Friday, 31 October 2008

Happy Halloween 2008

Given tonight is Halloween and I don't wish to waste it on a blog entry, I'd thought I'd treat you to some Halloween songs.

"Joan Crawford" by Blue Oyster Cult

Blue Oyster Cult were responsible for the Halloween song, "(Don't Fear) the Reaper (well, the perfect Halloween song besides "Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett and The Cryptkickers). They also were responsible for "Godzilla," another good Halloween song. This is another good Halloween song from Blue Oyster Cult. "Joan Crawford" appeared on the album Fire of Unknown Origin, released in June 1981 only three years after the publication of Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford and two months before the debut of the movie based on the book. It offers the terrifying prospect of Joan Crawford rising from the grave. Let's just say she isn't pleased... This is the original video from 1981.



"Shock Treatment" by Richard O'Brien

Shock Treatment, the follow up to The Rocky Horror Picture Show is not the Halloween movie that RHPS is, but given much of it takes place in an asylum (or the TV studio version of one...), it is fitting viewing for the holiday. Here's the title song, performed solo by Richard O'Brien, along with a video compiled from footage from the movie.



"Monster Mash" by The Misfits

A video of The Misfits' remake of "Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett and The Cyrptkickers. This includes clips from that Rankin/Bass holiday classic, "Mad Monster Party.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

The 70th Anniversary of Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" Radio Broadcast

Tonight is the 70th anniversary of the War of the Worlds broadcast of The Mercury Theatre of the Air, produced by the famous (or perhaps infamous) Orson Welles. It is quite possibly the most famous single broadcast of a radio programme of all time. Sadly, it is not famous for its high quality (although it is one of the greatest episodes of a radio show ever) or because it won awards (it didn't), but rather it is famous for the panic it caused across the United States. Quite simply, many people across the nation were convinced Martians were invading Earth.

The Mercury Theatre of the Air debuted on CBS in July of 1938. It brought John Houseman and Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre to radio. Its concept was simple, but unique in radio at the time--to bring classic material (books, plays, et. al.) to the air, performed by the Mercury Theatre troupe. The show had debuted with a performance of the novel Dracula and over the course of the next few weeks would adapt Treasure Island, A Tale of Two Cities, The Count of Monte Cristo, and other classics to radio. For their Halloween episode, the Mercury Theatre settled upon H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds. Howard Koch's script moved the the classic novella's action from Victorian London to the United States in 1938. Indeed, the Martians would begin their invasion in Grover Mills, New Jersey.

The script, officially titled "The Invasion from Mars," took a relatively unique approach in American radio at the time in that it played out as a series of newscasts reporting an invasion of Earth by Martian tripods. Although it was the first time an episode of a dramatic radio show took this form in United States, such an approach had been taken before. In 1926 Monsignor Ronald Knox produced a satirical radio show in the form of a newscast of a riot in London. Broadcast over the BBC, this radio show also caused a bit of a panic in London. It is perhaps for this reason that "The Invasion from Mars" included a disclaimer at the start of the programme, its middle, and at its end, along with many spread through the show created by local CBS affiliates around the country, stating categorically that it was simply a fictional radio drama. The show was announced in newspaper radio listings ahead of the fact of the broadcast. Even in the broadcast itself the year was given as 1939, a clear sign this was not an actual newscast (it was 1938, after all). Despite this, there were people who, at least for a time, honestly believed that Earth was being invaded by Mars.

The precise scale of the panic caused by Orson Welles' broadcast of "The Invasion from Mars" is difficult to judge today. That there was a panic there can be no doubt. The switchboards at CBS were jammed with calls from people concerned about the invasion. The New York Times itself would receive 832 calls. A month after the broadcast there had been an estimated 12,500 newspaper stories on the broadcast according to Professor Ronald Hand in the book Terror on the Air!: Horror Radio in America, 1931-1952 (including The New York Times, who featured it as the headlining story on their front page). Immediately following the end of the broadcast of "The Invasion from Mars," police arrived at the CBS studio in New York. They took both John Houseman and Orson Welles to one of the CBS offices for questioning. Neither man was ever arrested. After the police released Houseman and Welles, they faced a rather hostile crowd of reporters. They would eventually have to sneak out of the building through the back door to make it to a rehearsal of Danton's Death. The next morning CBS held a press conference where Orson Welles read what was a combination disclaimer and apology. The press conference was filmed for newsreels across the country.

While it is obvious that there was a panic, it is questionable if it was as large as the press made it out to be at the time. Stanley J. Baran and Dennis K. Davis in Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future make the suggestion that the scale of the panic was not as large as newspapers at the time made it out to be. They point out that many in the newspaper industry saw radio as a competitor and worried that the relatively new medium would put newspapers out of business. As a result, they were largely unsympathetic to CBS, John Houseman, and Orson Welles. It must be pointed out that in the Thirties, yellow journalism still persisted on a widespread scale in the press in the United States. Because of this many newspapers simply avoided the facts and took the chance to prove that radio could be a dangerous medium by exaggerating the overall scale of the panic. In their book Panic Attacks, Robert Bartholomew and Hilary Evans believe that thousands of people were indeed frightened for a time, but that ultimately reports of individuals acting on their fear of an invasion from Mars is both "scant" and "anecdotal." Indeed, it seems that while many people in many locations did call the police about the invasion, there is little evidence to suggest that they did anything more than call the police.

As to what ultimately caused the panic, that remains a question to this day. The broadcast is in many respects very convincing and could perhaps be taken as an actual newscast by the casual listener. In fact, it is on October 30, 1938 that we have some of the earliest evidence for the phenomenon then called "zapping" and now known as "channel surfing." Quite simply, as was typical on a Sunday night in 1938, many were listening to The Chase and Sanborn Hour (so named because it was sponsored by Chase and Sanborn Coffee) starring ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummy Charlie McCarthy on NBC Red. It was around fifteen minutes into The Chase and Sanborn Hour that the first comedy sketch with Edgar Bergen ended. With the start of a musical segment, many switched from NBC Red to CBS. For that reason they missed the first announcement that the broadcast was not a real newscast, but merely a dramatisation. Despite this, a lack of knowledge cannot be entirely credited with causing the panic. It must be pointed out that this was the first time in the United States that a dramatic radio show took the form of a newscast. The average radio listener was then simply not used to a newsflashes being used for dramatic effect.

