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The Hammer Vault: Treasures from the Archive of Hammer Films

Courtesy of Titan Books
Courtesy of Titan Books

It all began in 1954. The film was The Quatermass Xperiment, an adaptation of a BBC television production that aired in 1953. This was the first television-to-film production by Hammer Studios, and they rated it ‘X’–which proved to be successful in the marketing of this and future films. Sex, violence, and sheer terror were the common elements of the typical Hammer Horror film.The Hammer Vault: Treasure from the Archive of Hammer Films is written by the official Hammer Films historian Marcus Hearn. The book provides detailed production information on the studio’s films, from 1954 to 2010. It also briefly mentions the new Hammer release The Woman in Black (2012), starring Daniel Radcliffe.

In 1956, Hammer Studios produced the first of its Gothic horror films: The Curse of Frankenstein, starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. This was Cushing’s first film for the studio, and before long his name became synonymous with Hammer Horror, along with Lee’s. Many of the films made for the studio featured the same actors and actresses, including Ralph Bates, Andrew Keir, Michael Ripper, Veronica Carlson, and of course Cushing and Lee. However, famous Hollywood stars contributed to the Hammer canon as well.

One of my favorite anecdotes from The Hammer Vault involves one of Hollywood’s finest.  In 1967 Bette Davis made the film The Anniversary for Hammer. The production methods at the studio were much different than Hollywood’s. A living legend like Bette Davis, who was accustomed to doing things her way, could not and would not work under their typically strict filming style.

Seven Arts Productions in Hollywood had a partnership with Hammer, and were involved in Davis being cast for the film. When producer Jimmy Sangster found himself mediating a battle between Davis and the director of The Anniversary, he contacted Seven Arts for assistance. Their response was: ”The Anniversary wasn’t an Alvin Rakoff film, neither was it an Anthony Hinds or Jimmy Sangster film. And, if push came to shove, it wasn’t even a Hammer film. It was a Bette Davis film” (100).

The Hammer Vault: Treasure from the Archive of Hammer Films is an excellent guide to the horror films that made the studio so famous. Complete with colorful artwork, posters, notes from stars like Peter Cushing, and Hearn’s insights, the book is a nice film companion piece. If you are a fan, The Hammer Vault is a must have for your collection.

The Hammer Vault: Treasures from the Archive of Hammer Films
ISBN: 9780857681171
Titan Books
December 2011
176 pages

Full Disclosure: I received a copy of The Hammer Vault: Treasures from the Archive of Hammer Films directly from the publisher Titan Books. I thank the publisher for the opportunity to review this book.

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Jill Blake

Jill Blake is the owner of the classic film website Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence. She is also a co-founder and editor of the film site The Black Maria and film editor at CC2K. In 2012, she was interviewed on-air by Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz. In 2013, she was a featured guest on the TCM podcast. In her spare time Jill is a stay-at-home mom, wife, fried okra connoisseur, and the neighborhood’s own L.B. Jeffries.

Comments

KimWilson
Reply

Haven’t seen that many Hammer films, but liked the ones I have. BTW, The Anniversary is a riot!

kittenbiscuits
Reply

I’ve never seen The Anniversary but it is on my must see list.

Rick29
Reply

I’m been a huge Hammer fan since childhood so I’m sure I’d enjoy this book. I’m often surprised that film buffs only assoicate Hammer with horror movies. Yes, that’s what made the studio famous, but Hammer also produced some fine non-horror pictures ike NEVER TAKE CANDY FROM A STRANGER (ignore the title, see the movie!) and CASH ON DEMAND.

kittenbiscuits
Reply

I’m not incredibly familiar with the entire Hammer catalog, but I am aware of their non-horror films. I will definitely check out the two you mentioned. The book is definitely made for the die hard Hammer Horror fan. I’m sure you’d love it!

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