Original music by James Bernard
Mario Nascimbene, Carlo Martelli
Produced by James Fitzpatrick
28 Tracks, Total Time 2:16:47
Performed by City of
Nic Raine - Conductor
John Timperley - Engineer
Silva Screen Records
February 1949 marked the official birth of a small, unremarkable English film production company. Within ten years they had achieved great worldwide success by rescuing the Dracula and Frankenstein characters from the Hollywood doldrums; within twenty years they had produced over fifty films featuring all manner of vampires, werewolves, mummys, zombies, reptiles, gorgons, psychos, witches, aliens and man-made monsters. They were all colorfully depicted in Hammer's own richly-textured gothic romances.
Although the current company was registered in 1949, the roots of Hammer can be traced back to 1913 when a Spanish immigrant, Enrique Carreras, started the Blue Halls circuit of theaters in the UK by buying a cinema in London's Hammersmith district. One of his successes was the staging of a Royal Command Performance of the 1925 Ben-Hur.
Carreras met and joined forces with William Hinds, the owner of a chain of jewellers shops. Hinds was also involved in amateur variety and performed under the name of Will Hammer. In November 1934 Carreras and Hinds registered the name Hammer Productions Ltd. and the following year they formed Exclusive Films to distribute Hammer and other acquired productions. Between 1935 and 1937 Hammer made four films including The Mystery of the Marie Celeste which featured Bela Lugosi in the cast, and The Song of Freedom which starred Paul Robeson and Elisabeth Welch. There were no further productions during World War II and the company was closed down, although Exclusive was kept going as a distributor.
Enrique Carreras's son, James, had joined the company in 1935. After the war he re-started production with the 1947 film River Patrol. Two years later the newly formed Hammer Film Productions Ltd. was born. By this time James' own son, Michael, and William Hinds' son, Tony, had joined Hammer and over the following six years they produced a substantial number of films. Many of these were adapted from popular BBC radio shows, including three adventures of Dick Barton--Special Agent. The association with the BBC led to Hammer adapting for film The Quatermass Experiment by Nigel Kneale, a television production which caused considerable controversy during its six week transmission in July and August of 1953.
Hammer's 1955 film of The Quartermass Experiment (re-titled Xperiment to emphasize its x-rated category) was a huge success. This was quickly followed by Hammer's own science-fiction story X--The Unknown as well as two other Kneale television stories, Quartermass II and The Abominable Snowman. All these featured American stars like Brian Donlevy and Dean Jagger in the lead roles, ensuring that the films received distribution in the USA.
However, in production during October and November 1956 was a film that didn't feature any American stars but it did have in its title the name known the world over--The Curse of Frankenstein. It proved to be a great hit and a very important success for Hammer. This was the first version of the Frankenstein story made in color, and the committed performance by Peter Cushing (an admired British television actor) together with the atmospheric photography, set design, and music by James Bernard helped ensure its popularity.
This success showed Hammer the way forward and they immediately embarked on a new version of Dracula utilizing the same creative team. The actor who had remained mute under layers of make-up as Frankenstein's creation was given the lead role in the new film. So, Christopher Lee became the screen's most powerful incarnation of Count Dracula: a vampire who is both sensual and menacing and as the poster proclaimed "the terrifying lover!" This film repeated the box-office success of Frankenstein and was even Oscar nominated for its photography.
After these two hits Hammer started production on further Frankenstein and Dracula sequels, as well as other well-known genre characters including The Mummy (1959), The Curse of the Werewolf (1960), The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960), The Phantom of the Opera (1961) and Plague of the Zombies (1966). They also produced a series of swashbuckling adventures, comedies, thrillers, war films and dinosaur epics. It was in 1968 that Hammer received the rare distinction of being awarded the Queen's Award to Industry--the only film company to be honored like this. Over a three year period they had brought business into the UK worth in excess of 1.5 million pounds.
Hammer continued to make a further 40 or so films after this but production slowed down in the mid-seventies. Their last two feature films being To the Devil a Daughter and the remake of The Lady Vanishes. The name Hammer continued into the eighties with two series of made-for-television films; Hammer House of Horror in 1980 and Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense in 1984.
--DAVID STONER, DAVID WISHART &
JAMES FITZPATRICK, from the liner notes
A selection of Hammer Horror related music.
Find Hammer Horror on eBay.com
A selection of Hammer Horror in books.
A History of Horror
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