DID YOU READ

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

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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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.