first question you are probably asking is “Do we need another book about Hammer
films?” Speaking as someone whose Hammer shelf is already groaning with the
weight of so many volumes on the company, the answer, as far as Hammer Complete
is concerned, is “Absolutely.” This book, coming in at nearly 1000 pages, is a
lifetime achievement for journalist Howard Maxford, and one that deserves
immense praise. Unlike other books which might focus specifically on the horror
films, or the posters, or the ups and downs of the company itself, here Maxford
has attempted to provide a complete encyclopedia of everything and everyone
connected to Hammer. From Temple Abady (who appeared in Never Look Back in
1952) and The Abominable Snowman (1957) to Murial Zillah (Danger List, 1957)
and Marc Zuber (The Satanic Rites of Dracula, 1974), no Hammer stone has been
left unturned or contributor ignored.
many books of this type which are little more than a collection of facts
cribbed from Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Database, Maxford has conducted
many interviews over the years with Hammer stars including Christopher Lee
himself, which means there is plenty of new and insightful material here
alongside his primary research and original reviews of the films themselves.
The entry on Lee is spread over six pages, where his career is discussed at
length including his well-known frustration with the decline in quality of the
Dracula films; of Scars of Dracula (1970) he complained, “I was a pantomime
villain. Everything was over the top, especially the giant bat whose
electrically motored wings flapped with slow deliberation as if it were doing
morning exercises.” Likewise, his frequent co-star Peter Cushing gets a
similarly lengthy entry, as do many of the other key players such as regular
character actor Michael Ripper, director Terence Fisher, producer James
Carreras, writer-director Jimmy Sangster and script supervisor Renee Glynne,
who first worked for the company in 1947 and was still present when they went to
Hong Kong to make The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires and Shatter (both 1974).
is fair in his assessment of the films themselves, discussing at length those
which have become legendary - the triumvirate of The Curse of
Frankenstein (1957) Dracula (1958) and The Mummy (1959) in particular - as well
as being fair to those films often derided or ignored, including my personal
favourite; Slave Girls (also known as Prehistoric Women, 1968), made primarily
to reuse all those fur bikinis left over from One Million Years B.C. (1966).
may have a high price tag, but Hammer Complete is a huge, well-researched
reference book that no Hammer aficionado should be without.