This was compounded by the fact that in the Northeast, at least, individuals would visit their neighbours to ask what was happening. As a result stories of the invasion from Mars would be repeated and would start to take shape as rumours, which would then spread making the panic all the worse. Some persist as urban legends to this day. It must also be pointed out that at the time World War II was already brewing in Europe and many Americans had very real anxieties as to an oncoming war. "The Invasion of Mars" perhaps fed into these anxieties, which may have made individuals more inclined to believe that Martians were invading Earth. Of course, critic for The New Yorker and radio personality Alexander Woollcott had a different theory on the cause of the panic. The next day he sent Welles a telegram which simply read, "This only goes to prove, my beamish boy, that the intelligent people were all listening to a dummy, and all the dummies were listening to you." Orson Welles would post the telegram on the door to his office.

While the exact causes of the panic which ensued following the War of the Worlds broadcast may never be known, it did have some very real consequences. Sadly for CBS, Orson Welles' lawyer, Arnold Weissberger, had written into his contract that the network, not Welles, would be held responsible for anything questionable Welles did on The Mercury Theatre of the Air. It has been estimated that around $1 million were claimed in lawsuits following in the wake of the broadcast. CBS may well have won every case, given that the programme had been announced ahead of time in newspapers and the three disclaimers that aired on the show itself. Even if CBS had lost every case, they were hardly hurting from money because of "The Invasion from Mars." The Campbell Soup Company, which had previously turned down sponsorship of The Mercury Theatre of the Air, volunteered to be the show's sponsor following the broadcast. The listenership of the show also jumped nearly 100% following the airing of "The Invasion of Mars."

While CBS may have been relatively unharmed by lawsuits, they would be hurt in other ways. Following an investigation into the matter, the Federal Communications Commission called CBS into account for failing to monitor their broadcasts for the incident. Since the time of the War of the Worlds broadcast, both radio and television networks have made sure during any dramatic broadcast taking the form of a newscast to have plentiful disclaimers that it is simply a fictional programme. During both the telefilms Special Bulletin in 1983 and the 1994 telefilm, Without Warning in 1994, which took the form of newscasts, many disclaimers telling viewers that this was a fictional account were aired.

In the years since it first aired, Orson Welles' War of the Worlds broadcast has become legendary. It has been remade several times, including by Buffalo radio station WKBW in 1968 (who updated it again), Denver station KHOW in 1987, and Washington, D.C. station WBIG-FM in 1997 (which also updated it). On October 30, 1988, the 50th anniversary of the broadcast, PBS aired its own remake. The first dramatisation of the panic itself, "The Night America Trembled," appeared on Studio One in 1957. In 1975 ABC would air a TV movie based on the panic, The Night That Panicked America. There have been many pop culture references to the War of the Worlds broadcast, from the novel version of 2001: a Space Odyssey to the movie The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension to an episode of the TV series War of the Worlds scheduled to coincide with the broadcast's 50th anniversary (on which it was naturally expressed that the United States government paid Orson Welles to make the broadcast to cover up a Martian reconnaissance mission who would begin on all out invasion in 1953--fifteen years later, when the movie version of War of the Worlds was released).

While it is best known for the panic it inspired, the lasting influence of "The Invasion from Mars" is probably not due to that notoriety, but due to the fact that it is a very good radio show. "The Invasion from Mars" has been widely available since the Sixties. It is to be found on both CDs and in MP3 format today. I remember listening to it exactly twenty years ago on this date with my friends (the majority of whom are fans of Old Time Radio like I am). We noted that we could understand how it could have caused a panic. "The Invasion from Mars" is very convincing. That having been said, it is also very dramatic and entertaining--one of the best radio shows I have ever heard. If it is still remembered today, then much of it is due to the quality of "The Invasion of the Mars" as it is the panic it inspired.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

DC Comics' Horror Titles of the Seventies

In the Seventies both Marvel Comics and DC Comics saw a boom in horror oriented comic books. In the case of Marvel, at least, this may have been due to the fact that the Comics Code had been relaxed. The late Forties saw the arrival of horror oriented comic books. By the Fifties there would many more horror titles on the racks, enough that between the horror comic books and the crime titles of the era, there arose a public uproar over their content. This uproar reached its peak in 1954 with the publication of Seduction of the Innocent by Dr. Frederic Wertham. This book was a very biased attack on the comic books of the era, and simply added fuel to the uproar over comic magazines. In reaction to the furore over the violent content of comic books, the industry formed the Comics Code Authority, a de facto censorship board for their magazines. The Comics Code is the set rules under which the Comics Code Authority awards their approval (in the form of the Comics Code Seal) of any given comic book.

Today the Comics Code of 1954 would seem overly Strict. The excessive use of slang and colloquialisms, any portrayal of drug use in any form,, and the portrayal of divorce as anything but undesirable were forbidden. Scenes invovling the walking dead, vampires, and werewolves were also prohibited. The words "crime," "horror," and "terror" were banned from the titles of comic books! For several years after the introduction of the Code, horror comics would be euphemistically called "mystery" comic books.

It was in 1971 that the Comics Code was revised. The portrayal of drug use was now allowed as long as it was portrayed as a "vicious habit." Vampires, ghouls, and werewolves were allowed, as long as they were shown "...in the classic tradition of Frankenstein, Dracula, and other high calibre literary works written by Edgar Allan Poe, Saki, Conan Doyle and other respected authors whose works are read in schools around the world." Strangely enough, zombies remained banned, as did the words "horror" and "terror." This relaxation in the Comics Code would allow Marvel Comics to publish its first true horror comic books in nearly two decades. With regards to DC Comics, its only real impact may have been to allow its existing horror titles to survive as long as they possibly could. DC's original horror titles would arrive in the Fifties. Some of these titles would fall by the wayside, while the one which survived would go through various changes in format. In 1968 DC Comics would return their remaining, former horror titles to their original roots. What is more, they would debut new horror titles over the next few years.

What may have persuaded DC Comics to return their former horror titles to their original was the rise of Warren Publishing's black and white horror magazines in the mid to late Sixties. Warren Publishing saw a good deal of success with their titles Creepy and Eerie, enough to inspire several imitators. The success of Creepy, Eerie, and later Vampirella may have not only persuaded DC Comics to revitalise their former horror titles, but to debut yet more. Along with the revision of the Comics Code, it may have been part of the reason Marvel Comics began publishing horror titles again.

DC Comics' original horror title, House of Mystery, debuted even as other publishers were jumping on the horror bandwagon. First published in December 1951, House of Mystery was originally an anthology of horror stories, although much tamer than those published in the titles of such competitors as E.C. Comics and particularly Harvey Comics. With the introduction of the Comics Code House of Mystery would deal less with supernatural menaces and more on science fiction type creatures and situations of the sort found in mystery and suspense movies. With June 1964 House of Mystery would become a superhero title, featuring the Martian Manhunter (who had debuted in Detective Comics #225, November 1955). The Martian Manhunter would remain the series' star until a new series was introduced, Dial H For Hero, in House of Mystery #156, January, 1966. By issue #173, March/April 1968, however, House of Mystery would return as a horror title.

House of Mystery #173, March/April 1968 featured reprints of a few horror stories still permissible under the Comics Code at that time. It would be the next issue, House of Mystery #174, May/June 1968 that would mark the title's full return to horror. Joe Orlando came on board as the magazine's editor with that title. Orlando would set the tone and style of House of Mystery for its remaining run, introducing the character of Cain (yes, that Cain) as the narrator of stories featured in the title. Cain was the caretaker of the House of Mystery, which was established as an actual location in the DC Universe. With Joe Orlando as editor, House of Mystery would win awards, including the Shazam Award for Best Individual Short Story (Dramatic) in 1972 for "The Demon Within" by John Albano and Jim Aparo in issue #201, and the Shazam Award for Best Humour Story in 1972 for "The Poster Plague" by Steve Skeates and Sergio Aragones in issue #202. It was also very successful, continuing its run until October 1983. Since then it has been revived a few times, while Cain and his brother Abel (who became the narrator of House of Secrets) would become recurring characters in the DC Universe, appearing in Swamp Thing, Sandman (where the Houses of Mystery and Secrets would be established as being in the Dreaming, the realm of Morpehus or Dream--the Sandman). This May it returned as a title under DC's Vertigo imprint.

DC Comics' next horror title would have a drastically different history than House of Mystery. The Phantom Stranger debuted in August-September 1952, featuring stories narrated by the mysterious figure known as the Phantom Stranger. The series was not successful, lasting only six issues. With interest in horror returning to DC Comics, the Phantom Stranger would be revived in issue #80, February, 1969 of DC's tryout magazine Showcase. A new series of the Phantom Stranger debuted with issue #1 in May-June 1969. For the first three issues, The Phantom Stranger consisted of reprints from the original title and the series "Dr. 13: Ghostbreaker" which had appeared in issues #122, November, 1951 to #130, July, 1952. With its fourth issue, November/December 1969, The Phantom Stranger became an ongoing character centred on the character of the title. Dr. Thirteen would be revived as a character in the magazine, trying to prove The Phantom Stranger is a fraud. The Phantom Stranger would last until issue #22, November/December 1972. Through the years he would continue to appear in various DC titles, usually assisting various other characters in times of need. He has also appeared in many of Vertigo's titles, including Swamp Thing, Hellblazer, and Sandman.

While his origins have never been revaled Secret Origins, volume 2 issue 10, January 1987 would provide four different origins for him. In one he was a man in Biblical times who committed suicide rather against God's will. In another he was revealed to be the Wandering Jew. A third claimed he was the survivor from another universe. Yet another proposes he was an angel who took neither side in the part of Lucifer's rebellion against the Judaeo-Christian God, and as a result was an outcast from both Heaven and Hell (as a result he found Man to be his only friend). Personally, I have always liked the last origin the best.

Oddly enough, the sister title of House of Mystery, House of Secrets debuted after the introduction of the Comics Code, in November/December 1956. Like The House of Mystery, it originally focused on science fiction type menaces and those mystery/suspense situations allowed by the Code. By issue #81, August-September 1969, House of Secrets would receive its first ongoing series, "Mark Merlin," about a modern day sorcerer of that name. More ongoing series would enter the title as it went on, with the superhero/supervillain in one featured in "Eclipso" debuting in #61 August 1963, Prince Ra-Man the Mind-Master in #73, October 1965, and yet others. House of Secrets ended its original run with issue #80, September/October 1966.

With the success brought by the return of House of Mystery, DC Comics then revived House of Secrets with issue #81. August/September 1969. Its stories were narrated by Abel, (yes, that Abel), and it was established that the House of Secrets was a real location in the DC Universe (later established as part of the Dreaming in Sandman). The series would continue until issue #222, October/November 1978, when it was merged with The Unexpected (a fancy way of saying it was cancelled). Despite this, Abel would continue to appear as a character in the DC Universe, alongside Cain, in the pages of Swamp Thing, Sandman (where he was, like Cain, a recurring character), and others. House of Secrets was briefly revived by Vertigo, running from October 1998 to Feb. 1999.

Tales of the Unexpected debuted not as a horror title, but as a science fiction/fantasy title with #1, February 1956. Like House of Mystery and House of Secrets, it was originally an anthology title featuring different stories, although it would eventually include ongoing series. The first and most notable of these was "Space Ranger," which appeared in issues #40, August 1959. With issue #82, May 1964 "Space Ranger" would move to Mystery in Space. Its other recurring titles were the largely forgotten "Green Glob" and "Automan." Tales of the Unexpected lasted until January 1969. With issue #105 February/March 1968 it was retitled The Unexpected and became a horror title, even before House of Mystery was revived (which it would be, the next month). Unlike House of Mystery and House of Secrets would have only a few recurring characters or narrators. Johnny Peril, a character originally from Sensation Comics (continuing after it was retitled Sensation Mystery), appeared starting with issue #106, April/May 1968 for several issues. Both the Mad, Mod Witch (from issues #108, October 1968 to 112, April 1969) and Judge Gallows (from issues #113, May 1969 and reappearing sporadically until issue #133, March 1970) were narrators of the title for a time. Madame Xanadu would appear sporadically from issues #190, April 1979 to #195, January/February 1980. The Unexpected was cancelled with issue 222, May 1982.

DC Comics' first, truly new horror title since The House of Secrets debuted even before The House of Secrets was revived. The Witching Hour #1 was cover dated February/March 1969. It was hosted by three witches named Mordred, Mildred, and Cynthia roughly modelled after the Weird Sisters from Macbeth and the theory of the Triple Goddess from Robert Graves' largely discredited book The White Goddess. It lasted until issue #85, October 1978, when it was merged with The Unexpected (see House of Secrets above). The three witches would later appear as The Three, an entity in the Dreaming who sometimes took the form of Modred, Mildred, and Cynthia.

