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19 August 2011

Jimmy Sangster (1927 - 2011)

Jimmy Sangster on the set of The Horror Of Frankenstein

We are deeply saddened to report the death this morning, at the age of 83, of veteran Hammer screenwriter Jimmy Sangster.

Sangster had a profound influence on Hammer’s creative direction, writing the scripts to many of the company's groundbreaking Gothic horrors in the 1950s including The Curse Of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy.

Jimmy Sangster was born in North Wales on 2 December 1927 and started in the industry aged 16, working his way up from gopher and clapper boy, through projection assistant, before taking up a post with Exclusive Films as an assistant director following a stint in the RAF.

Between 1949 and 1954 Sangster worked consistently as an assistant director on Hammer's adaptations of BBC Radio serials and on the Lippert co-productions. Legend has it that Sangster’s screenwriting career came about almost by accident. Asked by producer Anthony Hinds to write a script, Sangster protested that he knew nothing about screenwriting. Hinds told him he would only pay him if he liked it, and duly did.

Sangster’s short A Man On The Beach was followed by his script for X The Unknown, designed as a follow-up to The Quatermass Xperiment. But it would be Sangster’s reworking of Frankenstein that changed not only his career but the direction of Hammer itself. Sangster shifted the emphasis from the creation onto the creator, in the process providing Hammer with one of its most interesting and complex characters.

By 1960 Sangster had tired of the Gothics and, inspired by the French film Les diaboliques, crafted a complex thriller around a wheelchair-bound girl haunted by visions of her dead father. Taste Of Fear was promoted with a Psycho-inspired advertising campaign and launched a series of suspense thrillers for Hammer that would last into the 1970s and be picked up again for last year’s The Resident.

The 1970s saw Sangster add the role of director to his Hammer portfolio of writer/producer with The Horror Of Frankenstein, for which he rewrote Jeremy Burnham’s original screenplay, adding his own comedic elements. He also directed Lust For A Vampire after Terence Fisher fell ill.

The thriller Fear In The Night would be his last produced screenplay for Hammer, though his association with the company continued for several years. Jimmy worked extensively on television and film across the globe, and was in constant demand for interviews, convention appearances and DVD commentary recordings. Married to actress Mary Peach, he lived in London.

Hammer owes a huge debt to Jimmy; he was perhaps the most important screenwriter in the company’s history, changing its outlook and putting Hammer on the map.

Without the likes of Jimmy Sangster, Terence Fisher, Roy Ashton and Bernard Robinson Hammer would not be what it is today.

Jimmy Sangster, 2 December 1927 - 19 August 2011. 

Exclusive / Hammer credits

The Man In Black (1949) - first assistant director

Dick Barton Strikes Back (1949) - second assistant director

Celia (1949) - second assistant director

What The Butler Saw (1950) - assistant director

Someone At The Door (1950) - assistant director

Room To Let (1950) - assistant director

Cloudburst (1951) - assistant director

The Black Widow (1951) - assistant director

The Last Page (1952) - assistant director

Whispering Smith Hits London (1952) - assistant director

Wings Of Danger (1952) - assistant director

Stolen Face (1952) - assistant director

The Flanagan Boy (1953) - assistant director

Spaceways (1953) - assistant director

Blood Orange (1953) - assistant director

The Saint’s Return (1953) - assistant director

36 Hours (1953) - assistant director

Face The Music (1954) - assistant director

Murder By Proxy (1954) - assistant director

The House Across The Lake (1954) - assistant director

Five Days (1954) - assistant director

The Stranger Came Home (1954) - production manager

Third Party Risk (1954) - production manager

The Men Of Sherwood Forest (1954) - production manager

Mask Of Dust (1954) - production manager

A Man On The Beach (1955) - writer

Break In The Circle (1955) - production manager

X The Unknown (1956) - writer, production manager

The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957) - writer

Dracula (1958) - writer

The Snorkel (1958) - writer

The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959) - writer

The Terror Of The Tongs (1959) - writer

Taste Of Fear (1961) - writer, producer

The Pirates Of Blood River (1962) - story

Paranoiac (1963) - writer

Maniac (1963) - writer, producer

Nightmare (1964) - writer, producer

The Devil-Ship Pirates (1964) - writer

Hysteria (1965) - writer, producer

The Nanny (1965) - writer, producer

Dracula: Prince Of Darkness (1965) - writer

The Anniversary (1968) - writer, producer

Crescendo (1970) - writer

The Horror Of Frankenstein (1970) - writer, producer, director

Lust For A Vampire (1970) - director

Fear In the Night (1972) - writer, producer, director

Flesh And Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror (1994) - himself

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