A critical study of Hammer Film Production’s brand of Gothic Horror from 1956 – 1972

Date

2013-05

Authors

O'Brien, Morgan Clark

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Abstract

Hammer Film Production’s brand of melodramatic Gothic Horror reinvented horror cinema in 1957. Despite bringing tremendous financial success throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Hammer’s Gothic had run its course by the early 1970s and cinematic production ceased altogether by 1975. After establishing multiple iterations of a markedly recognizable house style, it is generally agreed that Hammer failed to adapt to the demands of a changing marketplace. This thesis investigates the circumstances surrounding Hammer’s demise by conducting neoformal analysis of case study films and examining how they were affected by cultural, historical, and industrial factors. Looking to Hammer’s films themselves helps determine to what extent they were responsible for Hammer’s misfortune and why. This thesis demonstrates how Hammer’s own production setup and early genre success contributed to the studio’s eventual downfall and the outside factors that underscored this process. I argue that Hammer did experiment with house formula but the studio’s attempts to renegotiate the 1970s horror landscape were unsuccessful because of changing audience demographics, an industry in transition, and Hammer’s own perceived corporate identity.

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