Mark Gatiss continues his celebration of horror cinema by uncovering the stories behind the films of the 1950s and 60s, an era dominated by Hammer Films.
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This programme contains some strong language.
From the late 18th century to the end of Queen Victoria's reign,
there was a flowering of Gothic literature in Britain.
From these shores emanated a wave of horror
that would eventually splash shockingly onto cinema screens.
Those first forays into movie horror took place not in Britain but in America.
It wasn't until the mid-1950s that horror returned to its birthplace.
These new films were lavish, sensual,
shocking and drenched in glorious colour - mostly red, blood red.
And the dark forests where travellers so often found themselves abandoned by superstitious coachmen
were recreated here, in a park...near Slough.
In short, the Home Counties became the heartlands of horror.
This is my personal journey through the history of horror films,
and this programme is perhaps the most personal of all.
I grew up with '50s and '60s horror,
and I want to show you the films I love
and introduce you to some of the people who created them.
It may seem odd to be discussing horror on a tranquil stretch of
the Thames, but this is where the second part of our story begins -
Bray Studios, the home of Hammer films, the pioneers who brought us a very British kind of horror.
And I'd like, if I may, to take Hammer rather seriously for a change.
A very annoying idea has grown up that Hammer films were always made
tongue in cheek, that they almost defined camp.
In fact, the opposite is the case.
In the early days at least, Hammer played their horror very straight indeed.
NEWSREEL: Bray studios are completely different from
the formidable concrete buildings that house most film productions.
This late 18th century house in the village of Bray near Maidenhead
looks most unlike a movie studio, but that's what it is...
In their early days, Hammer mostly made films based on popular radio dramas.
But in 1954, they turned to television, creating
the film version of the BBC's hit series The Quatermass Experiment.
Science fiction - the very genre that seemed to have killed off horror - was about to revive it.
-It's Mr Carroon!
-Victor, Victor, darling!
What about the others...?
Victor Carroon is an astronaut who crashes to earth alive but infected.
A fantastic performance by actor Richard Wordsworth makes
his transformation into an alien lifeform both affecting and hideous.
Is it something to do with your arm?
Look, I'll just take a look. I won't hurt it, I promise.
And it was this added horror that helped to make the film an X-rated hit.
With its X-certificate proudly emblazoned in the title,
the Quatermass Experiment seemed to point to a horrific new future for Hammer.
It's hardly surprising then that a new version of Frankenstein was proposed.
Hammer, though, weren't interested in a simple remake, and the Curse Of Frankenstein, as it became,
was to be a great deal more than the sum of its dismembered parts.
Good evening. Do you know any good monsters? Well, Hammer Films are looking for one.
They're making Frankenstein And The Monster.
It's going to be made in England, in colour, and CinemaScope, and Hammer Films want a monster.
Hammer found their monster in a little-known actor called
Christopher Lee, who, at 6'4", was a startling screen presence.
Did you have any opinions on how you would differentiate his monster from Karloff's?
We didn't, but Universal did.
Had the copyright on the make-up and everything
and they were waiting with a writ,
I think, by the door - if we'd used anything in their film
that wasn't in the book but was in their film, they'd have come at us.
With Universal threatening legal action, Hammer were forced to innovate.
The key difference from the 1931 version was the emphasis on Baron Frankenstein himself,
played by Peter Cushing, who emerges as altogether more villainous than his Hollywood predecessor.
I would like to show you a painting just before you retire.
It's this one at the top of the staircase here.
It was purchased by my father, and illustrates some of the early operations.
If you step back a little,
you'll see it better.
In the hands of director Terence Fisher, the film became more than
a re-telling of the Frankenstein story.
It was a revolutionary new approach to horror.
The most striking innovation came in the use of colour.
This was the first British horror film to be made in colour, and Fisher and his cinematographer
Jack Asher became almost obsessed with the possibilities of their Eastmancolor stock.
However difficult, I'll do it...
In this scene, they even painted leaves and berries in the foreground
to exaggerate the reds and give a heightened sense of threat.
