Hammer Goes to Hell: The House of Horror’s Unmade Films

Mar 09 2021 19:00 - 20:30

The British film studio Hammer Films is perhaps one of the most iconic film studios of all time. Hammer’s production of gothic horror pictures began in 1957 with The Curse of Frankenstein, and would go on to cement a lasting house style for the company and international success. This success has led to the company being extensively documented both within and outside academia. Yet a crucial area of the company’s history remains largely unexplored.

This talk will utilise never seen before archival materials held in the Hammer Script Archive to present a new perspective on Hammer Films. The talk will argue that whilst many studies of Hammer Films have been undertaken, none have accounted for the significant amount of creative and economic labour that went into over 100 unmade projects at the company. Utilising primary materials such as screenplays, financial documentation and correspondence, the talk will examine the industrial and production contexts of an eclectic range of Hammer’s unmade films, ranging from Loch Ness Monster project Nessie to Dracula in India script Kali Devil - Bride of Dracula.

Through an examination of these lost projects, the talk will therefore look to address a crucial gap in the history of Hammer Films via their unmade projects. Foregrounding Hammer’s unmade texts in this way also necessitates a shift away from the typical analysis of Hammer’s stars or the film’s visual style, and instead allows for an examination of the methods of production and the creative roles of the managing director, producer and screenwriter. For example Michael Carreras was Managing Director of Hammer between 1971–1979, and materials on Hammer’s unmade projects create a detailed picture of his tenure in charge of the company.

As well as the Hammer Script Archive, the talk will utilise materials held at the BFI archive, the Margaret Herrick Library and the Warner Bros Archive in Los Angeles to refute key narratives surrounding Hammer’s demise, which often centre on creative stagnation. Instead the talk will suggest that Hammer’s unmade projects demonstrate exceptional creative innovation, even in the final years before their closure in 1979. It will argue that it was key tensions within Hammer, as well as larger industrial changes to the British film industry, which ultimately sealed the company’s fate.

Dr Kieran Foster is an Associate Lecturer at De Montfort University and Nottingham Trent University. His research centres on unmade films, with his PhD completed in 2019 presenting a chronological study of Hammer Films through their unmade projects. He was the producer of Vampirella: A Live Script Reading in 2019, and has written extensively on the topic of unmade Hammer Films. He is the co-editor of Bloomsbury’s Shadow Cinema: The Historical and Production Contexts of Unmade Films and is on the editorial board of Intellect’s Unmade Films and Television book series.

About the Miskatonic Institute:

Founded by Film writer/programmer Kier-La Janisse in 2010, The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies offers classes in horror history, theory and production, with branches in London, New York and Los Angeles, as well as hosting special events worldwide.

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