Thursday, 15 December 2011
The origins and early success of Hammer
The company was founded in 1934 when cinema owner and distributor Enrique Carreras and vaudeville actor William Hind teamed up together, the Hammer coming from Hind's stage name. The decision was to create a film studio that could create content for Carreras' distribution company Exclusive which before then had been distributing British Lion pictures.
The first film Hammer Studios created was The Public Life of Henry the Ninth, a comedy, but it was in the crime genre that the studio was most prolific and spin-offs from BBC Radio Dramas. Films such as Dick Barton and Crime Reporter were 'quota-quickies', low budget productions, churned out to feel gaps in the cinema schedules and as supporting features.
As the studio grew and became more established they moved to Down Place, later named Bray Studios near Windsor in Berkshire. It was here that they began to move into different, specifically sci-fi, the genre that many believed ousted horror in Hollywood cinema as the choice for consumers wanting a scare. In 1955 Hammer created a version of the BBC TV series The Quartermass Experiment, twisting the spelling of theirs slightly to read The Quartermass Xperiment to exploit the new X Certificate rating which were purely for 18 year olds or over.
This is the trailer for The Quatermass Xperiment, with its US release title - The Creeping Unkown.
The film was a big hit in relative terms for Hammer and spawned a sequel two years later and from it Hammer learned that success could found in terrifying an audience with a mix of inventive marketing and censor worrying gore. The next move to work specifically in the horror genre with the Curse of Frankenstein.
Much of this information I got from the following sites:
And the Mark Gatiss BBC Documentary on the History of Horror: