The Glamour of Hammer

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Hammer Glamour cover girl Madeline Smith

Hammer horror films were an essential part of my childhood and one of my favorite things about Hammer films was the glamorous female stars. While growing up I thought that the women in Hammer movies were incredibly beautiful and I still do. Big hair and big busts seemed to be one of the studios regular requirements but many of the gorgeous women who appeared in Hammer films also knew how to act. These curvaceous ladies could play naive and innocent victims in one film and bloodthirsty ferocious killers in the next. They broke rules, pushed boundaries and kept up with their male costars even when given secondary roles and third billing. Now there’s a book that gives these women the star treatment that they’ve long deserved.

In September Titan Books released Marcus Hearn’s fabulous tribute to Hammer’s female stars entitled Hammer Glamour: Classic Images from the Hammer Archives. The term “Hammer Glamour” has been used by Hammer fans for decades but Hearn’s book is the first book that I know of that focuses solely on Hammer’s female stars. This lush coffee table collection contains over 150 pages and features profiles as well as interviews with many of the actresses who had prominent and lessor known roles in Hammer movies. The book is beautifully put together and the actresses are smartly presented in alphabetical order, which makes for easy referencing. It also includes an informative introduction by the author and a helpful index of Hammer film titles that corresponds with the actresses mentioned in the book. Hammer Glamour is a real treat for horror fans and makes a great companion to author Marcus Hearn’s previous book, The Hammer Story. Together both of Kearn’s informative texts offer new and seasoned Hammer fans a fascinating look at “The Studio That Dripped Blood.”

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Hammer Glamour is reading what the actresses have to say about their experiences working with the studio. Many of them have a great sense of humor about their work. They also express a real fondness for their co-stars and film crew. Actor Peter Cushing is often singled out for his generous behavior and good nature. It’s obvious that he was beloved by those who knew him and befriended him during his lifetime.
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Top: Janette Scott and Pauline Peart
Bottom: Yutte Stensgaard and Valerie Gaunt

Finding background information about these actresses wasn’t always easy and Marcus Hearn clearly had to go out of his way to compile the profiles and interviews for Hammer Glamour. I really appreciate the author’s extraordinary efforts because the book provides Hammer fans with an unprecedented look at some of the studio’s most fascinating stars. It also contains many rare photos that I’ve never seen before and I can almost guarantee that even the most avid Hammer fans will find some surprises in Hammer Glamour.

My only complaint is that I wish the book was bigger. I think the publishers could have easily added an additional 150 pages and I’m sure it would have still found an eager audience. I’d love to see Marcus Hearn and Titan Books publish a future expanded volume of Hammer Glamour that provided even more information about the women included in the book and offered lengthier profiles of the actresses who were left out or given scant attention. I’d also love to see more photographs showcased as well since I can never get enough Hammer Glamour eye-candy.

Minor complaint aside, Marcus Hearn’s Hammer Glamour is truly a feast for the senses and it should find a place in every serious Hammer fan’s library. I suspect that anyone who is interested in British film history might also find Hammer Glamour worth reading because the book indirectly provides a unique and occasionally troubling look at what it was like to work as an actress within the British film industry during the late 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

Hammer Glamour retails for $29.95 but it’s currently on sale at Amazon for just $19.77. I really can’t recommend the book enough so if you’re looking for the perfect holiday gift for a friend or yourself I suggest picking up a copy of Marcus Hearn’s book. For more information about Hammer Glamour visit the official Titan Book site: Hammer Glamour

I also recommend a visit to Holger Haase’s fabulous World of Hammer Glamour fan site.

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8 thoughts on “The Glamour of Hammer

  1. Mick Brooks says:

    I was just flicking through this book at lunchtime today, whilst trying to get my two-year old to eat his lunch. It has been on my shelf for at least a month (along with dozens of other neglected titles). To then come to Cinebeats after quite an absence and find you covering it was a bit spooky.
    I grew up on Hammer films on the BBC and ITV over here (I’m 43, so they were on TV all the time when I was under-ten). I had strangely liberal parents when it came to letting me watch films. I don’t remember being frightened much though. Went to see “Twilight Pt2” yesterday. Now that is fightening(ly bad). Kids nowadays, eh?
    Watched (hey, I’m on holiday this week!) “The Damned” today (featuring Shirley Anne Field), after never having watched a Hammer film for quite a while. Either I’m feeling nostalgic, or you have mysterious powers, Mrs Lindbergs!

  2. Kimberly Lindbergs says:

    Polychrome – Hope you get yourself a copy soon!

    Mick – It’s a small world but glad we can share in our enthusiasm for Hammer films. The Damned is a movie I really need to see. It’s not available in the US yet but it’s supposed to be released on DVD soon and I’m really looking forward to it since it stars one of my favorite people – Oliver Reed!

  3. Mick Brooks says:

    Kimberly,
    The Damned was shown recently on BBC2 in widescreen (though not the 2.35:1 it was apparently filmed in). As soon as it started I realised that I recognised the locations. It was filmed about 20 miles away from me in Weymouth and Portland, both areas I know pretty well. As for the story, it is pretty routine cold war British sci-fi/horror, but I really enjoyed it. Ollie Reed was pretty hammy but fitted in well, as the rest of the film was too.
    Definitely better than a lot of similar fare and well worth you hunting down.
    I forgot to say, but the same day I saw it, read a bit of Hammer Glamour and visited your website, I flicked through a copy of Cinema Retro in the local Borders, so it really was a Cinebeats filled day!

    Mick

  4. belle dee says:

    This is a wonderful book. And I completely agree, I wish that it were a bigger book. BUT, I was so thrilled with it, as many of these photos I’d never seen before. It’s a book that has been long overdue.

  5. Drazen says:

    A fantastic book and yes too small! I”ve been taking sketching breaks from other work with it for a little while now.
    I was pretty excited when TCM showed The Damned awhile back and it was pretty great.
    Have you read Reed All about Me, by Oliver Reed? awesome book.

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