The black blood of The Hammer Vault

Posted by CB Droege

In the 1950’s, horror cinema was still in its infancy, and at the top of that game was Hammer Films.

Today, Hammer is one of many studios making great, terrifying films - having only recently been reopened after a 30 years absence from original film-making - but at the time they were nearly alone in the business, and much of what we know in horror films was established by Hammer and its few contemporaries.

The Hammer Vault is a look into that history, covering in a glance, the entire history of the storied horror house.

The book mostly contains scans and photographs of marketing material - programs, posters, magazine ads, house cards, publicity manuals, campaign books, etc.

However, there are also a few other images, like rare behind-the-scenes photos, ticket stubs, and ancient props.

It’s all divided chronologically by film, with a page or two devoted to each production starting in 1954 with The Quatermass Xpriment and running through the 2009 film Let Me In. Their newest film, the upcoming Woman in Black is mentioned in the introduction to the book, but there are no pages devoted to it.

Each film is accompanied by a bit of text description , giving some insight into the production of the film, and detailed descriptions of each photo. Note though that the copy is all clearly written with an audience who already knows what all of these films are about. On occasion, especially for some of the more obscurely titled films, I was left with great insights into what it was like to make the film, but no clue what the plot of the film was.

One of the most interesting things is seeing the trend in horror themes over the years, and the changes in costumes and other styles, marking off the decades.

For example, the tuxedoes and trench coats of the male characters in the films in the 50s give way to the business suit in the 60’s, while the women are put in slightly more revealing costumes each year until the bikinis show up in the late 60’s, and just nakedness - even in the posters for the films - in the early 70s, where some of the movies, like 1971's Twins of Evil, look more like shock-porn than horror.

That’s when production tapers off however, and when the films pick back up in the 00s, the films simply look contemporary.

The book itself is very high quality - full stock, oversized hardback with a slick design. There's no dust jacket, but the mostly black cover has a foil-embossed title which really stands out, and all the pages are full-color printed heavy-weight semi-gloss, which really makes every illustration pop nicely. You really can’t ask for better quality than this.

The Hammer Vault would make a great addition to the coffee table of any horror film fan. It hits  bookstores on December 20, 2011, and can be pre-ordered here on Amazon.