The mid-years of the twentieth century witnessed a moral panic about juvenile delinquency in the USA and the United Kingdom, and this anxiety was expressed and explored in both Hollywood and British films. This book is a transcultural reception study of key American films that commented on juvenile delinquency and youth culture, including The Wild One, Blackboard Jungle, Rebel Without a Cause, Rock Around the Clock and Jailhouse Rock. The book examines the changes made by the British Board of Film Censors, the ways in which these films were evaluated by British critics and the meanings that Hollywood stars such as Marlon Brando, James Dean and Elvis Presley generated for British film fans. By comparing British and American films featuring teenage delinquents, the book demonstrates the gradual eastward, transatlantic passage of the ‘rebel’ trope and shows how it influenced and disrupted British cinema and popular youth culture. In addition, it argues that the excessive censorship and generally poor critical reviews in the British media demonstrate the wider suspicions of foreignness, teenage consumerism and mass culture that were circulating at the time. These classic films and their iconic stars continue to generate scholarly and critical interest but no other book has re-visioned the Hollywood stardom of Marlon Brando, James Dean and Elvis Presley in Britain.
Chapter 2 explores the British reception of Blackboard Jungle. As the first Hollywood film to use a rock ’n’ roll soundtrack and comment on juvenile delinquency in secondary moderns (the equivalent of the American high school), the censors anticipated that impressionable Teddy boys would imitate the violence perpetrated by the screen delinquents against their teachers. Thus, the censors not only deleted scenes they considered excessively violent but also worked to lessen the glamour surrounding the delinquents by removing many of their American idioms. As the chapter shows, the film’s lasting legacy was its theme song, Rock Around the Clock, which began a rock ’n’ roll craze in Britain (and globally). In its exploration of the production and exhibition history of this Hollywood film, the chapter also finds parallels in the Max Bygraves film Spare the Rod (1961), billed as the ‘British Blackboard Jungle’, to demonstrate the extent to which the censor inhibited realistic adult British cinema. In addition, Glenn Ford’s and Vic Morrow’s British stardom is reconstructed to demonstrate the deliberate merging of their on- and off-screen personas to authenticate their film characters: dedicated teacher and teenage gang leader, respectively. Hence, Ford was promoted as educated and urbane, and happily married; and Morrow, in his screen debut, as a forthright Method trained actor from New York’s Lower East Side. Morrow’s credibility was largely undermined in the British press and by many cinemagoers for his emulation of the established and highly acclaimed Marlon Brando.
Screening the Hollywood Rebels in 1950s Britain explores the relationship between classic American films about juvenile delinquency and British popular youth culture in the mid-twentieth century. The book examines the censorship, publicity and fandom surrounding such Hollywood films as The Wild One, Blackboard Jungle, Rebel Without a Cause, Rock Around the Clock and Jailhouse Rock alongside such British films as The Blue Lamp, Spare the Rod and Serious Charge. Intersecting with star studies and social and cultural history, this is the first book to re-vision the stardom surrounding three extraordinarily influential Hollywood stars: Marlon Brando, James Dean and Elvis Presley. By looking specifically at the meanings of these American stars to British fans, this analysis provides a logical and sustained narrative that explains how and why these Hollywood images fed into, and disrupted, British cultural life. Screening the Hollywood Rebels in 1950s Britain is based upon a wide range of sources including censorship records, both mainstream and trade newspapers and periodicals, archival accounts and memoirs, as well as the films themselves. The book is a timely intervention of film culture and focuses on key questions about screen violence and censorship, masculinity and transnational stardom, method acting and performance, Americanisation and popular post-war British culture. The book is essential reading for researchers, academics and students of film and social and cultural history, alongside general readers interested in the links between the media and popular youth culture in the 1950s.
Ealing Studios’ Dead of Night (1945) is the first important recognisably British horror film. However, to view Dead of Night as marking the ‘birth’ of British horror cinema is rather problematic, for in many respects Ealing’s film is very different from the long stream of horror films that eventually followed from the mid-1950s onwards. This 1950s wave of horror was in large part initiated by the enormous commercial success of Hammer’s SF/horror The Quatermass Experiment in 1955. In seeking to explain the transition from Dead of Night to The Quatermass Experiment, as well as the virtual absence of horror from British cinema in the intervening years, the chapter considers both the broadly social and the specifically cinematic context of each film’s production. Such an approach reveals the way in which the identity of British horror cinema was subject to constant and substantial revision during this period.
