Echoes of screams past – House of Hammer

Yesterday’s Papers – The House of Hammer

I grew up watching the Hammer horror movies on late night television and thought they were the coolest thing ever, of course I later discovered Universal’s run of horror movies which were even cooler – at least Universal’s Frankenstein movies were but Hammer topped them on the Dracula front. I also think Hammer’s Mummy was better than Universals but then the American studio had the coolest Wolfman movie, so all things considered maybe it’s a draw

I digress – recently I saw a lot of three old issues of The House of Hammer on eBay and just had to get them. Well, they were going cheap and I’d never read the magazine before. Hey it had a cover price of 35p – hey this was 1977 and 35p was a fortune to a twelve year old.

1977 – ah, the year of punk and maybe I’ll write about that one day, but for now back to the monster mags.

The magazine featured a comic strip adaptation of one or other of the Hammer movies – each story seems to be complete and I have comic strip version of Twins of Evil, The Mummy’s Shroud and The Gorgon. There’s also a bonus tale in two of the issues from the anthology series, Van Helsing’s Terror Tale. Think of something like The Twilight Zone introduced by a wonderfully drawn Peter Cushing as Van Helsing.

Between the strips there are many horror of Hammer related features. The news section is great to read all these years later – In one issue we learn that Warner Brothers are making yet another cut of Exorcist 2, removing the scenes where Richard Burton’s priest admits to sexual feelings for Linda Blair. It also tells us that Omen II is currently in production. We are also told to forget the stale news that Superman 1 and 2 will be released in 1978 and 1979, but informs us that III and IV will be with us during the first two years of the eighties. Shock news is broken with the report that director, John Hancock as been sacked from the forthcoming, Jaws 2 and that Jeannot Szwarc now takes over.

Another issue informs us that Burnt Offerings has been selected as the best horror movie of 1976 and that ITV will start to show the first season of Wonderwoman starring newcomer, Linda Carter. We also learn that James Herbert’s The Fog has been optioned for a film – wonder, what happened to that?

As always the letter pages in these old magazines are a blast to read – Post Morten was where horror fans sent their letters.

One bloodthirsty correspondent, James Belverton informs the magazine that he recently visited Madame Tussaud’s Chamber of Horrors and think the show should be featured in the magazine. Another reader, Kevin Hazen says, “this is a great magazine better than any of the American rubbish.”

There is a letter from Bill George (Editor of The Late Show) of Maryland USA. and he talks about what he thinks the reasons are that Hammer seems to have stolen the lead in horror movies from the American studios.

These are great little magazines – reading them these days, so long after they were written is particularly interesting as they represent a snap shot of the state of popular culture at the time. And of course these Hammer films have stood the test of time and still boast a large cult following.

And so I leave you to savour a rather beautiful poster from Hammer, The Gorgon and also the last page of the comic strip version of the same movie.

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