Amicus Productions and Hammer Productions are iconic names in British horror cinema. John Gore and I are thrilled to have the opportunity not only to contribute to the legacy of these companies by producing horror films but also to explore the exciting potential of remaking classic titles.
You might be alarmed at the mention of “remakes.” How could we even consider revisiting the untouchable classics? It’s important to remember that these companies are built on a rich legacy, and it is precisely because of this history that they should celebrate and possibly reinvent their past triumphs.
John Gore and I are both passionate about the histories of the companies we represent. If you’re still skeptical, allow me to propose a hypothetical scenario for a bit of fun. Consider this: Which three films would be ideal candidates for Hammer to remake? Amicus will also have its chance to reimagine classics, but let’s focus on Hammer for now.
I’ll share my thoughts on the three perfect Hammer films that could be brilliantly reimagined. So, grab your hat and join me on an adventure through the crypt of nostalgia.
1) Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter
Originally produced in 1974 and directed by Brian Clemens, starring the beautiful Caroline Munro and a magnificent German actor, Horst Janson, this horror-action film predates Blade. It features a sword-wielding vampire hunter on a mission to destroy the forces of evil. Its mixture of swashbuckling action and vampiric horror has made this film a cult classic, securing an immortal place in many fans’ hearts.
Captain Kronos, somewhat reminiscent of “The Man with No Name” from Sergio Leone’s The Dollars Trilogy starring Clint Eastwood, travels with an occult expert from town to town in a manner reminiscent of a Wild West bounty hunter. A spate of mysterious killings leads Kronos to be summoned by his old friend Dr. Marcus (John Carson), who is concerned about the strange behaviour of the surviving spouse and siblings of his late friend, a swordfighting genius named Lord Hagen Durward. During his investigation, Kronos rescues a young woman, Carla (Munro), whose ravishing appearance likely captivated a generation of young men. Not me, obviously. No, certainly not.
Kronos would make an ideal Ronin anti-hero like the protagonist in the fantastic Shogun Assassin grindhouse action films. One particularly memorable scene pits him against a group of thugs in a tavern, where a fantastic build-up of suspense is suddenly unleashed in a brief but spectacularly devastating action sequence. Similar to the six-shooter in A Few Dollars More, Kronos’s curved sword, a Japanese katana, kills multiple opponents instantly, almost in a single stroke.
What could a Hammer remake look like? The Hammer of today could produce an action-horror spectacle with a varied and diverse cast of unlikely companions to accompany the new Captain Kronos. These companions might include an expert in the occult and a spirited female companion whose backgrounds have them travelling through 18th-century Europe, hailing from faraway places. This would add to the mystique of this group of travellers. Kronos himself was a soldier, potentially a mercenary warrior from some distant land.
The remake need not be too literal, allowing the original some room to retain its narrative. Perhaps there could even be a cameo from Horst Janson, who could take on a role similar to Dr. Marcus in the original. A wonderful nod to the past, the film should include him getting the chance to wield a sword once more.
Retaining practical effects for the vampires, and focusing on action effects that highlight the quality of the swordplay and action choreography, perhaps avoiding too many fast cuts, would be ideal. Let it play with the finesse of a traditional swashbuckler but with gorier consequences, and I think it could work wonderfully.
Hammer would be wise to resist making the film too anachronistic for modern tastes. Still, a dash of modernity here and there would make the film and its characters more accessible to today’s audiences. There lies a perfect opportunity in casting our group of vampire hunters as well.
The film could boast lavish production quality but should avoid trying too hard to resemble a Hollywood studio film. Aim for the finest quality within the realm of a high-budget independent film, let it stand out as a cult horror for today’s era, and resist the lure of mainstream appeal. Such a film, if confined to a single village and its surrounding landscape, could be produced for under a million dollars. It goes without saying that such a film lends itself to the creation of a horror universe and an intellectual property with significant ancillary sales potential.
Hammer Production’s Professor Quatermass is part of the fabled studio’s science fiction horror oeuvre, with such classics as 1955’s The Quatermass Experiment, 1957’s Quatermass 2, and 1967’s positively Lovecraftian Quatermass and the Pit among his adventures. Two of these films feature a different actor playing the famous professor, Brian Donlevy and Andrew Keir, the latter you might recall from Dracula: Prince of Darkness.
The horror in Quatermass is alien and space-bound, and some similarities could be noted in the cosmic nightmares unleashed by Doctor Who‘s scarier episodes. There is a uniquely British quality to our horror science fiction, and in some regards, Quatermass could feel like the grown-up version of Doctor Who, despite one being an immortal time traveller, and the other an ordinary man with an exceptional gift for science.
