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Hammer Television

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Having enjoyed a rather successful relationship with television by converting TV hits into cinematic ones, Hammer made a couple of attempts at breaking into the TV market before they achieved any success.

Tales of Frankenstein

In 1957, Hammer began talks with Screen Gems, the TV wing of Columbia Pictures. Developed under the banner Tales of Frankenstein, the series would run for 26 episodes, half of which would be filmed in Hollywood and half at Hammer's own Bray Studios. But after completion of the pilot1 episode in Hollywood, head of Hammer, James Carreras, raised concern over the cost of the episode, which, he felt, could have cost half as much had it been made in the UK. Carreras became more and more determined to have the entire show filmed at his own studios to the point where the deal gradually collapsed. Despite a number of storylines having been developed, the pilot episode was the sole survivor of the enterprise.

'The Face in the Tombstone Mirror'

1 x 30 minute episode
Produced by Michael Carreras/Anthony Hinds
Starring Anton Diffring as Baron Frankenstein.

A terminally-ill man and his wife call at the home of Baron Frankenstein in the hope he might be able to cure the man's illness. Frankenstein refuses to help them. However, after the young man dies, Frankenstein steals his brain to use in one of his macabre experiments - a new monster. As ever, Frankenstein's creation turns on him and the Baron is only saved when the man's widow begs him to spare the Baron's life. The monster falls into the open grave of the deceased man and is buried.

Journey Into the Unknown

Journey Into the Unknown was somewhat more successful, an anthology series made with 20th Century Fox and ABC Television in the Twilight Zone2 mould.

Hammer's first proper foray into television came in 1968 with a series provisionally entitled 'Fright Hour' before they settled on the more generic Journey Into the Unknown. Hammer's Anthony Hinds would produce the co-production with the US network ABC. ABC appointed Joan Harrison as executive producer for the series; Harrison had been Alfred Hitchcock's assistant for many years and had produced the great director's own anthology series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Considering that Hammer's own Anthony Hinds was supposed to be the producer for the series, Hinds felt that Harrison's appointment reduced his role significantly. This incident was one of the contributing factors for his eventual resignation from Hammer's board of directors. Nevertheless, it was Harrison's presence on the show which secured writers such as Robert Bloch (scriptwriter of Hitchcock's Psycho) and actors like The Third Man, which starred Joseph Cotten, Barbara Bell Geddes and Vera Miles, all of whom had worked for Hitchcock.

The Episodes

13 x 50 minute episodes
Produced by Anthony Hinds
First broadcast On ITV

  • 'The New People' (14 April, 1969)
  • 'Somewhere In A Crowd' (21 April, 1969)
  • 'Matakitas Is Coming' (28 April, 1969)
  • 'Jane Brown's Body' (5 May, 1969)
  • 'Do Me A Favour - Kill Me!' (12 May, 1969)
  • 'Poor Butterfly' (19 May, 1969)
  • 'The Madison Equation' (2 June, 1969)
  • 'Girl Of My Dreams' (9 June, 1969)
  • 'The Last Visitor' (16 June, 1969)
  • 'Eve' (23 June, 1969)
  • 'The Indian Spirit Guide' (30 June, 1969)
  • 'The Killing Bottle' (9 July, 1969)
  • 'Stranger In The Family' (16 July, 1969)
  • 'The Beckoning Fair One' (23 July, 1969)
  • 'One On A Desert Island' (30th July, 1969)
  • 'Paper Dolls' (3 January, 1970)
  • 'Miss Belle' (8 May, 1970)

Hammer House of Horror

It was with their 1980 TV series Hammer House of Horror that Hammer really made its mark, though sadly after the last of the company's original players, Michael Carreras, had left the company (see Hammer Films - The Final Years). Back in 1973, a series entitled 'The Hammer House of Horror, Mystery and Suspense' was first mooted as one of a number of attempts to save the fortunes of the failing company. After Michael Carreras, the managing director of Hammer, was ousted from the company in 1979, Roy Skeggs and Brian Lawrence, who had only recently rejoined Hammer's board of directors, licensed the Hammer brand and created the Hammer House of Horror TV series. This was a collection of 13 episodes; each 50-minute instalment would, like Journey to the Unknown, play on situations of tension, violence and ultimately ironic twists such as an ex-Nazi officer building an elaborate soundproof prison only to be trapped inside it himself.

