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Hammer Film Studios’ reinvention of horror cinema
Morgan C. O’Brien

Faced with the task of explaining a particular phenomenon or event […] the historian first recognises that the event under study is not a one-dimensional ‘thing’ but the point of convergence for various lines of historical force. (Allen and Gomery 17) I N 1957, FAMILY - OWNED H AMMER Film Studios released Terence Fisher’s The Curse of Frankenstein , and with one inexpensive genre movie the small British studio

in Adapting Frankenstein
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Author: Peter Hutchings

This book is about the British film director Terence Fisher. It begins by setting the context by detailing Fisher's directorial debut to Hammer's horror production and the importance of the Hammer horror to Fisher's career. Hammer's horror production represents one of the striking developments in post-war British cinema. The book explains some professional and industrial contexts in which Fisher operated and shows how these relate both to the films he made and the way in which these films have been judged and valued. It presents a detailed account of The Astonished Heart, Fisher's sixth film as director, highlighting the benefits and some of the problems involved in thinking about Fisher's career generally in its pre-horror phase. The successful Hammer film, The Curse of Frankenstein, both inaugurated the British horror boom and established Fisher as a film-maker whose name was known to critics as someone who specialised in the despised horror genre. After The Curse of Frankenstein, Fisher became primarily a horror director. The book presents an account of the highs and lows Fisher faced in his directorial career, highlighting his significant achievements and his box-office failures. It also shows Fisher as a director dependent on and at ease with the industrial and collaborative nature of film-making. In a fundamental sense, what value there is in Terence Fisher's work exists because of the British film industry and the opportunities it afforded Fisher, not despite the industry.

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Peter Hutchings

liked them because they were horror films. My developing interest in Terence Fisher’s films in the years since first seeing the likes of The Curse of Frankenstein and Dracula has been intertwined with and dependent on the way that British film history has developed over the past two decades. Thanks to the large number of books and articles about British cinema that are now available, I am much more aware of the industrial

in Terence Fisher
Maria K. Bachman and Paul C. Peterson

our focus is twofold: we consider ( pace Hutcheon) Hammer Films’ The Revenge of Frankenstein as a ‘successful’ replication of Shelley’s source text and its immediate filmic predecessor, The Curse of Frankenstein , while also exploring the ways in which Revenge propagates the post-Darwinian discourse of the 1950s. Revenge , we argue, is unequivocally and obsessively about Dr Frankenstein, the man of science, the bold and brash technocrat, the fierce advocate of transhumanism. In 1957 England’s Hammer Films released The Curse of

in Adapting Frankenstein
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Hammer and other horrors
Peter Hutchings

films, The Curse of Frankenstein (Hammer’s first colour horror, produced in 1956 and released in 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. 1 This fact alone marks the 1956–64 period as a distinctive stage in Hammer’s development. Importantly, The Gorgon also represents a key point in a wider shifting of terms within the genre

in Hammer and beyond
Peter Hutchings

pun. But it’s a good pun, because Grimm wasn’t a gentle storyteller, was he? (Terence Fisher) 1 Fisher and Hammer It is not unreasonable to think of The Curse of Frankenstein as representing Terence Fisher’s date with destiny. This enormously successful Hammer film, released in May 1957, both inaugurated the British horror boom and established Fisher as a

in Terence Fisher
Peter Hutchings

as expected, the reviews of British horror films become shorter in length as time passes. Linked with this, they also begin to use a recognisable shorthand based on the name of ‘Hammer’. For example, only two of the available reviews of The Curse of Frankenstein (Terence Fisher, 1957) mention Hammer at all ( Sunday Express , 5/5/57, Evening News , 2/5/57). The reviews for Dracula (Fisher, 1958), released one year later, contain a few scattered references to the studio. A year after that we can

in Hammer and beyond
Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and Hammer’s The Night Creatures
Peter Hutchings

1957 with the American horror and fantasy writer Richard Matheson, who was responsible for writing the novel in the first place, coming to Britain to prepare a screenplay adaptation for Hammer Films. Hammer had just had a notable success with its first colour gothic horror film, The Curse of Frankenstein (Terence Fisher, 1957), which starred Peter Cushing as the scientist and featured a then unknown Christopher Lee as the creature, and the company already had Dracula (Terence Fisher, 1958), its next

in Hammer and beyond
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Peter Hutchings

not only his distinctiveness but also his value as a film-maker resides. My own fascination with the films of Terence Fisher has endured for twenty-five years and I suspect it will continue. Inevitably there have been periods when I stopped seeing the films, but the films – or, to be more precise, moments from the films – have always been with me. I think here of Christopher Lee’s first appearances in The Curse of

in Terence Fisher
Peter Hutchings

Frankenstein films: The Curse of Frankenstein (Terence Fisher, 1957), The Revenge of Frankenstein (Fisher, 1958), The Evil of Frankenstein (Freddie Francis, 1964), Frankenstein Created Woman (Fisher, 1967), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (Fisher, 1969), The Horror of Frankenstein (Jimmy Sangster, 1970) and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (Fisher, 1973). Peter Cushing starred as Baron Frankenstein in six of these productions, and his presence was obviously important in binding the

in Hammer and beyond