Redder than red blood, international ingénues with deep cleavage, lush settings, elaborate costumes and sets, these are just some of the aspects people think of when they remember Hammer Films and the horrors the studio constructed.
Filmed in eye popping color, Hammer’s horror movies brought the Universal pantheon of monsters to life like never before, adding elements of sensual eroticism and (for the age) intense violence to truly update the clunky creatures of yore. Christopher Lee, Ralph Bates, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough, Ingrid Pitt, Valerie Leon, David Prowse, and Patrick Troughton filled filmgoers with loathing and desire in Hammer’s world famous gothic films. Hammer often produced massive scale features on shoestring budgets, relying on recycled costumes and sets and the skill of their players to bring life to scripts that were usually hastily written. It all worked, creating a legacy of horror unmatched in modern film history.
Hammer’s main focus was on the classic monsters with Lee and Cushing starring in a Dracula cycle that rivaled Universal’s. Cushing also starred in a series of Frankenstein films, beginning with The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), where the focus was on the mad doctor rather than his creation. Hammer’s Frankensteins lost the kitsch factor and went straight for the jugular with Cushing’s Victor Frankenstein portrayed as almost a Dr. Mengele type sociopath and the myriad creatures trading in the pathos of the Universal films for lurid Technicolor violence.
Oddly, Hammer only produced one werewolf movie, Curse of the Werewolf (1961) starring Oliver Reed, while producing four Mummy films, the first (The Mummy, 1959), another awesome Lee and Cushing vehicle. Hammer produced their take on the Phantom of the Opera (1962), two versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, one of which, Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971), gave a nice gender twist to the proceedings, and even explored zombies in Plague of the Zombies (1966).
Hammer’s Dracula films proved so popular that the studio introduced more vampires in Brides of Dracula (a film that didn’t actually feature Dracula), Vampire Lovers (1970), Lust for a Vampire (1971), and Twins of Evil (1971). Hammer even featured monsters that attempted to build on the Universal pantheon in films like The Abominable Snowman (1957), Reptile (1966), and The Gorgon (1964). And let us not forget the Hammer oddities, experimental horror that really tried new ideas to bring in the blood hungry horror fans, films like Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974), a vampire-kung-fu mash-up, and Captain Chronos-Vampire Hunter (1974).
These are the bits of celluloid madness that the studio actually produced, but there were tons of films the studio abandoned. So come with us dear friends, as we open the vaults of Hammer Studios and take you on a tour of the unmade Hammer horror movies. Some of these films never got past the poster stage while others had some actual footage shot, but all are intriguing looks into what could have been.
Kali, Devil Bride of Dracula
In 1975, Hammer Films was desperately trying to keep afloat. Funding was drying up but concepts were flowing fast and furious from the bloodiest studio in the world. Thanks to some advance poster art done by the great Tom Chantrell, we get an idea what some of these films could have been.
One of those movies was reportedly going to be a prequel to Hammer’s Dracula films. This movie, to be set and filmed in India, was entitled Kali, the Devil Bride of Dracula. Just think how Hammer could have brought India to life with their penchant for stunning sets. Hammer had a history of bringing very exotic locals to life, from ancient Egypt in the studio’s Mummy films to pre-War Afghanistan in 1965’s Brigand of Kandahar, and Kali could have seen Hammer exploring a part of the world they rarely covered.
According to historians, this movie would have featured a younger version Dracula, and recounted the vampire and Van Helsing’s first meeting in India. Would it have featured a new monster in Kali? Would Dracula and Kali have had a sexual tryst the likes of which horror fans could never imagine? It seems like they might as the film was also known as Dracula and the Blood Lust of Kali in other bits of promotional art which implies that Dracula and Kali were going to have some kind of kinky love affair. Imagine what Kali could do with all those arms.
Whatever the film was supposed to be, the location, the connection to Dracula, a return to the Lee and Cushing magic, and the film’s status as a prequel to one of the studio’s most infamous film series makes Kali, Devil Bride of Dracula a fascinating piece of lost Hammer history.