But it was a rather less subtle use of colour
that made a lasting impression on director John Carpenter.
The Hammer film Curse Of Frankenstein,
that was mind-blowing to me.
Because that was one of the first horror films
that took a subject - the Frankenstein idea -
and brought in, for the time, shocking violence, shocking gore, shocking things.
That single gunshot has reverberated through horror cinema ever since.
A full-on blast to the eye was strong enough meat for the times,
but to follow it up with a gush of bright red blood, this was groundbreaking gore.
It wasn't all blood and guts.
With the shocks came a rather understated sort of wit,
courtesy of scriptwriter Jimmy Sangster.
I always asked Jimmy, and did myself, to put a laugh in after something ghastly.
I remember in Frankenstein,
when he's left the little maid up in his lab with the monster...
And the next scene was he having breakfast with his wife, and the first line was...
Pass the marmalade, would you?
So that broke the tension immediately.
Frankenstein was a staggering success, reportedly earning 70 times its production costs.
So it was almost inevitable that for their next film,
Hammer would revisit that other classic gothic tale, Dracula.
And Christopher Lee was transformed from brain-damaged monster to the most urbane of vampires.
Mr Harker. I'm glad that you've arrived safely.
-I am Dracula and I welcome you to my house.
The acting, cinematography and music are all wonderful,
but what I really love about Dracula is the way that Jimmy Sangster adapts the novel for the screen.
In a masterstroke typical of Hammer, the script jump-starts the narrative
so that the vampire action kicks in almost instantly.
It only remains for me now to await the daylight hours...
..when, with God's help,
I will for ever end this man's reign of terror.
Hammer didn't make us wait for the horror, either.
The opening shot, really, is almost like a mission statement.
There's a very nice camera move down onto the coffin,
and then it is absolutely spattered with Kensington gore.
-Was that a sort of deliberate...?
There's a great danger with horror films
that people start laughing, tittering, early.
So we thought we'd put a stop to that.
First time I saw it, they had a midnight premiere in New York.
The titles came up and they were sort of chattering and cheering.
And the shot of the coffin, and suddenly the blood, and there was a...
-And it shut them up!
-With that sort of reaction, were you out to shock, do you think?
Out to shock... Oh, yes.
They are shockers, aren't they, horror films.
This was the first mainstream film to give its vampires proper fangs -
fangs that were dripping with blood.
And daringly, Dracula appeared interested in more than just his victims' necks.
For the censors, Hammer's apparent obsession with blood and gore was bad enough
but the introduction of a strongly sexual element caused them moral consternation.
It is important that the women in the film should be decently clad.
I would add that anything which cross-emphasises the sex aspect of a story is likely,
in a horror subject of this kind, to involve cuts in the completed film.
This scene, in which Mina awaits Dracula in her boudoir, particularly troubled the censor.
Reel 8 - there is still a strong sex element in this scene.
This is due to Mina's anticipating expression in close-up,
and Dracula's face and expression as it hovers over Mina's
before he applies himself to her neck.
We are doubtful whether this sex element can be removed.
Cut the scene from immediately after Mina gets on the bed to shot of owl screaming.
But Hammer didn't make the cut, claiming that no sexual subtext was intended.
Christopher Lee's virile Dracula landed like a rocket in late 1950s Britain.
His fantastic final confrontation with Peter Cushing's Van Helsing
shows the physical commitment that both actors brought to this new, energetic kind of horror.
Dracula was a runaway international hit.
It was clear that horror had been reborn after its post-war lull.
Hammer's pictures sent shock waves through the decade that followed.
They created a horror boom.
And by the 1970s, when these films finally made it onto TV,
they began to influence a whole new generation.
This is a Proustian moment for me.
This brings back a rush of unbelievable happy memories.
When I was about 11 or 12, my parents went to a parent-teacher evening and they were so
appalled by the fact that all the compositions I wrote were horror stories, every single week...
In fact I remember there was one called A Day At The Beach which involved a decapitation.
..that when they came back I was banned from watching horror films.
Their own version of the Hayes code.
