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!
This has been a rough year for horror fans, losing so many people that have given us so much pleasure over the years. And now, news of yet another one. Actress Valerie Gaunt passed away this last Tuesday the 27th. Now Gaunt only appeared in two films in her very short career, but those two made quite the impact in the horror world, not to mention the British film industry.
In 1957, she appeared as Justine, the maid (and more) to one Baron Frankenstein, played by the one and only Peter Cushing. She made the mistake of forcing the Baron’s hand by telling him that she was pregnant, which might be an issue with his fiancée. This leads him to introduce her to his creation. Let’s say that doesn’t end well for poor Justine. The film of course is Hammer’s The Curse of Frankenstein.
The following year, she returned to Hammer to appear in Horror of Dracula, playing Christopher Lee’s vampire slave. She very well might be the very first vampire to show her fangs….in color. But we’re not here to debate that.
So while Gaunt only appeared in these two films, they’re kind of a big deal, so it would be very easy for us to always remember her performances, as either the conniving housemaid, or the luscious vampire woman.As horror fans, it is our job to remember these fine and talented actors who continue to give us pleasure.
Our thoughts go out to her friends and family in this sad time.
After the passing of Christopher Lee earlier this month, there has been a lot of tributes being presented, which I’m grateful to the fact that he is being remembered for his huge contribution to cinema in general, not to mention what he gave us horror fans over the years, that thankfully we will still be able to enjoy for many more years to come.
One of those reasons that we are able to keep the memories alive of these wonderful actors that gave us so many chills over throughout our lives is that even though they have passed on, their movies still remain. And now thanks to Warner Home Video, 3 films that feature the late Christopher Lee will be unleashed in a 4-disc blu-ray set entitled the Hammer Horror Collection. this will feature The Mummy, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, Taste the Blood of Dracula, and Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. Since this is being called Volume 1, we can only hope that there are more to come. Not sure of any extras that might be on these discs, but even if they are just the films alone, I’m sure they will be well worth the price. The set will be released in October, a perfect time too, with a retail price of around $55. Not bad for 4 films if you ask me.