The Episodes

13 x 50 Minute Episodes
Produced by Roy Skeggs
First broadcast in the UK on ITV

  • 'Witching Time' (13 Sepetember, 1980)
  • 'The 13th Reunion' (20 Sepetember, 1980)
  • 'Rude Awakening' (27 Sepetember, 1980)
  • 'Growing Pains' (4 October, 1980)
  • 'The House That Bled To Death' (11 October, 1980)
  • 'Charlie Boy' (18 October, 1980)
  • 'The Carpathian Eagle' (25 October, 1980)
  • 'Guardian Of The Abyss' (1 November, 1980)
  • 'The Silent Scream' (8 November, 1980)
  • 'Children Of The Full Moon' (15 November, 1980)
  • 'The Mark Of Satan' (22 November, 1980)
  • 'The Two Faces Of Evil' (29 November, 1980)
  • 'Visitor From The Grave' (6 December, 1980)

Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense

The success of the TV series was sufficient for Skeggs and Lawrence to eventually buy Hammer outright from its creditors. Though a second series of Hammer House of Horror failed to materialise, Skeggs managed to set up a new series with Fox, who had co-produced Hammer's Journey into the Unknown. Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense as it was known3 suffered the same fate as Hammer's previous series - low ratings in the USA and transmitted only sporadically by ITV's different television networks. As before, Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense ran for just one series.

The Episodes

13 x 90 Minute Episodes
Produced by Roy Skeggs
First broadcast in the UK on ITV

  • 'Mark of the Devil' (5 September, 1984)
  • 'Last Video and Testament' (12 September, 1984)
  • 'Czech Mate' (17 January, 1985)
  • 'A Distant Scream' (24 January, 1985)
  • 'The Late Nancy Irving' (7 February, 1985)
  • 'In Possession' (7 March, 1985)
  • 'Black Carion' (14 March, 1985)
  • 'The Sweet Scent of Death' (4 April, 1985)
  • 'Paint Me A Murder' (11 April, 1985)
  • 'The Corvini Inheritance' (18 April, 1985)
  • 'And the Wall Came Tumbling Down' (25 April, 1985)
  • 'Child's Play' (2 May, 1985)
  • 'Tennis Court' (9 May, 1985)

The Documentaries

In 1990, Skeggs made The World of Hammer, a documentary series exploring the themes of Hammer's film library and narrated by ex-Hammer star Oliver Reed. The series was first aired on BBC1 almost as a 'filler' show, though selected episodes have materialised on Anchor Bay's recent US DVD series of Hammer classics.

The Episodes

13 x 25-minute episodes
Produced by Roy Skeggs
First broadcast in the UK on BBC1

  • 'Hammer Stars - Peter Cushing'
  • 'Dracula and the Undead'
  • 'Lands Before Time'
  • 'Vamp'
  • 'Wicked Women'
  • 'Trials of War'
  • 'Sci-Fi'
  • 'Mummies, Werewolves and the Undead'
  • 'Chiller'
  • 'Frankenstein'
  • 'Hammer Stars - Christopher Lee'
  • 'Hammer'
  • 'Costumes'

Other Entries in this Project

1Most shows start off with a 'pilot', a one-off test piece to show off the basic format to TV executives in the hope that they'll commission a new series.2An American anthology show that ran from 1959 to 1965. It was created and presented by Rod Serling, who, dressed in a simple black suit, would introduce stories with a twist, often supernatural in nature.3In the USA, the show went out under the title Fox Mystery Theatre.

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