From untold Dracula prequels and swashbuckling pirate biopics to a scrap between a zeppelin and some pterodactyls, we take a look at 10 Hammer classics which could have been!
Plot: – After a truck containing dangerous chemicals crashes into Loch Ness, awakening the dormant creature, the Loch Ness Monster makes its way through the North Sea to the Pacific Ocean, unleashing a series of vicious attacks on humans along the way.
To be made in collaboration with Japanese production company Toho, Nessie was conceived in 1976 and slated for release in 1978. With The Stepford Wives’ helmer Bryan Forbes attached to direct and Godzilla creature-creator Teruyoshi Nakano leading the special effects team, the project looked set to be a monster hit, and work was eagerly commenced on the creature design while a rumoured 250-page script did the rounds internally.
But 1978 turned into ‘79 and with no film to show, questions started being asked about Nessie’s existence. It eventually unfolded that the financial backing had fallen through and our would-be answer to Godzilla came to an official stand still, before being indefinitely banished to the murky depths of Hammer history.
Plot: The 1870s India-set story, a prequel to the Dracula tale, sees a younger Van Helsing do battle with the Count (along with his devilish romantic interest Kali) for the very first time.
Another project which failed to get off the ground in the 70s, Kali Devil Bride of Dracula (also known as Dracula and the Blood Lust of Kali) has been a lost project long lamented by fans because of its unfulfilled potential: a stunning, and perfect ‘Hammer’ location in India; a terrifying new monster in the goddess Kali; and a chance to see Hammer’s most legendary of duos in a brand new horrific adventure.
Plot: A Lost Continent-style adventure in which a German zeppelin is blown off course during a bombing raid on London to wind up in a faraway fantastical land where dinosaurs still roam. Needless to say, the zeppelin and dinosaurs don’t exactly hit it off.
At points called The Stone Ring and Raiders of the Stone Circle, Zeppelin V Pterodactyls (a slightly more in-your-face title, we think you’ll agree) was dreamt up by When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth stop-motion animator David Allen. For a film which sounds as ridiculous and ridiculously enjoyable as this, it’s a wonder that funding was so hard to come by; but the costly stop-motion animation scared investors off and the project was grounded indefinitely, while Hammer instead opted to produce the animation-lite Creatures the World Forgot.
Time for Hammer to make good on this lost world project? Let us know what you think!
Plot: 19th century Austria. Four village elders hire vampire hunters Johann and Kurt to wipe out a group of vampires at the nearby Karnstein Castle. When they return successfully with eleven vamp heads between them and a steep demand of 100 marks per head in payment, the shocked elders try to bargain. Johann and Kurt have none of it and make off with the elders’ four daughters. In their haste, however, the hunters have missed the small fact that supreme vampire Count Karnstein himself still exists. Karnstein ‘turns’ each of the four daughters and commands them to exact his revenge on Johann and Kurt.
The intended 4th instalment to the Karnstein series was set to star Peter Cushing as the Count himself for the first time, but the project was put on indefinite hold while Hammer turned their attention to launching a new franchise, cult classic Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter.
Plot: A Dracula origin story rooted in real history, this would have charted the unholy evolution of Vlad III into the legendary Count (a plot used by the recent Dracula Untold).
Based on 1974 BBC Radio 4 play Lord Dracula, rumour has it Michael Carreras nabbed the film rights after receiving calls from Anthony Keys and his son James Carreras raving about the play the morning after it aired. Richard Burton, Richard Harris and (who else??) Christopher Lee were all rumoured to have been attached at some point, but the project struggled to find funding and was eventually put on ice…
Plot: This biopic of Bram Stoker- the father and creator of Dracula- aimed to explore Stoker’s life while peppering in adaptations of the writer’s short works.
