Hammer is the legendary British film company that dominated the horror genre for decades. In The Hammer Vault, author Marcus Hearn recaps many of the films produced by Hammer with scant notes about the release, controversies, and images of promotional posters, stills, and props from the movies. He begins in 1954 with The Quartermass Xperiment, and concludes with 2014’s The Woman in Black: Angel of Death.
Most films are covered in two pages, while a handful only receive one page. It is certainly interesting to see the various images, such as annotated script pages, newsletters, and press passes to advance screenings, but two or three paragraphs about the films leave the reader wanting more.
The Hammer Vault is 12.9 inches by 10.1 inches and 184 pages long. It is an enjoyable overview of the company’s history, but is by no means exhaustive. The real value of this books is in the images rather than the text.
Originally published in 2010, The Art of Hammer is a visual guide to the history of Hammer Films’ releases dating back to the 1950s. The artwork is stunning, at times risqué, and along with the films, often caused controversy upon release. The artwork on the front (pictured above) comes from Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell, the 1972 movie starring Peter Cushing as Baron Victor Frankenstein/Dr. Carl Victor and David Prowse as the Creature/Herr Schneider. The book also comes with a jacket featuring artwork from Dracula A.D. 1972 starring Christopher Lee. The 200-page book is large at 10.3 by 13.1 inches, heavy and sturdy.
Except for a couple of introductory pages written by Marcus Hearn, the book is largely made up of images of promotional posters from around the world with brief captions identifying the film, as well as the dimensions of the original piece and the illustrator (if known). The author cautions in the introduction that The Art of Hammer is not intended to be a complete catalogue of Hammer posters, but a general overview of “examples from some of the most inventive and controversial marketing campaigns in post-war film history.”
As many of the original pieces were destroyed by theaters after they were used, a book like this serves as an inexpensive way to look into the past and see how far the art of movie posters has come, or how far it has fallen.
No one could ever surpass Bela Lugosi as the quintessential Dracula, but Christopher Lee came close in the Hammer film, Horror of Dracula. He reprised the role several times, but the best and most memorable performance was in that initial 1958 movie.