I'm often asked to recommend a Hammer film, or to suggest where a DVD enthusiast should begin their Hammer collection. There are a few undisputed classics - films that can proudly stand alongside the best of British cinema on equal terms - but once you get past those there seems to be no real consensus as to which the better films are.

It wouldn't be fair to simply impose my own favourites upon a budding Hammer fan, so I asked some of the horror genre's brightest and best, and some noted Hammer enthusiasts, what their favourite Hammer films were...

My sincere thanks to all those who have contributed to this section.


Stephen Gallagher is the author of more than a dozen novels, including Chimera and Oktober (both later adapted as TV mini-series), two Doctor Who stories, and several episodes of Bugs and Rosemary & Thyme. He also wrote three episodes of the Yorkshire TV anthology series Chiller, and a feature-length episode of the BBC's series Murder Rooms, titled The Kingdom of Bones. He recently created the ITV science fiction series Eleventh Hour. You can find his website at www.stephengallagher.com.

It's always dodgy recommending personal favourites, especially stuff that got its hooks into you way back. Time moves on, styles change. Someone who comes to it new can be left wondering what on earth you see in it... and goes off privately thinking you're not the judge of material they thought you were.

So the following is not necessarily a gallery of greats. It's just a list of those Hammer films that have stayed with me for one reason or another, and which I regard with affection... they may not be the cream of the crop but they had their impact on me at the time. They're not in any particular order, apart from placing my top title last.


Quite possibly the first Hammer I saw on the big screen. It was either this or The Gorgon, which has a similar fear-of- female- sexuality theme. John Burke's novelisation of it was the lead story in the Second Hammer Horror Film Omnibus and that was a big favourite, as well. The story's tight, simple, classic, and unfettered by the necessary trappings that had to be included in the Hammers that recycled traditional screen monsters. Jacqueline Pearce turned up in a Man in a Suitcase episode on DVD a few nights ago, and I was reminded of how interesting and slightly offbeat her screen presence always was. In a way it's a pity that she's become so closely associated with Blake's 7 in people's minds -- if you don't buy into that show then she tends to be off your radar.


I reckon all of Hammer's Quatermass movies did rather well by the material. Quatermass and the Pit is probably the most accomplished, and has the best of all Quatermasses in Andrew Kier. But I'm opting for the first one for its solemn, British (if you exclude Brian Donlevy, oddly credible despite the accent and the heavy reliance on hipflask and hairpiece), almost factual tone, and for the special associations it has for me. The late Harry Nadler, tirelessly active in the Manchester movie scene and the man behind the Festival of Fantastic Films, used to rent out his film collection from a shop in Salford. We didn't meet up until years later but The Quatermass Experiment was one of the titles I rented from him... or rather from his mother, who ran the shop when he wasn't there. It was a standard 8 sound print with three reel changes, as I recall. How best to explain the significance of this...? Let me put it this way. There's a farm cafe in Watendlath in the Lake District that has the best tea and rock cakes in the world. There's nothing special about them. But what makes them better than good is the three hours of strenuous climbing and bog-trotting it takes to get you there. Anyone who ever collected and ran movies in those pre-video days knows the extra sweetness that comes with all the gear you had to master and the trouble you had to take.


Like The Reptile, another Hammer that takes an unexpected angle on its subject and comes up fresh. Stars the great Eric Porter (the real Soames Forsyte) and Angharad Rees, who apparently now sells her own designs of jewellery from Belgravia. Solid direction from Peter Sasdy and lovely colour photography by Kenneth Talbot. Music by Christopher Gunning, who did the music for Rosemary & Thyme. Banned in Norway!


Brian Clemens' sole foray into directing and a precursor, when you think about it, to the likes of Buffy and Xena... an action fantasy with a light and playful touch, never taking itself too seriously but never falling into spoof.


Or Horror of Dracula, in the US. Took Stoker's rambling, baggy masterpiece and honed it into a fast-moving arrow of a movie. Excellent, tight screenplay. And Van Helsing's trick with the cross improvised from candlesticks is one of the great movie moments.


