Thirty years is a long time. A generation. That’s how long it is since the last Hammer film hit the screen.
Back in 1978 Michael Carreras (the grandson of Enrique, the immigrant who started the ball rolling), in a desperate effort to diversify and dig the company out of a turgid cycle of remakes and variations on a theme, tried to recreate a Hitchcock classic for a later audience. The Lady Vanishes was a valiant effort too late – and the wrong choice. The Lady was on a hiding to nothing. It would always be compared with the fantastic oeuvre of Hitchcock and come out second best.
Since the halcyon days of 1968 when Michael’s father, James, took the company to the pinnacle of success and won the Queen’s Award for Industry, there have been a number of attempts to build on the company’s reputation. James saw the coming tsunami of splatter films which would engulf the horror industry and prudently sold off the company – to his son. A poisoned chalice if ever there was one.
After the failure of The Lady Vanishes, an attempt was made to rescue the company by one of its former directors, Roy Skeggs. Roy managed to put together a series of TV shows, but when the Americans backing the show pulled out, that was the end. The company was little more than an empty bag which succeeding groups of businessmen took on, decided a rescue attempt was doomed to failure, and passed on.
That was until 10th May this year. There had been rumblings that Hammer was about to be bought by a Dutch company under the control of John de Mol, founder of Endemol and the money behind Big Brother. The announcement that Cyrte Investments had bought the company was a bit of a surprise. John de Mol was still behind the deal and was about to plug in a resuscitating $100,000,000.
I was phoned early in the morning by Sky News to go and do an interview about the deal. I knew nothing about what was going on but spent the rest of the day giving interviews which revolved around the cliché, ‘back from the dead.’ I must admit to a hugh dollop of scepticism. I had been through the highs and lows of the attempts at reviving the moribund corpse of Hammer for most of the last three decades and thought nothing would come of the latest kiss of life.
Perhaps I am wrong. In a little backwater in Plumstead a film claiming to be the 194th Hammer film is nearing completion. This I have experienced at first hand. I was offered a sort of cameo role of a cameo role and did my bit one dark night in what is either a charnel house where the bodies were brought from the nearby docks during the Blitz in WW2, an incinerator, a medical disposal plant or a swimming pool. Depends who you are talking to.
The film is called Beyond The Rave and is the pipe cleaner for a return to active production of Hammer Film Productions. That near thirty year wait is almost at an end, it seems…
Check back next Tuesday for Ingrid Pitt’s next column!