Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Late, Great Hammer Films Producer Anthony Hinds

Anthony Hinds, who turned the modest Hammer Films into the best known maker of horror films besides Universal, died 30 September 2013 at the age of 91.

Anthony Hinds was born on 19 September 1922 in  Uxbridge, Buckinghamshire. He was the son of William Hinds, who performed in theatres and music hall under the name Will Hammer. Anthony Hinds attended St. Paul's School in London. It was in November 1934 that his father founded  Hammer Productions Ltd. It was in 1935 that William Hinds met former cinema owner Enrique Carreras and together the two founded the film distributor Exclusive Films. Anthony Hinds and  Enrique Carreras' son James Carreras joined Exclusive Films in 1938. Both Hammer Film Productions and Exclusive Films suspended operations during World War II, during which time Anthony Hinds served as a pilot in the Royal Air Force.

Following World War II Anthony Hinds returned to Exclusive Films and with James Carreras took charge of the company. James Carreras reformed Hammer in 1947 as a subsidiary of Exclusive Films Ltd. It was in 1948 that Anthony Hinds produced his first film, the 48 minute short Who Killed Van Loon?. The first feature Mr. Hinds produced was Man in Black in 1949. It was Anthony Hinds who came up with the money saving idea of shooting in private houses rather than in studios. It was primarily for this reason that Hammer Films bought Down Place in 1951. A large house in Bray, Berkshire, it was later renamed Bray Studios.

In the late Forties and early Fifties Hammer produced a good number of crime thrillers, as well as films based on BBC radio shows (such as Dick Barton - Special Agent and The Adventures of P.C. 49). Early in his career, then, Anthony Hinds produced such varied films as Dick Barton Strikes Back (1949), The Adventures of P.C. 49: Investigating the Case of the Guardian Angel (1949), The Black Widow (1951), and Death of an Angel (1952). in 1953 Hammer Films made their first venture into science fiction with Spaceways. Although Spaceways was produced by James Carreras' son Michael Carreras, it would be Anthony Hinds who would be responsible for Hammer's next science fiction film, a film that would signalled a major change in direction for the studio.

In 1953 the BBC aired the television serial The Quatermass Experiment, which proved enormously successful. Anthony Hinds was very impressed with the serial and as a result Hammer Films entered into negotiations with the BBC to buy the film rights to The Quatermass Experiment only two days after the last episode had aired. While the BBC worried that any film based on the serial would inevitably receive an "X" certificate (the British Board of Film Censors rating that restricted audiences only to anyone over the age of 16), Hammer Films had no such concerns. Indeed, having noticed the success of the French film Les Diaboliques (1954), Hammer decided to take advantage of the situation for publicity purposes when the BBFC awarded it with an "X" certificate, even titling their film  The Quatermass Xperiment. Released in 1955, The Quatermass Xperiment proved to be a huge hit, so much so that it was Hammer's most successful film up to that time.

If The Quatermass Xperiment signalled a change in direction for Hammer Films, a film released by the studio in 1957 would make that change in direction a fact. Produced by Anthony Hinds, The Curse of Frankenstein  was the first of Hammer Films' colour horror films. Colour was not the only thing revolutionary about The Curse of Frankenstein, however, as it was further set apart from the Universal Gothic horrors of the Thirties and Forties by blood (in Eastmancolor red), violence, and a rather strong hint of sex. The Curse of Frankenstein proved incredibly successful not just in the United Kingdom, but in the United States and elsewhere as well. In 1958 Hammer Films followed The Curse of Frankenstein with their own adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel Dracula. Also produced by Anthony Hinds, Dracula (known as Horror of Dracula in the United States), proved even more successful than The Curse of Frankenstein and would set the pace for all Hammer Horrors to come.

Throughout the Sixties, Anthony Hinds produced many of Hammer's most notable films, including The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), The Brides of Dracula (1960), The Phantom of the Opera (1962), The Kiss of the Vampire (1963), The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), and Fanatic (1965). He also produced Hammer Films' television show Journey into the Unknown. Anthony Hinds was not only a producer, but also wrote screenplays under the pen name John Elder. He did uncredited work on The Brides of Dracula, before going onto do credited work on such Hammer films as Captain Clegg (1962), The Phantom of the Opera, The Kiss of the Vampire, and Rasputin: The Mad Monk, among others.

It was in 1970 that Anthony Hinds left Hammer Films. He continued to write screenplays, including such films as The Ghoul (1975) and Legend of the Werewolf (1975). He wrote an episode of the TV programme Hammer House of Horror, as well as the television film Sherlock Holmes and the Masks of Death.

While Anthony Hinds revolutionised Gothic horror with hints of sex and violence, he was not particularly pleased with the more explicit horror films that Hammer Films made after he had left. When James Carreras told him that now they could do anything, Mr. Hinds thought, "'Well, I’m not sure that doing everything is what it’s all about."

There can be no doubt that Anthony Hinds was largely responsible for turning Hammer Films into the foremost producer of horror films in the Sixties and, along with Universal Pictures, the studio most associated with the genre. It was not simply that he took Gothic horror, a genre generally filmed in monochrome, and gave it colour, but that he also pushed the boundaries of Gothic horror in terms of violence and sex. In doing so he not only ushered in a new era of slightly more explicit horror films in terms of gore and sex, but also a new cycle towards Gothic horror that persisted into the Sixties. With Hammer's success, American International Pictures, Tigon British Film Productions, Amicus, and other studios would produce their own colour, Gothic horror films.

Of course, Anthony Hinds was not only a producer, but he was also a screenwriter. He co-wrote or wrote some of Hammer's better films, including The Kiss of the Vampire, Captain Clegg, and Dracula Has Risen from the Grave. Even when the films he wrote did not have the quality that The Kiss of the Vampire (one of Hammer's very best) did, the films written by Mr. Hinds were generally enjoyable and a lot of fun. A ground breaking producer who built Hammer into the horror studio of the Sixties and revolutionised the genre of Gothic horror, as well as a screenwriter, Anthony Hinds will long be remembered.

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