Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Posts tagged “Hammer Films

Terence Fisher

Terence Fisher (23 February 1904 – 18 June 1980) was a film director who worked for Hammer Films. He was born in Maida Vale, a district of London, England.

Fisher was one of the most prominent horror directors of the second half of the 20th century. He was the first to bring gothic horror alive in full colour, and the sexual overtones and explicit horror in his films, while mild by modern standards, were unprecedented in his day. His first major gothic horror film was ‘The Curse of Frankenstein’ (1957), which launched Hammer’s long association with the genre and made British actors Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee into leading horror stars of the era.

Fisher’s career and Hammer would become inextricably linked. When Hammer decided in the mid-1950s to remodel itself as a horror factory, Fisher became its main director. He was part of the team that produced all the ‘classic’ Hammer horrors – including the aforementioned The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), as well as ‘Dracula’ (1958), ‘The Mummy’ (1959), ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ (1959) and ‘The Curse of the Werewolf’  (1961).

Given the low budgets involved and the breakneck production schedules, the quality of these films was inevitably uneven, but some of them, and especially Dracula, were remarkable achievements, albeit ones that were not generally feted by critics at the time of their initial appearance. After the box-office failure of The Phantom of the Opera (1962), Fisher worked less often for Hammer, although his later Hammer films arguably comprise his best work, reflecting as they do both a technical maturity and a willingness to innovate. Although Fisher is regularly accused of representing a conservative moralistic force within British horror, films like ‘Frankenstein Created Woman’ (1967) and ‘The Devil Rides Out’ (1968) show a tentative and questioning attitude to social authority and morality.

It is only in recent years that Fisher has become recognised as an auteur in his own right. His films are characterised by a blend of fairy-tale, myth and sexuality. They may have drawn heavily on Christian themes, and there is usually a hero who defeats the powers of darkness by a combination of faith in God and reason, in contrast to other characters, who are either blindly superstitious or bound by a cold, godless rationalism (as noted by critic Paul Leggett in Terence Fisher: Horror, Myth and Religion, 2001). For a detailed discussion of Fisher’s works, see The Charm of Evil: The Films of Terence Fisher by Wheeler Winston Dixon.


The Woman in Black – Producer Interview

Hammer Films and their television series have been a staple of visual delight for all ages for over seventy years and we owe it all to the late William Hinds who started the company in its humble beginnings during 1934.

Hammer’s movies contained a dynamic recipe of elements that included vampires, werewolves and unknown entities that creep around in the night that intelligent scientists, swashbuckling adventurers and Everyman heroes faced, combined with this writer’s personal favorite – saucy, scantily dressed buxom women.

Check out this Starburst Magazine interview with Simon Oakes and Nigel Sinclair of Exclusive Media, the duo behind the new Hammer Film, The Woman In Black.


Dennis Wheatley

Dennis Yates Wheatley (8 January 1897 – 10 November 1977) was an English author. His prolific output of stylish thrillers and occult novels made him one of the world’s best-selling authors from the 1930s through the 1960s.

He was a soldier during the First World War but was gassed in a chlorine attack at Passchendaele and invalided as a second lieutenant of the Royal Field Artillery after service in Flanders, on the Ypres Salient, and in France at Cambrai and St. Quentin. During the Second World War, Wheatley was a member of the London Controlling Section, which secretly coordinated strategic military deception and cover plans. His literary talents gained him employment with planning staffs for the War Office. He wrote numerous papers for the War Office, including suggestions for dealing with a German invasion of Britain (recounted in his work Stranger than Fiction).

In the 1960s, his publishers were selling a million copies of his books per year, and most of his titles were kept available in hardcover. A few of his books were made into films by Hammer, of which the best known are ‘The Devil Rides Out’ (book 1934, film 1968), first proposed in 1963, the film eventually went ahead four years later once censorship worries over Satanism had eased. Production began on 7 August 1967 and the film starred Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Patrick Mower and Paul Eddington. The screenplay was adapted byRichardMatheson fromWheatley’s novel.

In the United States the film was retitled The Devil’s Bride. Christopher Lee has often stated that of all his vast back catalogue of films this is his favourite and the one he would like to see remade with modern special effects and with him playing a mature Duc de Richeleau: and ‘To the Devil… A Daughter’ (book 1953, film 1976), directed by Peter Sykes. It stars Richard Widmark, Christopher Lee, Honor Blackman, Nastassja Kinski and Denholm Elliot. 

He edited several collections of short stories, and from 1974 through 1977, he supervised a series of 45 paperback reprints for the British publisher Sphere with the heading “The Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult”, selecting the titles and writing short introductions for each book. These included both occult-themed novels by the likes of Bram Stoker and Aleister Crowley (with whom he once shared a lunch) and non-fiction works on magic, occultism, and divination by authors such as the Theosophist H. P. Blavatsky, the historian Maurice Magre, the magician Isaac Bonewits, and the palm-reader Cheiro.

Two weeks before his death in November 1977, Wheatley received conditional absolution from his old friend Cyril ‘Bobby’ Eastaugh,  the Bishop of Peterborough. He was cremated at Tooting and his ashes interred at Brookwood Cemetary. He is commemorated on the Baker/Yeats family monument at West Norwood Cemetary.