DC Comics' next horror title would be one of the strangest horror comic books ever published. Weird War Tales debuted with the cover date of September 1971. It combined war stories with the horror, fantasy, and science fiction genres. The stories were narrated by Death himself, dressing a different military uniform for each issue. Late in the title's run it started featuring ongoing series, such as "Creature Commandos (which first appeared in #93, November 1980)," "G.I. Robot (which first appeared in Star Spangled War Stories #101, February-March 1952 and first appeared in Weird War Tales #101, July 1981)," and "The War That Time Forgot (which first appeared in Star Spangled War Stories #90, April/May 1960 and first appeared in Weird War Tales December #94, 1980)." Despite its strange premise, Weird War Tales proved popular enough to last for 124 issues, until June 1983. In 1997 DC's Vertigo imprint revived the title for a four issue miniseries. It would later revive it for a one shot in 2000.

Ghosts was another specialised title to debut at DC Comics, with a cover date of September-October 1971. The title featured stories with a supernatural bent, most often about ghosts. A single page, regular feature which included depictions of ghost sightings was added with issue #37, April 1975. Unlike many of DC Comics' horror titles, Ghosts only had one ongoing series to ever appear in it. Starting with issue #95, December 1980 and lasting until #102, July 1981 was a revival of "Dr. 13: Ghostbreaker (who had most recently been a recurring character in The Phantom Stranger.

The success of Weird War Tales was enough for DC Comics to transform All-Star Western into Weird Western Tales, which debuted with issue #12, June/July 1972. From the beginning Weird Western Tales featured ongoing series, the star of which was grizzled gunfighter "Jonah Hex (who had debuted in All-Star Western #10, February-March 1972)." He remained the title's star until receiving his own title in 1977, whereupon "Scalphunter," which debuted with issue #39 Apr 1977, became the featured series. Weird Western Tales also proved very popular, running for 59 issues until August 1980. It was revived in 2001 as a four issue limited series.

Weird Mystery Tales debuted with a cover date of July/August 1972. It was hosted by Destiny, who would later be revealed as one of the Endless (and hence Morpheus' brother) in the pages of Sandman. The first few issues featured stories by Jack Kirby and later issues would feature work by Bernie Wrightson. Despite this it only lasted on and off for 24 issues until folding with issue #24, November 1975.

Secrets of Sinister House debuted with a cover date July 1972. At that time it was a specialised title, like Weird War Tales, combining romance with the supernatural. After its fourth issue this was ended and it went to straight tales of the supernatural. With issue #6, September 1972 it received its own narrator in the form of Eve (yes, that Eve). Both of her sons, Cain and Abel, would put guest appearances in the title. It was renamed Secrets of Sinister House with issue #14, April-May 1975, but Eve continued as its host until a Destiny from Weird Mystery Tales took over. It received its first ongoing series in the form of "Mister E," with issue #31,Dec. 1980. Later both Johnny Peril and Dr. 13 would appear in the book. It ran until issue #14. November 1978, only to be revived with issue #15, August 1979. Thereupon it ran until issue #February 1982.

The next DC Comics title would be the only one besides The Phantom Stranger to feature a continuing character in an ongoing series. In fact, Swamp Thing may be the most famous horror character to emerge from DC Comics. Swamp Thing would emerge from a story which appeared in House of Secrets #92, June/July 1971. The story centred on a murder victim whose corpse was dumped in a swamp, whose body then rises from the grave (or the swamp, to be more accurate) and becomes a creature made of muck out to avenge his death. Swamp Thing was not a continuation of that story, but rather introduced a new story based on the same concept, which also owes a good deal to Golden Age character The Heap (published by Hillman Periodicals and first appearing in the pages of Airboy) and the short story "It" by Theodore Sturgeon. As originally conceived, Swamp Thing was Dr. Alec Holland, a scientist studying swamps in Louisiana to create a life restoring formula. Holland is murdered with a bomb placed by criminals who want the formula. His body, bathed in the chemicals from the formula and lying in the swamp, rises as a creature made of the sort of vegetable matter found in most swamps. The original Swamp Thing developed a cult following, as the Swamp Thing battled such opponents as the Patchwork Man (based on another character appearing in a different story from House of Secrets #92), Matthew Cable (who believed Swamp Thing had murdered Holland and his wife), and his archnemesis Dr. Anton Arcane. The series developed a cult following, but only managed to last until issue #24, August/September 1976.

While his title was cancelled, Swamp Thing did not die. A movie based on the comic book and directed by Wes Craven debuted in 1982. The success of the movie saw DC Comics debut a new Swamp Thing title Saga of the Swamp Thing (later retitled Swamp Thing), with a cover date of May 1982. The title suffered from low sales and was in danger of being cancelled when when British writer Alan Moore came on board starting with issue #21, February 1984. Moore heavily revised Swamp Thing, making him an earth elemental made of almost entirely of vegetable matter, charged with the Parliament of Trees (a group of similar elementals) with defending the planet. Under Moore's run the series would see the introduction of John Constantine (who would later have his own Vertigo series with Hellblazer), and included battles with zombies, werewolves, and vampires, as well as many using many underused DC characters, such as The Phantom Stranger and The Demon. During Moore's run Swamp Thing would become one of the founding titles of DC Comic's more adult oriented Vertigo line (the other founding titles were Neil Gaiman's Sandman, Grant Morrison's Animal Man, Doom Patrol, and Shade the Changing Man). During approximately the same period Swamp Thing would see another movie (Return of Swamp Thing, released in 1989) and a TV series (Swamp Thing on the USA Network, which ran from 1990 to 1993). It is still published to this day.

DC Comics' next new title would be a spinoff of Weird Western Tales. As mentioned above, Jonah Hex would be given his own title in 1977. This title was successful enough to run 85 issues, until 1985. A new title, Hex, debuted that same year. This new title separated Hex from the Old West, throwing him into a Mad Max style, post apocalyptic future. It only lasted for 18 issues. Jonah Hex would be featured in three different Vertigo miniseries (Two Gun Mojo in 1993, Riders of the Worm and Such in 1995, and Shadows West in 1999. In 2005 he received his own title again, which is still being published. The Vertigo titles tend to be even more supernaturally oriented than the original DC series. Jonah Hex has proven to be one of DC's more successful horror characters. There was talk of a live action movie in the Seventies and onward, although nothing ever got beyond pre-production. Finally, a live action movie would be announced for a 2010 release. Josh Brolin is apparently in talks to play the character. The character has appeared twice in series based on DC's characters. His first appearance was in the classic Batman: The Animated Series series episode "Showdown," where he battled Batman foe Ra's al Ghul in the Old West. The character would also appeared in the Justice League Unlimited series "The Once and Future Thing." Weird Western Tales would be credited with the creation of a whole new subgenre, "weird west," in which the Old West in blended with the supernatural. As far as characters go, Jonah Hex has been held responsible by many for the creation of the subgenre.

DC Comics' final horror series of the Seventies would not be a success. Doorway to Nightmare was an anthology title featuring Madame Xanadu, an immortal fortune teller. The title debuted with a cover date of February 1978, but lasted only five issues, ending with the September/October 1978 issue. It was one of twenty series cancelled (along with House of Secrets, Secrets of Haunted House, and The Witching Hour) as part of what has become called "the DC Implosion," in which DC ended many titles as a cost cutting measure in the face of very poor sales during the winter of 1977. "The DC Implosion" received its name as a sardonic reference to the "DC Explosion," a recent advertising campaign in which DC Comics raised the prices of its comic books and increased their page counts, as well as published many new titles. Despite the failure of her title, Madame Xanadu continues to make appearances in DC and Vertigo titles to this day, including The Spectre, Books of Magic, Fate, and JLA. She has also appeared in a self titled one-shot in 1981 and a Vertigo miniseries this year.

What primarily killed DC's horror titles, for the most part successful, were two things. The first was the DC Implosion, in which titles with marginal or low sales (House of Secrets, The Witching Hour, Secrets of Haunted House, and Doorway to Nightmare) were cancelled en masse. The other was the simple fact that by the Eighties, horror comic books were no longer fashionable. Marvel had ended their horror line in the Seventies. By 1982 and 1983 the horror titles were not selling very well at all, hence the reason for their cancellations.

In the end DC Comics' horror titles would prove more successful than those published by Marvel Comics in the Seventies. While a few of the series lasted only briefly (such as Weird Mystery Tales and Doorway to Nightmare), most had respectable runs, some even had long runs (House of Mystery, The Unexpected). DC Comics' title would also prove influential. Although the company focused primarily on anthology titles (as opposed to Marvel, who focused on continuing characters in their horror magazines), DC's horror comic books produced such enduring characters as Swamp Thing, Jonah Hex, Cain, and Abel. More importantly, DC's horror titles of the Seventies would provide the building blocks for the company's Vertigo line of the Nineties. The revival of Swamp Thing would be one of the founding titles of Vertigo, while other titles (House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Weird Mystery Tales, and so on) would provide material for the mythology of Sandman. To this day the DC horror comic books of the Seventies still have a following. Indeed, I have fond memories myself of reading House of Secrets, House of Mystery, Swamp Thing, and The Phantom Stranger in the Seventies. Although long gone for the most part, they will then continue to be a force in the comic book industry.

Monday, 27 October 2008

A History of Hammer Horror Movies Part Two

The Sixties saw Hammer Film Productions at its height. The vast majority of its classic films were released in this decade and more Hammer Films were released in the Sixties than any other decade. The studio had distribution deals with both Universal and Columbia which provided much needed funding for their movies. In the middle of the decade the studio would also have a new deal with Seven Arts, allowing them make some of their finer films. Over all, the Sixties was a very lucrative time for The Studio That Dripped Blood. Unfortunately, disaster loomed over the horizon.

Nineteen sixty one saw Hammer expand beyond Gothic horror into psychological thrillers, with the release of Taste of Fear. These psychological thrillers were shot on shoestring budgets in black and white, and while often compared to the work of Hitchcock, probably owe more to Henri-Georges Clouzot than any other director (particularly his film Les Diaboliques. In all, Hammer would release eight more psychological thrillers: Maniac in 1961, Paranoiac in 1963, Nightmare in 1964, both Fanatic and The Nanny in 1965, Crescendo in 1970, and Fear in the Night.

While best known for their horror movies, Hammer would continue to release films from other genres throughout the decade, including adventure films (Captain Klegg and Wolfshead among them), comedies (A Weekend with Lulu and The Anniversary among them), and science fiction movies (Moon Zero Two). Beginning with One Million Years B.C. in 1966 (starring Raquel Welch), Hammer also released a lucrative series of cave girl movies, such as When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth and The Creatures That Time Forgot.

Throughout the Sixties, however, Hammer's bread and butter would remain its Gothic horror movies. As might be expected, then, Hammer Films continued its expansion into the genre in the early Sixties. While Hammer would never remake Universal's Wolf Man, they did produce their own take on the werewolf, released in 1961. Curse of the Werewolf was the first starring role for Oliver Reed. It was loosely based on the novel Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore. Nineteen sixty two would see Hammer continue to expand into the Gothic horror genre. That year they would release a comedy remake of Universal's The Old Dark House, made in conjunction with William Castle. They would also release their own lavish adaptation of Gaston Leroux novel Phantom of the Opera, starring Herbert Lom in the title role.

Unfortunately, 1963 would see Hammer slow its production due to lack of funds. Out of the meagre three feature films the studio released that year, only one was a horror movie (Maniac) and it was not Gothic horror. Fortunately, as mentioned above, a new deal with Seven Arts would bring in much needed cash, allowing Hammer to start producing new Gothic horror films. Nineteen sixty four would see the release of The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb and The Gorgon (Hammer's take on the legendary Greek monster). In the following years Hammer would release such Gothic horror movies as The Plague of the Zombies (Hammer's exploration of voodoo and zombies, which would prove influential in the genre), Rasputin the Mad Monk, The Mummy's Shroud, and The Devil Rides Out. Devil Rides Out, released in 1968, is remarkable as one of the studio's finest movies. Based on the novel of the same name by Dennis Wheatley, Hammer thought of producing the movie as early as 1963. At that time, however, it was feared that the British censors would not be comfortable with the Satanism portrayed in the book. By 1968 censorship in the United Kingdom had eased so that Hammer was able to go ahead with the film. It was well received by critics and has been said by Christopher Lee to be his favourite film of those in which he has appeared.

Perhaps unfortunately, the mid-Sixties would see Hammer begin releasing more sequels. The Evil of Frankenstein was released in 1964, followed by Frankenstein Created Woman in 1967 and yet others. Christopher Lee would reprise his role as Dracula in Dracula Prince of Darkness in 1966, followed by six more sequels. The sequels would vary a good deal in quality. Some, such as Frankenstein Created Woman, would actually receive in acclaim. Others, such as The Evil of Frankenstein and Dracula A.D. 1972, are disliked by fans and critics in equal measure. Oddly enough, one of Hammer's finest vampire movies started out as a sequel to The Brides of Dracula, again without the Count. The Kiss of the Vampire began life as a Dracula sequel, although in the final draught screenwriter Anthony Hinds would remove all references to the Count. The movie is one of the best ever made by Hammer, and was fairly original at the time in its treatment of vampirism as a disease.

While Hammer was doing well in the Sixties, Exclusive was not. Since Hammer had largely switched to American distributors, its original distributor and the company responsible for its resurrection, Exclusive Films, lay dormant. The company was liquidated in 1968, eight years after it distributed its last film (Murder at Site 3 for Francis Searle Productions).

It would be in 1968 that Hammer would make its first successful venture into television. The TV series Journey to the Unknown was produced in conjunction with Twentieth Century Fox and the American Broadcasting Company. It aired for one season on ABC in the United States during the 1968/1969 season. In the United Kingdom it would show up occasionally on various ITV stations.

Unfortunately for Hammer, the Sixties would also see events that would lead to their undoing. Colour television had been introduced in the United Kingdom in 1967, causing a decline in the profits British films saw in Britain. This would effectively mean an end to the boom the British film industry had experienced since the late Fifties. And while much of what drew people to Hammer's horror movies was their graphic (at the time) portrayal of violence, Hollywood films such as Bonnie and Clyde (released in 1967) and The Wild Bunch (released in 1968) would increase the amount of bloodshed in mainstream American movies. The final nail in Hammer's coffin may have been Rosemary's Baby, Roman Polanski's 1968 adaptation of Ira Levin's novel. The film marked a move away from Gothic horror to more subtle, literate, and artistic horror movies. Other studios had already largely abandoned the genre, it seemed Gothic horror was largely on the way out.

Hammer soon realised that they would have to adapt to the Seventies if they wished to compete in that decade. Initially, this involved increasing the amount of violence in their films. Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is a perfect example of this. In the film Dr. Frankenstein not only commits murder, but commits rape as well (a scene which Peter Cushing deplored). It soon became apparent, however, that upping the amount of violence in their films was not helping them at the box office. The Studio That Dripped Blood then turned to sex. The Vampire Lovers (based on Sheridan LeFanu's Carmilla and released in 1970), Lust for a Vampire (released in 1971), and Twins of Evil (released later in 1971), collectively known as "The Karnstein Trilogy (they are all interlinked by the Karnstein family)," contained more nudity than any Hammer film up to their time. They also featured the most explicit portrayal of lesbianism seen in mainstream movies made in English. The Karnstein Trilogy is a matter of debate among Hammer films. Some like the movies, other do not. Another film which involved a good deal of sex was Countess Dracula. Like Vampire Lovers, it starred Ingrid Pitt, this time as a character based on the historical Countess Elizabeth Bathory (who killed a number of young girls, it is said because she believed that by bathing in their blood she could preserve her youth).

While some consider The Karnstein Trilogy to be a low point in Hammer Films history, there can be no denying that the studio could still be creative and original in the Seventies. Part of this was due to the introduction of new blood into the studio. Among this new blood was veteran producer of The Avengers Brian Clemens. Clemens would write and produce two films for Hammer Film Productions (one of which he also directed). The first was Dr. Jekyll, Sister Hyde released in 1971, which featured the unique twist of having the doctor become a beautiful, if evil, woman instead of a monster. The second was Kronos. Arguably Kronos was not only among Clemens' best work, but among Hammer's best work as well. Kronos centred on an unusual vampire hunter battling a new sort of vampire. In the film, Clemens effectively turns many of Hammer's clichés on their head. Sadly, both Dr. Jekyll, Sister Hyde and Kronos failed at the box office. Another person new to Hammer, was Robert Young. Young would only direct one feature film for Hammer and one episode of Hammer House of Horror. The film he directed for Hammer, however, was starkly original. Vampire Circus, released in 1972, focused on a circus travelling through 19th century Europe in which all the performers are vampires, even the animals! The idea might sound hokey, but it works due to a touch of surrealism and an interesting take on vampire lore.

Hammer would produce other original films in the Seventies beyond these few. Hands of the Ripper, released in 1971, was Hammer's exploration of the effect of her father's occupation on the daughter of Jack the Ripper. Another starkly original film was Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, released in 1974. Produced in conjunction with the Shaw Brothers of Hong Kong, the film was the final sequel to Dracula. It was released at the height of the kung fu craze and, as might be expected of a Hammer Film Productions/Shaw Brothers production, sought to combine Hammer Horror with Shaw Brothers kung fu action. Peter Cushing returned as Dr. Van Helsing, this time fighting vampires in China. Christopher Lee did not return as Dracula in the movie, John Forbes-Robertson assuming the role instead. Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires has a reputation of being an absolutely dreadful film, a reputation I suspect it does not deserve. Although far from perfect, the movie is interesting, original, and entertaining. I suspect its reputation as an awful movie is based entirely on the American version, 7 Brothers Versus Dracula, which cut sixteen minutes from the film and rearranged scenes, making the movie incomprehensible.

Despite a large degree of creativity and originality still existing at the studio, Hammer continued to do poorly as the Seventies progressed. Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, Kronos, Vampire Circus, and Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires all failed at the box office. The situation would perhaps not been so dire had the various sequels to The Curse of Frankenstein and Dracula not declined in quality. Horror of Frankenstein, released in 1970, was a parody and remake of The Curse of Frankenstein and the only Hammer Frankenstein movie which did not feature Peter Cushing as the doctor (Ralph Bates played the role). The film is regarded by many as one of the lesser sequels. The sequels to Dracula would fare even worse. This was particularly the case with the two sequels set in contemporary times, Dracula A.D. 1972 (released in 1972) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (released in 1973). The two films emerged as a result of the success of Count Yorga, Vampire (released in 1970)), a vampire story set in modern times. With that film's success Warner Brothers (who had been sold to Seven Arts Productions in 1966) requested that Hammer Films make two movies featuring Dracula in contemporary London. The two films are now regarded as the worst of the sequels. Lee eventually grew so dissatisfied with the quality of the Dracula sequels that he decided The Satanic Rites of Dracula would be his last.

