24 October 2014

Jose Cruz

The house of Hammer was built over the course of the late 50s to the mid-70s; it was one constructed of rich Victorian wood and peopled by everyone from murderous men of medicine and their patchwork creations to lordly vampires and lycanthropic dons.

Though the company dabbled in contemporary chillers of the psychotic variety (Paranoiac in 1963, Die! Die! My Darling! in 1965), the main feature that drew viewers back time and again was the meshing of historical opulence and romanticism with the flesh-and-blood workings of the horror genre.

Once Hammer Studios closed out its horror productions with To the Devil a Daughter in 1976, it seemed like the public wouldn’t be hearing much from the folks at Bray Studios again.

But a few scant years later headquarters were relocated to Hampden House in Buckinghamshire and the purveyors of hoary historical horrors invaded British television in the form of the aptly-named Hammer House of Horror. The imposing Hampden House itself would go on to appear in the show’s groovy opening credits as well as several vignettes.

Premiering on September 13th, 1980 through network television on ITV, the series went on for a total of thirteen episodes, presenting a self-contained story each week that came from the house that genre fans loved visiting so much.

The series veered away from the type of period dramas that had become the studio’s staple, focusing less on monsters while spotlighting other types of gruesome oddities such as voodoo, cannibals, ghosts and the like (barring one werewolf yarn, Children of the Full Moon).

Its contemporary settings were quite the shift from the Merry Olde England that viewers were used to seeing in the company’s cinematic fare, but the episodes demonstrated the creative team’s adeptness at updating their stories for modern times while retaining all the chills (and occasional blood splatter) that had originally won them fame.

British luminaries of the silver screen were commonly seen on the program, with stories hosting actors such as Patricia Quinn, Ian McCulloch, Denholm Elliot, Diana Dors, Brian Cox, and even the Baron Frankenstein himself, Peter Cushing.

The series also enlisted directors that had previously worked on the studio’s feature films like Peter Sasdy (Hands of the Ripper), Robert Young (Vampire Circus), and Don Sharp (Rasputin, the Mad Monk).

Hammer House of Horror is fondly remembered by fans, as evidenced by tribute sites and two DVD releases that were created to preserve its memory. Despite the marching of time, this solid horror series proved that the old studio was definitely capable of learning new tricks.

SEASON 1 • EPISODE TITLE AIRDATE
Witching Time Sept. 13, 1980
The Thirteenth Reunion Sept. 20, 1980
Rude Awakening Sept. 27, 1980
Growing Pains Oct. 4, 1980
The House that Bled to Death Oct. 11, 1980
Charlie Boy Oct. 18, 1980
The Silent Scream Oct. 25, 1980
Children of the Full Moon Nov. 1, 1980
Carpathian Eagle Nov. 8, 1980
Guardian of the Abyss Nov. 15, 1980
Visitor from the Grave Nov. 22, 1980
The Two Faces of Evil Nov. 29, 1980
The Mark of Satan Dec. 6, 1980

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