With an early script drafted by Don Houghton and developed by Chris Wicking and Michael Carreras, the Stoker biopic intended to explore the writer’s childhood trauma through his stories The Lair of the White Worm, Dracula’s Guest (The Squaw), and The Burial of the Rats. The stage was set for Christopher Lee to reprise his role as the Count, as well as playing Stoker’s mentor Henry Irving. Enthusiasm from Carreras was short-lived however, and the project was eventually banished to the the Land of Unmades and Could-Have-Beens.
Plot: One of the few survivors from her ‘blood drought’-plagued planet Drakulon, fanged superhuman migrant Vampirella travels through space to Chelsea, where she works with the Space Operatives for Defence and Security (SODS) to help rid Earth of the many dangerous vampires living in our midst.
In the mid-1970s, in an attempt to reinvigorate a fading output which was becoming gradually overtaken by Hammer mimics in the UK and edgier contemporary horror in America, Michael Carreras placed an ad asking fans what they would like to see Hammer tackle next. Their response- emphatically- was an adaptation of Jim Warren’s cult comic Vampirella.
Hammer legend Jimmy Sangster penned an outline, which was developed by John Starr, Lew Davidson and Chris Wicking; Gordon Hessler and John Hough were approached as potential directors; and Caroline Munro and Valerie Leon were invited to play the title role (both turned it down because of the story’s excessive nudity before Barbara Leigh took the part).
Things were looking good for what many people were hoping could become Hammer’s James Bond-scale franchise, until two fateful, damning things happened. Firstly, a squabble between Warren publishing and Hammer about merchandising rights threw the whole arrangement into question; and then, more crucially, Hammer were unable to secure the relevant financial backing. Perhaps Hammer’s most famous unmade film, the possibilities for this failed franchise are a source of frustration for many a Hammer fan.
Plot: A recently paralysed WWII airman is taken to a Welsh castle to recuperate with an old family friend. Once there, Toby is haunted by visions of a terrifying arachnid creature, and begins fearing for his sanity. That is until his host is revealed to be a member of a satanic brotherhood who intend to cheat Toby out of his inheritance.
Hammer had big plans for Dennis Wheatley’s occult novel The Haunting of Toby Jugg, but when the screen adaptation of The Devil Rides Out didn’t perform as well as hoped, further adaptations of Wheatley’s occult works were shelved (his offbeat fantasy The Lost Continent still made it to the screen thankfully). In 1967 and with the landscape for horror cinema favouring the occult, Hammer adapted Wheatley’s To the Devil a Daughter – with Toby Jugg and The Satanist positioned as the intended follow ups. However Wheatley loathed Hammer’s adaptation of To the Devil a Daughter, and any hopes of more adaptations were exorcised from Carreras.
Plot: A loose biopic of Irish pirate Anne Bonny who, along with romantic consorts Jack Rackham and Mary Read, adventured on the 18th century high seas.
Though Hammer had already produced a number of seafaring, swashbuckling adventures (seek out Devil Ship Pirates, Pirates of Blood River and Captain Clegg for an education), Mistress of the Seas could have proved the brightest jewel in our treasure hoard thanks to one piece of choice casting: Raquel Welch
After her star turn in One Million Years BC, the prospect of Welch playing fierce pirate Bonny was an exciting one for Hammer brass of the day (one look at the early artwork shows the similar way they planned to market Mistress to the prehistoric adventure- with Welch front and centre). But alas, as with many of the productions on this list the financial problems of the 1970s forced Hammer to pull the plug, causing Mistress of the Seas to capsize.
Plot: A historical biopic chronicling the rise to power, rein and death of Shaka kaSenzangakhona, 19th century King of the Zulus in South Africa. While details are scarce about the plot specifics, it would be reasonable to assume that Shaka’s coup to take power from his younger brother, and his ongoing feud with Zwide- chief of the Ndwandwe nation- would feature.
Another Hammer project briefly given momentum by the enthusiasm of Sir Christopher Lee, with the tagline “The Black Napolean” it’s perhaps a relief looking back that Chaka Zulu didn’t see the light of day.
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See if you agree with our countdown through these embodiments of terror!