31-days-of-hammerAnother year and it’s time for another 31 Days of Horror. This year will focus on British Hammer Films massive contribution to the horror genre.

Changing things up a bit this year instead of every day being a complete random movie of my choosing like they have in the past each week will be themed starting with the Quatermass trilogy this week followed by a week of monster movies, psychological thrillers the following week, vampires/Dracula for week four and for the final week a look at my favourite of the Hammer films, the Frankenstein movies.

quatermass xperimentHammer Films had been around since 1934. They produced a variety of dramas, crime thrillers, the odd adventure film and plenty of comedies. It wasn’t until the mid 1950s that Hammer final found success that would catapult them into the international film market. It all started with an adaptation of a successful British sci-fi TV movie series called The Quatermass Experiment, changed to The Quatermass Xperiment for the theatrical version (also to take advantage of Britain’s then new X rating). In the U.S. the movie became The Creeping Unknown.

Professor Bernard Quatermass was created by Nigel Kneale for the BBC. The Quatermass Experiment was a six part live TV serial that was a huge hit and inspired the next generation of British Sci-Fi. There’d be no Dr. Who without Quatermass. Nigel Kneale was quite unhappy with Hammer’s adaptation of his play. Hammer had to condense the series, essentially cutting the running time in half in order to make a feature length theatrical film. The next thing that Kneale was unhappy with was the casting of American actor Brian Donlevy as Quatermass. Donlevy might have been miscast but he secured a U.S. release of the movie.

A rocket ship crashes into the British country side. It was an experiment lead up Quatermass. Three astronauts went up into space and then contact was lost. Quatermass forced the ship to return to Earth. Quatermass arrives at the crash and discovers that only one astronaut has survived, Carroon (Richard Wordsworth) and something has made him sick. The other two astronauts are missing. Their bodies weren’t found on the ship. Carroon has been infected with something and it’s slowly changing his body. Soon Carroon is on loose and a danger to everyone.

This is a great film and it was Hammer’s first big hit and their first international hit. It’s also the only film according to Guinness Book of Records where someone (in this case a young boy who saw the film at a double feature in Oak Park, Illinois) has literally died of fright. Soon Hammer Films would know more for their horror output than anything else they produced.