And I was banned from getting this magazine, House of Hammer, with which I was completely
obsessed, and it was particularly bad because that Friday night was
the screening of a very, very rare Hammer movie, Revenge Of Frankenstein, which was never on.
And I was beside myself, and I went to bed crying and lay there in the darkness
till I heard my parents go to bed, and then I realised that my sister
and her boyfriend were staying up late to watch it so I just went downstairs and watched it anyway.
And that was the end of my horror exile.
My devotion to The Revenge Of Frankenstein might have
surprised Jim Carreras, Hammer's relentlessly pragmatic chairman.
Jim Carreras came to me one day and said, "I've sold another Frankenstein."
I said, "Oh, well done." He said, "We start shooting in ten weeks."
I said, "Oh, good, I mean fine,
"pity you didn't ask me to write it for you." He said, "I am. I'm asking you to write it for me!"
He said, "We're doing the Return of Frankenstein."
I said, "I killed him in the first episode!" He said, "Oh, you'll think of something."
But I have escaped the guillotine, and I shall avenge the death of my creation.
The Revenge Of Frankenstein was very much a showcase for the talents of
its star, Peter Cushing, appearing this time with a new monster.
Who is he?
Nobody. He isn't born yet.
This modest, quiet man is perhaps one of the most underrated of British screen actors.
I'd like to take a bit of time to consider what makes him so special.
This is Whitstable, where Peter Cushing bought a house in 1958,
not long after his first starring role for Hammer.
We often hear of actors talking about a fear of being typecast.
Whether you like it or not, you appear to have been typecast in this field. How do you feel about it?
Oh, it's never affected me...
Well, I don't think any actor likes to be too typecast, because
I think as an actor you should and can do other things.
But I love doing these pictures, people get enjoyment from them,
so I'm very happy to be asked to do them.
Cushing's connection to Whitstable is marked in a small museum display
where you even can see the actual cigarettes touched by the great man.
Peter Cushing was always my favourite Hammer star,
I think because of the tremendous sense of commitment he seemed to bring to every performance.
His diction, his gestures, everything about him was immaculate.
However outrageous the situation, he always seemed to bring a tremendous sense of authenticity.
He would carry about the accoutrements of each character in his jacket pockets even if
they didn't appear on screen, and when he played Baron Frankenstein
he famously consulted his GP as to the best way of performing a brain transplant.
'If you've got to do something
'to do with what a doctor would do,
'if you've only got one doctor in the audience, he must be satisfied.
'Otherwise he wouldn't believe you, and he won't believe the rest of the film.'
You must get the audience to believe what you're doing, because
if you don't believe it yourself, they never will.
Whitstable suited Cushing perfectly.
That sense of faded gentility. Quietness.
In the last years of his life, Cushing used to sit here
in this cafe virtually every day, discreetly hidden behind a pillar.
How right that this most unassuming of horror stars should be found in a quaint tearoom.
Perhaps what made Peter Cushing the quintessential Hammer star was his Englishness.
And that in a very English way, beneath that perfectly composed mask
lay obsession, fanaticism and a deeply suppressed passion.
Hammer had created a distinctively English brand of horror.
But the effects of this triumphant reinvention of the genre
would soon be felt far away from the Home Counties.
In Italy, Director Mario Bava was inspired by the success of Dracula
to create his own horror film.
Black Sunday mixed the violence and sensuality of Hammer
with the black-and-white visual flair of the Universal era.
It was the beginning of a new wave of Italian horror cinema.
And what an astonishing film it is.
It featured an unforgettable performance from a young English actress, Barbara Steele,
as the vampire-witch put to death in the opening scene.
I guess Italians thought that horror has to come from England.
But, I mean, you can't disguise an Italian film.
You can't disguise Italian cinematography.
It is so sumptuous and so appropriate for the nightmare that he's trying to convey.
I shall return to torment and destroy throughout the night of time.
It is very shocking to see this blood come out of this mask.
Very unsettling and precise, wasn't it?
It had this kind of timeless,
fatal quality to it.
