Hammer’s Christmas 1954 communiqué to the trades had promised a total of seven colour features and eight CinemaScope shorts, but the hard-times year of 1955 saw the company produce not much more than the latter, on a borrowed lens, while the industry, in general, waited for the coup de grâce that many felt certain would inevitably be delivered by September 22nd inauguration of commercial television.
One of the driving forces behind the shaping of this study was a concern over the critical role of architectural history. This concern grew out of a constant and necessary confrontation with the question of “How does one engage with architecture and space, historically and critically?” Among many other past and present responses to this question, what is taken seriously here is a suggestion by Foucault: “Focus on what the Greeks called the techne” (1984, p. 255).
One morning, six hours after dawn, the first human-crewed rocket in the history of the world takes off from the Tarooma range, Australia. The three observers see on their scanning screens a quickly receding Earth. The rocket is guided from the ground by remote control as they rise through the ozone layer, the stratosphere, the ionosphere — beyond the air. They are to reach a height of fifteen hundred miles beyond the Earth, and there learn[…] what is to be learned. For an experiment is an operation designed to discover some unknown truth. It is also a risk.
For some of those involved, Hammer Film Productions’s dedication to “terror and disgust” (as the dictionary defines horror) was never acknowledged as such. Peter Cushing: “I do not like the word horror; I think fantasy is a much better word.” Christopher Lee: “I prefer to call them ‘films of fantasy’ — particularly the ones I have made.” Director Terence Fisher: “I object to my films being called ‘horror pictures.’ I prefer my work to be known as macabre.” But the public thought differently. They were not concerned with such fine distinctions. To them, Hammer Film Productions made horror films, pure and simple. And so, for twenty-one years, horror was to be Hammer Film Productions’s stock-in-trade.
As Adam Charles Hart’s chapter in this chronicle will demonstrate, today monsters are at the very heart of Hollywood blockbuster action films and CGI spectacles, in franchises such as ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, films that few critics or scholars would likely classify as horror films per se.
The optical camera obscura played an important role in the evolution of photography as an art, in fact, in Tracy Rose Chevalier’s 1999 novel ‘The Girl’ with the ‘Pearl Earring’ and the 2003 movie of the same title, a camera obscura takes centre stage in a drama between the famous Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer van Delft (1632-1675) and a servant girl called Griet. Johannes Vermeer van Delft is not only one of the brightest stars among the famous Dutch and Flemish painters of the seventeenth-century. He is also the artist most often assumed to have used a camera obscura to create some and maybe most of his paintings. Such speculations appeared as early as 1891 in a journal of photography. This seems fitting for an artist whose paintings, like those of other Dutch artists of this time, boasted a photographic realism. The incredible precision with which Johannes Vermeer van Delft rendered details, particularly in his domestic interiors, his novel approach to atmospheric light and colours and the lustre he applied to reflecting surfaces are all suggestive of a painting practice that employed a camera obscura.
John Francis Brewer wrote the first known text about the Jack the Ripper murders in October of 1888, a sensational horror monograph entitled ‘The Curse upon Mitre Square.’ John Francis Brewer made use of well-known Gothic tropes, such as the trans-generational curse, the inclusion of a ghost and the setting of an old church for the murder of an innocent woman. John Francis Brewer blended fact and fiction, making the Whitechapel murderer the inheritor, or even perhaps the victim of an ancient curse that hung over Mitre Square, where the second murdered prostitute, Catherine Eddowes, had been found the month before. According to John Francis Brewer, the curse originated from the murder of a woman in 1530 by her brother, a “mad monk,” on the steps of the high altar of the Holy Trinity Church in Aldgate. The monk, Martin, committed suicide, realising what he had done, and his ghost now appears pointing to the place where the murder occurred, promising that other killings will follow.