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DID YOU READ

“The Hammer Vault” brings you inside Britain’s famous house of horror

the hammer vault

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Award-winning actors Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing are household names thanks to a long list of roles spanning the range of classic cinema. However, long before Cushing lent his talents to “Star Wars” or Lee joined the “Lord of the Rings,” both actors became worldwide stars in a string of horror films produced by Britain’s most famous studio, Hammer Films.

From “The Quatermass Xperiment” and “The Curse of Frankenstein” to last year’s “Let Me In,” the films to come out of the British studio kick-started the careers of some of Hollywood’s biggest names, crossed oceans, and pushed the boundaries of the industry. That long history is charted in the recently released collection of Hammer Films archival material, The Hammer Vault.

Published by Titan Books, The Hammer Vault offers a chronological journey through the studio’s 76-year history via original correspondence, photographs, promotional material, and other never-before-seen items from the studio’s archives. The collection also features descriptions of each item penned by Hammer archive consultant Marcus Hearn, who offers some context for each photo, letter, or script’s importance in the Hammer legacy.

IFC received an early look at The Hammer Vault, and spoke to Hearn about the collection, his work with Hammer, and the legacy of Britain’s iconic house of horror. You can read the interview below, and get a look at some exclusive images from the new collection.

IFC: Hammer Films was making movies long before you and I were old enough to see one of their projects on the big screen. How did you get involved with the studio?

MARCUS HEARN: It started in 1994 when I worked at Marvel Comics. I was given the job of editing the official Hammer magazine, and that led to The Hammer Story, Hammer Glamour, The Art of Hammer and numerous DVD audio commentaries. I’m grateful that successive changes of management at Hammer have wanted me to stick around as a consultant.

IFC: What was your earliest memory of Hammer Films?

HEARN: I’m not old enough to have seen any of the older films at the cinema, so my education in Hammer horror came from late night television screenings. In England in the 1980s BBC2 would show double-bills that didn’t just introduce me to Hammer horror but also classics like “The Bride of Frankenstein” and “Night of the Demon.” It’s now quite rare to see black-and-white films on network television and I think that’s a great shame.

"The Hammer Vault" - Yvonne Horner, Don Chaffey, and Raquel Welch on the set of "One Million Years B.C."

IFC: Looking at the posters and other promotional material in the book, there’s a lot of art in there that simply wouldn’t be allowed in today’s market or might not have much success with today’s audiences.
What was different about the period when Hammer realised that art made it so successful?

HEARN: Some of the pre-production artwork from the 1970s is very explicit, and is all the more surprising because it mixes sex with violence. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that sexual violence was
considered inappropriate by censors in those days, just as it is now. Just because it appeared on pre-production artwork, such as “Hands of the Ripper,” doesn’t mean it was ever intended to be used on a finished poster. It was supposed to be attention-grabbing, and even shocking. But it wasn’t necessarily for public consumption.

IFC: While working with all of the Hammer memorabilia over the years, what was the biggest surprise for you?

HEARN: It was a surprise to discover what a prolific and innovative publicity machine Hammer was from the 1950s onwards. The digital age has made it rather easier, and cheaper, to aggressively market films, but Hammer launched some remarkably extensive campaigns in the days when everything had to be printed. By no means all that material has survived, but there was an incredible array of material for us to choose from for The Hammer Vault.

 

"The Hammer Vault" - "Dracula" promotional cover

IFC: Are there any pieces that have a particularly strange history?

HEARN: There were some items that I wanted to include but that unfortunately were no longer in the archive. The most intriguing of these was material relating to an exhibition held by the Blood Transfusion Service to coincide with the first screenings of “Dracula” in Birmingham in 1958. The exhibition was withdrawn after one week as it was considered to be in poor taste!

"The Hammer Vault" Peter Cushing and Terence Fisher on the set of "The Gorgon"

IFC: It’s reasonable to assume that a lot of today’s filmmakers have Hammer to thank for some of their early movie memories and the experiences that shaped their careers. Are there any particular films (or filmmakers) that come to mind as showing evidence of Hammer’s legacy?

HEARN: Tim Burton has acknowledged the influence of Hammer on “Sweeney Todd,” in particular, but I think it’s in the DNA of many horror filmmakers. For example there’s an episode of “True Blood” that features one of the characters watching “Dracula” on television. George Lucas isn’t particularly a fan of horror films, but don’t you think it’s interesting that both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee appeared in “Star Wars”?

IFC: What are some of your personal favorites from the Hammer archives?

HEARN: Recently I had the chance to photograph the props from the new film, “The Woman in Black,” which is out in February. It’s a disturbing film, and just being around some of the props made me feel a little uneasy. The book’s deadline meant that we weren’t able to include much about “The Woman in Black,” but we’ve created a special online Vault entry on film. People who have purchased The Hammer Vault can access the “Woman in Black” section on www.hammerfilms.com.

The Hammer Vault is available now from Titan Books.

Do you have a Hammer Films memory? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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