Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Britain is sadly, no longer an country for a very old Hammer Horror film producer called Anthony Hinds

Tony, who has died aged 91, produced the films which old men in Britain remember watching with a combination of expectation and fear in the cinema when they were young men in the 1960s.

What you possibly didn't know about Tony, that he :

* was born in Ruislip, North-West London, son of Will, who had interests in cycling shops and theatres and trod the boards himself as one half of a comedy double-act, 'Hammer and Smith' and formed Hammer Films in 1934 with his business partner, Enrique Carreras.

* went to St Paul's School in Hammersmith and served in the Second World War in a Photographic Unit in the Royal Air Force in India and joined the reformed 'Hammer Film Productions' which had dissolved in the late 30s, in 1946 at the age of 24 and found a location in a rundown manor house, Down Place, on the banks of the River Thames near the village of Bray, Berkshire, which was bought in 1952 and reshaped it as Bray Studios.

* moved the company's film production from 'quota quickies' like 'The Dark Road' in 1947, to 'A' features when he persuaded BBC TV to part with the screen rights to its sensational science-fiction serial of 1953, 'The Quatermass Experiment' and the success of his 1955 production, retitled 'The Quatermass Xperiment' to cash in on the Film Censor's new 'X certificate', convinced him that the future for Hammer was the horror film.

* in 1956, at the age of 34, asked an unknown writer, Jimmy Sangster, to adapt a well-known gothic novel for a new, younger audience by spicing it up with sex and stage blood and produced 'The Curse of Frankenstein' in 1957, which gained widespread critical dismay, but a worldwide box-office success and saw the birth of 'Hammer Horror'.

* in 1957, on the death of his father, seen with him on the left, inherited his share in Hammer and became co-owner with Carreras's son, James and as boss of Bray Studios, produced 13 of Hammer's best-known features, from 'Dracula' in 1958 to 'The Evil of Frankenstein' in 1964, the year in which he was lauded by the industry as the most successful film producer in Britain.

* came up with the idea of hiring country houses and shooting films in the rooms and grounds of the locations, which saved the cost of kitting out a full studio and his work gave rise to international genre careers of Peter Cushing (right) and Christopher Lee.

* under the pseudonym, , 'John Elder', screenwriter created, from the mid-1960s, : 'The Curse of the Werewolf', starring Oliver Reed, 'The Phantom of the Opera', 'The Kiss of the Vampire', 'The Reptile', 'Rasputin the Mad Monk', 'Frankenstein Created Woman', 'Dracula Has Risen from the Grave', 'Taste the Blood of Dracula' and 'Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell'.

* returned to production for 'The Lost Continent'  in 1968 but, reserved and fastidious by nature, had little sympathy for the wheeling and dealing of the film business and after run-ins with directors and the technicians' union and when asked to work under Joan Harrison on the Hammer tv series, 'Journey to the Unknown' in 1969, decided that enough was enough. resigned from the Hammer board and the industry at the age of 47.

* continued to freelance as a scriptwriter and wrote for the amateur dramatic societies and saw his old company struggle to continue its success without him and go into liquidation in 1979.

* in his final decades, seemed to dissociate himself from his career, cut up his old scripts to use as memo pads, drove a minibus for the local 'old folk' and in 1998, when he attended a' Hammer Convention' at Bray Studios, privately dismissed the attendees as “barking mad” and left as quietly as he arrived. 

* resurfaced one last time at the age of 88, in the BBC’s 2010 documentary series, 'A History of Horror' and recalled : “There’s a great danger with horror films that people will start laughing. We thought we’d put a stop to that.”

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