DBC Pierre’s top 3 Hammer films

David Girvan | July 30, 2014

DBC’s relationship with Hammer stretches back to earliest childhood. He describes never having been so chilled and intrigued as with the supernatural Hammer films he grew up with. Their effect was so great that he spent many schooldays drawing replica storyboards on cash register rolls, and holding showings for classmates on a shoebox cinema.

So it was quite a task getting him to pick his 3 favourite Hammer films.

But he did, and here they are:

1. Dracula

Hammer Films

“It’s impossible not to be swept up by the original Hammer production of Dracula. Watch it today and the imagery still bites you in the neck, as much as anything made since; and it’s not only the ghouls, the gothic themes and symbols that get you – for me the film is one of the best examples of British cinema of its time, a masterpiece of shadow and light in brilliant Eastmancolour, packed with values that have since been lost. This first in the franchise of eight Dracula pictures was also the first to team director Terence Fisher with Peter Cushing and the young Christopher Lee, as full-lipped as Freddy Mercury, bringing sex into the equation as well. As much as anything the work is a reminder that there was once a time before marketing graphs and political correctness; one where artists and technicians dove with nothing more than instinct and full-blooded passion to the heart of a tale.”

2. The Curse of the Werewolf

Hammer Films

“Dungeons, brothels, love, betrayal, madness, rape, murder and lycanthropy in Spain; meantime a whole generation still thinks Jersey Shore was risqué. The licence of this picture to fondle taboo and psychopathology knows no bounds, and is another stark reminder that we didn’t used to spend that much time thinking about gluten. Massively symbolic for me of our struggle with compulsion and guilt, this dark, beautiful picture is the first real adaptation of the original werewolf book, The Werewolf of Paris, by Guy Endore. Despite two previous productions about werewolves, including The Wolf Man in 1941, this is the first and only credited adaptation to show that it’s not just about getting hairy under a full moon; but about class, injustice, the bad luck of poverty and the rage of the small man. As if that pedigree weren’t enough, it features one of the first credited film appearances by Oliver Reed – as Leon Corledo, the werewolf himself.”

3. The Phantom of the Opera

Hammer Films

“Hammer made award-winning pictures across so many genres and decades that in a way it’s a shame to reinforce the gothic horror stereotype. Still, at the heart of the twentieth century it was the genre they owned worldwide, vehicle for a generation of legendary British talents, and the one that kept me agog as a kid – so I can only add Phantom of the Opera to my trio of favourites. Phantom has become such a familiar character, but to really get him you have to see him played by Herbert Lom, for me the man who made him iconic. Produced in the days when two-hundred grand meant over-budget, and cobbled together from bits and pieces of previous Hammer sets, the thing is uneven but who cares – Hammer took over the Wimbledon Theatre for three weeks and gave Gaston Leroux’s 1911 novel its rightful face. To the heavy artillery of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D from the pipe organ, Lom as the disfigured Professor Petrie squeezes more anguished nuance from one eye than all his successors put together.

“Think of this not as a movie but a rare night at the theatre captured on film.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

DBC Pierre has worked as a designer and cartoonist, and currently lives in Ireland. His first novel, Vernon God Little, won the 2003 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Award, the 2003 Whitbread Prize for Best First Novel, and the 2003 Man Booker Prize, and is sold in 43 countries.

His most recent novel, Breakfast with the Borgias, is his first with Hammer. Pick up your copy now!

About the book

The setting: a faded, lonely guesthouse on the Essex coast. Outside, it’s dark, and very foggy. Inside there’s no phone or internet reception, no connection with the outside world.

Enter Ariel Panek, a promising young academic en route from the USA to an important convention in Amsterdam. With his plane grounded by fog at Stanstead, he has been booked in for the night at the guesthouse. Discombobulated and jetlagged, he falls in with a family who appear to be commemorating an event.

But this is no ordinary celebration. And this is no ordinary family.

As evening becomes night, Panek realises that he has become caught in an insidious web of other people’s secrets and lies, a Sartrian hell from which for him there may be no escape.

Read the first 2 chapters here!

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