Monday, 16 December 2013


“Supernatural, perhaps; baloney, perhaps not.” – Bela Lugosi (‘The Black Cat’, 1934)

Hammer Films is a film production company based in the United Kingdom. Since its founding in 1934, the company became best known for a series of Gothic “Hammer Horror” films made from the mid-1950s until the 1970s. Hammer also produced science fiction, thrillers, film noir and comedies. In later years it diversified and entered television series production. During its most successful years, Hammer dominated the horror film market, enjoying worldwide distribution and considerable financial success. This success was due, in part, to distribution partnerships with major United States studios, such as Warner Bros.

During the late 1960s and 1970s the saturation of the horror film market by competitors and the loss of American funding forced changes to the previously lucrative Hammer-formula, with varying degrees of success. The company eventually ceased production in the mid-1980s. In 2000, the studio was bought by a consortium including advertising executive and art collector Charles Saatchi and publishing millionaires Neil Mendoza and William Sieghart.

The company announced plans to begin making films again after this change in ownership, but none were produced. In May 2007, the company behind the movies was sold again, this time to a consortium headed by Dutch media tycoon John de Mol, who announced plans to spend some $50 million (£25m) on new horror films. The new owners also acquired the Hammer group’s film library, consisting of 295 movies. Simon Oakes, who took over as CEO of Hammer, said: “Hammer is a great British brand - we intend to take it back into production and develop its global potential. The brand is still alive but no one has invested in it for a long time.” Since then it has produced the feature films ‘Let Me In’ (2010), ‘The Resident’ (2011), and ‘The Woman In Black’ (2012).

We recently bought a box set of three Hammer Horror movies in the sale bin of our video store. These were rather nostalgically reminiscent of the days in the early 70s when I used to watch these wonderfully lurid movies. We managed to watch all three in a couple of weeks and they were: ‘The Plague of the Zombies’ (1966), ‘The Mummy’s Shroud’ (1967) and ‘The Reptile’ (1966).

These are all typical Hammer Horror fare and of the three, ‘The Reptile’ is probably the best, followed by ‘The Plague of the Zombies’ and then ‘The Mummy’s Shroud’. By modern standards, all of these films are lacking in special effects and complex CGI glitz. However, at the time, these were good enough to gratify the morbid interest of the public that needed to be scared and titillated.

The acting is wooden to plastic, the sets not too bad, and the make-up good enough to be convincing. Watch these films for nostalgia value only – they are quite amusing if seen in perspective.

1 comment: