A Case Study by Sean Maguire
Hammer’s beginnings lie with Enrique Carreas and William Hinds, Enrique Carreas owned a chain of Cinemas and William Hinds owned a Jewllery shop group but wanted to get into film production. In 1934 Hinds founded Hammer productions and together with Enrique they established Exclusive films, a distribution company.
Hammer produced several films before world war 2 including The Mystery of Marie Celeste but during the war Hammer was not considered active.
Hammer was never truely reformed until 1947 as a subsidiary of Exclusive. In 1949 Hammer became a separate company as Hammer Film Productions limited, the directors were William Hinds, Enrique Carreras, James Carreras and Anthony Hinds.
Hammer’s first as a seperate company was Dr Morelle – the case of the missing Heiress, which was released by Exclusive on 27 June 1949.
In 1951 Hammer started to co-produce it’s films with Robert Lippert a US Producer, this allowed to establish a market for itself in America. 1954 saw the release of Hammer’s first colour film The Men of Sherwood Forest.
In 1955 the hugely successful Hammer production Quatermass Xperiment (re-titled The Creeping Unknown) was distributed by 20th Century Fox whom had bought Lippert the same year.
The Success of the Quatermass Xperiment encouraged Hammer to move into the horror genre of films. They started out with The Curse of Frankenstein in 1957 and Dracula (re-titled the Horror of Dracula in the US) in 1958. These movies and their sequels cemented Hammer’s place as a Horror production studio.
Hammer made films in other genres including Drama and Comedy, at the end of the decade Hammer produced the critically acclaimed War Drama The Camp on Blood Island released 1958.
The world wide success of “Hammer Horror” led to many Major Hollywood studios taking interest in Hammer including Universal and Columbia which resulted in mixed quality films and Gothic gems such The Kiss of the Vampire 1964 and the The Curse of the Werewolf 1961. Many Hollywood studios sought deals with Hammer which brought healthy competition to company.
Deals with Hollywood studios led to the eventual liquidation of Exclusive in 1968 having fallen into disuse.
Hammer productions is based in London, a subsidiary of Exclusive media group and is being reinvigorated since its halt of production in the 80’s. Hammer productions returned to form in 2008 with an interactive web series entitled Beyond the Rave.
Hammer’s produced content includes theatrical feature films, TV programmes and Series, Soundtracks and Books.
After WW2 Hammer was funded by Exclusive as a production subsidiary, in 1947 Hammer was registered as a separate company. In the 50’s Hammer started co-producing with american studios, throughout the 60’s Hammer’s relationship with American producers was fruitful for the company. In the 1970’s the companies gothic horror trademark was starting to grow stale and colour TV was hurting the revenue of the British film industry.
To add to Hammer’s problems other production companies were churning out more successful modern horror films like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre which took graphic horror a step further and ushered in the age of the Slasher flick through out the late 70’s and 80’s and rising popularity of Stephen King adaptations like Carrie and The Shining.
In the 80’s Hammer moved to TV with the Hammer house of Horror which proved very successful with its mix of Horror and Dark Humour, following its success the Hammer house of mystery and suspense was made for the american market under 20th century fox, unfortunately it failed.
Throughout the 90’s Hammer lay dormant due to a number of frustrating setbacks and the death of one of their oldest stars Peter Cushing, Hammer made a Documentary called Flesh and Blood for the BBC.
In the 2000’s the chairman Roy Skeggs who had been with the company since the 1960s left and Hammer was bought by an investment consortium.
Today Hammer is once again a subsidiary of Exclusive Media group after it was re-established in 2008 with financial backing from Cyrte investments as a producer and distributor in the UK. Hammer’s president Simon Oakes is vice chairman of Exclusive media group who also owns Exclusive films, Newmarket films and Spitfire pictures.