Marcus Hearn | The Hammer Vault: Treasures from the Archive of Hammer Films (Titan Books)

Each entry is copiously illustrated with production photos, posters, and related materials, giving you a real feel for the spirit of each film.

 

 

176 pgs., color; $34.95
 
Hammer Studios holds a particular place in the hearts of horror fans—when the Quatermass Xperiment appeared in 1955, the genre had had a long dry spell since the classic Universal films of the 1930s, creature features and rubber-headed alligator men notwithstanding. Hammer always gave the audience its money’s worth, frequently to the disapproval of British Board of Film Censors (BBFC, the British equivalent of the MPAA)—Hammer films offered blood, guts, and graphic violence, frequently in full, living color.
 
The Hammer Vault: Treasures from the Archive of Hammer Films takes you back to the glory days of Hammer Horror (which, truth be told, run pretty close to the present time). A brief introduction sets the stage, including some interesting notes about how film publicity was done in Britain in the 1950s, then you have a series of articles (1-2 pages each) about individual films, from The Quatermass Xperiment (the name was changed from The Quatermass Experiment to flaunt the film’s X rating, meaning it was considered suitable only for those age 16 and older) to 2009’s Let Me In. Each entry is copiously illustrated with production photos, posters, and related materials, giving you a real feel for the spirit of each film.
 
I don’t want to sound like a drooling fangirl, and maybe I’m being overly nostalgic, but it seems like they had more fun in those days. How can you top titles like The Plague of the Zombies, Creatures the World Forgot, or Taste the Blood of Dracula? Some of the entries include pages of scripts as well, offering tantalizing directions like “FATHER MICHAEL is killed by metamorphosis” (from 1972’s To the Devil a Daughter) and “Shots of DRACULA sleeping in his tomb with ALICE lying over it and sensuously caressing it” (from the 1969 Taste the Blood of Dracula). Tell the truth, don’t you want to see those films now?
 
The Hammer Vault is pricey, at least for the impoverished horror fan, but it comes as close as anything can to being a must-have for anyone who loves these old films. It also delivers value for money: this is a large-format (10.1 x 12.9 inches) hardcover volume, and every page is packed with information and well-chosen visuals. If you think in terms of amortizing the cost over the number of hours you are likely to spend reading The Hammer Vault, it’s a much better deal than a few tickets to current films, which is all $34.95 will get you at the multiplex these days. | Sarah Boslaugh

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