It’s a bittersweet day to review THE ART OF HAMMER. Right now, as I write this, Hammer’s COUNTESS DRACULA plays in the background, a reminder of the actress Ingrid Pitt, who passed away this November 23 at age 73. It’s one of my favorite Hammers, starring Pitt as an elderly Elizabeth Bathory-inspired murderess who keeps herself young by bathing in the blood of virgins. COUNTESS DRACULA features gorgeous period Hungarian costumes, a brisk pace, and a good amount of Pitt nudity when the German actress was in her prime.
I’m thankful for movies like this (and actresses like Pitt). As a horror fan, they feel like comfort food — fog-ridden tales of evil with exploitative bursts of sex and violence that satisfy the time in which they were made. Hammer horror manages to feel both old-fashioned and shocking at the same time. They deserve to be celebrated, especially in the last days of Hammer’s old guard. The studio lot has been sold off for redevelopment and the truth is that Hammer’s main players are, sadly, not going to be with us much longer. Rest in peace, Ingrid Pitt.
It’s vital then, especially today, to hold a book like THE ART OF HAMMER and flip through hundreds of photos that celebrate the studio’s former glory. This new book from author/Hammer historian Marcus Hearn is a stand-out, because, unlike his previous books on Hammer (THE HAMMER STORY, HAMMER GLAMOUR), whose primary appeal was with hardcore Hammer fans, THE ART OF HAMMER is a must-own for all movie fans.
The largely text-free book is supported with page after page of amazing poster art from 1950 all the way through to 1979. The chapters are separated by decade and include sumptuous, colorful promo art from all parts of the world, covering all of Hammer’s output — not just horror. If you have a pair of eyes in your head, I guarantee there’s something in this book that will inspire, amuse, delight, and/or shock you. Yes, it’s really that great.
For example, I’ve had an advance copy in my office now for several days. None of my day job’s officemates are really familiar with Hammer at all, but it hasn’t stopped them from poring over the pages several times. It’s visually exciting and accessible to anyone — a near-perfect movie poster collection. Part art-book, part-valentine, THE ART OF HAMMER is a keeper. Now go buy it.
[Head over to Cinematical for a few images of what THE ART OF HAMMER has in store for you.]