All posts in M6 Studios


One of the UK’s oldest surviving studios, the Twickenham site was bought in 1912 by Dr. Ralph Jupp who formed the London Film Company to produce stylish films for the American market, his first being The House Of Temperley (d. Harold Shaw, 1913). He also employed legendary actors such as Sir Herbert Tree and American producers Harold M. Shaw and George Loane Tucker. Financial and health problems caused him to sell in 1920 to the Alliance Company; “big on ideas, short on experience”, it collapsed in 1922.

From 1923 to 1928 the studios were leased to various companies, then Julius Hagen founded the Twickenham Film Studios Ltd, with actor Henry Edwards and director Leslie Hiscott. For the period he made a suprising number of films attracting good actors and directors including Michael Powell. Financial problems resulted in the sale of the studios in 1937 to Studio Holdings Ltd, until 1938.

The studios were bombed during World War II, then were used for mainly TV productions until Guido Coen developed the studio’s international profile, attracting the producers of such films as Saturday Night And Sunday Morning (d. Karel Reisz, 1960), A Hard Day’s Night (d. Richard Lester, 1964), Reds (US, d. Warren Beatty, 1981) and Shirley Valentine (UK/US, Lewis Gilbert, 1989). A tiny studio with a long established reputation for filming, television, commercials and post production facilities.


The Beatles
The Beatles began rehearsals for their latest album (and proposed live performances and film) at Twickenham Studios on 2 January 1969. The group disliked the cold, cavernous sound stage and the early hours necessary to fit the film crew; Lennon later observed, “no one wants to make music at that hour”. Lennon also found the continuous presence of the film crew to be highly intrusive and the other Beatles had similar feelings about the attendance of Lennon’s girlfriend Yoko Ono. No professional multi-track recordings were made of these sessions at Twickenham, as the Beatles were simply rehearsing for a proposed live performance rather than attempting to record releasable versions of any songs. Phil Spector later used a snippet of dialogue from one of these rehearsals (Lennon announcing “Queen says no to pot-smoking FBI members”) to introduce “For You Blue” on the finished album, sourced from the film crew’s monaural soundtrack recordings. Numerous bootleg records taken from the many hours of these soundtrack recordings are in wide circulation and various bits of music and dialogue from the same source was eventually used on the second disc of the 2003 release Let It Be… Naked.

The group spent their time at Twickenham running through a number of new compositions by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison. Many hours were spent jamming various covers of rock and roll numbers and standards from other genres, as well as some instrumentals and even versions of some old Beatles songs. As a result of the unpleasant working environment at Twickenham and the group members’ personal differences, the rehearsals quickly disintegrated into acrimony. George Harrison was increasingly resentful, while he was treated respectfully by musical colleagues such as Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton, within the Beatles his songs were either derided or ignored (at one point during the rehearsals, Lennon responded to Harrison demonstrating his new song “I Me Mine” to him by stating “We’re a rock and roll band – run along, boy” and later chose to waltz with Ono rather than join the other three Beatles as they arranged and rehearsed the song). With the band seemingly unable to generate much enthusiasm or focus their attention, their playing was largely ragged and unprofessional, not helped by the fact that they were severely out of practice at playing as a live ensemble. McCartney tried to impose some form of order and encourage his bandmates, but his attempts to hold the band together and rally spirits were seen by the others as controlling and patronising.

Matters came to a head on 6 January, when Harrison had a heated argument with McCartney during a rehearsal of “Two of Us”, which later became one of the most famous sequences in the Let It Be film. What is not shown in the film is another, allegedly much more severe argument Harrison had with Lennon on 10 January. Harrison had become fed up with Lennon’s creative and communicative disengagement from the band and the two had a blazing row. According to journalist Michael Housego of The Daily Sketch, this descended into violence with Harrison and Lennon allegedly throwing punches at each other, though in a 16 January interview for the Daily Express, Harrison said, “There was no punch-up. We just fell out.” After lunch, Harrison announced that he was “leaving the band now” and told the others “see you round the clubs”. He promptly walked out, getting in his car and instead of returning home to his wife Pattie at his Esher home Kinfauns, he drove straight to his parents’ home in Speke, Liverpool.

After Harrison’s departure that afternoon, the three remaining Beatles attempted to continue the rehearsal. As a practical solution to the problem of Harrison’s absence, Lennon suggested hiring Eric Clapton to replace Harrison, possibly as a full time member of the Beatles if Harrison stuck with his decision to quit the band permanently. McCartney and Starr vetoed this suggestion, with the former arguing that the group could not truly be considered as the Beatles without all four traditional members of the band.




Teddington Studios is a large British television studio complex located in Teddington, South-West London, providing studio facilities for programmes airing on BBC television, ITV, and Channel 4. The complex also provides studio space for channel continuity.


The studio began in the early 20th century as film studios when stockbroker Henry Chinnery, owner of Weir House, Teddington, allowed filmmakers to use his greenhouse as a studio. Dedicated studio facilities were then built in the 1910s. The studio was greatly expanded by a partnership of filmmaker E. G. Norman and actor Henry Edwards, and renamed Teddington Film Studios Limited in 1931.

After only one production, Stranglehold (1931), the studio was acquired by Warner Brothers to turn out so-called “quota quickies” – British-made films which fulfilled a legal quota (created by the Cinematograph Films Act 1927) before American-made films could be shown. Warner Bros.-First National continued to make US/UK coproductions at Teddington until The Dark Tower (1943). One Teddington Studios production Murder at Monte Carlo (1934) with Errol Flynn in his first major film role, is considered a lost film. On 17 September and 24 September 2007, Turner Classic Movies presented 13 films made at Teddington Studios, all in their US television premiere.

By the 1950s the studio’s fortunes had declined, but in 1958 it was bought by Associated British Corporation (ABC) for use as a television studio. When ABC was replaced by Thames Television (in which ABC’s parent company had a 51% stake), Teddington Studios became the main production centre for Thames’s entertainment programming (e.g. gameshows, children’s programmes, dramas and comedy), while documentary shows, news and sports programming were made at Thames’s Euston Road headquarters.

After Thames lost its broadcast franchise in 1992 to Carlton Television, the studio became independent. Without a major broadcaster or studio group owning the studios, their future was questioned (as Carlton was going to produce its programmes elsewhere), but they survived and stayed independent for 13 years, when in 2005, the Pinewood Studios Group bought the complex for £2.7m.[1]


Studio 1
The site has 8 studios in total, as well as post production editing facilities. Studio 1 is Teddington’s largest studio at nearly 8,900 square feet (827 m2). It is a fully digital widescreen studio, with audience seating for 500, making it popular for programmes such as Harry Hill’s TV Burp for ITV1 and sitcoms The Green Green Grass, After You’ve Gone, My Hero, My Family, Reggie Perrin and Not Going Out (all for BBC1). Other notable productions made in Studio 1 include Men Behaving Badly (ITV1), Pop Idol (ITV1), Birds of a Feather (BBC1), one series of Parkinson and Black Books (Channel 4).[2]

Historically, many classic series were recorded in Studio 1. These include all of Tommy Cooper’s shows produced by Thames Television (1973-1980), The Benny Hill Show, Bless This House, George and Mildred, Man About The House and long-running light entertainment series such as This is Your Life and Opportunity Knocks. The final four series made by Morecambe and Wise were also produced at Teddington’s Studio 1 by Thames Television.


Studio 2
Studio 2 measures nearly 5,700 square feet (530 m2) and has been the home to shows such as Today with Des and Mel for ITV1, Kilroy for BBC1 and the first series of Trisha after moving to five. This studio is popular for programmes which require intimate medium sized space, like Bremner, Bird and Fortune for Channel Four.[3]


Studio 3
Studio 3 is a much smaller studio at 2,098 square feet (195 m2) and is home to many music shows productions and television commercials.


Studio 4
Studio 4 is a small, widescreen equipped studio (1,475 square feet (137 m2)) and since early 2008 has been the home of the continuity for BBC pre-school children’s channel CBeebies.[4] In November 2007, the BBC announced CBeebies was to leave BBC Television Centre for the Teddington Studios to cut costs. It is understood that CBeebies will be able to make use of Teddington’s facilities for half the rate charged to it by BBC Resources for studios at Television Centre – saving the channel around £500,000 per year. Cbeebies will be returning to BBC Television Centre as of September 2010.


Studio 5
Another small studio, Studio 5 currently broadcasts digital satellite channel, The Chinese Channel.[5]


Studio 6
Until early 2008, this small studio was occupied by The Jewellery Channel. The studio is now vacant.[6]


Studio 7
Built on the site of the prop store for Studio 2, this small studio was built within weeks for participation TV channel QuizCall, whose content is produced using widescreen cameras.[7] At launch, QuizCall was originally designed for 15 hours of broadcasts everyday. In early 2007 the channel closed, but continued to air nightly on other channels. Today QuizCall still occupies the same studio but only broadcasts content three nights a week, now on Five.


Studio 8
This studio, also small, is currently hosting Turf TV, a racing channel.[8]



  1. BBC News, 1 April 2005
  2. Pinewood Studios – Production Filmography
  3. Pinewood Studios – Production Filmography
  4. Pinewood Studios – Studio 4 Teddington Studios – TV Studios
  5. Pinewood Studios – Studio 5 Teddington Studios – TV Studios
  6. The Jewellery Channel
  7. history of TV studios in London
  8. Pinewood Studios – Studio 8 Teddington Studios – TV Studios



Southall Studios was founded in a converted airplane hangar in 1924 by film pioneer G.B. Samuelson. It seems to have been little used until 1928 when “Two Little Drummer Boys”, a silent movie starring Alma Taylor, was made.



In the early thirties, the studios had several name changes. In 1931, it was renamed Kingsway General Films Ltd. In 1933, the name changed again, this time to Britone Sound Studios. From the mid-1930s it was once again producing feature films. In 1935 “Children of the Fog” was made starring Linden Travers, a popular actress of the 30s and 40s. 1936 was an eventful year, “Dodging the Dole” was produced and directed by John E. Blakeley, founder of the Mancunian Film Corporation and the name was changed again to Metropolitan Film Studios. The studios were totally burned to the ground on the 29th October 1936 and were later rebuilt with three stages. The dimensions of the three film stages were 50×75, 50×50 and 50×25.

