cast with two powerful leads, André Morell as Sir James Forbes and John Carson as Squire Hamilton. Morell is so much fun to watch, being so proper and the whole stiff upper lip, but yet still has a dark sense of humor. Carson, who plays the villain, was born to play this part. Whether it is his voice, which is very similar sounding to James Mason, or his evil stare, that can easily hide behind a smile. Of course, throw in Michael Ripper in a minor role, and it makes it even better!
Fans of Hammer Horror should be well aware of the name of Ralph Bates. He was one of the next generation stars of Hammer, one to take the lead from the likes of Cushing and Lee and continue the tradition that they started. Unfortunately, Hammer didn’t last that much longer. In that short time though, Bates did appear in a few of their pictures and always turning a memorable performance. He appeared in Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970), The Horror of Frankenstein (1970), Lust for a Vampire (1971), Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971), and Fear in the Night (1972). It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if Hammer would have continued their ran of cinematic terrors.
But now you can learn all about those films, as well as the rest of Bates career and life in this new biography from author Christopher Gullo, entitled simply Ralph Bates: A Biography. Published by Midnight Marquee, it covers the actor’s life from his childhood, where he started to develop an interests in the theater, as well as once he started working with Hammer, and the multiple television appearances that he made.
With 165 family photos, including many never-before-seen ones, as well as getting to hear from over 70 different family, friends, and co-workers that the author sought out for this book, all helps to show the life of this incredibly talented man. Gullo is donating all his personal proceeds from the sale of this book to the Ralph Bates Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund. This was created to honor Bates, who passed away in 1991 from this disease.
To order it from Midnight Marquee, just click HERE.
Any Hammer fan worth their weight in blood knows of the infamous Bray Studios, where the they unleashed countless horrors onto the willing masses. But now with it being gone forever, we can be thankful that Peveril Publishing will be immortalizing it in their new book, Inside Bray Studios, coming early next month.
By Hammer authority Wayne Kinsey, we get a virtual tour of the studio, both inside and out, as well as the history of the place once Hammer took over. We’ll get to see how Hammer used the cramped space in the studio to create some of the most unbelievable movie sets, making these period pictures come to life and jump off the screen.
There is also three separate chapters on the “Bray Days”, back in 1998, 1999, and 2007, where the studio opened its doors to both fans as well as a ton of Hammer alumni, with a ton of photos. I wish I could have made it to even one of those events.
At 344 color pages, this hardcover edition will be another must-have for any fan of this famous British Studio. The price is set at £35 plus postage, but it really is an investment, since most of Peveril’s books go out-of-print quickly and their prices skyrocket shortly there after. So don’t be left out!
Head over to Peveril’s website HERE and sign up for their newsletter so you’ll know when the pre-orders start.
One of my favorites from Hammer Studios is one of their 1966 “Cornish Horrors”, Plague of the Zombies, made back to back with The Reptile. From the incredible look of the zombies, to the bad-ass villain played by John Carson, to the straight-laced hero played by André Morell, it always delivers the goods, each and every time I watch it. Another one of the reasons is the rest of the stellar cast, including Jacqueline Peace, who plays the doomed Alice. Pearce’s performance gives the viewer such a feeling of dread because we all know what is going to happen to her and we can’t stop it. And then in The Reptile, she gives another performance to draw the audience in with her pathos.
In both of these films, not only did she have to create these characters and grab hold of the audience, she also had to endure quite some time in Roy Ashton’s makeup chair. But she not only played a couple of iconic Hammer characters, she caught the attention of many fans. So we are very sadden to hear of her recent passing.