Mistress of the Seas
Hammer had previously delved into the world of pirates in the oddly land locked Devil-Ship Pirates (1964) starring Lee as Captain Robeles, as well as Pirates of Blood River (1962) and Captain Clegg (1964), so the swashbuckling world of high seas adventure was not alien to the studio. Mistress of the Seas was reportedly conceived with the idea of Raquel Welch in mind. Welch had previously steamed up the Stone Age in Hammer’s Ray Harryhausen dinosaur romp One Million Years B.C.(1967) and they hoped the success of that stop motion jigglefest would translate into success for their newest nautical Welch vehicle.
The film was supposed to be an account of the life of Anne Bonney. Now imagine Welch stuffed into a Hammer conceived pirate costume and you have an idea why the studio thought this lost film was marketable. Hammer was known for their voluptuous women and daring neck lines so the studio was counting on adolescent boys everywhere to embrace Mistress of the Seas. Hammer had done a number of semi-biographical dramas in the past, some to great effect such as Rasputin, the Mad Monk (1966), so a period drama starring a lusty pirate queen would have been right in Hammer’s historical exploitative wheelhouse.
Sadly, all we have is a poster and our imaginations to imagine Welch as Bonnie but the film could have been one of Hammer’s very few female led films.
Payment in Fear
Payment in Fear was intended to be a reimagining of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear. It seems like unusual faire from Hammer as the studio was almost exclusively in the horror business at this time. It is interesting that in the waning days of the studio that Hammer would look towards genres other than horror to exploit.
All that aside, look at the poster! Some buff dudes and a lady in desperate needs of shirt buttons all standing ready to kick some butt in front of some kind of off road vehicle, I’m not sure what’s going on but it reeks of ’70s grindhouse seediness.
When the Earth Cracked Open
It’s nice that the topless astronaut lady featured in the poster to this aborted Hammer skin flick has an oxygen helmet, the poor lass needs to breath after all. I have no idea what’s going on in that poster and reportedly, neither did Hammer as the studio could not decide whether When the Earth Cracked Open was going to be a contemporary set sci-fi pot boiler or a prehistoric actioner.
The film was set to star Bond girl Caroline Munro (The Spy Who Loved Me), although no film historian quite knows if Hammer was going to be daring enough to put the gorgeous Munro in that outfit…or lack of outfit. One thing is for sure, knowing Hammer, the crack in the Earth wouldn’t have been the only crack featured in this film. Isn’t space supposed to be cold? Poor lady.
Speaking of lack of clothes, the legendary vampire fatale Vampirella and the always ready to titillate Hammer studios would have been a match made in adolescent boy heaven, and it almost happened. Legend has it, as Hammer Studios was breathing its last, Michael Carreras put an ad in Warren magazines, asking the horror aficionados that loved Eerie, Creepy, and, of course, Vampirella what character should be featured in a new Hammer film. To absolutely no one’s surprise, the scantily clad mistress of darkness won by a landslide.
Hammer saw Vampirella as a way to possibly attract the same success as Barbarella did, and geared up production on the feature. An outline was prepared by Jimmy Sangster which was embellished by John Starr, Lew Davidson, and Christopher Wicking. Think of the potential directions Hammer could have gone with this one! Having Vampirella go up against Cushing’s Van Helsing (who was reportedly set to star in the film and even went on a publicity junket to promote the project) or team up with Christopher Lee’s Dracula, a Hammer Vampirella film could have made the character an even more monstrous icon, but alas, it was not to be, and what a shame that is considering the actresses Hammer was looking to put in Vampi’s boots.
Hammer first looked to former Bond girl and the only actress under contract with Hammer, Caroline Munro to play the titular (snicker) star, but when Munro balked at the nudity the film would require, Hammer turned to Valerie Leon. When Leon also was not thrilled with the amount of time she would have to spend on camera in her birthday suit, Hammer brought in Barbara Leigh to rock the Vampi slingshot. To raise money, Hammer had Leigh visit American International Pictures in the Vampirella costume. It worked, duh. But when American insisted a major American leading man would have to be cast the whole thing’s already shaky budget constraints snapped, leaving fans cold. The deal was the final nail in the coffin of Hammer and fans were left with the sexiest what if in cinema history.
