Hammer Film Productions is a British film production company based in London. Founded in 1934, the company is best known for a series of gothic horror films made from the mid-1950s until the 1970s. Many of these involved classic horror characters such as Baron Frankenstein, Count Dracula, and The Mummy, which Hammer re-introduced to audiences by filming them in vivid colour for the first time. Hammer also produced science fiction, thrillers, film noir and comedies, as well as, in later years, television series. During their most successful years, Hammer dominated the horror film market, enjoying worldwide distribution and considerable financial success. This success was due, in part, to their partnerships with major United States studios, such as Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros.
During the late 1960s and 1970s the saturation of the horror film market by competitors and the loss of American funding forced changes to the previously lucrative Hammer formula, with varying degrees of success. The company eventually ceased production in the mid-1980s. In 2000, the studio was bought by a consortium including advertising executive and art collector Charles Saatchi. The company announced plans to begin making films again after this, but none were produced.
In 2007, the company was sold again, to another consortium that announced plans to spend some $50m (£25m) on new horror films. Since then it has produced several films, including Let Me In (2010) and The Woman in Black (2012).
Find out more at hammerfilms.com.
In November 1934 William Hinds, a comedian and businessman, registered his film company, Hammer Productions Ltd. The company name came from Hinds’ stage name, Will Hammer, which he had taken from the area of London in which he lived, Hammersmith.
Work began almost immediately on the first film, The Public Life of Henry the Ninth. Hinds formed the film distribution company Exclusive Films with a former cinema owner, and Hammer produced four more films including The Mystery of the Mary Celeste (1935), featuring Bela Lugosi, and Song of Freedom (1936), featuring Paul Robeson.
A slump in the British film industry forced Hammer into bankruptcy and the company went into liquidation in 1937. Exclusive survived and continued to distribute films made by other companies.
British film producer James Carreras joined Exclusive in 1938, closely followed by William Hinds’ son, Anthony. At the outbreak of World War II, James Carreras and Anthony Hinds left to join the armed forces and Exclusive continued to operate in a limited capacity. In 1946, Carreras rejoined the company and 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. The revived Hammer Film Productions set to work. Not able to afford top stars, Hammer acquired the film rights to BBC radio series such as The Adventures of PC 49 and Dick Barton: Special Agent.
in 1949 Hammer moved into the Exclusive offices in Wardour Street, London, and the building was rechristened “Hammer House”.
In 1951 Hammer began shooting at what would be later known as later known as Bray Studios and signed a four-year production and distribution contract with an American film producer. The contract meant led to distribution on both sides of the Atlantic. Bray Studios would remain Hammer’s principal base until 1966. In 1953 the first of Hammer’s science fiction films, Four Sided Triangle and Spaceways, were released.
Hammer’s first significant experiment with horror came in a 1955 adaptation of Nigel Kneale‘s BBC Television science fiction serial The Quatermass Experiment. American actor Brian Donlevy was imported for the lead role and the title was changed to The Quatermass Xperiment to cash in on the new X certificate for horror films. The film was unexpectedly popular, and led to the popular 1957 sequel Quatermass 2 – again adapted from one of Kneale’s television scripts. Hammer produced another Quatermass style horror film, X the Unknown.
- The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)
- The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)
- Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
- Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)
- The Horror of Frankenstein (1970)
- Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)
- Dracula (US: Horror of Dracula) (1958)
- The Brides of Dracula (1960)
- Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
- Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)
- Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)
- Scars of Dracula (1970)
- Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)
- The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
- The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)
Other Vampire films
- The Kiss of the Vampire (1963)
- The Vampire Lovers (1970), part of the Karnstein Trilogy
- Lust for a Vampire (1971), part of the Karnstein Trilogy
- Twins of Evil (1971), part of the Karnstein Trilogy
- Vampire Circus (1971)
- Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter (1974)
- The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)
- The Mummy’s Shroud (1967)
- Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971)
Other Horror films
- The Abominable Snowman (1957)
- The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960)
- The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
- The Phantom of the Opera (1962)
- The Gorgon (1964)
- The Witches (1966)
- The Plague of the Zombies (1966)
- The Reptile (1966)
- The Devil Rides Out (1968)
- Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971)
- Taste of Fear (US title Scream of Fear, 1961)
- Maniac (1963)
- Paranoiac (1963)
- Nightmare (1964)
- Hysteria (1965)
- Fanatic (1965)
- The Nanny (1965)
- Crescendo (1970)
- Straight on Till Morning (1972)
- Fear in the Night (1972)
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
- Hell is a City (1959)
- Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (1960)
- The Pirates of Blood River (1961)
- Captain Clegg (US title Night Creatures, 1962)
- She (1965)
- Quatermass and the Pit (US titles Five Million Years to Earth, 1967)
- The Anniversary (1968)
- The Lost Continent (1968)
- One Million Years B.C. (1966)
- Slave Girls (US title Prehistoric Women, 1967)
- When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970)
- Creatures the World Forgot (1971)
- Journey to the Unknown (1968-1969)
- Hammer House of Horror (1980)
- Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense (1984)