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Hammer Films: A Life In Pictures by Wayne Kinsey

01/03/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Hammer Films: A Life In Pictures in the USA - or Buy Hammer Films: A Life In Pictures in the UK

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pub: Tomahawk Press. 224 page illustrated large hardback limited edition of 2500 copies. Price: GBP 34.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-9531926-9-4).

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‘Hammer Films: A Life In Pictures’ by Wayne Kinsey has to be a Hammer Films fan dream, containing many behind the scenes photos from their lengthy run. This book not only covers its horror films and brief smattering with Science Fiction but also its serious dramas, comedies and even pirate, the cutlass kind, films. In fact, I’m wondering on such a small print run as the number of fans must exceed this print number so if you’re a devotee don’t leave it too long before getting your copy.

Although many of the photographs are in black and white, a popular choice at the time considering that was the medium of choice back then, there are also several pages of colour photos as well. In some respects, the studio photographer fulfilled the role of unit director filming behind the scenes footage for the DVD release these days. As such you get candid photos of cast and crew relaxing between takes and even larking about. There are even photographs from Hammer’s biggest disaster when their ship, the Diablo, capsized, fortunately not drowning anyone, which as Kinsey points out is the British Film Institute’s biggest prize.

It’s practically impossible to pick out favourites without slighting others. It’s great that there is no distinction between stars and supporting cast and with so many of them gone now, this is truly a photographic record of their involvement.

I do wish there was an index, if only to make it easier to spot which films aren’t included. Most of the material here is from Bray rather than Elstree so later films, like for instance ‘Dr. Jekyll And Sister Hyde’, are missing, but that’s a minor gripe. I could quite easily see there being a second volume at a later date covering this period.

You would think that a book with so many pictures would be a light read but the captions and other written detail brings everything into perspective and I found it a lot easier to digest this book a few chapters a day to take it all in. A 1959 film comedy based on Jekyll and Hyde, ‘The Ugly Duckling’, has a few stills show and Kinsey points out that although the negative is safe, no one has made a DVD release of it. You would have thought even having actor Jon Pertwee in it would have made a suitable return to do so.

Having reviewed other Hammer Films books in recent months, the photos bring a lot of this into perspective, making this an excellent companion volume. Don’t leave it on your coffee table because your ‘friends’ will walk away with it. Tell them to get their own copy. A piece of film history.

GF Willmetts

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