Hammer Films Script Archive To Get New Home

The Cinema And Television History (CATH) Research Centre at Leicester De Montfort University is delighted and honoured to be the custodian of Hammer’s archive of scripts.

Internationally, Hammer is the most famous of Britain’s film studios, and in the UK it has an impressive heritage. Most recently with The Woman In Black – which has since its release taken over £10m in the UK and over $60m worldwide – Hammer is bringing its brand of horror films to a whole new generation.

The CATH Research Centre is proud to be associated with the revival of this classic British brand, and to be entrusted with elements of its historic archive at a time when the company is restoring its classic films for Blu-ray and DVD release. Our agreement with Hammer will involve the cataloguing and curation of the materials, but the intention is also to make them available to scholars in digital form. We expect to launch this project at a conference and film festival in Leicester in the first half of July this year.

De Montfort was selected over competing universities because of the particular expertise in British genre cinema at the CATH Research Centre. The Centre’s Director, Steve Chibnall, is the only Professor of British Cinema and has co-edited a collection on British Horror Cinema. Dr. Ian Hunter has published widely on Hammer and other horror and science-fiction films, and taught a pioneering module on the company as part of one of DMU’s degree courses. The CATH Research Centre also has among its Associate Research Fellows David Pirie, who published the first serious work on British Gothic cinema, A Heritage of Horror (1973), and Jonathan Rigby, whose book English Gothic (2000) has become the standard work on this nationally-distinctive film genre. They have now been joined by Marcus Hearn, Hammer’s official historian and most recently author of The Hammer Vault, a beautifully-produced tour through the company’s archives. Marcus was inducted into the CATH Research Centre’s community of associate research fellows last week at an annual symposium.

Steve Chibnall: “When I was growing up, Hammer and horror were virtually synonymous, and seeing one of their films was a rite of passage into adulthood. Of course, they liked to sail as close to the wind as possible as far as the censor was concerned, but their products were memorable and influential internationally, and have now been recognised as Britain’s most important contribution to fantasy cinema. Although they became incredibly successful after the release of classic shockers like The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula (1958) and won a Queen’s Award for Industry in the 1960s, Hammer remained something of a maverick independent with a transgressive edge that kept audiences interested and expectant. We welcome the arrival of this collection at its new home in dedicated archival space at De Montfort University and look forward both to making its treasures available in electronic form to the wider community of scholars, and to a long and fruitful collaboration between the CATH Research Centre and Hammer.

In excess of 240 items from the Hammer script archive have been deposited with the CATH Research Centre, opening Hammer’s collection up to public research and study for the first time.

Hammer’s archivist Robert Simpson oversaw the collection and transfer of the material, formally handing over the first of the script boxes to Professor Chibnall at the CATH Associate Research Fellows’ Day at De Montfort University on Wednesday 8th February 2012.

Robert Simpson explains: “During a reorganisation and inventory of the company’s extensive archive we decided that our script collection deserved to be made accessible. De Montfort has been nurturing some truly excellent work on British film history and the CATH facility seemed the perfect place to host our archive; respecting the historical and physical value of the material and allowing protected access to those studying the company and its films.”

Robert Simpson continues: “While this is by no means the entire contents of our archive – we have hundreds of thousands of pages of corporate paperwork, ephemera and of course the film elements, much of which is still in active use – it is an unparalleled collection, including classic Hammer screenplays from the likes of Jimmy Sangster, Michael Carreras, Val Guest, Nigel Kneale and John Elder. It covers most of our film and television production from 1947 through to 1990, embracing not only the horror output of Hammer, but also documentaries, comedies, war films, shorts, and swashbucklers. This is the first time in several decades that Hammer has opened its archives to such outside scrutiny, and will be a wonderful opportunity for film students.”

Marcus Hearn, Hammer’s official historian and a research fellow at CATH: “I’m glad that the scripts from so many of Hammer’s classic productions will be going to a good home at Leicester’s De Montfort University. Professor Steve Chibnall is one of the country’s leading authorities on British cinema, and I look forward to working with him again on this exciting project. We will also be adding scripts and paperwork from the private collections of director Roy Ward Baker and writer Jimmy Sangster, both of whom enjoyed long associations with Hammer. Both Roy and Jimmy would have been pleased to know that their work was being made available to students and researchers in this way.