Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hammer Director Don Sharp Passes On

Don Sharp, who directed such movies as Kiss of the Vampire (1963) and Raputin: The Mad Monk (1966) for Hammer Films, passed on 14 December 2011 at the age of 90.

Don Sharp was born on 19 April 1921 in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. He attended St. Virgil's College in Tasmania. In 1941 He enlisted in the Australian Air Force. Following World War II he began acting on radio and on stage. In 1949 he moved to England. There he co-wrote and acted in his first movie, Ha'penny Breeze, in 1950. As an actor Mr. Sharp would only appear in a few more films, as his career shifted more towards writing and directing. In 1955 he directed his first film, The Stolen Airliner. Over the next few years he directed the films The Inbetween Age (1958), The Adventure of Hal 5 (1958), Linda (1960), and Two Guys Abroad (1962). He also directed episodes of the series Ghost Squad.

It was in 1963 that he directed the Hammer classic Kiss of the Vampire. The film is credited with having save Hammer Films, which had faltered slightly with the release of a big budget, critically panned version of Phantom of the Opera. For the remainder of the Sixties Don Sharp directed such movies as Witchcraft (1964), The Devil-Ship Pirates (1964), Curse of the Fly (1965), The Face of Fu Manchu (1965), Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966), The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966), Those Fantastic Flying Fools (1967), and A Taste of Excitement (1970). He also directed episodes of The Avengers and The Champions.

From the Seventies into the Eighties, Don Sharp directed such films as Dark Places (1973), Psychomania (1973), Callan (1974), Hennessey (1975), Bear Island (1978), Thirty Nine Steps (1978), and What Waits Below (1985). He also directed episodes of Q.E.D., Hammer House of Horror, and Woman of Substance. Mr. Sharp also wrote many movies, including Conflict of Wings (1954), The Stolen Airliner (1955), The Adventures of Hal 5 (1958), Legend of a Gunfighter (1964), and A Taste of Excitement (1960).

Don Sharp was a very talented director who could work well with a limited budget. He tended to be meticulous with regards to even small details in his productions, making them look  more expensive than they really were. What is more, Mr. Sharp was able to work in such genres as horror and thrillers without ever resorting to sensationalism. While he only directed three films for Hammer, in many ways he was an ideal director for the studio. Indeed, Kiss of the Vampire is arguably among the greatest films the studio ever produced.

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