Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Greatest Movies Hammer Films Never Made

From 1957 to the early Seventies, with the release of of Curse of Frankenstein, Hammer Film Productions dominated the horror genre in cinema in a way that no studio had since Universal in the Thirties and Forties. The studio would release such classics as Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula (1958), The Mummy (1959), and yet others. Hammer also released films in other genres, including psychological thrillers, swashbucklers, and caveman movies. While Hammer released a large number of classics and not-so-classics over the years, there were also those films Hammer had planned, but ultimately never produced. Here are what in my opinion the best films that Hammer never made.

1. The Night Creatures: Not to be confused with Hammer's 1962 swashbuckler Captain Clegg (which was retitled Night Creatures in the United States), The Night Creatures  would have been an adaptation of the 1954 novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Not only did Hammer obtain the film rights to the novel's adaptation, but Richard Matheson himself would write the screenplay.

Unfortunately, The Night Creatures would run into trouble with censors on both sides of the Atlantic. The British Board of Film Censorship (BBFC) rejected The Night Creatures outright without suggesting any alterations or revisions to the script. In fact, the BBFC made it clear that if The Night Creatures was produced, it would not receive a certificate passing it for exhibition. Here it must be pointed out that Hammer had earlier run into trouble with the BBFC over Curse of Frankenstein and Dracula. The MPAA's Production Code Administration (PCA) in the United States submitted two pages detailing a number of objections to brutality, profanity, and immorality in the proposed film. Quite simply, if the script was shot as it was, the PCA would deny it a certificate of approval. Unlike Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula, and their other horror movies, it seemed that there was no way that Hammer could receive approval from industry watchdogs on either side of the Pond for The Night Creatures.

Hammer would ultimately sell the script to American producer Robert Lippert, who would use it as the basis for his film based on I Am Legend, The Last Man on Earth (1964). Dissatisfied with the movie, Richard Matheson insisted he be credited under the pen name "Logan Swanson." Mr. Matheson would publish the screenplay, along with two other unproduced screenplays he had written, in the book Visions Deferred in 2002.

2. King Kong: For Hammer Film Productions' 100th film in 1966, the studio planned to produce a remake of King Kong (1933). The company even approached Ray Harryhausen about the project. Unfortunately for Hammer, the project never got beyond the discussion stage. RKO refused to sell the rights for a remake, willing only to sell the rights for sequels to King Kong (such as Toho's King Kong vs. Godzilla). For their 100th film, Hammer then produced a remake of One Million B.C. titled One Million Years B.C. (1966) as their 100th film.

3. Zeppelin v. Pterodactyls: Zeppelin v. Pterodactyls originated as an idea from When Dinosaurs Rule the Earth (1970) stop-motion animator David Allen. It then emerged as a 20 page synopsis titled Raiders of the Stone Ring by David Allen, Dennis Muren, and Jim Danforth. In Zeppelin v. Pterodactyls a German Zeppelin during World War I is blown off course and arrives in a lost world filled with dinosaurs and cavemen. Unfortunately, When Dinosaurs Rule the Earth went over schedule and Zeppelin v. Pterodactyls was dropped in favour of Creatures the World Forgot (1971).

4. Untitled Captain Kronos--Vampire Hunter sequel: Captain Kronos--Vampire Hunter (1974) remains one of Hammer's best loved latter day films. Producer, writer, and director Brian Clemens had planned for it to be the first in a series of movies featuring Captain Kronos. Subsequent films would have seen Captain Kronos battling different species of vampires in different parts of the world and even different time periods (given Kronos' name, it should come as no surprise that time travel could play a role). Unfortunately as shooting continued on Captain Kronos--Vampire Hunter, Michael Carreras was becoming disappointed with how the movie was taking shape. In the end, even though it was shot in 1972, Captain Kronos--Vampire Hunter would not be released until 1974. Worse yet, there would be not even be one sequel, let alone an entire series of movies.

5. Vampirella: While Hammer Film Productions had a steady stream of successes from the late Fifties through the Sixties, by the Seventies the studio was in trouble. Hammer Films head Michael Carreras then placed an ad in magazines published by Warren Publishing (publishers of Creepy and Eerie) asking what readers thought Hammer should produce next. The overwhelming response was a film adaptation of Warren's character Vampirella. An outline was written by Jimmy Sangster and then further developed by John Starr. Caroline Munro was approached to play the role, but she turned it down due to the amount of nudity that would be involved. Valerie Leon also turned down the role for the same reason. Finally, Hammer found their Vampirella in Barbara Leigh, who had appeared in the Steve McQueen movie Junior Bonner (1972).  Ads and posters for Vampirella were released. Michael Carreras even took Barbara Leigh, who had a Vampirella costume, and Peter Cushing to the Famous Monsters convention to promote the prospective film. Starting with Vamprirella #67, March 1975, Barbara Leigh would begin appearing in costume on covers of the magazine.

Unfortunately, a Hammer adaptation of Vampirella never came to be. First, Jim Warren of Warren Publishing insisted on retaining all merchandising rights to the character and even stormed out of Bray Studios. Second and more seriously, Hammer Film Productions could not secure backing for the project. Not only did Hammer never make a Vampirella film, but the studio would release no films following a remake of The Lady Vanishes in 1979 until their remake of Let Me In in 2010.

6. Kali: Devil Bride of Dracula: As a sequel to Scars of Dracula (1970), Hammer had originally planned a film variously called Dracula in India, Dracula: High Priest of the Vampires, and The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula. The film would be set in 1932 and would feature Dracula in India. Unfortunately for Hammer, in 1970 Count Yorga, Vampire, a vampire tale set in the present day, was a hit. Hammer's distributor, Warner Bros., then requested that Hammer make its own Dracula movie set in the present day. The end result was Dracula A.D. 1972.

The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula would almost be resurrected after a fashion. For a follow up to ill-fated Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula was dusted off and revised as Kali: Devil Bride of Dracula (later called Dracula and the Blood Lust of Kali). The setting was still India, but the time period was moved back to the 1870s so that the movie would have featured a younger Van Helsing and Dracula. Unfortunately, by 1975 Hammer Film Productions was in dire straits and was never able to receive backing for the film.

7.  Mistress of the Seas: Hammer Film Productions had produced its share of swashbuckler movies, including The Pirates of Blood River (1961), Captain Clegg (1962), and The Devil-Ship Pirates (1964). It was in 1967 that Hammer announced  a film based on the life of pirate Anne Bonney.  In 1970 Mistress of the Seas, based on the novel by John Carlova, was pitched to Universal with Raquel Welch set to star and promotional artwork even having been produced. Universal turned it down. Despite this setback, Hammer continued work on Mistress of the Seas.

The project would be revived in 1978 when the Rank Organisation expressed interest. Rank was financing Hammer's remake of The Lady Vanishes (1938) at the time, and if all had gone according to plan Mistress of the Sea would have followed. American producer Samuel Z. Arkoff was also providing financing for both films. Unfortunately, Samuel Z. Arkoff left when a request to Americanise The Lady Vanishes was refused. While The Lady Vanishes would continue production, Mistress of the Seas was left dead in the water.

Ultimately Val Guest would take his screenplay to Hollywood where John Derek changed its name to Pirate Annie and planned to produce it. as a vehicle for Ursula Andress It was at this point that Val Guest no longer became involved in the project when three other screenwriters were hired to write a whole new screenplay. That film would never be made either.

8. Nessie: Nessie, also known as Nessie--Monster from the Past was announced in 1976. If all had gone according to plan, it would have begun shooting on May 1977. The film was to be made in co-operation with Toho Co. Ltd. (then as now famous for Godzilla movies). In Nessie the Loch Ness Monster ingests a chemical which causes it to grow to enormous size and then proceeds to go on a rampage. The story had been written by Michael Carreras and Euan Lloyd, which in turn became a treatment by John Starr, which was turned into a screenplay by Bryan Forbes. Things began to fall apart when Columbia Pictures, its American backer, pulled out of the project. A new backer was sought in the meantime until, at last, in 1978 Toho even pulled out. Undeterred,  Michael Carreras tried to launch Nessie again in May 1979. Sadly, the project would fall apart again, never to be revived.

9. Jack the Ripper Goes West: Jack the Ripper had provided fodder for Hammer films before, in the film Hands of the Ripper (1971). Euan Lloyd, who had been with Hammer on the ill-fated Nessie, was appointed as Hammer's new line producer in 1978. He brought with him a script by Scot Finch titled Jack the Ripper Goes West. Jack the Ripper Goes West had the notorious serial killer leaving London for the American West in 1888. The project was announced in 1978 and again in 1979, but never got off the ground. Much of the problem may have been that by 1978 it had already been done. The 1974 B-movie Knife for the Ladies dealt with a serial killer in the West. Interestingly enough, among the many titles it would be released under would be Jack the Ripper Goes West.  Of course, by 1978 Hammer was in dire straits and would have trouble getting any of their projects made.

10. The Invisible Man: For their version of Dracula, Hammer worked out a distribution deal with Universal. It was also in the summer of 1958 that Universal announced a deal whereby Hammer could remake any of the classic Universal horror movies. Hammer would remake The Mummy's Hand (1940) as The Mummy (1959) and The Phantom of the Opera as the 1962 film of the same name. In 1958 Hammer then considered a remake of The Invisible Man (1933). For whatever reason, Hammer never did remake The Invisible Man. It is a shame, as its Victorian setting would have been perfect for Hammer.

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