The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films
2007 (revised edition), Titan Books
One of the most famous movie studios in the world of horror is England’s Hammer Films. While some fans of classic horror might say they are the greatest movie studio to produce horror films, I would rank them at #2, right behind Universal Studios. Hammer didn’t only produce horror films. They released many science fiction tales, mysteries, prehistoric adventures, suspense-thrillers and dramas, but horror movies were their bread & butter. They knew it and so did their audience.
The company started up in 1934 but it was in the late 1950s that the studio came into power when they breathed new life into the dying horror genre. The horror scene had become quite hokey and laughable during the 1950s with various types of giant creatures and alien invaders being far removed from the truly creepy and gothic horror of the early Universal films that featured Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster.
Making the most of Technicolor (many movies during the late 50s were still being filmed in black & white), Hammer struck upon a formula of blood & boobs that hadn’t yet been seen on film. Hammer pushed the envelope with movies that were a visual feast for those with a lust not only for blood but also sex. While most previous vampire movies might cut away just as the bloodsucker is about to sink his teeth into his victim’s neck, Hammer stayed with it and would actually show blood trickling down the victim’s throat and blood on the vampire’s mouth. Granted, this is nothing compare to the gore shown today, but at the time, it was shocking to some and exciting to others. In fact, all of this sex & violence earned most Hammer films the rating of ‘X’ in the UK.
I would also like to point out that the production values on many of these early Hammer horror films was actually quite good. There is a powerful gothic atmosphere gives Universal a run for their money, especially with Hammer’s early Dracula movies.
The Hammer Story is a very good book if you’re interested in the entire history of the company. It starts you off with the company’s humble beginnings and keeps on moving through the decades, hitting on nearly every notable movie and genre the company was involved in. I found myself skipping over pretty much anything that wasn’t horror-related but the book is well put together with tons of photos, artwork, production notes and insight from many people that worked for Hammer during their golden age.
I highly recommend this coffee table book to anyone who is a fan of Hammer horror.
2009, Titan Books
The second half of Hammer’s equation for success was boobs, let’s be honest. The cover of Hammer Glamour doesn’t try to hide that fact at all. While pushing the envelope in the blood department, the studio also pushed the envelope with sex. I don’t recall if there was ever any nudity in a Hammer film. I’m sure there probably was at some point during their later releases because they did a handful of lesbian vampire films and if someone didn’t show a nipple in that kind of movie, that’d be the cruelest joke ever. Besides, there are promotional stills of some of the later Hammer films with naked women. Regardless of nudity, you could almost always count on one or two beautiful, busty actresses being cast strictly to show off an amazing amount of cleavage.
These women were not heroines or powerful for the most part, of course there were exceptions like Ursula Andress in She and Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C., but generally, the females were simply there to shriek and jiggle their way through the movie and maybe get their blouse ripped open. The women of Hammer were beautiful young models brought in to wear low-cut nighties and have Christopher Lee bite their neck. Reading Hammer Glamour, it’s apparent that most of these actresses knew what their assets were and they were okay with the role the studio wanted them to play.
From my understanding, many Hammer execs mostly looked at women in real life as sex objects so it’s not surprising they were treated as such in the company’s films. But I’m not here to dissect how women are portrayed in movies, let’s talk about the book a bit more.
I can’t even tell you I bought this for the articles. The entire selling point of this book is that it features archive photos of hot scantily-clad women. Fifty Hammer actresses are profiled but obviously the selling point is the photos. Does it deliver in that regard? Yes. There’s cleavage, bikinis, lingerie (some of it see-thru) and topless women in this book. Does that sound like a good time to you? It sounds like a good time to me! Some of these photos are promotional photos, behind the scene photos or still shots from the films they were in.
My favorite actresses in this book are (and by favorite I mean I think they are really pretty): Ursula Andress (She), Stephanie Beacham (Dracula A.D. 1972), Veronica Carlson (Dracula Has Risen from the Grave), Susan Denberg (Frankenstein Created Woman), Julie Ege (Creatures the World Forgot), Barbara Ewing (Dracula Has Risen from the Grave), Shirley Anne Field (The Damned), Linda Hayden (Taste the Blood of Dracula), Valerie Leon (Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb), Caroline Munro (Dracula A.D. 1972), Madeline Smith (Taste the Blood of Dracula), and Yutte Stensgaard (Lust for a Vampire).
Google. Image. Search.
By the way, after Googling a few of these girls myself, I can most definitely say that Hammer featured many bare breasts in their movies!
Is this book essential in any way? No, not really, but I got it for about $10 off Amazon, so I’m pleased with the purchase. It’s a good companion piece to The Hammer Story. Pretty pictures of pretty women, what’s not to like? It’s only a bonus that some of them have fangs and are covered in blood!
All told, both of these books provide a great overview to one of the most important studios in horror movie history. Well worth seeking out if the price is right.