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  1. #1
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    I am a student currently in the process of writing a presentation essay, and conducting some research which brings me here.



    The question/title of the essay is the same as the post title, my question is;





    What factors influenced the decline of Hammer Horror movies?





    Opinions are welcome, and I am also aware that Hammer is having a bit of a �revival� at the moment with scheduled releases this year.





    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    You could try doing some basic research in a library and/or Google search and check up on any of the various books on English horror movies of the period all of which give various reasons for Hammer's decline.



    Denis Meikle, Jonathan Rigby, Wayne Kinsey, Marcus Hearn and David Pirie all discuss the decline in their respective books.



    Bottom lines - no American money any more; economic recession causing collapse of what was left of british film industry; The Exorcist; failure to adapt to chnaging market tastes.



    Take your pick.





    This so-called "revival" is nothing to do with their output from the 1950-1970s. The Hammer company doesn't even own the rights to distribute these movies.

  3. #3
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    Yeah, I've already got 3 books including Marcus Hearn's. It's just the criteria of the essay means I need primary research which is why I have posted in a few forums.



    Yeah the 'revival' I will note, I only became aware of it a month after I finalised the essay title but as you said it's completely different now to what it was.

  4. #4
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    The best place for primary research is the BFI library in central London. It stocks loads of periodicals, books etc.



    The main miracle of Hammer is that it kept going making horror films for about 15 years against a background of chronic decline in British film audiences and film production. You should be able to get stats on that.



    Another thing is that when it collapsed it took a couple of years for anyone to release that because of the delays in releasing its backlog of films. When David Pirie wrote his first Heritage of Horror in late 1972/early 1973 they had all but finished but you wouldn't have realised that from the book.

  5. #5
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    I blame the British public for not supporting British made films. I've heard the French support theirs?



    I've got the excellent but very cruel 1971 'Straight On Till Morning' on R1 DVD (I didn't think it was going to get an R2 release some time later) and the information in the leaflet stated that the film didn't do well at the box office here in the UK because most people went to see 'The Godfather'.



    Like Amicus films, what was being made was excellent although it's taken decades for people to appreciate what was in many cases far better than what was coming out of Hollywood.



    Okay Hollywood had many major hits with films like 'The Exorcist', 'Towering Inferno' and 'Jaws' and I doubt we could have competed at that level?



    But I find most of those films boring now, where as the British classic Hammer and Amicus films etc are fantastic and full of atmosphere.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by m35541



    Bottom lines - no American money any more; economic recession causing collapse of what was left of british film industry; The Exorcist; failure to adapt to changing market tastes.


    Hammer from it's inception had always been budget-conscious and creatively sought partnerships with the US, so I'd go along with changing times. Hammer were still wheeling out Drac and Frankenstein for the umpteenth time when the rest were making contemporary chillers. Hammer's only allowance for the changing times seemed to be throwing in a bit of salaciousness.

  7. #7
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    For me Hammer started going downhill when sex, gore and nudity started creeping in to the films of the early 70s, plus the usual lack of funds the changing of times when the gothic style of the films seemed sooo dated

  8. #8
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    I don't think that Hammer did themselves any favours latterly by rushing their output to the market and competing with themselves. If you go back to your reference books you'll find that in the later period they issued double bills (again was this a sound policy, instead of pairing their films with other 2nd feature material?) in direct competition on rival circuits.



    Another factor was Sir James' holding onto to the old values and old material for too long; did the family feud between him and Michael Carreras hold back what might have been a proper, and profitable, progression for Hammer?



    Smudge

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    There were very old school values (I'm thinking the God v Devil, Good v Evil, essentially Christian mythology) at the core of most of Hammer's classic gothic horrors. This seemed to be undermined as horror entered a new stage, beginning with Roman Polanski in the late 1960s. Dance of the Vampires was a subversion of these Hammer values, and Rosemary's Baby quite deliberately set itself in the context of secularization and the Death of God controversy in philosophy and theology.



    By the 1970s, all that hokum with crucifixes and priests was starting to look rather silly and old-fashioned. (I'd need to think more about how The Exorcist fits into that.)



    That's just one potential aspect to look into.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Country: UK Windthrop's Avatar
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    According to the documentary The Studio That Dripped Blood the rot set in when when Hammer left Bray studios. Things were never the same again apparently. David Pirie is interviewed in the docu and puts the decline down to the big studios getting in on the act with The Exorcist and The Omen.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Country: United States robotoid97's Avatar
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    Sadly I believe the main reason was when cheap slasher rubbish started to be produced in America that satisfied the needs of the youthful US horror viewer.