The studios may have been closed during 1939 -1945. There is a reference to them being used as the Lucarno Ballroom and then as a roller skating rink in 1940.

The studios were used for the war effort like so many other enterprises. Occasionally stray planes from the Luftwaffe would fire randomly on their way back from London: It is likely that Gladstone Road was a target because of the nearby gasometer, engineering works and railway.



In 1946 Alliance Film Studios under the producer, Sydney Box, acquires Southall Studios. He also owned Riverside and Twickenham Studios. In 1949 Southall Studios were owned by the Shipman King Group headed by Alfred Shipman. This group also owned Twickenham Film Studios and Riverside Studios. In 1950 Group 3 Film Productions started at Southall with John Grierson as Executive Producer until 1954.

Southall experimented with a speedy film developing process called Ferraniacolor. Ferraniacolor is used for stills these days but back in 1952, respected director Cyril Frankel directed The Nutcracker, a short with ballet stars Belinda Wright & John Gilpin. Frankel followed with the documentary Man of Africa.

TV comes to Southall in 1952 with the first three pilot episodes of “Colonel March of the Yard” starring Boris Karloff were produced. At this time, the studio employed over 96 permanent staff. These three episodes were featured in the 1953 compilation film Colonel March Investigates. Some famous faces appeared in this including Joan Sims, Patricia Owens, Dana Wynter and John Hewer (“Captain Birdseye”).

This is taken from the top of the Gasometer in Southall. It shows Queens Rd, Gladstone Rd and Hartington Rd. The white long roof is that of the studios.

A further 23 episodes of Colonel March of Scotland Yard were shot in 1954. These also had their fair share of famous names, past and present, including Christopher Lee, Sandra Dorne, Anthony Newley, John Schlesinger, Alfred Burke, Adrienne Corri and Richard O’Sullivan.

Robert S Baker and Monty Berman and their Tempean Films were prolific producers of B films at Southall between 1950 and 1958. They often obtained the services of American actors like Virginia Bruce, Scott Brady, Forrest Tucker, and Tom Conway with a view to the US market. They had a few regular actors who appeared in most of their films, like Dora Bryan, John Horsley, Michael Balfour, Thora Hird and Michael Ward.

By 1956, the studios only employed 47 staff. Pearl & Dean adverts were made here with voice-overs by Arthur Lowe. The photographic work for Boots The Chemist was also carried out here along with the Colgate-Palmolive toothpaste ads.
The final project completed by Southall Studios was a sci-fi horror movie “The Trollenberg Terror”.
This was first produced as a TV series. In 1958 it was remade into a full-length feature film, also entitled “The Trollenberg Terror”, starring Forrest Tucker and Janet Munro. This film was fairly popular for its time as the public taste for the “B” movie genre was then at its height, particularly among dating teenagers.

From that time forward it has come to achieve a cult status among sci-fi horror fans spanning several generations and is probably the one movie produced by Southall Studios that most people have seen.

An aerial view of the site of Southall Studios as it is today.



Shepperton currently has the largest number of sound stages of any studio site in Europe, and is now part of the Pinewood Group together with Pinewood and Teddington Studios. However, it began many years ago – like several UK film studios – growing up around a grand house and estate. In this case, Littleton Park – a 17th century manor house surrounded by 60 acres. The house has changed considerably over the years and was extensively rebuilt at the end of the 19th century following a fire.


In 1928 Norman Loudon bought the estate. He was a camera manufacturer but also made a small fortune selling ‘flicker’ books that gave an impression of movement when flicked with a thumb. His ambitions were rather greater however and in 1932 he founded Sound City Film Producing and Recording Studios. Two stages were constructed in the grounds – one at 110ft x 80 ft and later a second stage 80ft x 45ft. Both of these were destroyed during the Second World War although the larger stage was rebuilt to become L stage. This is now 100ft x 65ft and is due to be demolished eventually as part of the planned redevelopment of the site over the next ten years.

In 1936 stages A/B and C/D were constructed. (A and C are 150ft x 120ft; B and D are 100ft x 120ft) These still form the hub of the site. They were superbly designed, with excellent sound insulation and ventilation plants. They form two pairs that are separated by connecting doors, so a very long set can be constructed if necessary.

A page from the Architects’ Journal, August 1936


The ability to link two of the stages was, incidentally, used for the 2008 series of Gladiators – made for Sky 1. The show was made on stages A and B and was shot in HD using an OB unit for facilities.

Scottish businessman Norman Loudon purchased Littleton Park in 1931 for use by his new film company, Sound Film Producing & Recording Studios; the facility opened in 1932. The studio, which produced both shorts and features, was quickly successful and rapidly expanded. Proximity to the Vickers-Armstrongs aircraft factory at Brooklands, which attracted German bombers, disrupted filming in World War II, as did the requisitioning of the studio in 1941 by the government, who first used it for sugar storage and later to create decoy aircraft and munitions for positioning in the Middle East. The Ministry of Aircraft Production also took over part of the studios for dispersed production of Vickers Wellington bomber components early in WW2.

After reopening in 1945, the studio changed hands. When Sir Alexander Korda purchased British Lion Films, he also acquired a controlling interest in Sound City and Shepperton Studios. Among the notable films produced at the studio during this period was 1949′s The Third Man, which was not only critically acclaimed at the time with a Grand Prix award at the Cannes Film Festival, the British Academy Award for Best Film, and an Academy Award for Best Black and White Cinematography in 1950, but which has continued its critical acclaim, including being selected in 1999 by the British Film Institute as the best British film of the 20th century.

In spite of such successes, British Lion ran into financial difficulties in the 1950s when it could not repay a 1949 loan from the National Film Finance Corporation and went into receivership. In January 1955, a new company, British Lion Films, took control. Helming Shepperton Studios then were Roy and John Boulting. The studio produced their comedies, like I’m All Right Jack, as well as other features like J. Lee Thompson’s The Guns of Navarone and Steve Sekely’s The Day of the Triffids. In spite of financial ups and downs at British Lion and changing of hands, the studio remained active until the early 1970s.

In 1965 Stanley Kubrick made a relatively brief return visit to Shepperton. The first day’s shooting on 2001: A Space Odyssey was on the H stage. The set was the excavated site on the Moon where the monolith had been discovered. The ‘hole’ was 150ft x 50ft x 20 ft deep and at one end had an area representing the Moon’s surface. The first day of shooting this extraordinary film was December 29th 1965, some three and a half years before a man would actually step onto the Moon itself. (The majority of the film was shot at the MGM studios in Borehamwood, where it occupied most of the stages there for several years.)

British Lion’s success grew during the 1960s but they were constantly fighting the overall decline in the British film industry as a whole. Nevertheless, investment continued – in 1965 L stage was re-equipped. In fact, between 1958 and 1966 half a million pounds (a great deal of money at the time) was spent on new buildings and equipment. In 1969, the studio made 27 films. By 1971, that number had diminished to seven. Production varied through the 1970s to reach a low in 1979 of two.

Unfortunately, during the ’70s the decline began to seriously affect the viability of British Lion. In 1972, the company was taken over by Barclay Securities. They intended to redevelop much of the site (a familiar story unfortunately) but fortunately and rather surprisingly, tree preservation orders prevented them from carrying out their plans.

Among the issues faced by Shepperton during that time was the desire of new British Lion head John Bentley to sell Shepperton for housing, since repurposing the land would almost double its value. Films made during this turbulent time include Richard Attenborough’s Young Winston (1972) and Fred Zinnemann’s The Day of the Jackal.The British film industry proposed a compromise, and in 1973 the studio was reduced from 60 acres (240,000 m2) to 20. In 1975, the studio changed hands and in spite of low production schedules was a filming site of some notable features, including Richard Donner’s The Omen (1976), Franklin Schaffner’s The Boys from Brazil (1978), Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), David Lynch’s The Elephant Man (1980), Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982) and David Lean’s A Passage to India (1984).

In 1984, the studio changed hands again, coming under the control of brothers John and Benny Lee, who renovated the studio but soon lost control as a combined result of 1987′s Black Monday, the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike and internal issues in Lee International PLC. Bankers Warburg-Pincus took control, and Shepperton became busy in filming television shows as well as such films as Franco Zeffirelli’s Hamlet (1990), Kevin Reynolds’ Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) and Nicholas Hytner’s The Madness of King George (1994). In 1995, the studio was purchased by a consortium headed by Ridley and Tony Scott, which extensively renovated the studios while also expanding and improving its grounds. In 2001, Shepperton merged with Pinewood Studios, forming the Pinewood Group (which later expanded to include Teddington Studios).

The first 12 seasons of the childrens show Thomas and Friends were filmed at Shepperton Studios.



PolyGram Filmed Entertainment (PFE) (aka PolyGram Films and PolyGram Pictures) was a film studio, founded in 1979 as a European competitor to Hollywood, but eventually sold and merged with Universal Pictures in 1999.

Among its most successful films were Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Dead Man Walking (1995), Fargo (1996), Trainspotting (1996) and What Dreams May Come (1998).


The Dutch music company PolyGram (owned by Philips) created PFE in 1979 to consolidate its existing film companies. It invested US$200 million with the intention of developing a European film studio that could produce and distribute films internationally on a scale to match the major Hollywood studios.

Following the style of its music business, the company produced films through a number of creatively semi-autonomous ‘labels’, such as Working Title Films in the UK and Propaganda Films and Interscope Communications in the United States – It also built up its own network of distribution companies.

Film production within PolyGram differed from traditional Hollywood studios, in that power to make (‘green light’) a film was not centralised in the hands of a small number of executives, but instead was decided by negotiations between producers, management and marketing. PFE President, Michael Kuhn, claimed that “movies sort of green lit themselves.”

The company was based in the United Kingdom, and invested heavily in British film making — some credit it with reviving the British film industry in the 1990s. Despite a successful production history, Philips decided to sell PFE to the beverage (liquor) conglomerate Seagram in 1999.

