Monday, June 27, 2011

The Art of Hammer: Gothic Vampire Posters from the 50s through the 70s (Voice of the Undead Countdown Minus 28)

With Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead coming out on July 26, I'm counting down 60 cool vampire things. Today:
I recently got The Art of Hammer, a very recent poster book this Christmas that is ideal for any classic horror fan. You've heard me expound on the unique look and feel of Hammer Films before-- I first wrote on this over thirteen years ago-- but here's the short version:
From the 1950s through the end of the 1970s, horror films entered what is now called the Gothic period, defined by a heavy reliance on supernatural rather than science-fiction-influenced themes, and period rather than contemporary settings. The champion of all Gothic horror was Hammer, a British studio that used many of the same cast, crew, and most especially production designers through their horror films. The result is a very recognizable series of films-- you can sit down to watch Horror of Dracula and Curse of Frankenstein, which came out in '57 and '58, and then watch The Vampire Lovers and Twins of Evil, which both came out in the early 70s, and you get the sense that these films are all part of a series and indeed seem to exist in the same world. People have called that world the Hammerscape, recognizable for its color and strange, sort-of-Euro and sort-of-British sets, trees and castle grounds.

These are the movies I play in the background while I'm working. So I was stunned by this book, which is over-sized and reprints posters from around the world advertising Hammer horror. One thing that's new for me here is that it gives me the chance to see the same film promoted in different ways. For instance, here's the first poster for The Vampire Lovers (see my review here)-- the poster is lurid and green (and by the way, isn't it odd to look at this and think, no-one's done a poster for a movie like this in thirty years?)

Whereas here is the American version, done in the style of drive-in movie posters (and in great drive-in fashion, suggests a totally different movie, though I'm sure this one, with its army of vampire women and Roman slaves, would be great too.)

That's just one example. There are alternate poster takes for Countess Dracula, Hands of the Ripper, four different takes on Dracula AD 1972, and on and on. Very cool.

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