Even the horse and carriage was like the Neapolitan funerals' horse and carriages, you know.
With that sort of theatrical beauty, and, er...
all death and sex, sex and death.
Hammer had pioneered this heady mix of sex and death, but Black Sunday made it even stronger.
Kruvajan, I've been waiting for you.
In America, too, Hammer's success encouraged film-makers to revisit horror in new ways.
Producer and director Roger Corman worked with even smaller budgets than Hammer,
but created some of the most spectacular films of the era.
Beginning with The Fall of the House of Usher,
he conceived a cycle of films drawing on the stories and poems of American author Edgar Allan Poe.
Corman's films are less gory than Hammer's,
but as a child, I always found them more genuinely frightening.
More sickly, more unsettling.
They have a uniquely queasy, dreamlike quality.
The dream sequences became a signature of the Poe films.
It started out in Usher just as a sequence
that I felt portrayed the situation at that moment.
And the reaction of the audience was so strong,
I incorporated dream sequences into almost every film.
There was a heavy Freudian element to it, there was the sense of fear,
and it gave me a chance simply to work with film.
To dispense with dialogue, dispense with the story, just to use the film medium.
Hazel Court's dream in The Masque Of The Red Death
captures the sense of a genuine nightmare.
It had a totally phallic series of symbols with the daggers
and knives slashing at her and her screaming as they approached.
What I tried to do was to shoot everything interior, make everything artificial.
My whole idea was to stay away from reality.
Effortlessly inhabiting this surreal world was Vincent Price, the star of all but one of the Poe films.
Somewhere in the human mind, my dear Francesca, is the key to our existence.
My ancestors tried to find it,
to open the door that separates us from our...creator.
Price's morbid eloquence has a timeless quality
which makes him convincing even dressed as a medieval prince.
-If you believe...
If you believe, my dear Francesca, you are gullible.
Can you look around this world and believe in the goodness of a God who rules it?
Famine! Pestilence! War!
Disease and death!
They rule this world.
Corman's pictures have dark and complex themes,
giving us a type of horror which somehow taps into instinctive fears.
Of course there are shocking images, but more than that, these films deal with shocking ideas,
principally the primal terror of slow, conscious, horrific death.
This has its most powerful expression in Pit And The Pendulum.
And perhaps one can detect some genuine fear
in actor John Carr's face in the film's climactic torture sequence.
I do remember while shooting that John was a little bit worried about
the pendulum as it was swinging closer and closer to him.
I said, "John, let me get in there myself."
So I laid down on the platform and had the pendulum swing back
and forth above me, and John said, "OK, if you can do it, I can do it."
Corman's mastery of the shocking image is at its height
in Pit And The Pendulum, and Barbara Steele was again cast as the victim.
There's a particular moment when what is supposed to be your corpse
is revealed in the tomb, which is a proper shock moment,
-and it's so hideous that...
-I know, I know.
Stephen King said that's one of the pivotal moments in horror!
When they... Corman... that moment when my corpse is revealed
is the first time when they really wanted people to be repelled and shocked,
it was on a really visceral level.
And I guess they succeeded.
Even with material as distinctively American as Edgar Allen Poe's, Corman eventually found himself
drawn to England and all things English.
Even throwing in a fox-hunting sequence in his last Poe film.
And he abandoned all his self-imposed rules about the need for artificial, interior settings.
I stayed with that theory until the last picture, The Tomb Of Ligeia.
Frankly, I got so bored with my own theory, we were shooting in England,
and I said, "We're going out into the English countryside, it's going to be daylight,
the sun is shining and we're seeing the beautiful English countryside."
In The Tomb Of Ligeia, Corman worked with Hammer cinematographer Arthur Grant
to create gorgeous location scenes at Castle Acre Priory in Norfolk.
Roger Corman wasn't the only film-maker to be drawn across
the Atlantic to the new home of horror.
Britain was also the setting for a series of intense supernatural
and psychological chillers
from leading Hollywood directors and studios.
Released in 1957, Night Of The Demon updates a tale
by that most Edwardian of ghost story authors, MR James.