If there was a year that indicated Hammer was on its last legs, it may well have been 1973. That year was the first in over a decade that Hammer released no horror movies of any kind. Instead, its entire output that year were big screen adaptations of British sitcoms (such as Man at the Top and That's Your Funeral), a somewhat lucrative business launched when the studio adapted On the Buses for the big screen in 1971. In 1974 Hammer would return with such horror movies as Kronos, but they released nothing in 1975 whatsoever. Nineteen seventy six would see their final horror movie of the Twentieth Century. To the Devil a Daughter was based on Dennis Wheatley's novel of the same name (the same writer who had written the novel upon which The Devil Rides Out was based). Like the novel, the film involved Satanists plotting to use the body of a young girl (Nastassja Kinski in an early role) as the avatar of Satan on Earth. This has led some to think it was a Rosemary's Baby rip off, when Wheatley had written To the Devil a Daughterin 1954. That having been said, with To the Devil a Daughter Hammer eschewed their usual style in attempt to follow in the footsteps of such horror movies as Rosemary's Baby. The combination did not work and To the Devil a Daughter failed at the box office.

Hammer would make only one more feature film in the twentieth century. The Lady Vanishes, released in 1979, was a remake of the 1938 Hitchcock movie of the same name. It starred Elliot Gould, Cybill Shepherd, and Angela Lansbury. The movie was not only poorly received by critics, but bombed at the box office. In the process, it almost bankrupted Hammer.

Hammer's output was exceedingly meagre for the rest of the twentieth century and none of it involved feature films. In 1980 Hammer Film Productions re-entered the field of television with Hammer House of Horror. The series ran for 13 episodes. They followed Hammer House of Horror with another anthology series, Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense, in 1984. It also ran for 13 episodes. In the United States the episodes were expanded to ninety minutes and ran under the title Fox Mystery Theatre.

After producing the two television series Hammer would only offer up two more productions. The first was the documentary TV series The World of Hammer, each episode of which explored a different aspect of Hammer's long career. It debuted in 1990. The second was a television documentary, Flesh and Blood: the Hammer Heritage of Horror, which first aired in 1994. Since that time Hammer Film Productions would spend most of its time dormant, although it would change hands.

In 2000 the company was sold to a consortium of private investors. They announced plans to take Hammer Films back into movie production, but no movies emerged. On May 10, 2007 there came an announcement that Dutch producer John De Mol (best known as the creator of the reality show Big Brother) had purchased Hammer Film Productions. The studio was immediately put back into production, co-producing the internet serial Beyond the Rave with MySpace. This year they began production on their first feature film in twenty nine years and their first horror movie in thirty two years. The Wake Wood will be released in the fall of 2009. Hammer also acquired the rights to remake the Swedish vampire film Lat den rätte komma in (literally Let the Right One Come in), which in turn based on a novel by Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist. It would seem, then, that Hammer has risen from the grave.

Since its founding in 1934, Hammer Film Productions has had a remarkable history, perhaps even a singular history. Universal Studios was a major Hollywood studio when it started making its classic horror movies in the Thirties. On the other hand, Hammer had to rise from a small studio that made quickies to a successful studio that made hit horror movies. What is more, Hammer made its horror movies with a distinctive style, with an emphasis on lighting and vivid use of colour. The studio also introduced gore into the horror film, being the one of the firsts to do so in colour. They also sparked a new cycle of Gothic horror films, in which American International, Amicus, and Tigon would all take part. One can only hope that with Wake of the Wood they not only return to their previous success, but the previous quality of their films as well. If Hammer Film Productions proved influential, it was largely because they made good horror movies that would become classics. After all, there is a reason that Curse of Frankenstein and Dracula are still so highly regarded today.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

A History of Hammer Horror Movies Part One

When people think of horror movies, they are inclined to think of two studios. One is Universal, which produced many of the genre's classics in the Thirties and the Forties. The other is the British studio Hammer Films, which produced its own number of classics in the Fifties and Sixties. Hammer introduced a number of innovations to the horror movie genre. Among other things, they were the first studio to shoot Gothic horror films in colour. Prior to the Hammer horror movies, the vast majority of Gothic horror movies were shot in black and white. Shot in colour, the Hammer films were also more violent than previous movies in the genre. Most horror films up to the Fifties either eschewed showing blood or, being shot in black and white, minimised its impact. In the Hammer movies, blood was not only displayed in vivid red, but more of it was displayed on the screen than had been seen before. Hammer Films also added a hint of sex to the horror genre, something which had rarely been seen before.

The origins of Hammer can be traced back to Enrique Carreras and William Hinds. A immigrant to Britain from Spain, Enrique Carreras went into the theatre business in 1913 with the purchase of a cinema in Hammersmith. Carreras' one theatre eventually grew into a chain. William Hinds was co-owner with his brother Frank of Hinds Jewellery. He also performed in music halls and theatres under the name "Will Hammer." It was in November 1934 that Hinds founded Hammer Productions Ltd. Production began on their first release shortly thereafter, the comedy The Public Life of Henry the Ninth. It was in 1935 that Hinds met Carreras, who was interested in expanding into the film industry. Together they formed Exclusive Films Ltd., a movie distribution company. Although Hammer Productions Ltd. and Exclusive Films Ltd. remained separate companies, they were very closely associated with each other.

In the late Thirties Hammer Productions Ltd. released a few films, most notably The Mystery of the Mary Celeste, starring Bela Lugosi, and Song of Freedom, starring Paul Robeson. Unfortunately, the British film industry would fail with the approach of World War II. This would affect Hammer Productions Ltd., which would file for bankruptcy in 1937. Exclusive Films Ltd. survived as a film distributor and continued to distribute films made by other companies. In 1938 the son of Enrique Carreras, James Carreras, joined the company. William Hinds' son, Anthony Hinds, would join the company shortly thereafter. Both men served in World War II. In 1945 James Carreras' son, Michael Carreras, would join the company as its director of publicity.

Following World War II, James Carreras reformed Hammer in 1947 as a subsidiary of Exclusive Films Ltd. Exclusive would finally register Hammer Film Productions as a company in 1949. The original purpose of Hammer was to produce B-movies, whose primary purpose was simply to fill theatre programmes. The new company was soon at work producing films such as Death in High Heels and movies based on the British radio show Dick Barton--Special Agent (a predecessor of sorts of James Bond). Having not been registered until 1949, however, the first movie to officially bear the name Hammer Film Productions was Dr. Morelle, released in that same year (also based on a British radio show character, in this case criminologist Dr. Morelle).