PFE’s assets were merged into Seagram’s existing film studio, Universal Pictures, after Seagram was dissatisfied with offers to buy the studio (ironically, one of the bidders for PolyGram was Canal+ Group, owned by Vivendi, which would later take over Seagram). Most of its library of films produced up until 1996 is now controlled by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, after Universal sold those films to them. Universal owns the rest of the pre-1996 films (such as Dazed and Confused) and the library from 1996 to 1999 including PolyGram Television.

PolyGram Filmed Entertainment took over the distribution of Manga Entertainment’s titles in Australia and New Zealand in late 1996 after Siren Entertainment’s license to the Manga Video catalogue expired, but PolyGram lost the license to the Manga Video catalogue in 1998 after Madman Entertainment took over the licenses. This was due to Manga Entertainment being moved from Island Records to Palm Pictures.


Production companies

  • Working Title Films (UK), acquired by PFE in 1991.
  • Propaganda Films (US), acquired in 1991.
  • Interscope Communications (US)
  • A&M Films (theatrical film division of A&M Records)
  • Island Pictures (theatrical film division of Island Records)
  • Cinéa (France)


Distribution company
In 1992, PolyGram partnered with Universal Pictures to create a joint venture called Gramercy Pictures. Gramercy primarily distributed PolyGram films in the USA. After PolyGram’s absorbing into Universal in 1999, Gramercy merged with October Films to form USA Films, which eventually became Focus Features.


Selected films
Among the films directly produced by PFE were:

  • Animal Farm (1954) (re-release on VHS)
  • Fritz the Cat (1972) (now distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Arrow Films)
  • Endless Love (1981) (distributed by Universal Pictures)
  • An American Werewolf in London (1981) (distributed by Universal Pictures)
  • Missing (1982) (distributed by Universal Pictures)
  • Flashdance (1983) (distributed by Paramount Pictures)
  • A Chorus Line (1985)
  • Clue (1985)
  • Batman (1989, plus sequels in 1992, 1995, and 1997) (distributed by Warner Bros.)
  • Backbeat (1994)
  • Land and Freedom (1995)
  • Jack & Sarah (1995, co-production with Granada Productions and Le Studio Canal +)
  • Home for the Holidays (1995) (distributed by Paramount Pictures)
  • When We Were Kings (1996)
  • Trainspotting (1996) (distributed by Miramax Films in the US)
  • Eddie (1996) (co-production with Island Pictures and distributed by Hollywood Pictures)
  • The Relic (1997) (distributed by Paramount Pictures in the US)
  • Spice World (1997) (distributed by Columbia Pictures in the Americas)
  • What Dreams May Come (1998)
  • Hard Rain (1998) (distributed by Paramount Pictures in the US)
  • Barney’s Great Adventure (1998) (co-production with Lyrick Studios)
  • Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) (co-production with Summit Entertainment and Distributed by Gramercy Pictures in the US)
  • Return to Paradise (1998)
  • Arlington Road (1999, US rights owned by Screen Gems)


Working Title Films

  • Drop Dead Fred (1991)
  • London Kills Me (1991)
  • Map of the Human Heart (1992)
  • Posse (1993)
  • The Young Americans (1993)
  • Romeo Is Bleeding (1994)
  • The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) (co-production with Warner Bros.)
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
  • Dead Man Walking (1995)
  • French Kiss (1995) (co-production with 20th Century Fox)
  • Fargo (1996)
  • Bean (1997)
  • The Borrowers (1998)
  • The Big Lebowski (1998)
  • Elizabeth (1998)
  • Notting Hill (1999)


Propaganda (Gold Circle Films)

  • Wild at Heart (1990)
  • Candyman (1992) (co-production with TriStar Pictures)
  • Bob Roberts (1992)
  • Kalifornia (1993)
  • A Pig’s Tale (1995)
  • Barb Wire (1996)
  • Sleepers (1996) (co-distributed by Warner Bros. in US and Canada)
  • The Game (1997)
  • Being John Malkovich (1999)


Interscope (Saturn Films)

  • The Air Up There (1994)
  • Terminal Velocity (1994)
  • Jumanji (1995, with TriStar Pictures)
  • Operation Dumbo Drop (1995 with Walt Disney Pictures)
  • Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995)
  • Kazaam (1996)
  • What Dreams May Come (1998)
  • Very Bad Things (1998)


Gramercy Pictures

  • Dazed and Confused (1993)
  • Double Dragon (1994)
  • Canadian Bacon (1995)
  • Mallrats (1995)
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1996)
  • Guy (1997)


Manga Entertainment

  • Ghost in the Shell (1996)




Pinewood Studios is a major British film studio situated in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire. Approximately 20 miles (32 km) west of central London on what was the estate of Heatherden Hall, the studios were created in 1934 by Charles Boot and built within 12 months by the Henry Boot Company of Sheffield. Boot drew his inspiration from the latest Hollywood movie studios. J. Arthur Rank later took control of both Pinewood and Denham Film Studios, which were often used by producer Alexander Korda.

In 2001, Pinewood Studios merged with Shepperton Studios, the other leading British film production location. Both studios are linked to the media network Sohonet. In 2004, Pinewood Shepperton floated successfully on the London Stock Exchange. In 2005, Pinewood Shepperton acquired Teddington Studios. Collectively the company has 41 stages, including ten digital television studios (including “presentation” studios), gardens & woodland for outdoor shooting, one of Europe’s largest exterior water tanks, and a new dedicated underwater stage.

The studios have acted as the base for the long-running James Bond and Carry On British film series. Occasionally the 007 films use other studios due to booking conflicts and other complications.

Some films have also used the studio itself as a location. Peeping Tom (1960) shows people driving out through the main gate and has various shots in the studios (showing things behind the camera), offices & corridors. Return to the Edge of the World (1978) includes shots of director Michael Powell driving into the studio. Heatherden Hall (originally converted to production offices but later restored and hired out for events) has appeared in several films: it was made to look fire-damaged and derelict for the 1972 children’s film The Amazing Mr Blunden and also appeared as the Indian residence of Governor Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond in Carry On up the Khyber.

Pinewood Studios is used for television productions in addition to film productions, with the stages being used for both single-camera (such as filmed drama, or the Ricky Gervais sitcom Extras) and multi-camera productions (such as Sky1′s Brainiac). There are also two dedicated digital television studios on the site (named, appropriately, “tv one” and “tv two”) which have concrete/resin levelled floors (as opposed to the traditional wooden floors found in sound stages) both measure 8,960 sq ft (832 m2).

Series shot at Pinewood include the game shows The Weakest Link, Dog Eat Dog, Shafted, and Take It or Leave It ; and sitcoms including the BBC’s My Family and The Green Green Grass, and Channel 4′s The IT Crowd. One of the first multi-camera shows to be made at Pinewood Studios was the final two series of the Thames Television version of Strike It Lucky, which was recorded in one of the sound stages (using an outside broadcast unit for camera facilities) from 1993 to 1995.


007 Stage
A vast silent stage, aptly named the 007 Stage, was built for the 1977 Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me and featured a massive water tank, one of the largest in Europe. The stage burnt to the ground in 1984; it was rebuilt four months later and renamed Albert R. Broccoli’s 007 Stage in time for filming to commence on A View to a Kill. Another fire on 30 July 2006 seriously damaged the stage, causing the roof to partly cave in. Construction of a new stage began on 18 September and was completed in under six months.[1]


Expansion plans
In November 2007, Pinewood announced a £200m expansion plan, known as Project Pinewood.[2] If built the development would see replicas of streetscapes and zones replicating locations from the UK, Europe and the USA. Planned zones include a college campus, Amsterdam, modern European housing, Venice, Lake Como, Paris, an Amphitheatre, Prague, West coast American housing, warehousing and downtown New York sets, Chicago, Vienna, a castle, a UK canal, Chinatown and a London street market built.[3] In addition it will also be used as residential housing, with the proposed creative community, expected to be in the region of 2000 and 2250, being integrated with the film locations.[3]

The planning application was rejected by South Bucks District Council in October 2009, following a prolonged opposition campaign by local residents, who formed a “Stop Project Pinewood” group. Pinewood intends to review the council’s decision, which may lead to an appeal.[4]


Production history
Since its beginning, Pinewood Studios has been the location for many well-known films. Some of the most notable Pinewood productions (by release date) include:



Talk of the Devil (1939)Black Narcissus (1947)Oliver Twist (1948)

The Red Shoes (1948)

The Blue Lagoon (1949)

The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)

Genevieve (1953)

A Town Like Alice (1956)The Spanish Gardener (1956)A Night to Remember (1958)

North West Frontier (1959)

Carry On Nurse (1959)

Tiger Bay (1959)



The League of Gentlemen (1960)Peeping Tom (1960)Whistle Down the Wind (1961)

Dr. No (1962)

From Russia with Love (1963)

Goldfinger (1964)

The Moon-Spinners (1964)

Thunderball (1965)

The Ipcress File (1965)

Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

Arabesque (1966)

You Only Live Twice (1967)

Carry On Doctor (1967)

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)

Battle of Britain (1969)

Carry On Camping (1969)

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Sleuth (1972)

Madame Sin (1972)

Frenzy (1972)

The Amazing Mr Blunden (1972)

Vampire Circus (1972)

The Day of the Jackal (1973)

Live and Let Die (1973)

Space: 1999 (television) (1974–1976)

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

The Man Who Would Be King (1975)

Bugsy Malone (1975)

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Superman (1978)



The Watcher in the Woods (1980)Superman II (1980)For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Clash of the Titans (1981)

Pink Floyd The Wall (1982)

Victor Victoria (1982)

Octopussy (1983)

Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)

A View to a Kill (1985)

Legend (1985)

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Aliens (1986)

The Living Daylights (1987)

Hellraiser (1987)Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)Batman (1989)

Alien 3 (1992)

Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)

Mission: Impossible (1996)

The Saint (1997)

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Event Horizon (1997)

The Fifth Element (1997)

The World Is Not Enough (1999)

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)



Jesus Christ Superstar (2000)Die Another Day (2002)The Hours (2002)

The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

United 93 (2006)

Stardust (2006)

Casino Royale (2006)

The Da Vinci Code (2006)

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)Mamma Mia! (2008)The Dark Knight (2008)

Quantum of Solace (2008)

The Bank Job (2008)

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)

The Wolfman (2010)

Kick-Ass (2010)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (2010)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II (2011)

Ant & Dec’s Push the Button (2010)

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)



  1. “007 Stage construction completed”. Pinewood Studios. Retrieved 2007-04-10.
  2. Pinewood studios plan expansion
  3. a b “Project Pinewood press release” (PDF). April 3, 2008.
  4. Staff (22 October 2009). “Pinewood’s £327m expansion plans rejected”. (Emap Media). Retrieved 22 October 2009.




