Let’s state this right up front: Marcus Hearn’s book The Hammer Vault is a gem. Whether you’re a novice to the horror and thriller film output of Hammer studios from the late 50s through the early 70s or you’ve seen every last one of them countless times, this film by film survey of archival items (lobby cards, posters, on set photos etc.) and production notes is a fun and consistently fascinating stroll through the British company’s history. The fantastic duo of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are both all over the book since they were the key figures of a huge chunk of the studio’s output, but there’s a wide range of coverage on a variety of personages (actors, directors, producers, etc.) as well as scripts, makeup/effects, marketing techniques, etc. If you have any interest at all in “genre” films, this book is well worth your attention.
I’m a big fan of these old Hammer films, but by no means a scholar on the subject. There’s still a huge amount of their catalog I haven’t seen yet (emphasis on “yet”) and I’ve only scratched the surface of the history of the studio and its set of famed actors. So when I heard about this book (full title: The Hammer Vault – Treasures from the Archives of Hammer Studios), one of my first thoughts was that it may be a bit difficult to fully engage with the sets of artifacts, rare photos and marketing materials that form a large part of the book. It didn’t take long, however, after the initial crack of the book’s spine for all those concerns to bleed away – it just made me want to see all those movies I haven’t yet seen all the sooner (not to mention revisit all the ones I have seen). Designed to be randomly browsed or read cover to cover, the book provides tons of facts, interesting snippets, great photos and loads of old promotional gimmicks which is perfect for fan and newcomer alike.