    It was hard for Hammer to compete in the market under those circumstances as they were producing more expensive high quality films that were also of a type slightly out of sync with the cheap nonsensical films being produced in the US.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Country: UK HammerDave's Avatar
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    It didn't help matters when Michael Carreras took over the company. He talked about breaking out of the traditional Hammer product, but then seemed to resist whenever writers or directors tried to do just that.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain scenesixty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingbman
    For me Hammer started going downhill when sex, gore and nudity started creeping in to the films of the early 70s, plus the usual lack of funds the changing of times when the gothic style of the films seemed sooo dated


    I'd agree with this posting-Hammer's films went into decline after 1970. Gone was the tense crisp acting style(s) ie: Valerie Gaunt Andre Morell Moira Redmond etc.

  14. #14
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    David Pirie is interviewed in the docu and puts the decline down to the big studios getting in on the act with The Exorcist and The Omen.


    Hammer had already virtually ceased making horror films before these films came out so they are not responsible per se. The Exorcist wasn't released in UK cinemas until 1974 and the Omen not until 1976. I would have thought that The Devils (1971) may have had a much bigger impact.



    The real "collapse" was in late 1972. I still don't know what they bothered to make Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell - no-one was ever going to watch this. Dracula AD 1972 was financed by Warner to compete with the Yorga/Blacula movies but it was so terrible that Warner didn't even bother to release the sequel in the US which they had foolishly commissioned before seeing the first film.



    No-one really wanted to see a cloaks and waistcoats horror film in the 1970s but Hammer still kept churning them out under various pre-arranged contracts until the distributors finally got wise and plugged the plug. individually, some of these films are quite good and well worth watching, but collectively they reveal a lack of imagination and ability to move with the times.



    Hammer's most successful film in the 1970s was On the Buses.



    I think the most successful low budget British horrors of the early 1970s were Abominable Dr Phibes and Tales From the Crypt (but I haven't got access to figures to check). It is worth you checking US and Uk box office figures for the period to see which horror films were making money.



    Hammer made no horror films in 1974 (1973 saw only Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires which was Hong Kong financed and a Kung Fu film) and only To the Devil a Daughter in 1975 which was an Exorcist response.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain GoggleboxUK's Avatar
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    I think controversy and shock became the key for horror fans. Audiences were being startled and disgusted, shocked and offended by movies such as The Exorcist rather than mildly frightened and, latterly, titilated by Hammer's output.



    The new modern era of horror contained much more graphic violence andgore than Hammer ever produced and I feel this led to a collapse in aydience interest. As others have stated, the slashers were arriving and the introduction 'hands over the eyes' moments of horror were perhaps what audiences began to crave rather than the gothic spine tinglers associated with Hammer.



    Recession, lack of funding, internal politics and relocation all had significant influence upon Hammer's decline and, sendibly, they moved more into television where graphic violence and gore had not yet permeated, Unfortunately this was too little too late for the company and the Hammer we all knew had the coffin lid firmly shut.



    I think talks of a revival may be premature but I have my fingers crossed. The web based Beyond the Rave was a great idea from Hammer and, if Let Me In proves successful at the box office then perhaps we'll see a new era of Hammer begin.



    Hammer's website launches it's new store on February 2nd so perhaps they'll be creating some revenue by releasing those titles we've all looked forward to over the coming months. Fingers crossed!

  16. #16
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    A combination of factors.....cinema attendances contracted considerably through the sixties, with TV getting better and better, and films worse; Hammer failed to compete well with the emerging Romero school of horror - contemporary horror, more violent - or busier and less wordy - than their product. Their niche shrank so far it became uneconomic.

    Cinema started an economic mini-recovery with Jaws in the late 70's, by which time Hammer were gone, and Stephen King-type contemporary horrors would fill the vacuum.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Country: Aaland dremble wedge's Avatar
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    It's more how they got away with it for so long. Fifteen years is a pretty good tenure (especially when you consider that other British horrors were available). I love Hammer, but they should have been making the likes of Phibes and Theatre of Blood in the early 70s. They never really seemed to have a Plan B when it came to the genre: and when they came up with Captain Kronos they didn't know what to do with it...

  18. #18
    Senior Member Country: United States will.15's Avatar
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    Everything that has been said here is true, but also to be considered: The movies at the end were crappy. Whatever your formula is, you still have to make a good movie. The Dracula series was their bread and butter and the last ones were far from Drac's glory days. When that series came to an end, Hammer's days were numbered.

  19. #19
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    I think the crappy quality at the end was as much a symptom as a cause of decline.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by will.15
    Everything that has been said here is true, but also to be considered: The movies at the end were crappy. Whatever your formula is, you still have to make a good movie.




    For me, some of Hammer's best, most interesting films were made at the end; certainly many of my favourites - Hands of the Ripper, Vampire Circus, Demons of the Mind, Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde. The final Dracula film is an interesting and ambitious genre-blend however flawed, and Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell is another of my favourites and fascinating in many ways; an end-of-an-era hand over from the Gothic style of horror to the themes that would take over in the Seventies.



    The best of the latterday films were as good as Hammer's ever were, I think; sometimes better. In general, I think the early Seventies was a fantastic period for British horror.

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