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There are just not enough gorgeous coffee table hardcover books that feature Christopher Lee about to sink his Dracula fangs into a beautiful sleeping woman. The Hammer Vault is the first to my knowledge that features this painted visage on its cover, which is in fact a reproduction of the movie poster artwork for Hammer Films’ 1957 release of Dracula, which starred Lee in his first role of many as the Count.
At 176 pages, The Hammer Vault is a recollection and celebration of the films produced by this iconic British movie company. While it’s not a complete itinerary of all of Hammer’s output, it doesn’t claim to be. Instead, it focuses on the important and best memorable of Hammer’s films beginning in 1954 with The Quatermass Experiment and going straight on through to 1983 and the bankruptcy of the original incarnation of Hammer before leaping ahead to the company’s reformation in 2008 and the releases of Wake Wood and Let Me In.
Marcus Hearn has cherry picked from the Hammer archives a wonderful selection of poster art, press kit material, signed letters from the president, publicity stills, behind-the-scenes photographs, script pages with handwritten notes and other valuables. You may already familiar with the cool art style of Hammer movies, either from seeing them yourself or collected in Titan Books’ earlier volume, The Art of Hammer. If not, and you like your classic monsters or pop culture from the 50s to 80s, the gallery of posters and promo artwork assembled in The Hammer Vault book will delight you.
Typically Hearn takes two pages to cover a film, talking about the events that led up to its production and relaying other interesting points about it. As such, when you read the book it fills in the missing pieces of Hammer’s early history as well as gives you a true sense of the evolution of the company. You can see how the company changed its genres of product as audiences grew fickle of thrillers in the 50s and grew an appetite for horror in the 60s and 70s, then into escapism action and fantasy through the later 70s. Also, you can tell through the growing number of racier photos of the lovely ladies that appeared in Hammer movies in the 70s how audience sensibilities started to shift and having more illicit sexuality became accepted in these pictures.
Titan Books has produced another fine looking tome to add to your collection, one that looks great visually and also has an abundance of meat on its bone. I’m glad that Hammer is back in business and producing new scary movies for us to watch, but it’s also great that the past legacy of this important player in horror and suspense isn’t being forgotten. If you’re a fan of Hammer Films and want something physical to add to your book collection that celebrates this era of moviemaking, The Hammer Vault is most definitely worthy to bring into your home.
176 pages, hardback
Published by Titan Books 2011
Review Score: 84 / 100
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