01/02/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Tomahawk Press. 167 page illustrated large softcover. Price: GBP16.99 (UK). ISBN: 0-953-19260-1.
check out website: www.tomahawkpress.com
I should say from the start that this book, ‘Greasepaint And Gore: The Hammer Monsters Of Roy Ashton’ by Bruce Sachs and Russell Wall, doesn’t just focus on Hammer Films make-up artist’s tenure but covers his entire career up to that point and only briefly afterwards. I mean, did you know that Ashton was an uncredited make-up artists on that obscure film called ‘Star Wars’ for instance?
Long before then, Australian born Roy Ashton came to the UK to seek his fortune both as an opera singer and make-up artist, ultimately being known for the latter because that was his day job. As a make-up artist, Ashton was always a freelance and often from his own words here gives immense insight into the time and the people he worked with. They, in turn, have passed on their own comments and insight in return. As the preface was written by Peter Cushing and Roy Ashton himself died in 1995, this looks like a re-issue of the 1988 book but with added extra newly discovered material. As I can’t compare the two volumes, that will have to be up to those of you who own the first release.
What is most apparent from this book is just how stingy Hammer was with their make-up budget considering how much their horror films depended on it. Although Ashton was employed by them for the fifteen films in a consecutive run shown here, he was still only a freelancer and was paid only for filming days and not for all the research he did prior to it for the likes of ‘The Mummy’ and ‘The Reptile’. If anything, they also pigeon-holed him somewhat and he was only brought into do the transformation scene in ‘She’. Then again, by that time, he was also known for this speciality and continued such work at Amicus, for which there are some photos included here as well, including one of Peter Cushing on the cover.
The information as to how he created these make-ups should be of interest to any of you interested in this profession and there are some definite pointers to creating your own versions of these make-ups. What is most jaw-dropping is the number of photos and illustrations from Ashton’s own files and how much he did with so little that makes today’s monster make-up artists look spoilt in comparison. There are a lot of odd information revealed like American make-up artist Dick Smith consulting Ashton on the aging technique he used on ‘The Man Who Could Cheat Death’ prior to his working on ‘Little Big Man’.
In many respects, Ashton liked to work behind the scenes than be that prominent but when you consider he worked on one hundred and four films, it might have been handy had the ‘Make-upography’ had shown which companies he worked for from 1936-1988, many of them well-known and probably watched by many of you reading here, there is a tremendous debt we owe to his talent. This is definitely a book you should buy and enjoy.
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