The studios started life back in 1899, when Cecil Hepworth leased a house for £36 a year and built a 15ft x 18ft stage. Cecil Hepworth was an inventor of exhibition and photographic equipment who had decided that he wanted to try his hand at film making, starting initially with trick films. It is believed that slow-motion photography started here. In 1905 Hepworth added a large glass studio.

Unlike other studios, production continued at Walton-on Thames through the First World War, both by making propaganda films and by renting to visiting companies.

In 1926, Producer Archibald Nettlefold purchased the defunct Cecil Hepworth studio Walton-on-Thames and changed the name to Nettlefold Studios. He brought his production company, Anglia Films, which he had founded in 1923 and contracted with Butchers Film Service for distribution.

In 1930, Nettlefold installed sound equipment and leased the studios out to independent production companies. Like other smaller British studios, Nettlefold quickly became a location for independent producers to make quota quickies. These were backed by American production companies who had hundreds of films to unload and couldn’t unless they shared the bill with a British film.

By 1932, Nettlefold claimed to be the first British studio to install the new high-fidelity recording system, making it very popular to American studios like Paramount and United Artists.

In 1937, Nettlefold bought The Croft, which was an adjacent property and built a new stage and new sound stage.

At the beginning of World War II, the Ministry of Works requisitioned Nettlefold, along with many other British studios, to help with the war effort. Nettlefold was used by Vickers-Armstrong Aircraft as a factory to supply parts since aircraft factories were a prime target for bombing. Vickers-Armstrong build 2 hangars on the property which were used for filming after the war.

Archibald Nettlefold died in 1944 during the war. After the war ended, the Nettlefold estate sold the property to Ernest G. Roy who re-opened it in 1947 boasting 3 sound stages.

Operations resumed with leasing the studios out to independent production companies and remained steady until they fell victim to the declining market primarily due to the influx of television in the 1950s.

Early Michael Powell films, notably Hotel Splendide, were produced at the studios as were 143 episodes of the ITV television series The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955 – 59).

The Robin Hood series pioneered an entirely new technique in TV film-making, enabling the studio to turn out a complete 26-minute programme every four and a half days.

In normal film-making, the studio technicians built huge sets on which the cameras were lined-up for each sequence. To cut out delay and speed up production, Mr. Proud, a well-known art director, did away with these sets. Instead he used stock items of scenery and mounted them on wheels so that they could rapidly be moved into position.

Walton-on-Thames lies close to the historic Runnymede Meadow (where King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215) countryside, which has remained, unchanged for centuries. This authentic background was used for the filming of the outdoor sequences.

The studio’s most famous film, however, may be 1951′s Scrooge, with Alistair Sim, released as A Christmas Carol in the U.S. Other films produced included The Pickwick Papers(1952) and the popular Arthur Lucan series of ‘Old Mother Riley.’

With the popularity of television the studio’s fortunes declined during the 1950’s and by 1961 Nettlefold closed their doors and the buildings demolished.

1935 Map showing location of Nettlefold Studio.

Playhouse – could this be the only remaining part of the studio? (Photo: Pauline Hannaford, 2005)



Hammer Film Productions is a film production company based in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1934, the company is best known for a series of Gothic “Hammer Horror” films made from the mid-1950s until the 1970s. Hammer also produced science fiction, thrillers, Film Noir and comedies – and in later years, television series. During its most successful years, Hammer dominated the horror film market, enjoying worldwide distribution and considerable financial success. This success was due, in part, to distribution partnerships with major United States studios, such as Warner Bros.

During the late 1960s and 1970s the saturation of the horror film market by competitors and the loss of American funding forced changes to the previously lucrative Hammer-formula, with varying degrees of success. The company eventually ceased production in the mid-1980s and has since then been, in effect, in hibernation. In 2000, the studio was bought by a consortium including advertising executive and art collector Charles Saatchi.[1] The company announced plans to begin making films again after this, but none were produced. In May 2007, the company behind the movies was sold again, this time to a group headed by Big Brother backers, the Dutch consortium Cyrte Investments, who have announced plans to spend some $50m (£25m) on new horror films. The new owners have also acquired the Hammer group’s film library.

The term “Hammer Horror” is often used generically to refer to other films of the period made in a similar style by different companies, such as Eros Films, Amicus and Tigon.


Early history (1935 to 1937) – Hammer Productions
In November 1934 William Hinds, a comedian and businessman registered his own film company – Hammer Productions Ltd.[2][3] – based in a three-room office suite at Imperial House, Regent Street, London. The company name was taken from Hinds’ stage name, Will Hammer, which he had taken from the area of London in which he lived, Hammersmith.[4]

Work began almost immediately on the first Hammer film, The Public Life of Henry the Ninth at the MGM/ATP studios, with shooting concluding on 2 January 1935. The film tells the story of Henry Henry, an unemployed London street musician, and the title was a “playful tribute” to Alexander Korda’s The Private Life of Henry VIII which had been Britain’s first ever Academy Awards ‘best picture’ nominee in 1934.[5] During this period Hinds met Spanish émigré Enrique Carreras, a former cinema owner, and on 10 May 1935 they formed film distribution company Exclusive Films, operating from a single office at 60-66 National House, Wardour Street.[6]

Hammer produced a further four films distributed by Exclusive:
The Mystery of the Marie Celeste (US: The Phantom Ship) (1936), featuring Béla Lugosi
Song of Freedom (1936), featuring Paul Robeson
Sporting Love (1937)
The Bank Messenger Mystery (1936)

A slump in the British film industry forced Hammer into bankruptcy and the company went into liquidation in 1937. Exclusive, however, survived and on 20 July 1937 purchased the leasehold on 113-117 Wardour Street, and continued to distribute films made by other companies.[7]


Resurrection (1938 to 1955) – Hammer Film Productions
James Carreras (son of Enrique) joined Exclusive in 1938, closely followed by William Hinds’ son, Anthony. At the outbreak of World War II, both James Carreras and Anthony Hinds left to join the armed services and Exclusive continued to operate only in a limited capacity. In 1946, James Carreras rejoined the company after demobilisation. He resurrected Hammer as the film production arm of Exclusive with a view to supplying ‘quota-quickies’ – cheaply made domestic films designed to fill gaps in cinema schedules and support more expensive features.[8] He convinced Anthony Hinds to rejoin the company, and a revived ‘Hammer Film Productions’ set to work on Death in High Heels, The Dark Road, and Crime Reporter. Not being able to afford top stars, Hammer acquired the film rights to several BBC radio series such as The Adventures of PC 49[9] and Dick Barton Special Agent (an adaptation of the successful Dick Barton radio show). All were shot at Marylebone Studios during 1947. During production of Dick Barton Strikes Back (1948), it became apparent that the company could save a considerable amount of money by shooting in country houses instead of professional studios. For their next production – Dr Morelle – The Case of the Missing Heiress (another radio adaptation) – Hammer rented Dial Close, a 23 bedroom mansion next to the River Thames, at Cookham Dean, Maidenhead.[10]

On 12 February 1949 Exclusive finally registered “Hammer Film Productions” as a company with Enrique and James Carreras, and William and Tony Hinds as company directors. Hammer moved into the Exclusive offices in 113-117 Wardour Street, and the building was rechristened “Hammer House”.[11]

Hammer House, Wardour Street today – now occupied by OddBins and Tony & Guy


In August 1949, complaints from locals about noise during night filming forced Hammer to leave Dial Close and move into another mansion, Oakley Court, also on the banks of the Thames between Windsor and Maidenhead.[12] Five films were shot there: The Man in Black (1949), Room to Let (1949), Someone at the Door (1949), What The Butler Saw (1950), The Lady Craved Excitement (1950). In 1950, Hammer moved again to Gilston Park, a country club in Harlow Essex, which hosted The Black Widow, The Rossiter Case, To Have and to Hold and The Dark Light (all 1950).

In 1951, Hammer began shooting at its most famous home, Down Place also on the banks of the Thames. The company took out a one-year lease and began its 1951 production schedule with Cloudburst. The house, a virtual derelict, required substantial work, but it did not have the kind of construction restrictions that had prevented Hammer from customising its previous homes. A decision was therefore made to turn Down Place into a substantial, custom-fitted studio complex.[13] Its expansive grounds were used for almost all of the later location shooting in Hammer’s films, and are a key part of the ‘Hammer look’.

Also during 1951, Hammer and Exclusive signed a four-year production and distribution contract with Robert Lippert, an American film producer. The contract meant that Lippert and Exclusive effectively exchanged products for distribution on their respective sides of the Atlantic – beginning in 1951 with The Last Page and ending with Women Without Men (AKA Prison Story, 1955).[14] It was Lippert’s insistence on an American star in the Hammer films he was to distribute that led to the prevalence of American leads in so many of the company’s productions during the 1950s. It was for The Last Page that Hammer made one of its most significant appointments when it hired film director Terence Fisher, who went on to play a critical role in the forthcoming horror cycle.

Towards the end of 1951, the one-year lease on Down Place expired, and with its increasing success Hammer looked back towards more conventional studio-based productions. A dispute with the Association of Cinematograph Technicians, however, blocked this proposal, and instead the company purchased the freehold of Down Place. The house was renamed Bray Studios after the nearby village of Bray and it remained Hammer’s principal base until 1966.[14] In 1953, the first of Hammer’s science fiction films, Four Sided Triangle and Spaceways, were released.