Not a great movie, but what a great title! And to be honest, I always liked this one better than One Million Years BC. I know that BC had the great Ray Harryhausen helming the fx, but this was probably Jim Danforth's finest hour and he deserves the recognition. When Creatures the World Forgot came out, I went along expecting more of the same... only to sit through two hours of caveman soap opera with not a dinosaur to be seen! Creatures the World Forgot?? Yeah, they forgot the fricking DINOSAURS! Something in me died that day... I'd always felt a pact of common interest between me and the people who made the stuff I loved, but I realised that they can shaft you just like anyone else.


A film that I often see treated with great disdain, but which I like. It's elevated by good casting (a young Oliver Reed) and the best makeup in werewolf movies (David Rintoul's in Legend of the Werewolf running it a close second).


Oliver Reed again... I'm a sucker for any film or story set in a dead-loss, off-season seaside town. With its title and its weird mutant children, this one was obviously hoping to ride on the coattails of Village of the Damned without actually having to pay anything out to the Wyndham estate... but it's the locations and the atmosphere that stick with me more than the actual narrative. Directed by Joseph Losey, no less.


Studio-bound, literate, restrained and atmospheric feature version of a Nigel Kneale TV play. If they'd ballsed it up, this could so easily have been The Trollenberg Terror.


I'm also a sucker for 1950s silly British comedies, and this one's got David Tomlinson and a battleship along with the usual cast of British regulars. OK, it's a guilty pleasure. I also like The Runaway Bus and Heavens Above. I draw the line at Hammer's On the Buses adaptations... actually, I draw the line a considerable distance ahead of them.


My top Hammer film. A great Stanley Baker performance and a top directing job from Val Guest, and a flawed good vs complex evil theme that gives it some of the feel of a superior Western. My guess is that Hammer saw a chance to do a Brit version of The Naked City, reinvigorating the staid police drama with gritty urban settings and location shooting. And it wasn't London! It's not perfect, and every now and again you get some stock element or a false note that reminds you that you're not watching an A-movie -- I'm always creased up when Stanley Baker walks in through the front door of a Manchester terraced house and appears in a studio lounge with Georgian fireplace and open-plan staircase -- but even if the observation and commitment to realism aren't quite complete, the feel and the plotting and the pacing and the energy make up for it all. A couple of years back I tried to interest a few TV companies in the idea of a series based on Maurice Procter's Harry Martineau novels, tough period police dramas set in the 'fifties. Nobody bit, and then along came Robert Lindsay in Jericho and pretty much killed off the chance of it. Hell is a City features a Manchester that I can just about remember from my childhood, much as A Taste of Honey does for the Salford where all my relatives lived.


Copyright © Stephen Gallagher 2006. All rights reserved.


Stephen Jones is the winner of three World Fantasy Awards, three Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Awards and three International Horror Guild Awards, as well as being a Hugo Award nominee and a sixteen-times recipient of the British Fantasy Award. One of Britain’s most acclaimed anthologists of horror and dark fantasy, his more than eighty books include The Hellraiser Chronicles, Clive Barker’s A-Z of Horror, The Illustrated Vampire Movie Guide and The Essential Monster Movie Guide. A contributor to The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, The BFI Companion to Horror and Supernatural Literature of the World: An Encyclopedia, you can visit his web site at www.herebedragons.co.uk/jones


My first Hammer film and still my favourite! I went to see this at the cinema the day it opened – even though I was still two years too young for its ‘X’ certificate. It inexplicably took eight years for Nigel Kneale’s adaptation of the third part of his BBC-TV series to reach the screen. For me, Andrew Keir is the definitive Professor Quatermass, called in to investigate a “Martian” spacecraft discovered during excavations beneath a London Underground station that is linked to demonic sightings in the same area dating back to prehistoric times. Kneale’s story is an audacious blend of science fiction and the supernatural, and the memorable climax features a horned Devil appearing above the streets of a burning London. Director Roy Ward Baker manages to give the film an epic sweep, especially during scenes of the city’s chaotic descent into anarchy, and it is only let down by unconvincing miniatures of the Martian race wars of five million years ago. With a distinguished cast that includes James Donald, Barbara Shelley, Julian Glover and Duncan Lamont, this remains a shining example of British science fiction at its best.


Following the studio’s box-office success with The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Hammer revised another classic horror character with the first colour version of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel. Jimmy Sangster’s incident-filled screenplay was helped by lavish production values, Terence Fisher’s stylish direction and – pretty daring for a 1950s film – strongly implied sexual and graphic overtones. Peter Cushing gives one of his most assured and iconic performances as a dynamic Van Helsing and Christopher Lee established himself as an instant sex symbol as a seductive Count Dracula. The climactic duel between these forces for Good and Evil remains a masterpiece of modern horror cinema and was later used as the lead-in to Fisher’s belated sequel, Dracula Prince of Darkness (1965). The perfect Gothic fairy-tale, there is solid support from Michael Gough, Melissa Stribling, Charles Lloyd Pack, George Woodbridge, Miles Malleson, Geoffrey Bayldon and Valerie Gaunt as Dracula’s single vampire “Bride”. I first saw this in the cinema during the late 1960s on a re-release double bill with The Curse of Frankenstein. If you ever get the opportunity, I would recommend catching it on the big screen to truly appreciate Terence Fisher’s masterly compositions.


Hammer’s wonderfully Gothic adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1901 story is still the best version of this much-filmed tale. From the atmospheric opening flashback to the exciting climax, Peter Cushing brings the same energy to his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes as he did to Van Helsing. Along with André Morell’s dependable Dr. Watson, Cushing’s committed performance moves Peter Bryan’s economic screenplay along at a cracking pace. The excellent supporting cast includes Christopher Lee’s likeable Sir Henry Baskerville, Frances de Wolff, John Le Mesurier and Sam Kydd, while a comical Miles Malleson steals the scenes he’s in, as usual. Featuring beautiful colour cinematography and nicely evocative set design, director Terence Fisher gives this detective mystery the Hammer horror touch (to the extent of introducing deadly tarantulas and mysterious sacrificial rites!). Although the hound from Hell, when finally revealed, is a touch disappointing, this remains one of the finest adaptations of the story and is classic Hammer. Unfortunately, the film did not do well enough upon its initial release to lead to a proposed series starring Cushing as Holmes.


This is one of Hammer’s most stylish films of the 1960s and an unusual variation on the vampire mythology. While on a motoring honeymoon in the Carpathian mountains, British newlyweds Gerald and Marianne Harcourt (Edward de Souza and Jennifer Daniel) find themselves stranded at a local inn. The young wife soon attracts the attention of the mysterious Dr. Ravna (Noel Willman), the leader of a pleasure-seeking cult of vampires. Top-billed Clifford Evans gives a solid performance as the drunken Professor Zimmer, waging a fanatical war against the coven, and director Don Sharp creates some impressive set-pieces: the opening staking of a vampire with a sexton’s shovel; a macabre masked ball, and the climax where Zimmer invokes the forces of darkness in the form of a plague of (animated) bats to destroy the vampires. I first saw this on television in America under the title Kiss of Evil, a re-edited version of the film that included new sequences featuring Virginia Gregg, Carl Esmond and Sheila Wells, along with footage from The Evil of Frankenstein (1964). Avoid this bowdlerised variation at all costs.


Despite the title, this is not really a sequel to Dracula (1958). Christopher Lee did not initially want to repeat his role as the Count, so three scriptwriters (including Jimmy Sangster) cobbled together this atmospheric follow-up which once again starred Peter Cushing as a dynamic Doctor Van Helsing. Set at the end of the 19th century, the opening narration explains that, although Dracula is dead, his disciples live on. When naïve French schoolteacher Marianne Danielle (Yvonne Monlaur) releases the Baron Meinster (David Peel) from his mother’s chains, little does she realise that she has set free a vampire to prey upon a nearby school for girls. Director Terence Fisher once again gives the film a fairy-tale quality, and the most memorable scenes include Van Helsing burning a vampire’s bite from his neck; the mad Greta (Freda Jackson) crawling over the grave of a recent victim, willing the new vampire to rise from the dead; and an impressive climax where a blazing mill forms the shadow of a cross. With Martita Hunt, Miles Malleson, Michael Ripper and Andree Melly as a seductive female vampire. Regrettably, I’ve only ever seen this on the small screen.


