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Friday, November 20, 2009

Cool Ass Cinema Book Reviews: Two Tomes on Hammer Horror

HAMMER GLAMOUR: Classic Images From the Archives of Hammer Films

By Marcus Hearn

Hardcover; 160 pages; color & B/W

The author of the equally large coffee table tome, THE HAMMER STORY: The Authorized History of Hammer Films returns to British Gothic territory with this loving homage to those gorgeous ladies of of the famed production company. Filled with dozens of alluring pictures as well as behind the scenes and publicity shots of those beauties that stood alongside the beasts of Hammer's horror and fantasy film output.

With over 50 Hammer starlets as well as an appendix featuring many additional actresses, each entry discusses their careers (ever how brief many of them may have been); how they came to be discovered, their roles and what they went on to do after their tenure with Hammer was over. Trivial tidbits abound amongst the numerous and plentiful photos filling out the book.

The only negatives (which are terribly minor for the most part) is that some of the women get at least four pages while some others only get one and there's relatively few nude pics for those curious about them. Considering there are other books on Hammer with a handful of revealing photos, this book has relatively few. Also, where the hell is Dana Gillespie (THE LOST CONTINENT, Amicus' THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT)?

Nonetheless, HAMMER GLAMOUR is a highly recommended purchase. Any Hammer fan should have this book in their collection if only for the wealth of pictorials of the company's stable of beauties. It can be bought for under $20.

Next up is one of the most enticing and curious pieces of reference material on the British horror film company.

HAMMER FILMS: A LIFE IN PICTURES--The Visual Story of Hammer Films

By Wayne Kinsey

Hardcover; 224 pages; color & B/W; Limited to 2,500 copies

Wayne Kinsey, the author of the painstakingly mounted and exhaustively thorough HAMMER FILMS: THE BRAY YEARS and HAMMER FILMS: THE ELSTREE YEARS returns with even more unearthed goodies for Hammerheads to slaver over. Where those two aforementioned books featured many rare behind the scenes pictures, so does this hardback book feature hundreds of even more rare and unseen photos from the history of Hammer. One of the reasons that this book will be of interest to serious Hammer fans are the inclusion of rare photos from Hammer productions outside their more widely known horror realm.

There are 12 chapters and these are--

1. So, Who Was Hammer?
2. Hammer Noir
3. Frankenstein
4. Dracula
5. Horror
6. Science Fiction
7. Psychological Thrillers
8. Drama
9. War
10. Fantasy
11. Comedies
12. Swashbucklers

It should be stressed that, outside of the Introduction and the Foreword, the book is a massive collection of rare stills showcasing the actors and film technicians at work with captions detailing the scenes pictured.

Hammer fans will find much to enjoy here in visual form. Two examples are color behind the scenes shots of effects artists preparing the gruesome fate of the monster in FRANKENSTEIN & THE MONSTER FROM HELL. Another sees Chris Lee as Dracula rehearsing his manic stabbing of a mannequin standing in for Anouska Hempel from SCARS OF DRACULA.

There's really nothing bad to say about this book aside from it being rather costly at nearly $35.00. This magnificent manuscript is dominated by a plethora of pictures limited to only 2,500 copies and when they're gone, the price will only go up even further.

Like the above reviewed book, A LIFE IN PICTURES is another must own reference book for any serious Hammer fan as well as those that feel everything has been said (or seen) on the subject of the most famous British horror film company. On the inside jacket, there is a blurb for an upcoming book by the meticulous Mr. Kinsey entitled HAMMER FILMS-THE REAL STORY which features all new interviews with key players from Hammer including many detailing their accounts for the first time. This upcoming book promises to be a must buy as well and another winner for the enterprising Wayne Kinsey.


I Like Horror Movies said...

I will have to be sure and pick up A LIFE IN PICTURES, but I was very surprised and happy with HAMMER GLAMOUR, never expected the amount of information that would be collaborated with the beautiful imaging. Great reviews V!

venoms5 said...

Thanks, Carl. I got tons of film reference books including some more on the way. A lot of them I've never gotten the time to actually sit down and read from cover to cover, lol. I don't have much time for anything these days.

Snipes said...

I just picked up about 3 Hammer books as well. I love Hammer Glamour, very informative had great pictures. Hammer Films A Life In Pictures I was a little disappointed in, mainly because it was almost twice the price of Glamour and not very much in the way of information, a lot of pictures though. Probably will be a nice collector's item some day.

Also picked up The Hammer Story, highly recommend this one goes through all the films with a lot of pictures. Also have Hammer Films: The Elstree Studio Years on order with Amazon, be a couple weeks before I get that, but I here it's good as well. Tried to find the Bray Studio Years book but seems it out of print and highly expensive.

venoms5 said...

I have the two latter books and they are two of the best ever published in my opinion. They touch upon far more ground than HAMMER STORY, which is likewise a great book. I used to love lots of pictures myself, but now I much more want to learn the background info involved in the productions and both Bray and Elstree studio years have that in abundance and lots of rare behind the scenes photos. Big glossy pics are still nice, though.

Snipes said...

Any opinion on the book called "A History of Horrors: The Rise and Fall of the House of Hammer"? I'm thinking about getting that as well.

venoms5 said...

Hi, MVP. I have yet to purchase this book as I already have half a dozen or more books on the company. Based on the author himself, the book is easily a worthy purchase.

He also wrote a meticulous tome on actor, Vincent Price entitled VINCENT PRICE: THE ART OF FEAR which is also a must own if you are a fan. I had planned on doing reviews for older books, too, that may have fallen through the cracks.

I do plan to pick up the one in question very soon, though.

Snipes said...

Thanks, then I'll plan on getting that one too. What about "Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography" I was looking at that one too.

venoms5 said...

That's a good one, MVP. But like most McFarland books, it's very pricey. There's pictures, but they're B/W. This is more of a book you'd find in a library as opposed to the shelves at a Borders or Barnes & Nobles.

So if you're expecting something along the lines of THE HAMMER STORY, you may be slightly disappointed. However, it is greatly informative. Considering there are a good number of other books just as informative (and more coming out), you may wish to skip this one. I guess it comes down to how much you are willing to pay.

Snipes said...

Got the McFarland book in the mail today. You're right quite pricey. For $75 I was expecting a very large heavy book, but it's actually lighter and small than all the other Hammer books I bought! Doesn't appear you can get a new copy much cheaper so I took the plunge. Not sorry I bought it, just a little surprised it costs so much. Anyway has a lot of very interesting stuff in it. They're definitely not afraid to out right slam some of the films. I'll give it a read through and post a review in a couple weeks.

Still waiting for both Studio years books both are on back order, I was able to find the 1st one on Borders website.

venoms5 said...

I think you'll be very pleased with the Studio Years books. They're packed with information. They're two of my favorite books.

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