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Wednesday, December 3, 1997 Published at 00:36 GMT


Homage to Hammer horror

A rogues' gallery of villains are on display at London's Museum of the Moving Image as fans pay tribute to 40 years of horror from one of the Britain's best loved movie makers, Hammer Film studios.

[ image: Christopher Lee in character...]
Christopher Lee in character...
Count Dracula, Frankenstein and a life-size replica of an Egyptian mummy all bear testament to the skill of the studio's creative department and to the versatility of one of Hammer's favourite stars, actor Christopher Lee.

[ image: ... shocks a speechless Peter Cushing...]
... shocks a speechless Peter Cushing...
Lee is most often remembered for his portrayals of unspeakable evil opposite the taciturn Peter Cushing. They starred together in seven Hammer films representing, for many, the definitive Count Dracula and Professor Van Helsing combination.

[ image: ... in Hammer's first all colour movie ...]
... in Hammer's first all colour movie ...
Hammer's heyday was in the late 1950's and 60's. They are credited with producing the first horror film shot in colour. When it was released in 1957 "The Curse of Frankenstein" broke box office records and recouped over 70 times its production costs.

[ image: ..The Curse of Frankenstein.]
..The Curse of Frankenstein.
Other memorable films include "The Gorgon" for which audiences were issued with masks to ensure they would not be turned to stone, and "Rasputin the Mad Monk", apparently a favourite in the United States where stick-on-beards are de rigeur.

But Hammer has had an impact beyond the followers of kitsch. Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino have both acknowledged its influence and Martin Scorsese said: "If we saw the logo of Hammer films we knew it would be a very special picture."

But Hammer were unable to compete with the high production values of Hollywood and during the 1970's steadily lost audiences. Even the introduction of full frontal nudity could not stem the decline and Hammer made their last horror film in1975.

Perhaps they should have stuck with the false beards.

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