H. Rider Haggard’s classic 1886 “lost race” novel had previously been filmed to great effect by RKO in 1935. However, Hammer’s mini-epic remake looks better every time I view it, helped immeasurably by James Bernard’s sweeping music score. It starts out with a nice sense of mystery, and if the desert journey to the lost city of Kuma begins to drag a little, the plot soon picks up again when the band of explorers encounter Ursula Andress’ immortal queen Ayesha – “She Who Must Be Obeyed”. The Swiss-born actress may not have much to do but look imperial, but she is supported by a great cast, including Peter Cushing’s sensible explorer Holly, Bernard Cribbins’ loyal Job, André Morell’s noble Haumeid, and Christopher Lee’s cameo as the villainous High Priest, Billali. Although Robert Day’s workmanlike direction brings little flair to David T. Chantler’s routine script, the film has enough colourful spectacle, supernatural thrills and an exciting climax (where Ayesha famously ages 2,000 years while bathing in the Eternal Flame) to capture the imagination of the most jaded viewer. A disappointing sequel, The Vengeance of She, was released by Hammer in 1967.


Okay, I admit that this is a guilty pleasure. Not released until 1974, and then barely, this was the first and – unfortunately – only film in a proposed series created by writer and director Brian Clemens (TV’s The Avengers). Filmed under the title Kronos (also the title of the rare tie-in paperback novelisation), this is a heady blend of Hammer vampires, comic book action, spaghetti Westerns, heroic fantasy and offbeat comedy. Swashbuckling soldier of fortune Captain Kronos (German actor Horst Janson, dubbed by Julian Holloway), his hunchbacked assistant Professor Heironymus Grost (John Cater) and busty gypsy girl Carla (Caroline Munro, never looking lovelier) must discover the identity of a vampire (a relation to the Karnstein family) who steals youth instead of blood. Could it be guest stars John Carson, Ian Hendry or a sexy Wanda Ventham? Although Clemens’ direction is sometimes unsure, there is plenty of new vampire lore and some stunning visuals. If this had been given the chance it deserved, Hammer could have created a successful new franchise at a time when the studio was struggling.


Christopher Lee makes a perfect Duc de Richleau in Richard Matheson’s fine adaptation of Dennis Wheatley’s 1934 pot-boiler. When he discovers that his old friend Simon Aron (Patrick Mower) has fallen under the influence of a Satanic coven, the Duc de Richleau and his companions attempt to overcome the powers of evil High Priest Mocata (Charles Gray). Terence Fisher’s direction includes some excellent set-pieces: the apparition of a demon with hypnotic eyes; the breaking-up of a Sabbat worshipping a goat-headed Devil, and the climactic attack by the Angel of Death. Once again, the special effects are not up to the standard they should be (especially a very unconvincing giant spider) and the supporting cast is unusually weak for a Hammer production. However, the 1930s period is nicely recreated, Gray’s Mocata is a sophisticated piece of villainy, and Lee was born to play his role. It is a real shame that Hammer never went on to make further films in Wheatley’s series.


Following the surprise success of The Quatermass Experiment (USA: The Creeping Unknown, 1955), Hammer quickly put the second of Nigel Kneale’s BBC teleplays about Professor Bernard Quatermass into production. American actor Brian Donlevy returns as the dedicated rocket scientist, who uncovers a plot by creatures from another galaxy to control the Earth. The paranoia builds as Quatermass realises that people in high government positions are under the control of the blob-like alien intelligence. The cold-blooded killings of Sidney James as a likeable newspaper reporter and William Franklin as the Professor’s assistant are as shocking today as when I first saw them on television nearly thirty years ago. Val Guest’s gritty direction gives the film an almost documentary feel, and Kneale’s slice of subversive science fiction is still as relevant today as it was in the 1950s.


