3/13/11

Welcome to Hammer Horror Week or... Stop! Hammer Time.

Yes, I'm aware that St. Patrick's Day is this week so I should be dedicating a week to Irish grindhouse films but I don't know of any Irish grindhouse films.  Besides, I'm a sucker for Gothic horror, classic monsters, tight corsets and heaving bosoms.

For those who are unfamiliar with Hammer, let me give a quick outline of who they are, or really who they were.  Hammer Film Productions is a British film company that gained notoriety in the 1960s and '70s with its take on Gothic horror stories and  classic monsters that Universal Studios had popularized in the 1930s such as Dracula, The Mummy , and Frankenstein.  Hammer upped the ante with its monster movies by featuring ample cleavage and a stylized and bloody violence which helped set the stage for the more graphic horror and grindhouse movies of the 1970s and early '80s.  Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing were the two leading men during this time in Hammer's history with Cushing often playing the cerebral vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing to Christopher Lee's menacing lady-killer reinvention of Dracula.

Hammer Studios was founded in 1934, but it wasn't until 1955 when Hammer Film Productions released the science fiction movie The Quatermass Xperiment, that it established itself as a force in the horror film market. The movie became the company's biggest hit to date and was one of the few to receive American distribution.  Its success led Hammer to increase its focus and efforts almost exclusively on horror, thus beginning the Hammer era of horror films.  They essentially dominated the horror film market for nearly two decades.

However, by the early 1970s the popularity of Hammer films began to wane in light of a new wave of gritty realism in American and Italian cinema. New grindhouse horror films like Lucio Fulci's Don't Torture a Duckling and Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were more concerned with the real-life, deranged horrors hidden in our own modern society than fictional monsters from the 19th century.  Hammer futilely tried to adapt to these changes.  Dracula A.D. 1972 brought Christopher Lee's vampire lord into groovy modern England, while The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires threw Peter Cushing's Van Helsing into the orient to battle Dracula with kung fu an an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the Shaw Brothers martial arts movies. Other films, such as Vampire Lovers, Twins of Evil and Lust for a Vampire, went beyond the standard Hammer cleavage and occasional topless scene and featured increasing levels of sexuality and nudity.  However, none of this was enough to prevent Hammer from ceasing movie production by the early 1980s. The Hammer era of horror had come to an end.

For those who would like to learn more, a detailed account of the history of Hammer films as well as a complete filmography can be found at www.hammerfilms.com.

So, welcome to Hammer Horror week here on Beasts in Human Skin!  I'll be featuring some of these Hammer hits and misses all week long.

38 comments:

D4 said...

This is gonna be interesting, thanks for the quick summary and now, I can't wait for the rest of the week!

Chris said...

Yikes, got freaked out a little by the holding of the head.

elexerdelex said...

whats a saint patricks day?
nevermind im searching wikipedia...

Erika said...

I love the hammer horror Frankenstein movies. So much fun.

And happy drinkin' Thursday, bro!
I intend on getting so fucking smashed.

Freek said...

I missed out on a lot of goldies it would seem.

Shutterbug said...

You can't touch this... ;)

Random Fan said...

I stopped.

Laughing Vault said...

second picture wins :D

The Angry Lurker said...

Watching a current hammer movie, Let Me In, looing forward to the hammer week and as an Irishman I can't think of any grindhouse either.

ebm93 said...

Haven't watch any :(

GADAFINY said...

i'm in can wait for the rest
following and $upporting

Robert Fünf said...

Okay.....I knew of their work, just didn't know of them.

ed said...

looks like a prominent guy, btw great header

thenitefalls said...

I haven't watched any hammer movies but must be classics!

Korkut Üneli said...

its hammer time!

Poetry of the Day said...

great movie!

James said...

hammers are the best tool... for anything.

Bart said...

new lay out looks pretty awesome.

duffboi said...

I look forward to checking one or more of these out that you present.

Sam said...

Great site and nice article. Looking forward to the reviews

Kicking Rocks said...

dracula movies are awesome! not that twilight crap...

Meghan Moran said...

can't wait to see which movies you spotlight.

Jay.CA said...

nice introduction to the horror genre, looking forward to your future posts. :)

fabio_2007 said...

vampire movies are so awesome

G said...

I was expecting some leprechaun horror...but glad you're bringing some classic Hammer action

Tasos said...

I'd love to go to Hammer Studios and have a look at all those fake props they have over there.

Rabidmoose said...

I haven't seen any Hammer movies but I'll check them out now.

Aaron M. Gipson said...

I'd put Christopher Lee's Dracula up there against Lugosi's any day. There, I said it...

This was a really pivotal moment for the entire horror genre when Hammer started making the classic monsters actually scary for the first time.

Matt Neumann said...

Thanks for the summary! If you want a mindless, but far out weekend entertainment check out Rodriguez's Machete!

Brut said...

Never seen it though... but this makes me want to check it out.

Biff Tanner said...

Christopher Lee, one of the best.

tearinox said...

great post

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Electric Addict Set #4

Alex DeLarge said...

In the 80's they also had a TV series called Hammer House of Horror, it was pretty entertaining

The Game Store Guy said...

I actually didn't know a lot about the Hammer movies. Thanks for the info.

Alan said...

that head scared me...

Patti D. said...

I really loved those movies by Hammer.

Merlyy said...

Looking forward to this :O

baxxman said...

Oh man that is really rough stuff.

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