And it's extremely effective.
Niall MacGinnis delights as a villainous black magician,
and occasional children's entertainer.
One particular exchange with Dana Andrews
stands out for its sly menace.
Aha, snakes and ladders. An English game, you wouldn't know it.
You see, if you land at the foot of the ladder, you climb up to the top.
But if you land on the snake, you slide down again.
Funny thing, I always preferred sliding down the snakes
to climbing up the ladders.
You're a doctor of psychology, you ought to know the answer to that.
Maybe you're a good loser.
I'm not, you know, not a bit.
The film's director, Jacques Tourneur,
was a protege of the great Hollywood horror producer, Val Lewton.
The climax was criticised for ignoring Lewton's dictum
that you should never reveal your monster.
But I find the demon's appearance on the London to Southampton line
both eerie and spectacular.
By contrast, the brilliant 1963 film The Haunting,
shot in Britain by Tourneur's contemporary Robert Wise,
sticks firmly to the principle that fear comes through suggestion.
This is the film Wise made between West Side Story
and The Sound Of Music.
It's high-end horror, with big money behind it.
The Haunting is a classic ghost story, and one of my favourites.
Its power derives from the slow accumulation of unsettling sounds
and images that suggest that the house itself
is constantly watching the people inside, that the house is vile.
Go away! Go away! Go away!
In this celebrated scene, distorted camera angles and
the careful use of silence and sudden noise
create an atmosphere of dread.
Oh, you big baby.
Whatever it is, it's just a noise.
So am I.
-Where's Luke? Where's Markway?
-I don't know. Warmer now?
In a minute, I'll go out in the hall and call them.
Are you all right?
It's against the top of the door!
It's difficult to do justice to a film like The Haunting
in a single clip.
It's all about building an atmosphere,
and that can be as fragile as a cobweb.
I can still remember watching it for the first time with my dad,
and seeing his knuckles whiten
as he gripped the arms of his chair in sheer terror.
And of course, that was the most frightening thing of all.
Meanwhile, Hammer had maintained a prolific horror output.
But they couldn't afford to be complacent.
And their 1966 film, Dracula, Prince Of Darkness
was a robust response to the growing competition.
It saw the return of Christopher Lee in his first appearance
as Dracula since 1958.
Barbara Shelley, who played Helen in the film,
has vivid memories of working with Lee.
He brought dignity and veritas,
which is a difficult thing to bring to a fantasy like a vampire,
and that is just Chris's appearance and personality that did all that.
He used to walk on the set, and I said to him
"It's an extraordinary performance, Christopher,
"because we know each other so well, and you could hypnotise me."
But it was brilliant, because he completely dominated the film
without a word. Talk about silent movies.
Barbara Shelley's own performance was quite superb,
proving that female vampires needn't be merely decorative.
The scene that I'm most proud of though is when she's staked.
There's absolute evil when she's struggling.
And then suddenly, she's staked.
And there is tremendous serenity.
-And I think that that is one of my best moments on film.
-OK, cut it.
They may have created lavish films, but Hammer operated on a shoestring.
From their earliest days,
the same team of technicians worked on film after film.
A single editor, James Needs, cut almost all of them.
And scriptwriters and directors rarely changed.
Even so, budgets were always tight.
Hammer experimented with re-using sets, and in 1965,
they shot a run of films that shared casts and crew.
The drive to make cheaper commercial product could have narrowed
Hammer's scope, but far from it.
Economy measures like shooting films back-to-back with shared casts
actually led to some remarkable flights of the imagination.
This era produced films like The Reptile
and The Plague Of The Zombies, which is one of my favourites.
It features some incredibly powerful images, like this one.
Most of the zombie action takes place in the Bray back-lot.
But this place, Oakley Court in Windsor,
stands in for the home of the local squire.
This grand house was a frequent feature in Hammer's films,
mainly because it was next door to Bray.
I used to say "You can go out on location as far away
"as you like, so long as it's within walking distance of the studio".
It's as if all that cost-cutting actually meant the plot and imagery
in The Plague Of The Zombies had to be more original.
