Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography

Author(s) - Tom Johnson Deborah Del Vecchio

Publisher - McFarland

Reviewer - Scott MacDonald

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The Book (5/5)

   I have been a fan of Hammer Films for as long as I can remember. To put it into context, I have been a fan of Hammer, before I knew what Hammer was.  I would stay up watching horror hosts like Doctor Paul Bearer in St. Petersburg or the annual Shocktober marathon when I lived in New Jersey, and every once in a while there would be a film with great gothic atmospherics usually with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and I would be glued to the TV for the next hour, and a half. Needless to say when Hammer: An Exhaustive Filmography appeared in my mailbox, I was similarly glued to the pages.

   When I first heard of Hammer: An Exhaustive Filmography, I had assumed it would be a simple capsule review book, only based on the films of Hammer Studios, and in chronological order of release. When I received the book I started first by reading the introductions by Peter Cushing and Jimmy Sangster, and then the short History of Hammer, before plunging into the section regarding some of my favorite Hammer classics like Plague of the Zombies, Quatermass and the Pit, Horror of Dracula, and so on.  It was reading these pages that something occurred to me, that this was not a simple capsule review book.  It was much more than that.

   When I think of a capsule review book, I think of the many Videohound guides collecting dust on my bookshelves. These books go alphabetically by title contain a short synopsis/review of a film, and each title is covered within a few paragraphs. If one were so inclined Hammer: An Exhaustive Filmography could be read as a capsule review book,  if one were only interested in their Horror films, and nothing else, they could just peruse those sections, and those films and feel completely satisfied. However, in my reading I had to go back starting at the Public Life of Henry the Ninth, and work forward to The Lady Vanishes remake of 1978.

   Hammer: An Exhaustive Filmography is like no other capsule review book I have ever read in the sense that in starts each title with critical information for each film, as in the cast, crew, year made, and so on.  it then goes into a very detailed synopsis (seriously do not read if you do not want to be spoiled), and then historical background for as many of the films as they have been able to uncover.  When read front to back you not only get a great overview of the films of Hammer, but a wondrous biography of the studio, and it's various production eras.

   Now I don't mean to say that every entry has biographical, and historical information pertaining to the movie.  The authors do their best to put as much information as they could locate into each entry in the filmography, however, some films that are lost are just given a minor synopsis of what they may have been about. While other films are simply given synopsisís to the best of the author's ability. The only minor complaint, I can lodge against the book is the use of only Black and White photographs throughout.  I understand for the early Black and White entries this is a must, but once Hammer went color in the 50's their films were known for lush Technicolor imagery, and it would have been nice to have seen that translated to the page.

     That being said Hammer: An Exhaustive Filmography is a truly definitive study of Hammer Films from a pair of authors with an obvious passion for these works. It works as a great book to dip into it for a few film reviews, or as a great overview of the history of one of Britain's greatest movie studios.  It is quite possibly the greatest book I have ever read on Hammer to date.  Hammer: An Exhaustive Filmography, of course, comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.