Iconic Hammer actresses Martine Beswick, Veronica Carlson and Caroline Munro. (All photos copyright Adrian Smith. All rights reserved.)
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM CINEMA RETRO'S ARCHIVES
(The following article was originally run in November, 2014)
BY ADRIAN SMITH
around sixty special guests in attendance, the Westminster Central Hall on
Saturday the 7th of November was packed to its domed roof with excited Hammer
faces including Caroline Munro, Valerie Leon, Madeline Smith and Martine
Beswick were providing some glamour, but the organisers managed to make the
event extra-memorable by securing the presence of Edina Ronay, George Cole,
Freddie Jones and others who had not signed autographs at a fan event before.
At times queues to meet them ran out of the building and down the street! Other
rare UK appearances were made from Veronica Carlson and Linda Hayden, flown in
from the US to meet their fans. It was an incredible opportunity to meet an
amazing selection of Hammer stars, directors and producers.
huge selection of original Hammer film memorabilia was also available courtesy
of the brilliantly eclectic stalls around the hall. Prices ranged from the
eye-watering (£250 for an original poster!) to the affordable, with
hard-to-find DVDs, magazines, novels, t-shirts and more on offer. Between
browsing fascinating lobby-card sets and collecting autographed photos, I'm
sure several fans had to make more than one trip to the nearest cash machine.
if this alone did not make this a must-see event, there was also a busy
schedule of events throughout the day overseen by genre scholars Jonathon Rigby
and Sir Christopher Frayling. Peter Cushing's personal secretary Joyce
Broughton tearfully shared her feelings of this much-loved actor (who was
praised throughout the day by many who knew him). Joyce said that she would
never reveal the location of Cushing's ashes, as he requested that his last
resting place not become a shrine.
Ward and Robert Tayman, the latter also attending a fan event for the first
time, discussed their experiences making Vampire Circus (1972). For
Lalla it was her first film role following acting school. Robert's sense of humour
was the driest and most sardonic of the day and he was clearly enjoying the
opportunity to talk about his role as Count Mitterhaus.
Shelley made a lot of films for Hammer, from their WWII prison-camp dramas to Quatermass
and the Pit (1967). She revealed that she had swallowed one of her vampire
teeth during a scene on Dracula - Prince of Darkness (1965)! She also
expressed her gratitude to Hammer film fans for making her feel so good, and
revealed that co-star Julian Glover referred to the film as "Quater-piss
on the Mat" because of the smell of rank clay on the set!
Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (1974) reunion saw Dave Prowse
meeting up with Shane Briant, Madeline Smith and Philip Voss. Although in poor
health, and beginning with an admission that his memory is causing him
problems, Prowse was in good form and enjoyed talking about his playing
Frankenstein's monster for the second time in a Hammer film.
Shne Briant, Sir Christopher Frayling, Philip Voss, Madeline Smith and David Prowse.
director Peter Sasdy made three films for Hammer including Taste the Blood
of Dracula (1970) and was very detailed in his discussion of the directing
process. Beginning his career in television, he had brought a new look to the
Hammer gothics with his take on Dracula, and continued that with Countess
Dracula and Hands of the Ripper (both 1971), all rather unique
entries in Hammer's late horror films.
event organiser Thomas Bowington was joined onstage by Caroline Munro, Veronica
Carlson and Martine Beswick, all three of whom were entertaining and honest in
discussing their time with Hammer. Martine shared the problems she had
experienced on Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) when demands came
through for her to appear completely nude, Veronica praised Freddie Francis,
her director on Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1868), and Caroline
never has a bad word to say about anyone, even when she was left buried in a
hole in the ground during a rain storm whilst everyone else took a tea break
during the shooting of Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972).
Robert Tayman, Lalla Ward and Jonathon Rigby.
As the distance between classic Hammer and the 21st century continues to increase, eventsof this scale are unlikely to happen again. The good news however is
that The London Film Convention holds six events a year in Westminster!