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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sex, Satanism and the Fall of Hammer Horror



As something of a follow up to my post on the rise of Hammer Horror, I thought I'd explore the history of the studio in the late sixties and early seventies, when the horror film had changed drastically and Hammer's lucrative Dracula, Frankenstein and Mummy series were fast becoming old hat.

The huge success of Rosemary's Baby in 1968 symbolised a big shift in the themes and style of horror films at the time. The gothic period movies that Hammer had become so famous for earlier in the decade were rapidly being overtaken by films with more contemporary settings and it appeared that vampires and mummies were out and satanic cults and devil worship were in. Film plots involving black magic and satanism were nothing new for Hammer with Plague of the Zombies (1966) and The Witches (1966) both dealing with occult themes. But the Man Downstairs began to play an increasingly more prominent role in Hammer's films and the same year Rosemary's Baby was released, Hammer adapted The Devil Rides Out, a novel by Dennis Wheatley, a writer of several occult thrillers. Demons of the Mind followed in 1972 and even the infamous Count got involved with occult practices in The Satanic Rites of Dracula (also starring a young Joanna Lumley). In 1976 Hammer adapted another Dennis Wheatley novel; To the Devil a Daughter which would be Hammer's last film.

It was not just the content of Hammer's films that were changing. Once famous for gloriously gothic castles and graveyards, Hammer increasingly began to trade in their period costumes for contemporary clothes in films like The Devil Rides Out (1968), Dracula: AD 1972, (1972), The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1974) and To the Devil a Daughter (1976)

The lapse in censor ship laws in the late 1960’s also resulted in an increase in the sexual content of Hammer’s films. In 1970 Hammer released The Vampire Lovers a loose adaptation of J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s novel Carmilla concerning the seduction of a young girl by a female vampire. It featured Polish actress Ingrid Pitt and spawned two loose sequels Lust for a Vampire (1971) and Twins of Evil (1971). These films have since been labelled ‘The Karnstein Trilogy’ and for the time featured strong lesbian undertones. 1971's Countess Dracula (also starring Pitt) was loosely based on the story of Erzebet Bathory, a 16th Century countess who was rumoured to bathe in the blood of virgins to retain her youthful complexion. Naturally, Hammer's version pulled no punches with the blood and nudity as was now the standard for most of its productions.


By 1974, Hammer Film Productions was in its death throes. Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter may be regarded as a cult classic today, but was a failed attempt at reinventing the vampire movie as a western back in 1974. In another desperate attempt to reach a new audience, Hammer joined forces with Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers and together they made The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires (1974), a bizarre mix of gothic horror and martial arts. It wasn’t a hit however and Hammer only made one more horror film (To the Devil a Daughter) before closing down for good. The horror film had simply moved on.

But Hammer's Legacy, however, lives on...

Here is a list of Hammer's Horror films which is as comprehensive as I can make it. If you notice any errors, let me know!

1957: The Curse of Frankenstein
1958: Dracula
1958: The Revenge of Frankenstein
1959: The Hound of the Baskervilles
1959: The Man Who Could Cheat Death
1959: The Mummy
1960: The Brides of Dracula
1960: The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll
1961: Taste of Fear
1961: The Curse of the Werewolf
1962: Shadow of the Cat ?
1962: The Phantom of the Opera
1963: Maniac
1964: Nightmare
1964: Paranoiac
1964: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb
1964: The Evil of Frankenstein
1964: The Gorgon
1963: The Kiss of the Vampire
1965: Fanatic
1965: Hysteria
1965: The Nanny
1966: Dracula: Prince of Darkness
1966: Rasputin, the Mad Monk
1966: The Plague of the Zombies
1966: The Reptile
1966: The Witches
1967: Frankenstein Created Woman
1967: Quatermass and the Pit
1967: The Mummy’s Shroud
1968: Dracula Has Risen from the Grave
1968: The Devil Rides Out
1969: Crescendo
1969: Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed
1970: Taste the Blood of Dracula
1970: The Horror of Frankenstein
1970: Scars of Dracula
1970: The Vampire Lovers
1971: Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb
1971: Countess Dracula
1971: Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde
1971: Hands of the Ripper
1971: Lust for a Vampire
1971: Twins of Evil
1972: Demons of the Mind
1972: Dracula AD 1972
1972: Fear in the Night
1972: Vampire Circus
1974: Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter
1974: Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell
1974: The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires
1974: The Satanic Rites of Dracula
1976: To the Devil a Daughter

2 comments:

Jason Sparks said...

These movie titles sound like the names of Peter Swan's flicks (Liam Nieson) in the "Dirty Harry" movie, 'The Dead Pool'. LOL ^^

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