During this period Hammer Films produced a variety of genres, although many of its movies would be crime dramas, thrillers, and mysteries. In 1953 the company released its first venture into science fiction and the first British sci-fi film since Things to Come, Spaceways. They would venture into science fiction again, as well as horror, with their adaptation of the popular BBC television serial The Quatermass Experiment. First broadcast in 1953, the serial was enormously popular and would inspire a number of sequels. To take advantage of the British film industry's then new X certificate for horror movies, Hammer christened their adaptation of serial The Quatermass Xperiment, released in 1955. The Quatermass Experiment was successful enough that Hammer wanted to do a sequel. Unfortunately for Hammer, Nigel Kneale (the creator of Quatermass) refused the company the rights. As a result, the intended Quatermass Xperiment sequel became X the Unknown, released in 1956. Like The Quatermass Xperiment, X the Unknown also ventured into the territory of horror. It was in 1954 that Hammer released its first colour film, The Men of Sherwood Forest, based on the Robin Hood legend.

It would be in the mid-Fifties that Hammer would strike a deal with Associated Artists Pictures (AAP) to promote their films in the United States. It would be this deal with AAP that would turn Hammer Films into one of the great horror movies studios. About the same time producers Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky submitted a screenplay adapting the novel Frankenstein to AAP. When AAP rejected it on the grounds that Rosenberg and Subotsky had produced only one feature film, the two men submitted it to Hammer Films instead. Hammer would not produce the film, initially called Frankenstein and the Monster, without difficulties. Michael Carreras thought that the script was badly formatted, sometimes leaving out whether a scene was set at day or night among other things. Anthony Hinds worried that the screenplay followed Universal's classic adaptation from 1931 a bit too closely, which could result in a copyright infringement lawsuit if the script was produced as it was written. Eventually Anthony Hinds brought screenwriter Jimmy Sangster (who had written X the Unknown to rewrite the screenplay). Hinds was impressed enough with Sangster's screenplay that he reversed his decision to produce it as a B-movie shot in black and white. The Curse of Frankenstein would be Hammer's first horror movie shot in colour.

The Curse of Frankenstein would be a pivotal film for both Hammer Films and the horror genre. As noted above, it was shot in colour, whereas previous Gothic horror movies were shot primarily in black and white. It also contained much more blood than previous Gothic horror films. Featuring Hazel Court as Frankenstein's fiancee Elizabeth, it also introduced a bit more sex than had previously been seen in Gothic horror films. The Curse of Frankenstein would also establish the style for which Hammer became known. Although shot on a modest budget, the sets had a lavish look about them that made the film look more expensive than it really was. The Curse of Frankenstein would be hugely successful not only in the United Kingdom as well, not only starting Hammer's successful run of horror movies in the late Sixties and into the Fifties, but starting a new cycle of Gothic horror movies as well.

Hammer would venture into horror again with the official sequel to The Quatermass Xperiment, an adaptation of the 1955 BBC television serial Quatermass II. This serial would see Dr. Quatermass facing an alien plot that foresaw Invasion of the Body Snatchers, in which high ranking British officials are being taken over by extraterrestrials. The film was released in 1957. Hammer's next horror movie was The Abominable Snowman, released the same year.

Having produced a phenomenally successful adaptation of Frankenstein, Hammer then decided to produce its own version of Dracula. This meant that Hammer would once more have to deal with Universal to insure that there were no similarities between the 1931 Universal film and Hammer's intended movie. And despite the success of The Curse of Frankenstein, Hammer had difficulty finding financing for their production of Dracula. Eventually Hammer received money from the National Film Finance Council and a bit more money from Universal in trade for the movie's worldwide distribution rights. Like The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula once more featured Peter Cushing (who had played Dr. Frankenstein) and Christopher Lee (who had played the Creature) as Van Helsing and Dracula respectively. Dracula (released in the United States as The Horror of Dracula) would prove even more successful than The Curse of Frankenstein. Released in 1958, it was largely responsible for turning Christopher Lee into a horror icon, perhaps the only actor as identified with the role of Dracula as Bela Lugosi. It also reaffirmed Hammer as a maker of fine, if violent (for the era) Gothic horror movies. Hammer released a sequel to The Curse of Frankenstein, The Revenge of Frankenstein. The studio also made their first venture into television, with a failed pilot for a series to be called Tales of Frankenstein.

By 1959, Hammer Films would be well established as a studio which produced Gothic horror movies. That year saw the studio release its own adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Man Who Could Cheat Death (based on the play The Man in Half Moon Street by Barre Lyndon). It also released its own version of The Mummy, having received permission from Universal to remake any of its classics. The film was not so much a remake of Universal's 1932 film, however, as it was The Mummy's Hand and The Mummy's Tomb (the mummy in the film is Kharis, not Imhotep). Like The Curse of Frankenstein and Dracula before it, The Mummy proved successful, although it did not inspire a number of sequels as the other two films did (Hammer's other mummy movies were unrelated to The Mummy. During the late Fifties Hammer continued to produce non-horror films as well, including comedies and war dramas.

The Sixties would see Hammer continue to produce Gothic horror films in greater and greater numbers. Many of these would be sequels to The Curse of Frankenstein and Dracula. In fact, the studio would begin the decade with its first sequel to Dracula. Christopher Lee would not appear in this sequel (supposedly Hammer was afraid he would ask for too much money), and so it is the only Dracula sequel which does not feature Dracula. In The Brides of Dracula Van Helsing faces Baron Meinster, a vampire created by Dracula himself. Nineteen sixty also saw the release of Hammer's own take on The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll.

As mentioned above, Hammer's success would lead to a revival of Gothic horror movies. American International Pictures was the first to follow in Hammer's footsteps, with the release of their first Edgar Allan Poe adaptation The House of Usher in 1960. Eventually AIP would not only adapt Poe's stories, but "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (under the name of The Haunted Palace)" by H. P. Lovecraft as well. Perhaps best known as a competitor of Hammer is Amicus Productions. Amicus began film production with such teen oriented musicals as It's Trad, Dad, but by 1964 had gone into production of horror movies with Dr. Terror's House of Horrors. Although often confused with Hammer's films, Amicus' horror movies were generally set in the present and had a portmanteau format, featuring multiple, interconnected stories in one film. They would go onto to produce such films Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror (which, along with the aforementioned film, were adaptations of EC Comics), and Asylum. Another studio to follow in Hammer's footsteps was Tigon British Film Productions. Founded in 1966, they released their first horror movie (The Sorcerers) the following year. Today they are perhaps best known for the films Witchfinder General and The Creeping Flesh.

Despite competition from other studios, Hammer Films would dominate the field of Gothic horror throughout the Sixties. Unfortunately, that decade would also see the studio's decline as horror films moved away from Gothic horror to other subgenres.