This classic scene is a rare Hammer dream sequence.
Hammer were by no means the only British purveyors of horror.
One competitor was Amicus Productions,
which operated from a shed at Shepperton Studios.
It was a two-man business, Max Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky.
In 1964, Amicus produced Dr Terror's House Of Horrors,
which took a series of short stories
and linked them together into a full length picture.
It was inspired by the classic 1945 film Dead Of Night.
This portmanteau form became Amicus's trademark.
When I was a kid, I think I liked the portmanteaus best of all.
They seemed almost like the ideal horror movie, a lovely package
of short films, frequently with a very nasty twist in the tale.
If you didn't like one particular story,
there'd be another one along ten minutes later.
They were rarely wholly successful, but I've always thought
what a cracking portmanteau you could make
out of the best bits of all of them.
Asylum was written by Robert Bloch, author of Psycho
and one of horror's great short story writers.
The asylum setting allows Bloch to bring together
four quite different tales,
as we explore the strange reasons why each of the inmates is there.
The most important part of making a film is the script.
It's not the actual shooting the film.
The technicians know their jobs,
the cameraman knows his job, the director knows his job.
It's what he is going to shoot,
and whether or not a company is successful
depends on what they choose to shoot, and that's all there is to it.
My favourite story in Asylum concerns a tailor commissioned
to make a magic suit, which eventually casts its spell
on his dummy.
Amicus also drew on the notorious American EC horror comics
to make its portmanteaus Tales From The Crypt and Vault Of Horror.
But my favourite portmanteau was based on the short stories
of an English writer, Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes.
From Beyond The Grave features Peter Cushing as a shopkeeper
who metes out horrible punishments
for the mildest of crimes,
and it's a rare opportunity to hear him affecting a Yorkshire accent.
Shouldn't have done that.
Like all the Amicus films, it's packed with British character actors
such as Diana Dors, Donald Pleasence
and his daughter Angela, and David Warner.
I willingly went in to do Tales From Beyond The Grave
because I enjoyed the others of that type.
What do you think the reason was for the portmanteau attracting
those sorts of casts?
I think most probably because it was a job, quite honestly.
And also, it was quick.
Warner's story effortlessly brings horror into the present day.
There's a seance scene,
and I said,
"We will not all be touching hands when we're shooting this.
"We will only pretend." So I did say.
I do remember, I suppose, being a bit nervous and a bit scared of
unleashing something, I don't know.
Warner's reward for cheating the old shopkeeper
is indeed to unleash something dreadful.
It begins with this vivid nightmare, showing how slickly Amicus
could move from modern settings to gothic horror.
Hammer, by contrast, were struggling to keep up with the times.
In 1966, they'd left Bray Studios and moved to Elstree.
There were a few great films in the years that followed,
but something seems to have been lost,
a sense of cohesion, of the Hammer family, the tight-knit factory
that produced quality on tiny budgets.
Hammer still needed to make regular Dracula and Frankenstein sequels,
but it all seemed to be wearing a bit thin.
I got a call from Hammer saying they wanted to do
another Frankenstein, would I do a rewrite?
I said "No, I don't want to do that."
They said "Well, you can produce it as well".
I said "No, it's not worth it".
Then I had an idea. I said "I'll do it if I can direct it".
They said "We'll call you back". And they called me back 20 minutes later
and said I could direct it as well.
Probably the biggest mistake I ever made in my life!
The Horror Of Frankenstein, Sangster's first film as director,
is, frankly, dreadful.
But Hammer still hired him again, to direct Lust For A Vampire.
He was a last-minute replacement for Terence Fisher,
and it showed from the opening titles onward.
I remember on the first day of production,
it was this big long shot in the studio.
This carriage comes driving into the courtyard of the castle.
I set it up, and I shot it. I said "OK, that's fine, print that..."
..when a voice from the back says "We can do better than that!"
I said "Who said that?" And it was one of the producers, Michael Style.
I said "You can do better than that?
"You shoot the fucking picture then", and I walked off.
