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

Hammer's iconic images explained

Hammer films historian Marcus Hearn describes two of his favourite images from the Hammer archive now on display at a new exhibition in London.

Launched in 1934, Hammer's first colour film was The Men of Sherwood Forest in 1954. The success of The Quatermass Xperiment in 1955 led to Hammer's move into the big-screen horror genre which lasted until 1976's To The Devil A Daughter.

The Hammer theatrical movie brand is set to return in 2010 with The Resident, starring Hilary Swank and Sir Christopher Lee. The company is also making an English-language version of Swedish vampire hit Let The Right One In, entitled Let Me In.

THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES
Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires poster

The one that I think is especially interesting is the one for the Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires. This poster was illustrated by Tom Chantrell, who was Hammer's most prolific poster artist, and it was his last ever commission for the company in 1974.

If you look at design of Seven Golden Vampires it's dominated by a hand emerging from the main area of the illustration grasping a sword.
Now, three years after Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires came out Tom Chantrell was commissioned by LucasFilm to create the British poster for Star Wars - and it followed almost the same design.

Whereas the hand is grasping a sword in the Golden Vampires poster, in the Star Wars poster it's Darth Vader holding a light saber.

And the other interesting thing is that of all the posters created for Star Wars around the world, his was the only one to feature an illustration of Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin - which he did because he had spent 20 years working for Hammer.

DRACULA
Dracula image

There are a number of iconic images in the exhibition in terms of posters I'm sure everyone will be familiar with.

There's the famous poster of Raquel Welch from One Million Years BC which features an image of Raquel that appeared on an estimated 200 magazine covers in 1966.

But in terms of photographs, I think the most iconic picture is the one from the 1958 Dracula which shows Christopher Lee as the vampire, looming over Melissa Stribling.

This was a very awkward pose to engineer for staff photographer Tom Edwards. He would get the girl to lie on the bed hold her head back, while Dracula appeared to crawl all over her like a bat.

But it was considered so successful he repeated it with different actors for subsequent films.

And so we can see it recreated almost exactly with Oliver Reed and Shirley Anne Field in a film called The Damned, and later with Charles Gray and Nike Arrighi in The Devil Rides Out.


Marcus Hearn was interviewed by BBC News Entertainment correspondent Tim Masters

The Hammer Festival exhibition at Idea Generation Gallery runs 28 Oct - 15 November.



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