The Haunting of Toby Jugg
Hammer explored the topic of satanic possession in The Devil Rides Out (1968). The film was based on the 1934 Dennis Wheatley novel of the same name. Hammer must have dug the author’s work and the topic because one of the unmade Hammer films was to be based on another Wheatley novel focusing on demonic possession, The Haunting of Toby Jugg, like The Devil Rides Out, Hammer was interested in having the great Richard Matheson write the screenplay.
It’s a shame The Haunting of Toby Jugg never saw the light of day, as The Devil Rides Out was one of Hammer’s most haunting chillers. The novel explores satanic cults, and features a multi-legged Satan haunting a World War II veteran. The late ’60s Hammer was becoming even more willing to push the envelope on pure horror, and with Matheson onboard; this film could have been a classic.
Victim Of His Imagination
Hammer certainly cashed in on the imagination of Bram Stoker with a large number of films starring Stoker’s Dracula and even adapted Stoker’s novel, The Jewel of Seven Stars as Blood from a Mummy’s Tomb (1971). But one of the great unmade Hammer horrors was set to be a film biography of the man himself, the writer that gave Dracula to the world: Bram Stoker.
Reportedly, the film was set to be the life story of Bram Stoker interspersed with adaptations of a number of Stoker stories. The poster Hammer mocked up has an image of Christopher Lee’s Dracula and one would assume that if the film went into production, Hammer would have liked Lee to reprise his most famous of roles. It would have been fascinating to see which Stoker stories Hammer would have gone with and what elements of Stoker’s life the film would have revealed. Victim of His Imagination could have been a fascinating way for Hammer to keep exploring the legend of Dracula (and the man who gave him to the world) while refreshing the franchise.
While Hammer was doing vampires, werewolves, mummies, and mad scientists, many other film studios were making bank with giant monsters. Godzilla was as popular as a monster could be and Hammer wanted in on the Kaiju action. So Hammer joined forces and funds with the studio that birthed Godzilla, Toho, to bring Nessie, a modern tale of cryptozoological horror starring the Loch Ness Monster to the unsuspecting monster loving public.
Imagine if the minds and scare techniques of Hammer were to join with the studio that perfected giant monster mayhem, the Japanese sensibility of Toho with the aesthetic of Hammer, it could have been huge. Toho even built the Nessie model and filmed some sequences before Hammer pulled funding. Instead, Hammer went with the Christopher Lee sleaze fest To the Devil a Daughter (1976) co-starring a 15-year-old Nastassja Kinski.
To further whet the appetite of Kaiju-philes, the Nessie prop was created by Teruyoshi Nakano the man who brought Godzilla and all his Toho friends and foes to life. The film might have been a departure for Hammer and the Nessie prop may have looked kind of like a constipated, wet sock puppet but it would have been fun to see what a film would feel like combining two the finest monster studios in history. Nessie has been teased as a King Kong meets Jaws type of romp from two studios that knew how to create mayhem and atmospheric scares. Nessie could have saved Hammer if it met with the same financial success that met any Godzilla project of the era or the 1976 King Kong remake, but it was not meant to be and the film has been relegated to the mists of speculation just like Nessie itself.
Chaka Zulu: The Black Napoleon
Hammer tried everything in the mid-70s, so why not blaxploitation? Other than the aforementioned Rasputin the Mad Monk and Countess Dracula (1971), Hammer didn’t indulge in many historical dramas and even those two films included so much fantastical mysticism that they barley count. It would have been interesting to see how Hammer would have pulled off this biographical tale of the founder of the Zulu Nation.
