Hammer Film Productions - Resurrection (1938 To 1955) – Hammer Film Productions

Resurrection (1938 To 1955) – Hammer Film Productions

James Carreras joined Exclusive in 1938, closely followed by William Hinds' son, Anthony. At the outbreak of World War II, both James Carreras and Anthony Hinds left to join the armed services and Exclusive continued to operate only in a limited capacity. In 1946, James Carreras rejoined the company after demobilisation. He resurrected Hammer as the film production arm of Exclusive with a view to supplying 'quota-quickies' - cheaply made domestic films designed to fill gaps in cinema schedules and support more expensive features. He convinced Anthony Hinds to rejoin the company, and a revived 'Hammer Film Productions' set to work on Death in High Heels, The Dark Road, and Crime Reporter. Not being able to afford top stars, Hammer acquired the film rights to several BBC radio series such as The Adventures of PC 49 and Dick Barton Special Agent (an adaptation of the successful Dick Barton radio show). All were shot at Marylebone Studios during 1947. During production of Dick Barton Strikes Back (1948), it became apparent that the company could save a considerable amount of money by shooting in country houses instead of professional studios. For their next production – Dr Morelle - The Case of the Missing Heiress (another radio adaptation) – Hammer rented Dial Close, a 23 bedroom mansion next to the River Thames, at Cookham Dean, Maidenhead.

On 12 February 1949 Exclusive finally registered "Hammer Film Productions" as a company with Enrique and James Carreras, and William and Tony Hinds as company directors. Hammer moved into the Exclusive offices in 113-117 Wardour Street, and the building was rechristened "Hammer House".

In August 1949, complaints from locals about noise during night filming forced Hammer to leave Dial Close and move into another mansion, Oakley Court, also on the banks of the Thames between Windsor and Maidenhead. Five films were shot there: Man in Black (1949), Room to Let (1949), Someone at the Door (1949), What The Butler Saw (1950), The Lady Craved Excitement (1950). In 1950, Hammer moved again to Gilston Park, a country club in Harlow Essex, which hosted The Black Widow, The Rossiter Case, To Have and to Hold and The Dark Light (all 1950).

In 1951, Hammer began shooting at its best remembered base, Down Place also on the banks of the Thames (later known as Bray Studios). The company took out a one-year lease and began its 1951 production schedule with Cloudburst. The house, virtually derelict, required substantial work, but it did not have the kind of construction restrictions that had prevented Hammer from customising its previous homes. A decision was therefore made to turn Down Place into a substantial, custom-fitted studio complex. Its expansive grounds were used for almost all of the later location shooting in Hammer's films, and are a key part of the 'Hammer look'.

Also during 1951, Hammer and Exclusive signed a four-year production and distribution contract with Robert Lippert, an American film producer. The contract meant that Lippert and Exclusive effectively exchanged products for distribution on their respective sides of the Atlantic – beginning in 1951 with The Last Page and ending with Women Without Men (AKA Prison Story, 1955). It was Lippert's insistence on an American star in the Hammer films he was to distribute that led to the prevalence of American leads in so many of the company's productions during the 1950s. It was for The Last Page that Hammer made one of its most significant appointments when it hired film director Terence Fisher, who went on to play a critical role in the forthcoming horror cycle.

Towards the end of 1951, the one-year lease on Down Place expired, and with its increasing success Hammer looked back towards more conventional studio-based productions. A dispute with the Association of Cinematograph Technicians, however, blocked this proposal, and instead the company purchased the freehold of Down Place. The house was renamed Bray Studios after the nearby village of Bray and it remained Hammer's principal base until 1966. In 1953, the first of Hammer's science fiction films, Four Sided Triangle and Spaceways, were released.

Hammer Horror contributors

Directors and writers

  • Michael Carreras, sometimes as Henry Younger - writer and director of The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb and director/producer of The Lost Continent
  • Terence Fisher - director of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Mummy and others
  • Freddie Francis - director of The Evil of Frankenstein and Dracula has Risen From the Grave
  • Tudor Gates - writer of The Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire, and Twins of Evil
  • John Gilling - writer and director of Shadow of the Cat (1961), The Plague of the Zombies (1966), The Reptile (1966) and The Mummy's Shroud
  • Anthony Hinds, as John Elder - writer of The Brides of Dracula, The Curse of the Werewolf and others
  • Jimmy Sangster - writer of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein and others; director of The Horror of Frankenstein and Lust for a Vampire
  • Peter Sasdy - director of Taste the Blood of Dracula and Countess Dracula
  • Harry Robertson - musical director of Countess Dracula, Twins of Evil and others

Other crew

The scores for many Hammer horror films, including Dracula and The Curse of Frankenstein, were composed by James Bernard.

Production designer Bernard Robinson and cinematographer Jack Asher were instrumental in creating the lavish look of the early Hammer films, usually on a very restricted budget.

Actors

Hammer's horror films featured many of the same actors in recurring roles; these actors are sometimes called the "Hammer repertory company".

  • Ralph Bates
  • Shane Briant
  • Veronica Carlson
  • Peter Cushing
  • Christopher Lee
  • Andrew Keir
  • Miles Malleson
  • Francis Matthews
  • André Morell
  • Oliver Reed
  • Michael Ripper
  • Barbara Shelley

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