Monday, 7 September 2009

Voices from the past

I've been quiet on here recently, but I can assure you all that I've been kept incredibly busy at the same time. The summer loomed and I took every chance I could to get caught up on some research - fitting it in alongside some other work I was doing. I've been plundering archives across the UK and Ireland, turning over many stones and finding more than I could ever have bargained for...

For the moment I can't talk about some of the best finds - I need to gather more material first, and put my thoughts into coherant words - but there are some real coups! Hammer afficianados, and anyone who like me has an appreciation for the Exclusive films will really be excited (I hope!).

When I started the project I was told that there proba
bly wasn't much left to find, but over the last year I've found enough material to fuel two PhDs and now the problem is simply to decide which bits to leave out of my current project focus. I
have every intention of using everything in due course, and making it all available to researchers and the general public - there's no point in any of it otherwise. The project thesis though is being led in large part by the material I've uncovered, and a slight change of emphasis is on the cards, with the project allowing more of the Hammer history to come through into what was seen as an exclusively Exclusive piece.

[photo, left to right: Renee Glynne with Spartacus, me taking the photo at the Serpentine, Hyde Park, 27 July 2009]
Over the last few months I've started my first hand oral history research, attempting to contact
those still left with us who worked on or knew the people involved in the earliest Hammer/Exclusive Films. I've found this to be enormously helpful and shedding some valuable light on proceedings. During the last month or so I conducted two interviews whilst in London - fitting them in whilst over on research for another project. The worst thing is reaching the end of your paid work for the day and then having to skip tea or rest, and grab a train or taxi to conduct your own research. The agony!

At any rate, I spent a very pleasant evenin
g with Renee Glynne over a delightful supper and a bottle of the old vino collapso talking about Exclusive at her home outside London. Renee worked as the continuity person as far back as Man in Black in 1949, and worked for the company on and off (both as Exclusive and Hammer) until Shatter in 1974. Her recall and experience of working conditions was crucial to get on record and I'm delighted she consented. Renee has promised a follow up in the near future which I'm very much looking forward to.

[photo, left to right: Jimmy Sangster and myself at Bray Studios, 4 August 2007]
I also finally interviewed Jimmy Sangster formally. I've known Jimmy slightly for a few years. We were meant to record some commentaries for some of the Exclusive pictures a couple of years back until logistics prevented it, and we both appeared in the same dvd documentary Hammer Horror: A Fan's Guide last year, so this was a real pleasure.

Jimmy's the first to admit he doesn't recall much about Exclusive, but it was again very useful. He also came to Hammer in 1949, as a first assistant director, moving up the ladder to become a very successful writer as well as occasional producer and director. Sixty years later and memories are hazy, but incredibly useful and my thanks to Jimmy too for his time.

I've another return interview to do with another Exclusive contributor, but I'll save that name for another post... it was another treat!

If by chance you know someone or indeed were yourselves involved in the making of the early Hammer / Exclusive films (so pre-1962), then please get in touch, as I'd love to talk with you. I'm also gathering stills and memorabilia relating to the period, so anything at all that you can share would be very welcome. Similarly anyone with information or memories of either Will Hammer (aka. Will Hinds) and Enrique Carreras... I'll be sharing some of my research on them in a future blog.

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