Legendary Hammer Films started in 1934. With some fits and starts it began to take real shape following World War II, when productions started again in 1949. It wasn't until the last 50's however where two great entities came together - that of Hammer's Gothic/Horror/Sci-Fi melodrama subject matter and those amazingly intense blood reds of Technicolor. Hammer Films has had a long life, but not without death and resurrection. By the time the 1970's came around, Hammer was in full swing with a history of successful U.S. studio partnerships. During that period however, the color television also became a staple in most households and like the video business of today, it was keeping people home more and more. The film business was beginning to suffer. The 1980's arrived and Hammer Film's adapted by making the move from film to television, but it was short lived and the 90's proved worse.
Enter the millennium. Hammer gets acquired by Cyrte Investments who also purchases the Los Angeles based production company Spitfire Pictures. The acquisition of both Spitfire and Hammer effectively operate as one business with two separate brands. In 2007 Hammer horror turned 50 and to celebrate the occasion the BFI (British Film Institute) restores Hammer's original Dracula.
This year expect more from Hammer with new horror genre productions with big names. Danielle Radcliffe was just announced to star in The Woman in Black, set to film this fall. Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan along with Hammer alum Sir Christopher Lee (see sweet and melancholy video of Lee's on set interview here) lead a cast in the upcoming The Resident. In 2008
What is most exciting about Hammer Films's survival, in my opinion, are the The Hammer Archives. Although I'm unsure of what films outside of Dracula have been restored, there are Hammer collections in the Horror, Suspense and Noir categories available on DVD and you can browse the archives on their website. Since that section of their site is titled "The Hammer Archives" and not "The Hammer Library", I gather that preservation is involved but I'm not sure. I didn't find anything on the site that was about the archive itself. Just a listing of their films. Hammer Production's (changed to Hammer Films later) first film, The Public Life of Henry the Ninth (1935) is on BFI's Most Wanted list. Original elements remain missing and are in much need of being located and restored. Hopefully others are in the process of restoration or there is at least a campaign to keep these films intact in order to really preserve the Hammer Films legacy.
Hammer's product varied considerably in quality, but one thing is for sure, it's contribution to cinema's B-Horror, Science-Fiction and Sexploitation genres are unquestionable. There aren't any other films like Hammer films, especially during it's hey-day in the 50's and 60's. Genuinely spooky, yet sexy and inventive, and let's not forget that beautiful saturated Technicolor. I also prefer a horror movie to be more disturbing and frightening than gore filled. Even some Hammer are too much for me. Normally scary movies from an earlier time suit me just fine. A Hammer film from the 60's is more than nostalgia though. It's B-Horror, Sci-Fi and Sexploitation at it's best. They are like unsettling dreams that stay with you for days. With Hammer's latest revival, it looks like the production company continues to prove it's longevity. Like the cat with many lives, Hammer keeps returning from the dead.