The fluctuating popularity of Hammer’s gothic horror films, 1957-1976

Searle, Joshua (2013) The fluctuating popularity of Hammer’s gothic horror films, 1957-1976. BA dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    This dissertation examines Hammer studios’ gothic horror films that were released in Britain between 1957 and 1976 in order to deduce why, in the studio’s earliest years, they were so popular and then why, in the later years, their popularity declined.
    The first chapter examines the fluctuating financial state of the British and American film industries, the state of censorship in Britain, and Hammer’s astute sense of organisation, especially their securing of Bray Studios. Along the way it will show how all of these components were crucial to their early success. After this, chapter two will place the films within their social and cultural contexts by using oral history interviews to recapture why people went to see them. The results show how Hammer’s ability to offer a sense of taboo was absolutely central to their success with a predominantly young audience. By the end of the second chapter, though, it is time to carefully shift the focus onto the films themselves, all the while maintaining the analysis of audience members’ testimonies. Accordingly, the third section will show how Hammer – with huge help from key personalities Terence Fisher, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee – managed to forge a distinct visual style. One that, due to the influence of television and what was discussed in the previous two chapters, lent the studio a huge cinematic edge. In conjunction, the three chapters illustrate how Hammer’s rise and fall was always governed by a complex set of historical circumstances, so it is impossible to privilege any one factor. On a broader note, the dissertation reaffirms oral history as a research method into cinema taste, and strengthens the need for historians to remember that people enjoy horror fiction for a huge array of reasons.
    As there is very little primary audience-response source material, this study of Hammer has had to cast its methodological net widely. Thankfully, there exists a large number of primary materials – traditional, text-based sources like film industry journals and interviews with key Hammer personnel – and an extensive set of secondary material that will be constantly used throughout. But, because of the lack of reception material available, the second and third chapters will utilise oral history in order to place the studio within its proper context.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social, Historical and Literary Studies
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 29 Aug 2013 14:05
    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 12:28

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