Sunday, 2 January 2011

Nailing Hammer

The Art of Hammer 2010.
By Marcus Hearne.
Titan Books. ISBN: 978-1848567375

I don’t look at enough poster books, I’ve decided. I always like looking through them but the lack of words always makes them seem like a less meaty proposition to reading a quick novel. I don’t know why because, once I brave the lack of comfort which a well typeset page of text brings to me, I am invariably caught up in the rich colours and garish “movie type” which such rare treasures of lurid propaganda ultimately reveal to me... reaching out it’s 4 colour arms to embrace me in it’s seedy charm and hyperbolic copy-writing.

Marcus Hearne’s wonderful collection of posters from one of the more unappreciated of the successful British Studios, The Art of Hammer, is a case in point. Neatly split into specific periods from the studios rise to it’s disappointing fall, the posters tell a story of sorts as you can see how the success of picture after picture brought the inevitable sequel of a sequel.

There are some really nice examples of the companies amazing posters inside and some of the captioning on the posters is extremely interesting as it points out interesting little facts about how the poster has had to be changed or fascinating notes about the history of the poster design. The little gem that some objectionable elements had to be removed from Count Dracula's hands on one poster, for example, which has the ultimate effect of making him look like he’s holding his hands up in celebration after just having scored a goal. Or the fact that one of the poster’s Dracula images is actually a self portrait of the artist, as the new shots of Christopher Lee to work from had not turned up in time (and when you know this, it really shows... I can never look at that poster again and see it in the same light).

If I do have any complaints about this really excellent book, it would be that examples of some of the artwork I wanted it for did not have a section covering it at all. Specifically, I wanted to see all the posters for the Hammer films which had posters painted to secure a film deal but which were never made. I’ve seen a fair few of these reprinted in magazines over the years and they’re, in many ways, a lot bolder and sumptuous than many of the posters to the movies that actually got made. It’s disappointing then that none of these excellent posters actually made it into the book... but then again, I’ve got my fingers crossed that the clever marketing department at Hammer could bring a second volume out with all those in. The Lost Art of Hammer or some such would make a more than adequate stocking filler next Christmas.

The book also includes posters for films which some younger generation fans might not have realised were Hammer films... such as the big screen Hammer versions of Man About The House and On The Buses. An eye opener for some of the younger fans I expect.

I was surprised that Hammer didn’t take the opportunity to include the poster artwork to their new production, Let Me In, at the end of the book. This would surely have helped cement in people’s minds that “Hammer is Back”. Still, let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. This really is a startling volume and fans of good old lurid poster art should celebrate in the release of this book and make a purchase. It’s good crack for horror poster junkies like myself.


  1. Movie type makes me swoon. Thanks for pointing out this book! I am currently swooning over a book on mid-century movie posters, many of which in the book (just happen) to be western. They are drenched in cool blues and lurid reds. Gorgeous.

  2. Hey there Bucko.

    Yeah... I ought to make more time and save some DVD money back to buy more of these kinds of things. Movie posters are cool!

    Wish there was an inexpensive collection of Saul Bass movie posters (there wasn't last time I checked). I remember seeing him lecture for a few hours about 5-10 years before he died. What an entertainer!

  3. Yes very good review, thanks