[Keep up with the "Special Feature" column and Christian Fannin will sit you on his lap and talk to you about whatever movie-related topic he feels like.]
I get to feature the latest book review here in the "Special Feature" column since our book doesn't exactly focus on the behind-the-scenes aspect. Instead, Hammer Vault is a great collection of promotional material from the archives of Hammer Films. While there is the occasional shot that we would deem worthy of the BTS column, we wanted to emphasize the wonderful job the studio did of selling their movies not only to the audience but to the theater owners and employees as well as the press. That is the main highlight here and I'm really excited about a publication that focuses on this side of filmmaking that is quickly becoming a lost art.
The book is laid out very nicely with every horror and sci-fi Hammer film being featured beginning with 'The Quartermass Xperiment' and ending with the semi-revival movies through 'Let Me In'. Each movie gets equal treatment with a wide two-page spread which may or may not be a good thing. The purpose is clearly stated as being a celebration of all the Hammer Films titles that define the studio so if you're wanting in-depth coverage of the best Universal Monster remakes you may leave the experience wanting more. But if you love any and all things Hammer, this is a great deal and the perfect example of a beautiful coffee table book. Though only a real movie nerd would actually display it in their living room.
Author Marcus Hearn chronologically takes you movie by movie through the history of these iconic genre gems. His annotations are decorated with newspaper clippings, promotional photos, publicity manual excerpts, and correspondance among various cast and crew members. While The Art of Hammer may be the better choice for poster art lovers, Hammer Vault has more interesting tidbits making it a great casual read.
You can pick up your copy and flip to any page and be guaranteed a trip back to the event that was "movie-going". Hammer really knew showmanship and how to generate buzz for their movies. Probably my single favorite clip from the book is from the publicity manual for the Christopher Lee / Peter Cushing masterpiece, 'Dracula' ('Horror of Dracula' in the U.S.). The insert goes into vast detail on various methods that the theater can use to promote the films. Every stunt is imagined, from hiring a girl to watch the movie alone while unknowingly being observed by a newspaper reporter to sending your doorman to madly dash through the main streets with a briefcase reading "I'm hurrying to the Rex… Make sure you don't visit me alone…". The only downside I could possibly note would be that these inserts aren't full page which means some of the text can be a little small at times. But the substance more than makes up for this tiny flaw.
I really love a well-done gimmick when it comes to theatrical releases and truly appreciate Titan Books' publication for bringing promotional material to the masses. I wish there were more of this type of William Castle-style enthusiasm in Hammer Vault but the rest of the content is just as good for the topic. Lots of rare handbills and lobby cards make up the majority of the goodies and luckily we're often treated to a rare version of a more common finalized design such as the sketch for the proposed 'The Curse of the Werewolf' poster. It's hard to see any Hammer fan not owning this book with it's wealth of information and obscurities.
The Hammer Vault: Teasures from the Archive of Hammer Films is just out today so get your last minute Christmas orders in. As with our other recent book reviews, this one is priced unbelievably low for the quality within it's covers. Just as a final reminder, we always state that we only review merchandise that we truly believe in and this one easily gets our "Seal of Approval". If we enter 2012 and you don't have the spine of this book stressed, you may want to rethink your claims of Hammer fandom.
Don't hesitate to tell Christian what you think of his column and suggest a topic by e-mailing him at: email@example.com