Hammer Horror contributors

Directors and writers
Michael Carreras, sometimes as Henry Younger – writer and director of The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb and director/producer of The Lost Continent
Terence Fisher – director of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Mummy and others
Freddie Francis – director of The Evil of Frankenstein and Dracula has Risen From the Grave
Tudor Gates – writer of The Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire, and Twins of Evil
John Gilling – writer and director of Shadow of the Cat (1961), The Plague of the Zombies (1966), The Reptile (1966) and The Mummy’s Shroud
Anthony Hinds, as John Elder – writer of The Brides of Dracula, The Curse of the Werewolf and others
Jimmy Sangster – writer of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein and others; director of The Horror of Frankenstein and Lust for a Vampire
Peter Sasdy – director of Taste the Blood of Dracula and Countess Dracula
Harry Robertson – musical director of Countess Dracula, Twins of Evil and others


Other crew
The scores for many Hammer horror films, including Dracula and The Curse of Frankenstein, were composed by James Bernard.
Production designer Bernard Robinson and cinematographer Jack Asher were instrumental in creating the lavish look of the early Hammer films, usually on a very restricted budget.

Hammer’s horror films featured many of the same actors in recurring roles; these actors are sometimes called the “Hammer repertory company”.
Ralph Bates
Shane Briant
Veronica Carlson
Peter Cushing
Christopher Lee
Andrew Keir
Miles Malleson
Francis Matthews
André Morell
Oliver Reed
Michael Ripper
Barbara Shelley


The birth of Hammer Horror (1955 to 1959)
Hammer’s first significant experiment with horror came in the form of a 1955 adaptation of Nigel Kneale’s BBC Television science fiction serial The Quatermass Experiment, which was directed by Val Guest. As a consequence of the contract with Robert Lippert, American actor Brian Donlevy was imported for the lead role, and the title was changed to The Quatermass Xperiment to cash in on the new X certificate for horror films. The film was an unexpectedly big hit, and led to an almost equally popular 1957 sequel Quatermass 2 – again adapted from one of Kneale’s television scripts, this time by Kneale himself and with a budget double that of the original: £92,000.[15] In the meantime, Hammer had produced another Quatermass-style horror film, X the Unknown, originally intended as a full part of the series until Kneale denied them the rights.[16] At the time, Hammer voluntarily submitted its scripts to the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) for comments before beginning production. Regarding the script of X the Unknown, one reader/examiner (Audrey Field) commented on 24 November:

“Well, no one can say the customers won’t have had their money’s worth by now. In fact, someone will almost certainly have been sick. We must have a great deal more restraint, and much more done by onlookers’ reactions instead of by shots of ‘pulsating obscenity’, hideous scars, hideous sightless faces, etc, etc. It is keeping on and on in the same vein that makes this script so outrageous. They must take it away and prune. Before they take it away, however, I think the President [of the BBFC] should read it. I have a stronger stomach than the average (for viewing purposes) and perhaps I ought to be reacting more strongly.”[17]

The Curse of Frankenstein
As production began on Quatermass 2, Hammer started to look for another U.S. partner willing to invest in and handle the American promotion of new product. They eventually entered talks with Associated Artists Productions (a.a.p.) and its head, Elliot Hyman, a man reputed to have American underworld connections. During this period, two young American filmmakers, Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky, who later established Hammer’s rival Amicus, submitted to a.a.p. a script for an adaptation of the novel Frankenstein. Although interested in the script, a.a.p. were not prepared to back a film made by Rosenberg and Subotsky, who had only one film to their credit. Eliot Hyman did, however, send the script to his contact at Hammer. Rosenberg would often claim he ‘produced’ Curse of Frankenstein, an exaggeration repeated in his obituary.

Although the novel by Mary Shelley was long since in the public domain, Anthony Hinds was unsure about the script, as Subotsky’s script adhered closely to the plot of the 1939 Universal film Son of Frankenstein, featuring a second-generation Baron Frankenstein emulating his father, the original monster-maker. This put the project at risk of a copyright infringement lawsuit by Universal. In addition, a great deal of polishing and additional material was needed as the short script had an estimated running time of only 55 minutes – far less than the minimum of 90 minutes needed for distribution in the UK. Accordingly, comments on the script from Hammer’s Michael Carreras (who had joined his father James as producer in the early 1950s) were less than complimentary:

“The script is badly presented. The sets are not marked clearly on the shot headings, neither is DAY or NIGHT specified in a number of cases. The number of set-ups scripted is quite out of proportion to the length of the screenplay, and we suggest that your rewrites are done in master scene form.”[18]

Further revisions were made to the script, and a working title of Frankenstein and the Monster was chosen. Plans were made to shoot the film in Eastmancolor – a decision which caused further worry at the BBFC. Not only did the script contain horror and graphic violence, but it would be portrayed in vivid colour.[19]

The project was handed to Tony Hinds who was even less impressed with the script than Michael Carreras, and whose vision for the film was a mere black and white ‘quickie’ made in three weeks. Concerned that Subotsky and Rosenberg’s script still had too many similarities to the old Universal films, Hinds commissioned Jimmy Sangster to rewrite it as The Curse of Frankenstein. Sangster’s treatment impressed Hammer enough to rescue the film from its place on the ‘quickie’ treadmill and to make it as a colour film.

Sangster submitted his own script to the BBFC for examination. Audrey Field reported on 10 October 1956: “We are concerned about the flavour of this script, which, in its preoccupation with horror and gruesome detail, goes far beyond what we are accustomed to allow even for the ‘X’ category. I am afraid we can give no assurance that we should be able to pass a film based on the present script and a revised script should be sent us for our comments, in which the overall unpleasantness should be mitigated.”[20]

Regardless of the BBFC’s stern warnings, Hinds supervised the shooting of a virtually unchanged script.[21]

The film was directed by Terence Fisher, with a look that belied its modest budget. Peter Cushing’s performance as Baron Victor Frankenstein, and Christopher Lee’s as the imposingly tall, brutish monster provide the film with a further veneer of polish. With a budget of £65,000 and a cast and crew that would become the backbone of later films,[21] Hammer’s first Gothic horror went into production. The use of colour encouraged a previously unseen level of gore. Until The Curse of Frankenstein horror films had not shown blood in a graphic way, or when they did it was concealed by monochrome photography. In this film, it was bright red, and the camera lingered on it.

The film was an enormous success, not only in Britain, but also in the USA, where it inspired numerous imitations from, amongst others, Roger Corman and American International Pictures. It also found success on the European continent, where Italian directors and audiences were particularly receptive.

The huge box office success of The Curse of Frankenstein led to the inevitable desire for a sequel in The Revenge of Frankenstein,[22] and an attempt to give the Hammer treatment to another horror icon. Dracula had been another successful film character for Universal in the past, and the copyright situation was even more complicated than for Frankenstein. A full legal agreement between Hammer and Universal was not completed until 31 March 1958 – after the film had already been shot – and was 80 pages long.[23]

John Van Eyssen as Jonathan Harker.


Meanwhile, the financial arrangement between a.a.p. and Hammer had broken down when money promised by a.a.p. had not arrived. Hammer began looking for alternatives, and with the success of The Curse of Frankenstein signed a deal with Columbia Pictures to distribute the sequel The Revenge of Frankenstein and two films from the defaulted a.a.p. deal The Camp on Blood Island and The Snorkel. Hammer’s financial success also meant the winding down of the parent film distribution company Exclusive, leaving Hammer to concentrate solely on filmmaking.[24]

Work continued on the script for Dracula, and the second draft was voluntarily submitted to the BBFC. Audrey Field commented on 8 October 1957:

“The uncouth, uneducated, disgusting and vulgar style of Mr Jimmy Sangster cannot quite obscure the remnants of a good horror story, though they do give one the gravest misgivings about treatment. [...] The curse of this thing is the Technicolor blood: why need vampires be messier eaters than anyone else? Certainly strong cautions will be necessary on shots of blood. And of course, some of the stake-work is prohibitive.”[25]

Despite the success of Curse of Frankenstein, the financing of Dracula proved awkward. Universal was not interested,[26] and the search for money eventually brought Hammer back to a.a.p.’s Eliot Hyman, through another of his companies, Seven Arts (which later merged with Warner Bros., ironically now the successor-in-interest to a.a.p.). Although an agreement was drawn up, the deal was never realised and funding for Dracula eventually came from the National Film Finance Council (£32,000) and the rest from Universal in return for worldwide distribution rights.[27]

With an eventual budget of £81,412, Dracula began principal photography on 11 November 1957.[28] Peter Cushing starred as Van Helsing and Christopher Lee as Count Dracula, with direction by Terence Fisher and set design by Bernard Robinson that was radically different from the Universal adaptation – so radical, in fact, that Hammer executives considered paying him off and finding another designer.[29]

Dracula was an enormous success, breaking box-office records in the UK, the United States (released as Horror of Dracula), Canada, and across the world. On 20 August 1958 the Daily Cinema reported:

“Because of the fantastic business done world-wide by Hammer’s Technicolor version of Dracula, Universal-International, its distributors, have made over to Jimmy Carreras’ organisation, the remake rights to their entire library of classic films”.[30]

The Mummy
With the agreement in place, Hammer’s executives had their pick of Universal International’s horror icons and chose to remake The Invisible Man, The Phantom of the Opera and The Mummy’s Hand. All were to be shot in colour at Bray Studios, by the same team responsible for Dracula, Curse of Frankenstein and Revenge of Frankenstein. The Mummy (the title used for the remake of The Mummy’s Hand, which also incorporated significant story elements from that film’s sequel, The Mummy’s Tomb) was made in 1959, The Phantom of the Opera followed in 1962, and Hammer collaborated with William Castle on a remake of The Old Dark House (1963), but The Invisible Man was never produced.

Principal photography for The Mummy began on 23 February 1959 and lasted until 16 April 1959. Once again it starred both Peter Cushing (as John Banning) and Christopher Lee (as the Mummy, Kharis), and was again directed by Terence Fisher with a screenplay from Jimmy Sangster. The Mummy went on general release on 23 October 1959 and broke the box-office records set by Dracula the previous year, both in the UK and the U.S. when it was released there in December.[31]

During the period 1955-1959 Hammer produced a number of other, non-horror films, including The Hound of the Baskervilles starring Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes, and comedies such as Don’t Panic Chaps! Nevertheless, it is the three films, The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy that set the direction and provided a template for many future films, and for which the company is best known.