I caught this on a double-bill in the cinema when it was first released and remember that it was like no other mummy movie I had ever seen, thanks to Christopher Wicking’s literate script, based on Bram Stoker’s 1903 novel The Jewel of Seven Stars. An odd blend of the supernatural and suburbia, at the exact moment when archaeologist Professor Julian Fuchs (the excellent Andrew Keir, who took over from Peter Cushing after one day’s shooting when the latter’s wife died) discovers the ancient tomb of evil Egyptian Queen Tera, his daughter Margaret is born. Years later, an obsessed Fuchs believes that the grown-up Margaret (a seductive Valerie Leon) has been possessed by the vengeful spirit of Tera as the members of his original expedition are killed off through the relics they possess. Maverick director Seth Holt (Hammer’s The Nanny [1965]) died of a heart attack a week before the end of filming, and although Michael Carreras completed the shoot, Holt apparently kept his overall concept for the movie in his head. As a result, the uneven editing, obscure flashbacks and enigmatic sequences give the film a dream-like quality (not helped by the fact that some footage Holt shot doesn’t fit into the finished film). An impressive supporting cast includes James Villiers, Hugh Burden, George Coulouris, Rosalie Crutchley, Aubrey Morris, James Cossins, Tamara Ustinov and Mark Edwards as doomed hero Tod Browning. Stoker’s novel was filmed again in 1980 as The Awakening because the producers apparently didn’t know about this superior version.

Copyright © Stephen Jones 2006. All rights reserved.


Simon Clark is the author of Blood Crazy, Darkness Demands, Vampyrrhic, The Dalek Factor, The Night of the Triffids, London Under Midnight and other novels of good versus evil in a dangerous world. He began writing Hammer Horror influenced fiction in his early teens, including a novel called Hobs Cross, the title inspired by Hobs Lane, which of course, is where the alien craft is discovered in Quatermass and the Pit. The novel has yet to see the light of the day and is deeply buried in a bottom drawer somewhere. Simon lives in Yorkshire with his family and a jet black dog. His website www.bbr-online.com/nailed features a film about where he finds inspiration for his horror fiction.


For me the Hammer films were my rites of passage, the stations I passed through growing from childhood to being a teenager. In fact they resonate with puberty. When they were in colour they were TECHNICOLOR with bells on: bright, bright vivid colours. Music crashing in loudly. Many of the Hammer films drench the senses with image and sound, they echo that hyper-sensitive time of being twelve years old, sprouting hair where no hair was before and having your veins awash with freshly brewed hormones. All the films listed here chimed with that time in my life when I first saw them and first realised that as a boy I was being transformed into some new creature -- a teenager.

Quatermass and the Pit, with its long dormant space probe triggering strange and dangerous behaviour in humans, has to be my favourite Hammer film because when I saw that, aged around twelve, I knew that I had to devote my life to creating those kind of stories. I didn't know then whether I wanted to be a camera operator, actor or someone who swept the stage afterwards, but I had to be part of the world of fantastic stories. So Quatermass and the Pit is responsible for me becoming a writer. I confess: It made me do it -- and I'm still loving it.


The perfect pairing of the dream team -- Cushing and Lee. I loved monsters and I still love this film, and it implanted that taste I have for the blending of science fiction and horror.


At twelve years old the monster was everything for me. I was still monster mad.


Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee again. Lee is the wizened oldster in bandages but his energy in the film is explosive.


When I first saw this I was thirteen. Now I didn't notice the monsters so much. I saw the women with heaving breasts, sighing and yielding at the embrace of the Count. Now Hammer didn't just mean horror to me it meant S-E-X.


The hormones were wreaking their changes on my teenage self. The beautiful actresses were holding my attention by now.


This was my first taste of horror on the big screen. I was aged about ten and gone to see something like Herbie Rides Again and the cinema showed a trailer for the Oliver Reed werewolf film. Those twenty seconds or so of Reed snarling as the wolfman and hurling a blazing straw bale was easily the best part of the evening out. I got just a teasing glimpse of the wonders of horror -- and Hammer -- that I would come to enjoy time and time again as I grew older.


