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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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