Sequels (1959 to 1974)

Hammer consolidated their success by turning their most successful horror films into series. Six sequels to The Curse of Frankenstein were produced between 1959 and 1974:

The Revenge of Frankenstein (1959)
The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)
Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)
The Horror of Frankenstein (1970)
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)

All starred Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein, except The Horror of Frankenstein (not a sequel, but a tongue-in-cheek remake of The Curse of Frankenstein), where Ralph Bates took the title role. The Evil of Frankenstein stars Cushing but has a re-telling of the Baron’s history in flashbacks and a Baron Frankenstein with a very different personality and thus is not a sequel in the sense of a chronological continuation.[32]

Hammer also produced a half-hour pilot titled Tales of Frankenstein (1958) that was intended to premiere on American television; it was never picked up but is now available on DVD. Anton Diffring played Baron Frankenstein.


Hammer also produced eight other Dracula films between 1960 and 1974:

The Brides of Dracula (1960)
Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969)
Scars of Dracula (1970)
Dracula AD 1972 (1972)
The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)

The first five were direct sequels to the original film. Brides of Dracula did not include Dracula himself, but Peter Cushing repeated his role as Van Helsing to battle vampire Baron Meinster (David Peel). The Kiss of the Vampire did not include Van Helsing or Dracula, but continued the theme of Brides of Dracula, showing Vampirism a plague infecting other pockets of unfortunates. Christopher Lee as Dracula returned in the following six films, which employed much ingenuity in finding ways to resurrect the Count. Hammer upped the graphic violence and gore with Scars of Dracula in an attempt to re-imagine the character to appeal to a younger audience. The commercial failure of this film led to another change of style with the following films, which were not period pieces like their predecessors, but had a then-contemporary 1970s London setting. Peter Cushing appeared in both films playing a descendant of Van Helsing.

It is worth noting that while the contemporary films featuring Dracula star both Lee and Cushing, they are not the same series due to the lack of correspondence to the Victorian-Edwardian era films; the first film is set in the 1880s whereas the flashback sequence of the last battle between Van Helsing and Dracula is set in 1872 – long before the first meeting of Van Helsing and Dracula in Hammer’s Dracula.

Christopher Lee grew increasingly disillusioned with the way the character was being taken, and with the poor quality of the later scripts – although he did improve these slightly himself by adding lines of dialogue from the original novel. (Lee speaks at least one line taken from Bram Stoker in every Dracula film he has appeared in, except for Prince of Darkness – in which the Count does not speak at all.) He was also concerned about typecasting. After Satanic Rites, he quit the series.


The Mummy
Further “mummy” movies were unrelated to the 1959 remake and one, The Mummy’s Shroud, was relegated to second feature status. The films were The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964), The Mummy’s Shroud (1966) and Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971). The latter was a modern day version of Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars and featured Valerie Leon as a reincarnated Egyptian Princess, rather than an actual mummy. The same novel also served as the basis for the 1980 Charlton Heston film The Awakening and a later direct-to-video feature called Bram Stoker’s The Mummy, starring Lou Gossett Jr..

By the mid-1960s, the Mummy series and some of Hammer’s other horror output were intended for double billing. Two films would be shot back-to-back with the same sets and costumes to save money. Each film would then be shown on a separate double-bill to prevent audiences noticing any recycling, as for example in The Plague of the Zombies and The Reptile (both 1965).


Cave Girls
Hammer also produced a series of ‘cave girl’-themed films, directed by Michael Carreras:

One Million Years B.C. (1966), with Raquel Welch.
Slave Girls (1968), released in the US as Prehistoric Women
When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970)
Creatures the World Forgot (1971)

These films were parodied in Carry On Up the Jungle (1970).[33]


Psychological thrillers
Running alongside production of the Gothic horror films, Hammer also made a series of what were known as “mini-Hitchcocks” mostly scripted by Jimmy Sangster, and directed by Freddie Francis and Seth Holt. These very low-budget suspense thrillers, often in black-and-white, were made in the mould of Les Diaboliques, although more often compared to the later Psycho. This series of mystery thrillers, which all had twist endings, started with Taste of Fear (1961) and continued with Maniac (1963), Paranoiac (1963), Nightmare (1964), Hysteria (1965), Fanatic (1965), The Nanny (1965), Crescendo (1970), Straight on Till Morning (1972) and Fear in the Night (1972).[34]


Other films include:
The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas (1957)
The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960), a version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde
Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (1960), starring Patrick Allen and Felix Aylmer
The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), Oliver Reed’s first starring role
The Phantom of the Opera (1962), starring Herbert Lom
The Gorgon (1964) ,
She (1965), based on the novel of the same name by Rider Haggard
The Witches (1966)
Quatermass and the Pit (1967); US title “Five Million Years to Earth” (1968)
The Anniversary (1968), with Bette Davis
The Lost Continent (1968) starring Eric Porter

On 29 May 1968, Hammer was awarded the Queen’s Award to Industry in recognition of their contribution to the British economy. The official presentation ceremony took place on the steps of the Castle Dracula set at Pinewood Studios, during the filming of Dracula Has Risen from the Grave.[35]


Market changes (early 1970s)
As audiences became more sophisticated in the late 1960s, with the release of artfully directed, subtly horrific films like Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968), the studio struggled to maintain its place in the market. It responded by bringing in new writers and directors, testing new characters, and attempting to rejuvenate their vampire and Frankenstein films with new approaches to familiar material.

While the studio remained true to previous period settings in their 1972 release Vampire Circus, their Dracula AD 1972 and The Satanic Rites of Dracula, for example, abandon period settings in pursuit of a modern-day setting and “swinging London” feel. These films were not successful, and drew fire not only from critics, but from Christopher Lee himself, who refused to appear in more Dracula films after these. Speaking at a press conference in 1973 to announce The Satanic Rites of Dracula, then called Dracula is Dead… and Well and Living in London, Lee said:

“I’m doing it under protest… I think it is fatuous. I can think of twenty adjectives – fatuous, pointless, absurd. It’s not a comedy, but it’s got a comic title. I don’t see the point.”[36]

The film itself also indulges the turn toward self-parody suggested by the title, with more humour appearing in the script, undercutting any real sense of horror.

Hammer films had always sold themselves, in part, on their violent and sexual content. After the release of films like Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and The Wild Bunch (1969), audiences were increasingly able to see more explicit gore, more expertly staged, in relatively mainstream films. Night of the Living Dead (1968) had also set a new standard for graphic violence in horror films. Hammer tried to compete as far as possible – Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974), for example, features a scene where the Baron kicks a discarded human brain – but realised quickly that, if they couldn’t be as gory as new American productions, they could follow a trend prevalent in European films of the time, and play up the sexual content of their films.

Hammer Films also had commercial success with some atypical output during this period: the film version of the ITV situation comedy series On the Buses (1971). This was popular enough to produce two sequels, Mutiny on the Buses (1972) and Holiday on the Buses (1973).


The Karnstein Trilogy
In the Karnstein Trilogy, based loosely on J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s early vampire novella Carmilla, Hammer showed some of the most explicit scenes of lesbianism yet seen in mainstream English language films. Despite otherwise traditional Hammer design and direction, there was also a corresponding increase in scenes of nudity in the films during this era. The Karnstein Trilogy comprises:

The Vampire Lovers (1970), featuring Polish actress Ingrid Pitt
Lust for a Vampire (1971)
Twins of Evil (1972)

These three were written by Hammer newcomer Tudor Gates, who was recruited at about the same time as Brian Clemens (creator of The Avengers). Clemens wrote two unusual films for Hammer. Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) featured Ralph Bates and Martine Beswick and Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter (1974), which he also directed, were not successful at the time, but have since become cult favourites. The experimental films of this period represented a genuine attempt to find new angles on old stories, but audiences did not seem interested.


Later years of film production (later 1970s)
In the latter part of the 1970s, Hammer made fewer films, and attempts were made to break away from the then-unfashionable Gothic horror films on which the studio had built its reputation. Neither The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974), a co-production with Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers which attempted to combine Hammer’s Gothic horror with the martial arts film, nor To the Devil a Daughter (1976), an adaptation of the Dennis Wheatley novel, were very successful. Hammer’s last production, in 1979, was a remake of Hitchcock’s 1938 thriller The Lady Vanishes, starring Elliot Gould and Cybill Shepherd. The film was a failure at the box office and all but bankrupted the studio.


Critical response
The Hammer Horror films were often praised by critics for their visual style, although rarely taken seriously. “Altogether this is a horrific film and sometimes a crude film, but by no means an unimpressive piece of melodramatic storytelling” wrote one critic of Dracula in The Times in 1958.[37] Critics who specialise in cult films, like Kim Newman, have praised Hammer Horror more fully, enjoying their atmosphere, craftsmanship and occasional camp appeal.


Television series (1980s)
Hammer House of Horror
In the early 1980s Hammer Films created a series for British television, Hammer House of Horror, which ran for 13 episodes with 51 min per episode. In a break from their cinema format, these featured plot twists, which usually saw the protagonists fall into the hands of that episode’s horror. These varied from sadistic shopkeepers with hidden pasts, to witches and satanic rites. The series was marked by a sense of dark irony, its haunting title music, and the intermingling of horror with the commonplace.

Notable episodes include:

“The House That Bled To Death”, in which a young couple and their daughter move into a new home, unaware that its previous tenant murdered his wife. Achieved mild notoriety for a children’s birthday party scene during which blood gushes from the overhead pipes.

“The Silent Scream”, in which Peter Cushing plays an apparently personable pet shop owner working on the concept of “prisons without walls” whilst harbouring a dark secret. Brian Cox, later the first actor to play Hannibal Lecter in Michael Mann’s Manhunter, was the guinea pig.

“The Two Faces Of Evil” – a surreal episode, featuring forced camera angles, stylized sets, bizarre perspective shots and a plot revolving around dopplegangers and malevolent twins.

