19 August 2011
Jimmy Sangster (1927 - 2011)
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