And they never came on the set again.
Probably would have been better if they had.
It might have been a better picture!
Lust For A Vampire lacked Hammer's usual production values,
but the producers didn't seem too worried.
A sudden relaxation in censorship at the beginning of the '70s
meant Hammer could focus on
the one thing they knew would pull in the crowds...
The sex thing became more important than the horror film.
It was probably Jim Carreras who said,
"We've got to show them some tits", basically.
I did think it was part of the downfall.
We'll put a couple of pillows in the bed.
She'll think we're asleep.
Yes, we'll go at midnight.
At their worst, Hammer's films had become worryingly formulaic,
as Michael Style, Lust For A Vampire's producer,
made abundantly clear.
You need a lot of murders...
..a lot of blood - we've ordered five gallons of blood for this picture.
You need a good, strong villain, a really villainous looking villain.
A good hero.
As you're all so terrified of the castle, I'll go up there.
A certain amount of sex, lots of action...
Burn down the castle!
And lots of pretty girls.
And, er, that's your story.
All those tits and bums could have been rather dull if lesbian vampires weren't your thing,
but even in its later years, Hammer was capable of great flashes of brilliance.
One of my favourites was the brainchild of Brian Clemens, co-creator of The Avengers.
His was a real back of the envelope job which came about during
light-hearted discussions during the staff canteen.
How could Hammer possibly breathe new life into the tired old story
of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?
Brian, on the other side of the table, suddenly woke up and said,
"I know! I know exactly what happens."
Everybody said, "Yes, what?"
"Well", he said,
"Dr Jekyll drinks the potion
"and he turns into a woman".
And so was born Dr Jekyll And Sister Hyde.
The transformation scene is a brilliant spin on the classic
single-shot trick first seen in the 1931 Jekyll And Hyde.
And then we had the casting, which was magical.
We had our Dr Jekyll, Ralph Bates.
I must set this down before it is too late.
So that was OK, but who was going to be the girl?
Former Bond girl Martine Beswick proved perfect,
being remarkably similar to Bates in looks and height.
So we set sail with high hopes.
And of course actually, it came off.
Of course, there's the obligatory nudity,
but it's a stylish, witty film.
Hammer had made more than 80 feature films since The Curse Of Frankenstein.
Having squeezed every last drop out of 19th century Gothic,
they faced a constant struggle to bring their horror up to date.
Intriguing experiments included taking Dracula to swinging London,
after most of the swinging had stopped...
..and even kung-fu vampires.
But they failed to capture the audience's imagination,
and horror's greatest stars seemed to have little enthusiasm for these modern makeovers.
I think keeping to the turn of the century was a wonderful time.
I've always wondered, though, why the best setting in the world
for a thriller, a spooky picture, is always London in the fog.
Yes. I'll tell you what they haven't used for a long time, an old castle.
I mean, London in the fog is wonderful, Sherlock Holmes and all that, but an old castle...
A really good castle.
The coming years saw a decline in British horror which proved pretty much irreversible.
But there were some fascinating final flourishes.
From the late '60s, a new generation of British directors avoided
the Gothic cliches by stepping even further away from the modern world.
Amongst these are a loose collection of films which we might call folk horror.
They shared a common obsession with the British landscape, its folklore and superstitions.
Witchfinder General, directed by Michael Reeves,
took us back to the witchhunts of 17th century East Anglia.
It may have cast horror legend Vincent Price in the lead role,
but this was new territory, dark and nihilistic.
Keep her slow.
Without a doubt, the best known of these films is The Wicker Man.
Set on idyllic Summerisle, it pits the pagan islanders against
the upstanding Christian hero, with its horrific conclusion played out in daylight.
Oh, Jesus Christ!
Oh, my God!
No, no, dear God!
The Wicker Man may have become THE cult film and Witchfinder General
may have grabbed most of the critical plaudits,
but there's another film which I think deserves wider appreciation.
What makes it so special?
Well, let's just say there aren't many films
set in the reign of William and Mary in which the Devil rebuilds his body by harvesting the skin of children.
