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Hammer Time: Hammer Horror Retrospective

Hammer horror is the oldest breed of horror film and originates from British production company Hammer Films, which was founded as far back as 1934. It is responsible for some of the best loved horror films in the world, and is often known for its now outdated special effects, which in fact were state of the art back in the 1950s and 1960s, at the heyday of the company’s success. However, the heart of hammer horror is its darkness and sense of humour, and the production company spawned a genre which has inspired decades of film making.

Starting with titles such as The Curse of Frankenstein and The Mummy, Hammer Film Productions have created films which have lasted the test of time, and have enjoyed many years of spin off success. For The Mummy, there have been remakes and sequel films, and Frankenstein still has a cult following to this day. The Phantom of the Opera is probably the biggest of Hammer’s successes, and whilst there have been many versions, the 1969 film became a seminal musical, penned by impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber, and a remake of the film hit cinemas in 2004, featuring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum. The popularity of the film is such that there is even a Phantom of The Opera slot game on Casino Euro, a site which also offers blackjack, baccarat and online roulette, where you can also play online roulette for fun. Online slot games tend to take on themes in recent years, and there’s no shortage of horror-inspired slots, including the Phantom of the Opera game.

Hammer’s films were among some of the first horror films to be shot in colour, meaning that the blood and gore were much more explicit than the horror films which the public were used to. This earned them a place in the industry, and ensured that their films were shocking and risque for their time. Whilst their stories might have varied, their location did not, with much of filming taking place at Bray Studios and Oakley Court, a stately home which provided a backdrop for many of their best loved films. However, it was sold in 2013, and in the same year it was announced that a planning application had been made on the Bray Studios site to turn the main building into residential properties, and to demolish vast swathes of the original building. However, this still has yet to happen, while the building was sold again in 2016.

Bray Studios in 2017

By the mid-1970s however, many companies were beginning to make horror in the same way as Hammer, and the modest budgets which the company worked with were unable to keep up with the saturated market. Whilst they did produce other films: Sherlock Holmes – Hound of the Baskervilles, and several comedies, they were never able to achieve the same successes as earlier films such as Frankenstein and Dracula.

Christopher Lee as Hammer’s Dracula

After decades of twilight, and no production, Hammer Films was bought in 2007, and finally began producing films once more. In 2012, The Woman in Black was released, starring Daniel Radcliffe. The film was a welcomed comeback, and the reviews were largely positive.

The Curse of Frankenstein Starring Christopher Lee

Hammer’s influence on the film industry has come with hindsight. Whilst the company ran alongside Hitchcock, they were not as revered for their brand of horror, with critics lambasting The Curse of Frankenstein for its gore. It is now widely respected that The Curse of Frankenstein is a seminal British film, not only for the horror genre but also for the industry as a whole. There have been many parodies and tributes to Hammer, including The Rocky Horror Show which began life in 1973 before being turned into a film starring Tim Curry. The film largely mocks the horror genre, and in particular the Hammer and The Curse of Frankenstein. It was shot in Bray Studios and Oakley House, and whilst it was received with largely negative reviews, the film has gone on to become a cult classic, ushering midnight screenings at which the audience dress like characters from the film, and often talk back to the screen.

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Daniel Radcliffe in The Woman In Black

Hammer has been a great influence to the film industry, and a driving force in British cinema, however it is often swallowed up by American giants such as Hitchcock when we discuss thrillers and early horror. The fledgling company grew to spawn an entire industry, one which the likes of Paranormal Activity might be thankful for.

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