Hammer’s House of Horror, Part II: The Decadent Years (1968-1976)

Part two of our Hammer retrospective finds the studio reaching its zenith: by the late 1960s, modern cinema had caught up with its lurid envelope-pushing blood and guts, and so Hammer took advantage of loosening censorship to forge ahead into the realm of “erotic horror”: the sexual undertow that had hitherto been glimpsed in its films was now literally bared, titillating anew the generation that came of age during the Swinging Sixties. Other genres were explored, and sometimes cross-bred in experiments that recalled those in the studio’s durable Frankenstein series. The famous monsters that Hammer had successfully reanimated were updated and upgraded, while women were given more agency to dominate horror mythos—and to flout some taboos. But the studio’s “disreputable” and unarguably cut-price offerings were to be outflanked and outdone by films like The Exorcist, which signalled the mainstreaming of horror. Hammer unleashed one final memorable salvo in 1976 before retreating into the crypt, emerging later only to tell television tales of terror. After long haunting and inspiring fans and filmmakers, Hammer has begun making movies again in this decade; there may yet be a full-blooded resurrection at hand. Until then, we present glories from the gory go-go years.

Past Screenings