The Art of Hammer: Posters from the Archive of Hammer Films

The Art of Hammer: Posters from the Archive of Hammer Films

Now considered classics among many, originally the horror and comedy productions of Hammer Films were unappreciated by critics. Campy or controversial, the Hammer Horror & Comedy posters were often painted works of art…

Now considered classics among many, originally the horror and comedy productions of Hammer Films were unappreciated by critics despite whatever commercial success they received. Campy or controversial, the posters produced for the British film company were often painted works of art, illustrated by London-based artists as well as international designers and backed by a number of distributors-including every major American studio of the era. Tom Chantrell won in-house acclaim as Hammer’s top artistic star, but his colleagues Bill Wiggins, Renato Fratini, and others were equally a part of the producer’s fame.

Echoing the evolution of American film posters, Hammer history saw a decline in painted posters and a rise in photo montages and computerized techniques. Its Gothic horror advertisements used themes of “women in peril,” who screamed at the sight of mummies, vampires, werewolves, and other frightful aberrations. Most content was exaggerated and littered with dramatic taglines. The 1958 release of Dracula (starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee as the legendary vampire), for example, promised to tell the tale of “The terrifying lover who died-yet lived!” Because of their varied styles, the posters range from being bizarre, gaudy, and downright captivating-the kind of macabre classics you’d want to hang in enormous frames on your living room wall. It’s no wonder art and horror connoisseurs today go batty for them.

The Art of Hammer: Posters from the Archives of Hammer Films (from publisher Titan Books and author Marcus Hearn) is a beefy 9″x12″ size, and most of its weight consists of rich, full-color reprints presented in chronological order and divided into three main chapters, or decades, of Hammer’s legacy: the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. The book isn’t an exhaustive library of posters, nor is it a collector’s guide. If anything, The Art of Hammer dashes on the historical significance of its posters while devoting most of its efforts to pure appreciation. You won’t find much reading in these pages, but with so many fascinating contributions to film, who needs anything more?


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