“Charlie Boy”, in which an African fetish exerts a fatal influence and leads to several deaths.

“Carpathian Eagle” – Anthony Valentine stars as a police detective struggling to solve a series of gruesome, ritualistic murders undertaken by Suzanne Danielle. Siân Phillips co-stars, and a young Pierce Brosnan makes a brief appearance playing “last victim.”

“Rude Awakening” – Denholm Elliott stars as an estate agent whose increasingly strange but realistic dreams give him serious trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality.

“The Children of the Full Moon” – Diana Dors plays a kindly bumpkin with an extended family, but no husband. When a recently married couple stumble upon this unusual situation, the truth is gradually revealed.

“Witching Time” – where Patricia Quinn plays a witch who is draining the energy and essence of Jon Finch.

“Visitor from the Grave” – in which ghostly vengeance is visited upon a fragile young heiress played by Kathryn Leigh Scott of Dark Shadows fame

Episodes were directed by Alan Gibson, Peter Sasdy and Tom Clegg, among others, and script edited by Anthony Read.


List of episodes

Title UK Transmission Date Notable cast members
Witching Time 13 September 1980 Jon Finch, Patricia Quinn, Prunella Gee, Ian McCulloch, Lennard Pearce, Margaret Anderson
The Thirteenth Reunion 20 September 1980 Michael Latimer, Julia Foster, Dinah Sheridan, Richard Pearson, Norman Bird, Warren Clarke, Kevin Stoney, George Innes
Rude Awakening 27 September 1980 Denholm Elliott, Lucy Gutteridge, James Laurenson, Pat Heywood, Gareth Armstrong, Eleanor Summerfield, Patricia Mort
Growing Pains 4 October 1980 Gary Bond, Barbara Kellerman, Norman Beaton, Tariq Yunus, Geoffrey Beevers
The House that Bled to Death 11 October 1980 Nicholas Ball, Rachel Davies, Brian Croucher, Patricia Maynard, Milton Johns, George Tovey
Charlie Boy 18 October 1980 Leigh Lawson, Marius Goring, Angela Bruce, Frances Cuka, Michael Culver, Jeff Rawle, David Healy, Janet Fielding, Charles Pemberton
The Silent Scream 25 October 1980 Peter Cushing, Brian Cox, Elaine Donnelly, Antony Carrick, Terry Kinsella, Robin Browne
Children of the Full Moon 1 November 1980 Diana Dors, Christopher Cazenove, Celia Gregory, Victoria Wood, Robert Urquhart
Carpathian Eagle 8 November 1980 Suzanne Danielle, Anthony Valentine, Siân Phillips, Barry Stanton, Jeffrey Wickham, William Morgan Sheppard, Pierce Brosnan, Richard Wren
Guardian of the Abyss 15 November 1980 Ray Lonnen, Barbara Ewing, John Carson, Rosalyn Landor, Paul Darrow
Visitor from the Grave 22 November 1980 Kathryn Leigh Scott, Gareth Thomas, Simon MacCorkindale
The Two Faces of Evil 29 November 1980 Gary Raymond, Anna Calder-Marshall, Philip Latham, Jenny Laird, Brenda Cowling
The Mark of Satan 6 December 1980 Peter McEnery, Emrys James, Georgina Hale, Peter Birrel, Conrad Phillips

Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense

A second television series, Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense, was produced in 1984 and also ran for 13 episodes. The stories were originally to have been the same 51 min. length as their previous series, but it was decided to expand them to feature-length so as to market them as ‘movies of the week’ in the US. The running time became from 69 to 73 min. The series was made in association with 20th Century Fox (who broadcast it as Fox Mystery Theater) and as such, some of the sex and violence seen in the earlier series was toned down considerably for US television. Each episode featured a star, often American, well known to US viewers. This series was Hammer’s final production of the 20th century, and the studio went into semi-permanent hiatus.


List of episodes

Title UK Transmission Date Notable cast members
Mark of the Devil 5 September 1984 Dirk Benedict, Jenny Seagrove, George Sewell, John Paul, Tom Adams, Burt Kwouk, James Ellis, Reginald Marsh, Alibe Parsons, Hugh Morton, Tony Sibbald, Roger Milner
Last Video and Testament 12 September 1984 Deborah Raffin, Oliver Tobias, David Langton, Clifford Rose, Shane Rimmer, Robert Rietty, Norman Mitchell
Czech Mate 17 January 1986 Susan George, Patrick Mower, Roy Boyd, Richard Heffer, Peter Vaughan, Robert Russell, Pam St. Clement, Christopher Robbie, Steve Plytas, Hana Maria Pravda
A Distant Scream 24 January 1986 David Carradine, Stephanie Beacham, Stephen Greif, Stephan Chase, Fanny Carby, Ewan Stewart, Lesley Dunlop, Bernard Horsfall, Edward Peel
The Late Nancy Irving 7 February 1986 Cristina Raines, Marius Goring, Simon Williams, Tony Anholt, Zienia Merton, Tom Chadbon, Michael Elwyn, Derek Benfield, Christopher Banks, Lewis Fiander
In Possession 7 March 1986 Carol Lynley, Christopher Cazenove, Judy Loe, David Healy, Bernard Kay, Brendan Price, John D. Collins, Carl Rigg
Black Carrion 14 March 1986 Season Hubley, Leigh Lawson, Norman Bird, William Hootkins, Oscar Quitak, Forbes Collins, Christopher Ellison
The Sweet Scent of Death 4 April 1986 Dean Stockwell, Shirley Knight, Michael Gothard, Carmen du Sautoy, Robert Lang, Alan Gifford, Geoffrey Colville
Paint Me A Murder 11 April 1986 Michelle Phillips, James Laurenson, David Robb, Alan Lake, William Morgan Sheppard, Richard LeParmentier, Tony Steedman, Mark Heath, Gerald Sim, Neil Morrissey
The Corvini Inheritance 18 April 1986 David McCallum, Jan Francis, Terence Alexander, Stephen Yardley, Paul Bacon, Leonard Trolley, Johnnie Wade, Kirstie Pooley
And the Wall Came Tumbling Down 25 April 1986 Gareth Hunt, Peter Wyngarde, Carol Royle, Brian Deacon, Patricia Hayes, Richard Hampton, Ray Armstrong, Christopher Farries, Robert James
Child’s Play 2 May 1986 Mary Crosby, Nicholas Clay
Tennis Court 9 May 1986 George Little, Peter Graves, Hannah Gordon, Ralph Arliss, Isla Blair, Jonathan Newth, Cyril Shaps, Peggy Sinclair, David Chessman, Annis Joslin, Marcus Gilbert

In the 2000s, although the company has seemed to be in hibernation, frequent announcements have been made of new projects. In 2003, for example, the studio announced plans to work with Australian company Pictures in Paradise to develop new horror films for the DVD and cinema market.

On 10 May 2007, it was announced that Dutch producer John De Mol had purchased the Hammer Films rights via his private equity firm Cyrte Investments. In addition to holding the rights to over 300 Hammer Films, De Mol’s company plans to restart the studio. According to an article in Variety detailing the transaction, the new Hammer Films will be run by former Liberty Global execs Simon Oakes and Marc Schipper. In addition, Guy East and Nigel Sinclair of L.A.-based Spitfire Pictures are on board to produce two to three horror films or thrillers a year for the U.K.-based studio.

The first output under the new owners is Beyond the Rave, a contemporary vampire story which premièred free online exclusively on myspace in April 2008 as a 20 x 4 min. serial.

The company began shooting for a new horror/thriller film in Donegal in 2008, backed by the Irish Film Board. The film is titled Wake Wood and was scheduled for release in the United Kingdom in the Autumn of 2009.[38] The film was produced in collaboration with the Swedish company Solid Entertainment who themself made the vampire film Frostbiten, which pays homage to the Hammer vampire films among others. It was given a limited UK/Ireland theatrical release in March 2011. In production in the U.S. as of Summer 2009 is The Resident, a thriller directed and co-written by Finnish filmmaker Antti Jokinen and starring Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Christopher Lee.[39][40]


In 2010, Hammer, in partnership with Overture Films and Relativity Media, released Let Me In, a remake of Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In.[41]

In June 2010 it was announced that Hammer acquired Wake, a script by Chris Borrelli for an action feature to be directed by Danish filmmaker Kasper Barfoed.[42]

In 2009 it was announced that Hammer Films and Alliance Films are producing a film adaptation of The Woman in Black scheduled for a 2012 release. Daniel Radcliffe will star as lawyer Arthur Kipps. Jane Goldman will write the film.


Tribute and parody
The initial success of the Hammer Horror series led to a number of tributes and parodies:

Carry On Screaming (1966) pays tribute to the Hammer Horror films in particular as well as satirising the horror film genre overall.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) has many locations, sets, and props that were used by Hammer Horror films. The “pretty” monster is, perhaps, a reference to The Revenge of Frankenstein (though no ulterior motive by Baron Frankenstein is present in the Hammer film).

Bloodbath at the House of Death uses Hammer Horror films as inspiration for its setting.

The British TV series Dr. Terrible’s House of Horrible (2001) featured spoofs of Hammer Horror films. Particularly noteworthy in this regard was the episode entitled “Lesbian Vampire Lovers of Lust”.

Singer Kate Bush immortalised the range of films in her song, “Hammer Horror”, referencing The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dracula and Frankenstein.

British rock band Maxïmo Park paid tribute to the series with their song “Hammer Horror”, from their B-sides collection Missing Songs.

The dark feel of the Hammer Horror films were the inspiration for the atmosphere used in the comic-horror, Dracula: Dead and Loving It.

In the DVD commentary of Sleepy Hollow, director Tim Burton credits Hammer horror films as a primary influence for the film. Sleepy Hollow featured Hammer veterans including Michael Gough and Christopher Lee.

The faux trailer for Don’t featured in Grindhouse was intended to be a spoof of the Hammer Horror series.

Tom McLoughlin claims that Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives was heavily influenced by the Hammer films.