I only saw this for the first time recently. How I missed it I don't know. I'm a fan of Kneale's work and this story of men searching for monsters in Tibet and discovering the most evil monster is inside their own hearts is thought-provoking, intelligent and still achingly relevant today.


More sex and horror. As a thirteen year old virgin I got all hot and breathless thinking about sex but I suspected the fate of anyone who indulged would probably be the same as looking into the face of the snake-headed femme fatale that is the Gorgon.


A great nuts and bolts occult story of Satanism and devil worship based on Dennis Wheatley's novel, that in turn contains stark warnings about meddling with the dark side.

That's my top ten but I recommend any Hammer film with Cushing and/or Lee. Lee is chillingly ice and steel, even playing one of the good guys. Cushing is the ordinary, frail man that when lives and souls depend on it (when he plays the good guy) finds he has the heart of a lion and the innate goodness to save those in danger. And somehow he projects from the screen the sense that he is able to save us, the viewers, too.

Copyright © Simon Clark 2006. All rights reserved.


Mike Sutton is a freelance writer and regular contributor to www.dvdtimes.co.uk where he has written over five hundred reviews, including twenty of Hammer films. His work has also appeared in genre magazines The Third Alternative and Rue Morgue and he is a member of the British Film Institute's Screenonline team, covering the work of Nicolas Roeg and a number of the James Bond films. He will shortly be making regular appearances in Cinema Retro magazine. Mike is a devoted lover of British horror, be it Hammer, Tigon, Amicus or Heritage.


Quintessential Hammer film with commanding performances from Christopher Lee and Charles Gray, a literate Richard Matheson script, Terence Fisher's perfectly judged direction and a couple of deliciously scary set-pieces.


The best of Hammer's Quatermass series and probably the finest SF-Horror movie ever made in England. Nigel Kneale's screenplay is brilliantly worked out, anticipating the central theme of Kubrick's 2001 and doing so in a much less pretentious manner.


My favourite of the Dracula series; an insightful study of hypocritical Victorian London with a cast to die for, stylish direction and a magnificently weird ending. Although sidelined for much of the plot, Christopher Lee's imposing Dracula comes into his own during the final battle.


By far the best of the disappointing Frankenstein series, a savage morality tale in which Peter Cushing's Frankenstein attains new heights of detached sadism as he murders and rapes his way into a new brain. Freddie Jones is a great monster, the gore quotient has been upped and the intellectual battle of wills at the finale has to be seen to be believed.


Hammer's final throw of the cinematic horror dice, a bizarre but riveting concoction of gore, devil-movie clichés and surreal narrative turns that rarely makes sense but never loses your interest. Christopher Lee gives one of his finest performances and there's a fascinatingly diverse international cast.


Complex, offbeat psychological horror movie which is about as avant-garde as Hammer ever got and all the better for it. It's got plenty of nudity, some gruelling gore and Michael Hordern wandering around as a nutter with a huge flaming crucifix. What more could anyone want?


No-one else likes this except me but I think it's a seriously creepy, extremely weird psychological thriller with a knockout set of performances and one of the most terrifying, downbeat endings in Hammer's history. It's also a delightfully dated time capsule of London in 1970.


Camp city and a minor classic. It's rather like an episode of The New Avengers with Dracula appearing as an afterthought. Peter Cushing is on top form as Van Helsing and there's a career-best piece of dedicated hamming from a delightfully twitchy Freddie Jones. John Cacavas provides a score which sounds like outtakes from Starsky and Hutch and it all ends in a mini-Armageddon.


Hammer's final Mummy film. Doesn't make much sense and is a long way from Bram Stoker's Jewel of Seven Stars but it's got Andrew Keir and Valerie Leon, some imaginative murders and a clever finale. The film also features my favourite bit of Hammer dialogue - "The meek shan't inherit the earth. They wouldn't know what to do with it."


The only zombie movie that Hammer made is a cracker, with André Morell versus John Carlisle - a cracking pairing - some scary monsters and an exciting finale.

Copyright © Mike Sutton 2006. All rights reserved.


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