The period 1956–64 can be seen as the classic phase in British horror production, years during which a particular national horror movement emerged. The most famous (or infamous), influential and commercially successful sector of British horror at this time was that produced by the Hammer company, and this chapter will be devoted in the main to a discussion of Hammer horror. The 1956–64 period is ‘bookended’ by two important Hammer films, The Curse of Frankenstein (Hammer’s first colour horror, 1957) and The Gorgon (1964): these were, respectively, the first and last of the five Hammer films on which horror stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and principal Hammer director Terence Fisher collaborated. This fact alone marks the 1956–64 period as a distinctive stage in Hammer’s development. However, any discussion of British horror production in this period should not lose sight of the fact that while Hammer was certainly dominant, approximately two-thirds of horror did not fall under Hammer’s auspices. In addition to discussing Hammer, then, the chapter also shows that while films made by Hammer’s competitors were often working with the same issues as those addressed by Hammer, on the whole (and with a few distinguished exceptions) they lack the richness and energy of Hammer’s more successful approach.
By the mid-1960s the British horror film, largely because of Hammer’s unprecedented success, had become firmly associated in the public’s mind with period settings. What one finds between 1964 (the year of The Gorgon) and 1966 is a cluster of films which seek, presumably in the commercial interests of product differentiation, to relocate horror to a recognisable present-day world while at the same time appealing to the already established market for that period horror. This chapter considers a number of case studies – including Dr Terror’s House of Horrors (1964), Witchfinder General (1968) and others – and explores the extent to which their makers succeeded in the attempt to rework and modernise British horror. David Pirie identifies this period as decisive in the history of the genre, with an influx of young, new talent which transformed and regenerated British horror. The chapter offers a different reading, arguing that, while new talent was to be found in the genre (namely Michael Reeves), older hands such as Terence Fisher were still producing significant work. The chapter contends that the films of this time, rather than simply moving on from the outmoded and inflexible certainties of previous horror productions, project a decidedly ambivalent relationship to earlier horrors.
In this short afterword, Russ Hunter, Senior Lecturer in Film and Television at the University of Northumbria, offers some reflections on Peter Hutchings’ career. He notes Hutchings’ incisive intelligence and scholarly rigour, but also his kindness and generosity. Besides making major academic contributions in the form of Hammer and Beyond and his Historical Dictionary of Horror Cinema, he was also an excellent mentor to aspiring scholars. Above all else, he was driven by a love for cinema, a love that defined the course of his life.
Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and Hammer’s The Night Creatures
In 1957 Hammer commissioned American author Richard Matheson to write a screenplay based on his vampire novella, I Am Legend. The screenplay (retitling the story as The Night Creatures), however, went unmade. This chapter examines the project in relation to the following questions. Why was Hammer interested in the I Am Legend project in the first place? Why did it go to the trouble of bringing Matheson over from the United States? What does this suggest about the pattern of production in the company during the late 1950s and, more broadly, about the relation between British and American models of horror and indeed between horror literature and horror cinema? Such questions direct us to I Am Legend as a commercial property as well as an innovative horror text, and a consideration of the circumstances of its acquisition and development by Hammer can enhance our understanding of the relation between these two distinct aspects of its existence.
Of all the British ﬁlm companies that sought to emulate Hammer’s success in the horror genre throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, Amicus was one of the most proliﬁc and distinctive. Between 1964 and 1974 it produced fourteen horror ﬁlms; these included both portmanteau/anthology films and single-plot dramas. The predominantly British casts and settings of Amicus horrors, the presence in many of them of the British horror stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and the fact that they were all directed by British directors working with British crews in British studios suggest that Amicus should be seen as an integral part of the British horror movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Despite this, Amicus horror ﬁlms have not played any signiﬁcant role in the critical re-evaluation of British horror that was inaugurated by David Pirie’s groundbreaking book A Heritage of Horror in 1973. In particular, the Amicus ﬁlms do not sit easily with those critical accounts that have sought to identify British horror as a purely indigenous cultural phenomenon. This chapter is therefore interested instead in the precise nature of the company’s dependence on American-sourced material and the extent to which this material is reworked within a British context of production. Such an approach can potentially highlight aspects of British horror that are obscured by those accounts which have centred on Hammer.
The conclusion briefly reflects on subsequent developments in British horror following Hammer’s ‘demise’ in the late 1970s. Brief consideration is given to such films as The Wicker Man (1973) and Hellraiser (1987) and Hammer’s newfound ‘respectability’.