Ten random Australian connections with Hammer Films

June 28, 2020
Few studios are more beloved than Hammer Films, the British company legendary for its horror output. Many of the studio’s most devoted fans come from down under, so Stephen Vagg thought he would come up with ten of his favourite links between Australia and Hammer horror.

1) Don Sharp, director

A Tasmanian-born actor-director-writer-producer who directed three classics for Hammer: Kiss of the Vampire (1963), one of the studio’s best vampire movies (despite a lack of names in the cast); The Devil Ship Pirates (1964), a splendid pirate movie, with Christopher Lee in terrific form as a one-eyed buccaneer; and Rasputin (1966), a hugely entertaining historically inaccurate biopic of the famous religious leader, again with Lee. All films were high points in the Hammer filmography, and it’s a great shame Sharp only worked with the studio thrice, because he was one of their best ever directors.

2) Ray Barrett, actor

Legendary Australian actor famed for his talent, pock-marked face and fondness for the bottle, Barrett spent over a decade in England in the 1960s, mostly working on television, but he popped up in a few features, including Hammer’s The Reptile (1965).

Here, Barrett shares screen time with famed Hammer regular Michael Ripper.

3) Charles Tingwell, actor

Like Barrett, Tingwell was an Aussie actor who moved to England to find work, and achieves success on television; also like Barrett, he made the occasional movie, such as Hammer’s classic Dracula – Prince of Darkness (1966), where he gets gutted so that his blood can revive Christopher Lee, which is pretty cool. He’s also in a Hammer war film, The Secret of Blood Island (1965). (Trivia note: Barrett/Tingwell contemporary John Meillon also appeared in a Hammer film, Watch It, Sailor! (1961) but it was a comedy. Queenslander Diane Cilento was in Hammer’s Stop Me Before I Kill (1960) but it was more a psycho thriller).

Here’s Uncle Bud hanging from his feet.

4) Grant Taylor and Bryan Marshall, actors

Once upon a time the biggest thing in Australian films after starring in Forty Thousand Horsemen (1940), Taylor’s career as a movie star was interrupted by World War Two and a fondness for too much food and drinking, but he carved out a decent career as a theatre star and character actor, before moving to England in the 1960s to – you guessed it – find more work. Among Taylor’s later roles were playing the police constable in Hammer’s classic Quatermass and the Pit (1967). Also in that film was a British actor, Bryan Marshall, who emigrated to Australia in 1983 and was frequently seen in local productions, notably Australia’s Most Wanted.

You can see Bryan Marshall in Quatermass here.

5) Mark Edwards, actor

A not particularly well-remembered Australian actor, Edwards had a decent enough career for around a decade, including a stint in ’70s London where he played Valerie Leon’s boyfriend (a character called “Tod Browning”!) in the cult classic Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971). James Carreras thought Edwards was going to be a star and recommended him to producer Richard Gordon for a lead in Tower of Evil (1972). Stardom didn’t happen and Edwards faded from the scene in the late ’70s, but he’ll always have Mummy’s Tomb, whose popularity seems to grow every year.

6) Peter Sykes, director

Lesser-known Australian director, who moved from Melbourne to London in the 1960s. He worked in documentary and started on features with The Committee (1968) and Venom (1971), leading to two Hammer horrors, both flawed but interesting: Demons of the Mind (1972) and To the Devil a Daughter (1976). The latter was the last official Hammer horror before the company wound up, and has Natassja Kinski doing full frontal nudity and sex scenes when aged fourteen. Sykes also directed the Frankie Howerd horror spoof The House in Nightmare Park (1973) but auterist critics always seem to pass him by.

7) Shane Briant, actor

Young British leading man who brightened up some late-period Hammers like Demons of the Mind (1972), Straight On Till Morning (1972), Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter (1974) and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974), where he specialised in beautiful, androgynous, tormented young men; Briant emigrated to Australia, where he carved out a solid career specialising in handsome, androgynous tormented Germans in things like The Lighthorsemen (1987). He also moved into writing and became a successful author.

8) “Hammer Horror” by Kate Bush (1978), song

Kate Bush’s third single was actually inspired more by James Cagney in Man of a Thousand Faces (1957) playing Lon Chaney playing the Hunchback of Notre Dame, than by Hammer Horror, but it does use the name and there is an Australian connection – she devised the dance for the film clip in her Melbourne hotel room.

9) Anouska Hempel, actor

A gorgeous New Zealand-born, Cronulla-raised woman who parlayed her looks into a modelling and acting career, with a small role in Hammer’s Scars of Dracula (1970), as well as playing the Aussie Angel of Death in the Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) and having the lead in Russ Meyer’s Blacksnake (1973). Hempel moved into hotels and interior decorating and was hugely successful at it. (Also on Hammer-New Zealand connections, the monster in The Evil of Frankenstein (1964) was played by the New Zealand wrestler “Kiwi” Kingston.)

Here’s Hempel in the trailer for Scars.

10) Bill Bain, director

This is cheating because the one feature film directed by Bain was for Amicus, not Hammer – but Amicus were Hammer’s main competition in the ’60s and ’70s for turning out classy horror. Bain was an Australian who directed a lot of TV here before heading over to England to do more TV, but he did do the feature Whatever Happened to Jack and Jill? (1972), kind of a psycho thriller. To be honest, it’s not much of a movie but I mention it because more Hammer fans should be aware of Amicus, and more Australians should be aware of the achievements of their compatriots who did so well in British TV in the 1960s and 1970s (others include Raymond Menmuir, Ken Hannam and William Sterling). Bain died when only 52.

Comments

  1. Edward Primrose

    You could not possibly leave out the Melbourne born composer Don Banks who worked for Hammer from 1962 Films include Nightmare, The Evil of Frankenstein, The Reptile and The Mummy’s Shroud. After those and other concert successes, he returned to teach at the Canberra School of Music (he was my teacher) then the Sydney Conservatorium.
    https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0052140/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_1

    1. Stephen

      I had absolutely no idea about him – thank you Edward, and thank you for bringing him to my attention!

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