Hammer’s House of Horror, Part I: The Classic Years (1956–1967)

Throughout film history, many countries have had their own point-of-pride movie studios; Britain can claim several, whether as backlots or sites of creative capital. In Hammer Films, a genre-oriented counterpart to Ealing Films, the UK could boast of one with all that and more; Hammer’s output in the second half of the 20th century sent aesthetic and sensory frissons throughout the nation while influencing pop culture and world cinema. Although synonymous with horror, the Hammer library was stocked from the beginning with films of all kinds. Founded in November 1934 as Hammer Film Productions and based in London, the studio came out of the gate with dramas and then specialized in “B” pictures and homegrown tales, pausing only for WWII. A turning point came in the mid-1950s with a move into genre fare with an accent on the Gothic, and this first crop of titles in the Quad’s extensive two-part Hammer retrospective demonstrates that—as Universal Pictures had found in the 1930s—famous monsters were a good (and generally inexpensive) way to expand your industry footprint. Hammer finally made its first color movie in 1954; a good thing, too, since what would the next quarter-century of movies have been like without all that scarlet sanguinary screen imagery?

Discover the story of the woman who created Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, opening May 25 exclusively at the Quad.