When one thinks of British horror, the worldwide name that best describes it is Hammer.
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.
With all that excitement, it's no wonder Hammer Films have had a major influence on us all!
Now, there's a new Hammer Films in town and are we glad to have them!
Starburst had the great pleasure to briefly speak with Simon Oakes and Nigel Sinclair of Exclusive Media, that are behind the new Hammer Films, about their movie, The Woman In Black. We found them to not only be fans of the horror genre, but passionate and enthusiastic about their current and upcoming projects...
Starburst: I saw The Woman In Black last night at a full house and I must say it was the right crowd to see it with! It was very well received - even getting applause at the end – and full of expertly crafted scares, I even jumped out of my seat a couple of times…
Simon Oakes: We had the premiere in London and the director James Watkins and I sat in the back to see the audience reaction. We'd wait for the scary bits and count one... two... ready and see people jump or hear them scream.
Nigel Sinclair: One woman who attended the screening, who is a big Hammer horror fan, did pass out of terror during the movie. She was taken to the lobby and revived. I'm happy to say she's all right.
SB: Hammer Films had the "X" for a lot of their films in their fifties and sixties, not that there was any nudity in them that is implied with the American version of what "X" means in the States. It just meant that anyone under 15 wasn't allowed to see them for its horrifying content. I remember taking with my late friend, writer/director Val Guest about that and Jimmy Carreras used the "X" rating in the title for Val's "The Quatermass Xperiment" for the ad campaign. The movie was a major success and became a classic.
NS: Jimmy Carreras was a marketing genius. The ratings board, which doesn't exist anymore, said that Curse of Frankenstein was horrifying, so Jimmy ran with the idea and created an "H" rating on all his ad campaigns for the film and it became the most profitable movie Hammer made.
SB: Phil Leakey, Hammer's incredibly gifted, go-to make up man, created the Frankenstein monster's frightening look. Christopher Lee had to be made up every day by Leakey on the set as they had difficulty making a mold of Lee's head.
NS: There's a book that came out called the Art of Hammer by Marcus Hearn that includes a detailed account of Hammer and all the Hammer Films posters that I highly recommend.
SB: Bray Studios, the house that Hammer built - I know it's in disarray, but what's the final verdict on it?
SO: It's going to become residential homes.
SB: That's a shame. So much history gone forever. You would think someone would turn it into an attraction like Universal Studios did with their tours. Simon, as a child growing up, were you influenced by Hammer Films in the UK?
SO: Yes. There was the story and the pretty, lurid Technicolor look to these amazing films along with the visual forbidden pleasure of flesh for a twelve year old boy to enjoy.
SB: Where was The Woman in Black shot?
SO: Eel Marsh House was in Peterborough. The causeway is an actual place. An estuary in Essex where the Thames meets the North Sea. The village we found, Halton Gill, was in the middle of Yorkshire Dales. We used Bluebell Railway in Sussex where we had working steam locomotives for the train station. We filmed in the Cambridge area as well as Pinewood studios.
SB: Daniel Radcliff is a gifted actor and he excels as the doomed protagonist, Arthur Kipps. He reminded me of Hammer actor John Van Eyssenn in approaching the mystery and discovery of The Woman In Black. The marsh scene is a most memorable one. How long did it take to film?
NS: Daniel suggested he do all his own stunts for this movie. We filmed that scene for two days and everyday he was in the marsh we created covered in mud.
SB: Will you revive the Hammer House of Horror and Hammer Tales of Mystery television shows in the future?
SO: That's a good question. The success of those shows was the chief wisdom going in that there would be a different story, director and character each week. Those are episodes with talented actors and writers that are standalone stories. I would say yes, it would be something to pursue.
SB: With so many great titles that the Hammer library has, what are your plans for future projects?
NS: Exclusive Media, our main company, will be keeping with the tradition of Hammer horror and there is a lot of fan enthusiasm for remakes. We're dealing with some rights issues on a few titles, but I can tell you that we have some new and exciting projects invigorating the Hammer brand that include the Random House publishers creating new stories and finding new material that we can imprint the Hammer DNA on such as Helen Dunmore's novel, The Greatcoat which came out February 2.
SB: Thank you for taking time out and talking with Starburst. I'm sure our readers will be anticipating the next Hammer film.
SO/NS: Thank you.
The Woman in Black is out now in the US and will be in UK cinemas February 10th