Hammer Strikes Back

The Arts

After years of disastrous mismanagement, Hammer is rising again under the auspices of Simon Oakes, who seems to genuinely understand how to restore the brand. You may be aware of their success with The Woman In Black, Let Me In and Wake Wood, but they are also branching into other areas in recognition of the need to hit several formats at once.

Hammer film novelisations have been commissioned from a lineup of great authors, I’ve just written one of their first original radio plays, and next week at Manchester’s Grimmfest I’ll be introducing ‘The Devil Rides Out’ in a pristine new print, now that six Hammer classics have arrived in Bu-Ray versions. Hammer is seeking out the censored seconds from their old prints and restoring the footage, and it will be nice to see Dracula’s eyes finally drop into his face. It means I’ll have to buy the films all over again, but it’ll be worth it.

Horror gained respectability through the creation of sumptuous fantasy period pieces. English horror had extended from a civilised background, the world of Benson, James and Saki, of ghost stories told over after-dinner port. The new Hammer is seeking the same effect, eschewing cheap splatter for an emphasis on good plots and strong performances. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.

The Hammer picture is of course by Graham Humphries.

5 comments on “Hammer Strikes Back”

  1. Sounds wonderful, really looking forward to the radio play. Quite a lot of controversy has been generated on the web over Hammer’s decsion to alter the opticals in the climax to THE DEVIL RIDES OUT without the option to see the original version too. Some of the responses have been predictably hysterical and over-the-top but as someone who was really looking forward to getting their hands on the Blu-ray I am actually reconsidering. Didn’t they realise that this is just a red rag to a bull for Hammer fans, not to mention legions of people fed up with george Lucas-style tinkering? I really hope the screening goes well and that the changes aren’t too intrusive. I hope they reconsider putting the original shots back in – blithely second-guessing Terence Fisher 45 years after the event seems so unnecessary.

  2. admin says:

    I can see why fans would be upset, but the original was famously compromised by its low budget, leading to shoddy effects that no-one was happy with. If you look at a very similar scene in ‘Day of the Beast’ you’ll see how effective a subtle amount of FX can be.

  3. There’s no question in my mind that adding an option with revised special effects as a bonus is, or can be, a splendid idea – it has worked wonderfully well with many of the classic DOCTOR WHO releases. But not providing the option to see the original seems foolish and unnecessary given the HD branching technology available today. Certainly some of the comments on Twitter from Hammer along the lines of ‘wait and see’ or ‘go and buy the original DVD instead’ seem spectacularly ill-judged.

    Is there an ETA on when is you radio play being released by the way?

  4. Dylan Lancaster says:

    I’m hoping to go and see The Devil Rides Out next Saturday. There are some interesting choices at this years Grimmfest.

  5. Steve says:

    I’m impressed that Hammer is making a comeback. Hammer films were one of the few things that made much of my childhood tolerable – fond memories indeed.

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