RASPING VOICE: Give...me...my...skin.
The film is Blood On Satan's Claw,
and its director, Piers Haggard, also drew inspiration from the Home Counties countryside.
Sometimes on a project, everything clicks. Well, it clicked because here we have a beautiful valley.
We have a ploughing sequence, you know, the farmers.
And it's a rural community, and here in the bowl of the valley is the church.
And we needed a church because it's got Satan in it,
-so we needed a bit of the...
-Need the opposite.
You need the opposite. And it's, amazingly,
as it was, really.
This is the focal point of the film, really, what happens here.
When the devil rises up and takes hold of an innocent rural community,
it's here that they enact their rites.
What kind of a horror film were you setting out to make?
I didn't want to do something which was
larky and...I wasn't really interested in Dracula, but
I was interested in the dark things that people feel and the dark things
that happen, and that was what I wanted to explore.
And I think the other thing that appealed to me, really, was the setting, the rural setting.
The nooks and crannies of woodland, the edges of fields, the ploughing,
the labour, the sense of the soil was something that I tried
to bring into the picture.
So in the opening scene with the lonely ploughman
and his girl across the valley,
and you gradually become aware that something's going to happen, but you don't know what it is.
And from the moment that you do see this eye in the earth,
it was important for the rest of the film
to have the camera often very low.
We dug an awful lot of holes to put the camera in, just
to give you the feeling that we were somehow in the earth, and what it was that might come out of the earth.
There's this little moment of...
folk horror, I suppose, which is absolutely distinct.
Do you think that was something to do with the times?
This is very interesting, this.
I think that I was trying to make a folk horror film in a way,
because we were all a bit interested in witchcraft.
We were all a bit interested in free love.
The rules of the cinema were changing.
Nudity became possible, and indeed altogether possibly over-prevalent,
because the lid had slightly been taken off.
But things go well beyond the '60s fad for nudity when it comes to the film's most disturbing scene -
a violent and protracted rape.
They've all gone absolutely stark raving bonkers,
and it is about a breakdown, a complete breakdown of values.
A very beautiful procession, coming to the church
with chanting and blossom, turns into something very ugly,
and the beautiful boughs are used as scourges and whips.
If I look at the rape scene now,
I think it's probably too strong.
And it's interesting that I wasn't bothered at the time.
I think you will find most directors,
if they get their teeth into a sequence which they think
is going to be really powerful, they become completely seduced, and I was seduced by the sheer dramatic power.
Sensation had certainly overtaken suggestion.
Things had come a long way since those first British fumblings with sex and horror back in the '50s.
Sadly, these intriguing last hurrahs were short-lived.
The pendulum was swinging back across the Atlantic.
American cinema had found a new voice, one which addressed the fears
and concerns of the present day in an aggressively modern style.
The next great age of the horror film was about to begin.
Next time, flesh-eating zombies and Texans with chainsaws.
It's the new wave of American horror.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Three-part series in which actor and writer Mark Gatiss (The League of Gentlemen, Doctor Who, Sherlock) celebrates the greatest achievements of horror cinema.
Mark uncovers stories behind the films of his favourite period - the 1950s and 60s - which fired his lifelong enthusiasm for horror. These mainly British pictures were dominated by the legendary Hammer Films, who rewrote the horror rulebook with a revolutionary infusion of sex and full-colour gore - all shot in the English Home Counties.
Mark meets key Hammer figures to find out why their Frankenstein and Dracula films conquered the world, making international stars of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. He looks at the new boom of horror that followed in Hammer's wake, including the ravishing Italian movie Black Sunday, and talks to the influential American producer Roger Corman about his disturbing and dreamlike Edgar Allan Poe films. He also explores the intriguing cycle of British 'folk horror' films, such as The Wicker Man and Mark's personal favourite, Blood on Satan's Claw.
Mark also speaks to leading horror ladies Barbara Steele and Barbara Shelley about their most famous roles, makes a pilgrimage to Whitstable, home of Peter Cushing, and finds out why Dracula's bedroom activities got the British censor steamed up.