From the time that I was old enough to understand what I was seeing on screen, I’ve loved the movies. Star Wars was the first movie that really made me sit up and take notice. But it was the Saturday afternoon “Monster Mash” marathons on our old black and white TV set that kept my attention after that. Movies like The Blob, the original The Thing (with the walking vegetable), all of the Godzilla films, Planet of the Apes… I could go on and on. I watched with my sister and the two of us often talk about those happy weekend afternoons to this day.
But even with my love for those classic monster movies, I’ve never really focused on film history. Every now and then I’ll watch a documentary or read a book on some of the history involved, but that’s about it.
So when I was given an opportunity to check out The Hammer Vault: Treasures from the Archive of Hammer Films by Marcus Hearn, I jumped at the chance. Though I was only familiar with a handful of the 80+ movies detailed in the book, it’s truly a treasure trove of information about how some of these films were made starting with 1954′s The Quatermass Xperiment all the way through 2010′s Let Me In based on the Swedish-language version of Let the Right One In in 2008. The trials and tribulations of the production company coupled with licensing for certain properties, actor disputes, money troubles, and more really offer an intriguing glimpse behind the curtain of some of these classic films.
Each film covered in the book offers a peek at some of the photographs, posters, scripts, and publicity materials used to make or market it. Looking at the black and white photographs as compared to the colored posters and lobby cards makes for a unique view at that time in film history. We’ve come a long way from handing out little booklets at movies like they do for theater productions today, but I was amazed to see the work that went into not only encouraging moviegoers to attend shows, but to get the films shown in movie theaters in the first place.
It was amazing to see actors like Peter Cushing, who I first saw in Star Wars and Christopher Lee, whom I’d seen but didn’t really recognize until the late 1990s in films like Sleepy Hollow and The Lord of the Rings films. Cushing and Lee looked so young in films like The Curse of Frankenstein in 1956! Even Oliver Reed, who I wasn’t familiar with until Gladiator in 2000 after his death looked extremely young in his first starring role in 1960′s The Curse of the Werewolf!
If you’ve ever been curious about some of the classic horror movies of the 1950s and ’60s, The Hammer Vault is an amazing way to learn about them. Even though each film only gets a page or two in the book, you get a quick glimpse at the past to see how these films have had a lasting effect into the present day. Plus, it’s a beautiful coffee table book!