The eerie cosmic horror of Quatermass can easily be explored today as, despite our innovation in space exploration and technology, that great big black void above the sky retains its sense of mystery and, at times, dread.
Just as Professor Quatermass uncovers a secret capsule with a chilling secret under the ground at Hobbs End Tube Station, Hammer too can unearth an endless array of cosmological horror. Despite the feted controversy that surrounds H. P. Lovecraft, the sub-genre of horror he’s created continues to provide fertile ground, and could provide a continued inspiration for the Quatermass series.
Hammer Productions could produce a grown-up Doctor Who series of films, which could see our professor, played ordinarily by an older man, perhaps this time be reprised as a younger man! Someone who is not yet a name actor, but who shows great promise, who can be cultivated by the potential success of the film, into a star for the series! Of course, get Simon Callow to play his dad! Surround him with some respectable names; of course, he’ll need a talented female partner, too. But let’s avoid the tiresome emasculation so common now in the attempts of Hollywood writers to establish the strength and intellect of a female character, by discrediting those same qualities in our man! Like Doctor Who, let’s make it an unlikely pairing of equals, whose strengths lie in different spheres.
Now, you might be cacking your lederhosen at this suggestion, but let’s think it through. We’re not contemplating a shot-by-shot remake of Hammer Productions’ 1958 Dracula, which introduced Christopher Lee to the world as the titular vampire, and the company’s most iconic villain.
When I think of Hammer, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and many talented and beautiful ladies like Caroline Munro, Madeline Smith, and Valerie Leon spring to mind. But in terms of villains, Dracula tops the list, followed perhaps by Frankenstein’s Monster and The Mummy.
We’re all probably familiar with the disaster that was my first high school date, watching Flubber at the ABC cinema in Kirkcaldy, only to infuriate my date when I didn’t have enough change from my high school savings for two Happy Meals. Another familiar disaster is the 2017 The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise, which attempted to create a sort of horror universe without the expected trappings, possibly accounting for its failure.
One might wonder if such poorly trodden ground is a warning sign or an opportunity for Hammer. I’d suggest it’s an opportunity.
Before you all shout, “But that’s so unoriginal! What about The Gorgon or The Reptile?” Let me remind you that even a billionaire cannot revive Hammer if they produce films nobody wants to see, starting with films people have heard of. With Dracula as a potential tentpole option alongside a cult film suggestion like Kronos, and a mid-tier between studio level and indie like Quatermass, this could and should be Hammer’s most ambitious project.
Still, that doesn’t mean it should have a studio-level budget. It needs to be modest enough to succeed, yet retain the unique qualities that define a Hammer film. These qualities are nicely summarised in Hammer’s recent video promotion on YouTube, Hammer A.D. 2023 | The Past, Present and Future of Hammer Films.
It should be lavish, with elaborate set design and costumes, and use minimum CGI, except for FX shots that might reimagine Victorian London. Yes, it should be a period film, retaining a Gothic, campy veneer with a very British sense of theatricality and poise, lending it class and sophistication without betraying its genre roots.
I’d be wary of any director or filmmaker with auteur tendencies, almost envisioning someone with more theatre experience as more effective, working in collaboration with an experienced assistant director and producers. In a true Hammer film of this type, there’s only room for one auteur, so any writer-director should be out, with no need for a filmmaker’s “quirky voice” to echo louder than the voices people want to hear – those of Bram Stoker and Hammer. The filmmakers behind this venture need to be both custodians and artists.
And the star? Again, the star of this film could be a younger man who shows great promise, someone Hammer can mould into an iconic performer, should the first film succeed. The most important quality for this performer is presence.
But what about heaving bosoms and sensuality? A recent op-ed in The Guardian stated that a young person from Gen Z declared sex in cinema to be dead, even sex appeal. Today, mainstream films feature actors more beautiful than ever, yet more sexless. It seems that no one gets “horny” in cinema anymore, and heaven forbid the audience should!
The vicarious sexuality of Dracula, where men and women indulge in the fantasy of being the vampire or the victim, is vital. The sensuality and romanticism are crucial ingredients for Hammer, especially for any Gothic vampire film it produces.
In this respect, Hammer should be fearless, leading by example. These depictions and sensual motifs need not only reflect cinematic tastes of the past but should include a wider range of delectable fancies reflecting modern society’s broader appetites, as seen in films like 1994’s Interview with the Vampire.
So, my coffee is almost ready, and I must conclude this little treatise. To summarise my top three recommendations for Hammer: a smaller budget cult prospect, a medium budget vehicle, and a proposal for a larger budget project, each with universe-building potential.
Where will Hammer go next? Nobody knows, but do let me know which remakes you’d like to see, and which you couldn’t tolerate. Gosh, I hope they never venture near The Devil Rides Out – that would drive a stake through my heart!