Would the talents of Hammer have gone the full historical drama route forging their first hero of color or would they have gone the crass exploitation route so prevalent in the era? It seems this film could have had the touch of class it needed to succeed as Christopher Lee particularly wanted to see Chaka Zulu: The Black Napoleon get made. Lee never saw Hammer explore Chaka but he did costar in the vastly successful 1986 television mini-series event as Lord Bathurst. Lee’s scenes were some of the finest of the event as he got to live this particular cinematic dream long after the original Hammer studios collapsed.
A planned fourth film in the Karnstein saga of vampire films which included The Vampire Lovers (1970), Lust for a Vampire (1971), and Twins of Evil (1971), Vampire Virgins could have continued the carnality and cheesiness found in the above schlock fests. If you love vampires, cleavage, and gallons of that redder than red Hammer blood, these films are for you and a fourth film would have been more than welcome in these early ’70s wankfests vampire tales of eroticism. Hey, Twins of Evil did feature Peter Cushing in his most vile role, the sadist Gustav Wei.
The Black Hole of Calcutta
The Black Hole of Calcutta was a small dungeon in Fort William in Calcutta, India, where troops of the Nawab of Bengal, held British prisoners of war. Conditions were so cramped and horrible in the prison that 123 British soldiers died an agonizing death. If that’s what this Hammer film was about, it wouldn’t have been a bundle of laughs. Hammer didn’t produce any war pictures when their horror cycle began so this would have been a departure from the usual Hammer fare. Hey with the film taking primarily in a nightmarishly claustrophobic hole, Hammer could have saved money on sets.
Vlad the Impaler
This film was supposed to be directed by Ken Russell (Tommy, The Lair of the White Worm) and is possibly the most intriguing addition to this list of unmade nightmares. Would this have starred Christopher Lee? Would it have been a prologue to the Dracula cycle of Hammer films? Can you imagine the set and costumes involved in a period piece featuring the origin of Dracula? The mind reels.
While a recent attempt to tell the Prince of Wallachia’s story, Dracula Untold, lacked bite, this film that was almost made during the glory days of Lee and Hammer could have set a standard for prequels and horror period pieces. Seeing Lee’s leering eyes as he impaled his enemies, man, that would have rocked!
Yet another Dennis Wheatley novel that Hammer was looking at for purposes of adaptation, The Satanist (written in 1960) took advantage of Britain’s growing concern with satanic black masses, a subject British tabloids brought to the forefront of cultural awareness in the ’60s. The novel starred the protagonist of To the Devil – a Daughter (1953), which Hammer adapted and starred the same protagonist Colonel Verney, an anti-Soviet anti-black magic British spymaster.
Reportedly, Christopher Lee was set to star and if not, Hammer, according to historians, approached Orson Welles for the part. Let that sink into your frontal lobe for a moment. Come to think of it, someone needs to look at the Verney novels for a modern day cinematic reimagining as this series were some of the finest examples of occult fiction the ’60s had to offer. Like James Bond meets Dr. Strange kind of stuff.
Zeppelin v Pterodactyls
Now, do I really have to explain why this is awesome? Has there ever been a more strangely specific title in all of cinema? It has a zeppelin. And Pterodactyls. And they fight. It has guys in zeppelins with machine guns, fighting Pterodactyls. Not just dinosaurs, specifically, Pterodactyls.
Why are they fighting? It seems to be a World War II piece, so are the Pterodactyls Nazis? Because Nazi Pterodactyls would be the coolest thing ever. Would Christopher Lee have played a Pterodactyl? These are the burning questions that Hammer fans will never find out because shockingly, no one wanted to fund Zeppelin v. Pterodactyls
A zeppelin seems like the last thing you would want to use to fight a Pterodactyl, one peck and it’s Hindenburg time. This film could have started a transportation versus dinosaur genre. Bus v. Allosaurus. Trolley Car v. Triceratops. Cargo Plane v. Pachycephalosaurus. This could have changed the world as we know it, but alas, like so many other Hammer horrors, It was not to be. Segway v. Ankylosaurus?