1957 saw the release by Hammer of their first color horror film, The Curse of Frankenstein, and like so many that followed, as well as being written by Jimmy Sangster, it was also shot in technicolor and praised for its visual style. It was also the first of many horror films starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, two actors who became synonymous with Hammer. Lee was outstanding as the monster (despite the seemingly unenviable task of following in Boris Karloff’s iconic footsteps) proving, as he did so many times subsequently, that he had incredible physical presence and Cushing was impeccable as ever in his role as Baron Frankenstein; living up to his later nickname ‘the gentleman of horror’.
Though founded in 1934, and making films from then up to the present (albeit very off and on at times) with The Quiet Ones being scheduled for release here in the UK April 2014, Hammer Studios will forever be linked with its dark and gothic Hammer Horror films. These were chiefly produced between mid 1950s to the mid 1970s, frequently at a fairly prolific rate. As a forty something, English, horror fan, Hammer films were the staple diet of my ‘formative’ years. For that reason I consider myself incredibly fortunate. To cut my teeth (fangs?) on films with the maestros of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in lead roles was just the best apprenticeship.
From its inception in 1934, through various financial comings and goings and of course World War 2, Hammer Productions eventually found a home at Down Place on the banks of the River Thames in 1949. Though it was later renamed Bray Studios and was used throughout the majority of the heyday until 1966. Its grounds were used for much of the location shooting that followed and contributed much to Hammer’s look and feel. Hammer studios first foray into horror came in 1955 with The Quatermass Xperiment, an adaptation of the BBC television series.