The Encyclopedia of Hammer Films
Published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, 2019. 589 pages.
By Chris Fellner
Being a die-hard fan of all things Hammer Films, I’m always ecstatic to learn of another book on one of my favorite studios coming out. Now before we get into the blood and guts of this release, we need to cover the obvious… the price. Retailing at $145 (though Amazon has it listed for just under $100), while this is a good size hardcover edition, at 589 pages, that is still a hefty price tag. Though with the recent release of Howard Maxford’s Hammer Complete, published by McFarland, it is impossible not to compare the two. Maxford’s book is 984 pages, a bit larger in size and has much smaller type, and retails at $95. What this means is you get just what the title says… Hammer Complete! So the cost alone would make the decision even easier if you only had to pick one volume.
Because of the huge scope of the film studio, it is difficult to cover everything and everyone, which is where Fellner’s book falls short. There were more than a few names missing having their own entries, such as John Carson, who appeared in three different Hammer titles and one appearance in one of their television series. Other notables excluded were talents such as Richard Wordsworth or George Woodbridge. These actors usually never played the main characters but were one of the many reasons these films stood out. Being wonderful character actors in the background, they filled out a scene as if it was a brilliant painting. Even Guy Rolfe, who played the title character in Mr. Sardonicus for William Castle, starred in The Stranglers of Bombay, does not have his own mention. But again, it is going to be a difficult task to include every single thing that has to do with Hammer. Except, Maxford’s book sort of does that. Continue reading
Greasepaint and Gore (2004)
Directed by Russell Wall
Tom Savini. Rick Baker. Rob Bottin. Steve Johnson. All of these names are pretty well known to most horror fans. What about Phil Leakey and Roy Ashton? I’m sure you’re familiar with the films put out by Hammer Studios throughout the 50’s to the 70’s, right? If so, then even if you might not know their names, you know the work of Leakey and Ashton. Continue reading
The Crawling Eye (1958)
Directed by Quentin Lawrence
Starring Forrest Tucker, Laurence Payne, Jennifer Jayne, Janet Munro, Warren Mitchell, Frederick Schiller, Andrew Faulds, Stuart Saunders, Colin Douglas
The Trollenberg Terror originally was a TV serial from 1956, with writer Peter Key trying its best to replicate what Nigel Kneale had been doing. Unfortunately, none of this original series exists so it’s hard to judge it, but damn wouldn’t it be cool to see now? In 1958, a film version was made, this time written by Hammer’s own Jimmy Sangster. It was released in the UK under the same title, but here in the states, it got re-titled to a much more appropriate moniker…The Crawling Eye! I mean, let’s face it, what sci-fi/monster kid wouldn’t be lined up to see that film back then?
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!
By Jimmy Sangster
Published by Reynolds & Hearn, 2001. 160 pages.
Sangster had already written autobiography, Do You Want It Good Or Tuesday?, which was very interesting, but he felt that he didn’t cover enough about Hammer that his fans probably wanted. With this new title, Sangster sticks to really what he’s famous for, and that is working with the Studio that Dripped Blood! Sangster covers every film that he worked on with the famous studio; from his first film Dick Barton Strikes Back as a lowly assistant to his last film Fear in the Night as writer, producer and director. Here are some my favorite parts of the book: