Are you a Hammer fan? The funny thing is I find that generally if you understand the question, the answer is yes. Every week or so I post something about Hammer horror, and responses are divided between people saying I love Hammer! and What is Hammer?
Here's what I wrote in another blog entry:
In Horror, there's one world that holds together like that: a landscape slightly European and slightly British, slightly historical and modern, adaptable to many plots and characters and yet always recognizable. In Horror, there is the Hammerscape.So what am I going on about Hammer about this week? Oh, something outstanding: Marcus Hearn's THE HAMMER VAULT, a new book that collects all sorts of items-- lobby cards, memos, screenplay pages, magazine covers, publicity guidebooks, newspaper articles, and more-- related to every Hammer movie release from 1954's Quatermass Xperiment to next year's new Hammer release The Woman in Black with Daniel Radcliffe.
What is the Hammerscape? You have to see it to truly get it, but it is a cohesive horror universe reflected in curiously stagy and yet convincing sets, oddly lurid and sumptuous and yet stunningly classy colors (Ah, burgundy! Burgundy everywhere!), and not a single element that doesn't fit into the Hammer Ideal.
What made these films special? The conventional article on Hammer will suggest that the trick was to make Dracula and Frankenstein more "modern." They used color, after all. They explored sexual themes. All of this is true; it's a first-glance thesis that misses a lot. Hammer was not more "modern" than Universal- in fact, Hammer was quite the opposite. Hammer used modern tools to throw its films body and soul into a crushing and complicated love affair with antiquity. Universal's Frankenstein and Dracula came from a time when science had conquered the world and could conquer monsters, too. Hammer came from a time when we'd grown out of that ideal and found ourselves fearing the unseen once again.
This is a very cool book for any horror fan because the articles and copy provide new information, covering the strategies for each of the films, internal politics and squabbles between creatives and censorship boards, and more. It's definitely a book I'll be pulling down to flip through over and over again.
Highly recommended for all Gothic horror fans and Hammer fans.
(Review copy received from Titan Books.)