Page last updated at 09:07 GMT, Friday, 30 October 2009

Actress recalls glamour of Hammer

By Tim Masters
Entertainment correspondent, BBC News

Publicity shot from Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)
Madeline Smith in a publicity shot from Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)

Hammer horror films made stars of actors like Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, but some of the most iconic images from the Hammer era are of the glamorous actresses who appeared alongside them.

Madeline Smith was a familiar face on TV and in films in the 1970s.

Often cast in comic roles in shows like The Two Ronnies and Doctor at Large, she appeared in three Hammer horrors - Taste the Blood of Dracula, The Vampire Lovers and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell.

She also appeared in Roger Moore's first outing as James Bond in Live and Let Die, and alongside Frankie Howerd in the Up Pompeii film.

The actress, now aged 60, features on the front cover of a new book by Hammer historian Marcus Hearn that celebrates two decades of Hammer glamour.

Here, Madeline Smith recalls her Hammer heyday and her time as a Bond girl.

Hammer Glamour cover

That's a striking front cover photograph - what do you remember about it?

What I remember is hating that dress. I thought, 'I can't wear that - what on earth am I going to wear under it?'

I have no idea where we were, on a set or a commercial, it certainly wasn't a Hammer film. I remember being photographed in that, and I remember pulling these terrible expressions.

I used to get rung up from time to time by these photographers. Mostly they came along and took photographs of me on my bed in my bedroom.

What's your earliest memory of Hammer?

Taste the Blood of Dracula - wonderful - we made it in 1969. For that one I did audition, and was beyond joy to get the part.

I had secretly yearned to be in one of these horror films, but because I was so innocent, gormless and untried in every sense I had no idea what a bordello scene was, or why I was in that extraordinary little outfit... but I knew how to pull gormless faces.

Shortly after, I was given the part in The Vampire Lovers.

The Vampire Lovers was a much more adult direction for Hammer in 1970...

I have to remind you of my previous remark about being completely gormless and innocent - we've only moved on about three months.

I got a very worried phone call from the producer who said he was concerned about my lack of bosom. He said 'we like you a lot, but we don't think you are voluptuous enough'.

I reassured him, and then I scuttled off to Hornby and Clarke dairy round the corner and I bought every yoghurt I could find and stuffed myself like you might fatten cattle, and it worked!

As you see [motions to book cover], need I say more?

Looking back at films like The Vampire Lovers, do you feel you were exploited?

I was a very willing exploitee - I didn't mind at all. My main point of existence is to make people laugh and I was able to use those bosoms later for comedy, I was the foil in a lot of comedy shows and sketches and I have absolutely no regret about being 'sexploited'.

Others I know take against it. I didn't mind looking womanly, that's not ever been concern of mine - but it is for others, and good for them.

Madeline Smith as Henrietta in Hampton Wick - a spoof classic serial that ran through series one of The Two Ronnies in 1971
Madeline Smith appeared in a spoof classic serial on The Two Ronnies show in 1971

Did you get much fan reaction when the films came out?

There was no great marketing machine or PR in those days. You did your photo session, but there were no videos or DVDs in those days. Your fan base was actually very small.

A lot of these films crept out with no premiere and because Hammer was very, very, very low budget there were no first nights. It's really TV that's brought about my fan base. It's wonderful - I'm ancient now and I've got far more fans and far more mail than I ever had.

Do you watch yourself on DVD?

Somebody sent me Taste The Blood Of Dracula and I thought it was a really good film. I'm a bit embarrassed about my scene. I know what was going on inside my head at the time - which wasn't much.

Let's have a look at some other pictures of you in the book.

There's another one from the same session as the front cover - and you can see how cold I am... [fixes me with her eyes, and laughs] Am I being dreadfully rude?

You were in the Bond film Live and Let Die? Isn't that the one when Roger Moore undoes your zip with his magnetic watch?

I loved that scene and I love him. I made the Bond in January 1973. I think that was the first scene that Roger shot in his new go at Bond.

I'd already had a part in The Persuaders with him and Tony Curtis - and I've been told since that he suggested me for the part in the Bond.

I don't even remember auditioning. And suddenly there I am shooting it with that divine being. He'd cut his hair off and lost a lot of weight by the time he was Bond. I think he looked smashing.

Hammer is making films again - would you like to be in a future movie?

If I felt at home with it - yes. But I don't want to play an old lady. I was more of an ingénue. I had a very slight talent and was incredibly lucky. I fear If I try to stretch it further than it will stretch it'll bounce back on me. So the answer is yes, with reservations. I am no Maggie Smith or Judi Dench. It's been a long time now for me.

Hammer Glamour (Titan Books) by Marcus Hearn is out now. The Hammer Festival exhibition at Idea Generation Gallery runs 28 Oct - 15 November.

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