The parody serial “The Phantom Raspberry Blower”, in British comedy sketch series The Two Ronnies, was highly evocative of the Hammer Horrors, particularly the Dracula series of films.

Much of the dark side of the BBC comedy series The League of Gentlemen written by and starring Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton and Mark Gatiss is based on the Hammer Horror films of which they and co-writer Jeremy Dyson are great fans.

In 2010, Mark Gatiss devoted a large part of the second episode of his BBC documentary series A History of Horror to Hammer Horror films, including interviews with key Hammer figures.[43]

The British black/death metalgroup Akercocke have drawn considerable influence from the Hammer House of Horror, adopting in their earlier works the tropes of devil worship and sexuality present in the 1980s series and going so far as to base an entire album (Choronzon) on the episode ‘Guardian of the Abyss’. On the VCD included with Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone, guitarist/vocalist Jason Mendonca briefly discusses the Hammer influence on Akercocke’s lyrical content, a theme which is discussed in greater detail in a Friday, July 13, 2007 BBC 6 Music interview with Bruce Dickinson.[44]

The British radio dramatist Marty Ross has acknowledged a debt to Hammer with regard to his two serials for BBC Radio 7; ‘Ghost Zone’, influenced by Hammer science fiction such as The Damned and the Quatermass films, and ‘Catch My Breath’, influenced by the likes of The Kiss of the Vampire and The Brides of Dracula.[45]


Notes and references

  1. Flintoff, John-Paul (25 October 2009). “The horror, the horror”. The Sunday Times (London). Retrieved 21 August 2010.
  2. Meikle, Denis (1996). A History of Horrors – The Rise and Fall of the House of Hammer. The Scarecrow Press. pp. 3.
  3. Hearn, Marcus and Barnes, Alan (1997). The Hammer Story. Titan Books. pp. 8.
  4. Sheridan, Bob (March 1978). “History of Hammer Pt.1: Pre-Horror Hammer 1935–1956″. The House of Hammer 2 (6): 40.
  5. BFI Most Wanted: The Public Life of Henry the NinthBFI Retrieved 28 October 2010
  6. Kinsey, Wayne (2005). Hammer Films: The Bray Studios Years. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. pp. 9. ISBN 1-903111-44-7.
  7. Hearn and Barnes, op cit, p. 9
  8. Kinsey. op cit p. 11.
  10. Little Shoppe of Horrors #4. Edited by Richard Klemensen. p. 38. Michael Carreras interview.
  11. Kinsey. op cit p. 13.
  12. Kinsey. op cit p. 16.
  13. Kinsey. op cit pp. 20-22.
  14. a b Kinsey. op cit p. 22.
  15. Kinsey. op cit p. 50.
  16. Pixley, Andrew (2005). The Quatermass Collection – Viewing Notes. London: BBC Worldwide. pp. 18. BBCDVD1478.
  17. Kinsey. op cit p. 41.
  18. Michael Carreras’ letter to Max Rosenberg, quoted in Kinsey, p51.
  19. Kinsey. op cit p. 80.
  20. Kinsey, p60
  21. a b Kinsey. op cit p. 63.
  22. The original title of the script was Blood of Frankenstein.
  23. The agreement was between Cadogan, a Hammer subsidiary, and Universal. Kinsey. p. 86.
  24. Kinsey. op cit pp. 67, 91.
  25. Kinsey op cit p. 94
  26. Universal itself was having financial difficulties at the time. The talent agency MCA would buy out the company in 1962.
  27. Kinsey op cit p. 92.
  28. Kinsey, p96
  29. Kinsey. op cit p. 99
  30. Kinsey, p144
  31. Kinsey. op cit p. 166.
  32. Hammer Horror Frankenstein Series
  33. Sinclair McKay (2007): A Thing of Unspeakable Horror: The History of Hammer Films: 105
  34. Hardy, Phil (1986). Encyclopedia of Horror Movies (1st ed.). London: Octopus Books. pp. 137. ISBN 0-7064-2771-8.
  35. Rigby, Jonathan, (2000). English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. ISBN 1-903111-01-3.
  36. Haining, Peter (1992). The Dracula Scrapbook. Chancellor Press. ISBN 1-85152-195-X.
  37. The Times, May 28, 1958, p10.
  38. “Cameras roll on new Hammer horror”. BBC News. 2008-09-24. Retrieved 24 September 2008.
  40. The Resident at the Internet Movie Database
  41. “Reborn Hammer Films to Remake Let the Right One In”. Twitch. 2008-04-29.
  42. “Hammer Films Acquires Black List Writer’s ‘Wake’”.
  43. “A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss – Q&A with Mark Gatiss”. BBC. Retrieved 2010-11-12.
  45. Little Shoppe Of Horrors No. 21, Sept. 2008. Page 6.



Gainsborough Pictures was a British film studio based on the south bank of the Regent’s Canal, in Poole Street, Hoxton in the former Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditch, London. Gainsborough Studios were active between 1924 and 1951. Built as a power station for the Great Northern & City Railway it was later converted to studios. The former studios were demolished in 2002 and apartments built on the site in 2004. A London Borough of Hackney historical plaque is attached to the building.

Flats built in the site of Gainsborough Studios


Gainsborough was founded in 1924 by Michael Balcon and was a sister company to the Gaumont-British Picture Corporation from 1927, with Balcon as Director of Production for both studios. Whilst Gaumont-British, based at Lime Grove Studios in Shepherd’s Bush produced the ‘quality’ pictures, Gainsborough mainly produced ‘B’ movies and melodramas at its Islington Studios. Both studios used continental film practices, especially those from Germany, with Alfred Hitchcock being encouraged by Balcon — who had links with UFA — to study there and make multilingual co-production films with UFA, before the war. In the 1930s, actors Elisabeth Bergner and Conrad Veidt, art director Alfred Junge, cinematographer Mutz Greenbaum and screenwriter/director Berthold Viertel, along with others, joined the two studios.[2]

The studio’s opening logo was of a woman (Glennis Lorimer) in a period costume sitting in an ornate frame, turning and smiling.

After the departure of Balcon to the British arm of MGM, the Rank Organisation took an interest in Gainsborough and the studio made such popular films as Oh, Mr Porter! (1937) and Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938). By 1937, Gaumont-British were in financial crisis, and closed their Lime Grove studios, moving all production to the Islington Poole Street studio. However, the tall factory chimney on the site was considered dangerous in the event of bombing during World War II, and thus Gainsborough Studios were evacuated to Lime Grove for the duration of hostilities.[3]

From 1942 to 1946, a series of morally ambivalent costume melodramas was produced by Gainsborough for the domestic market. They were mostly based on recent popular books by female novelists. Prominent titles included the The Man in Grey (1943), Madonna of the Seven Moons (1944), Fanny by Gaslight (1944), The Wicked Lady (1945) and Caravan (1946). The films featured a stable of leading British actors, among them Margaret Lockwood, James Mason, Stewart Granger and Patricia Roc. The studio also made modern-dress comedies and melodramas such as Love Story (1944), Two Thousand Women (1944), Time Flies (starring Tommy Handley, 1944), Bees in Paradise (with Arthur Askey directed by Val Guest, 1944), They Were Sisters (1945), and Easy Money (1948).

Subsequent productions, overseen by Betty Box (who at the time was the only major female producer in British cinema), included Miranda (1948) and the Huggett family series with Jack Warner, Kathleen Harrison, and Petula Clark. Unhappy with the performance of the studio, Rank closed it down in early 1951.

This picture of the Gainsborough Film Studios taken in 1945


The Lime Grove site was taken over by the BBC in 1949 and used for TV current affairs and other programmes until it closed in 1991. The buildings were demolished in the early 90s, and replaced with housing called Gaumont Terrace and Gainsborough Court.

The former Islington Studios, in Poole Street, remained largely derelict after their closure in 1951 apart from occasional art performances, including two epic Shakespearean productions by the Almeida Theatre Company, April–July 2000, directed by Jonathan Kent and starring Ralph Fiennes, and a closing Hitchcock season in October 2003.[4]

The buildings began to be cleared in 2002, and apartments named Gainsborough Studios were built on the site in 2004, by architects Munkenbeck and Marshall.[5]


References and notes

  1. The plaque reads London Borough of Hackney. The Gainsborough Film Studios 1924–1949. Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Balcon, Ivor Novello, Gracie Fields, “The Lady Vanishes”, “The Wicked Lady” worked and were filmed here
  2. 2.       BritMovie biography of the studio accessed 15 April 2007
  3. 3.       BBC’s Old London Studios accessed 15 April 2007
  4. 4.       The final reel - The Guardian September 27, 2003 accessed 15 April 2007
  5. Munkenbeck+Marshall architects accessed 15 April 2007





Despite being called “Elstree Studios” only one studio was actually located in Elstree itself, the remainder being in Borehamwood. There are a number of reasons for this:

When the studios were being established, Elstree was significantly larger than Borehamwood. It must therefore have seemed sensible for anything that needed the name of the town in its name to be named after Elstree rather than Borehamwood. Nowadays, Borehamwood is the larger, but the old names have remained in use. The fact that the parish that contains the town is also called “Elstree” may have had some influence on the choice of name.

When the studios were at their most prolific, the local railway station was known as “Elstree”. This was because it was cheaper to print ‘Elstree’ onto the tickets rather than ‘Borehamwood’. (Nowadays, it is called “Elstree and Borehamwood”.) Furthermore, the local telephone exchange was also called just “Elstree”. Before the advent of subscriber trunk dialling, a person wanting to make a telephone call to a studio would ask the operator for, for example, “Elstree 1234″. It would therefore be naturalfor anyone visiting the town to make a film to think that the whole town was called Elstree.



Clarendon Road Studios, Borehamwood

The Neptune Film Company opened the first studios in Borehamwood in 1914. It contained just a single small windowless stage (the first “dark stage” in England), relying entirely on electricity from a gas powered generator for lighting.

Production ceased during 1917 and the studio was sold to the Ideal Film Company who used the site up until 1924.

During 1928 the studio was sold to Ludwig Blattner who connected it to the electricity mains and introduced a German system of sound recording.

The Blattner Studio was leased to Joe Rock Productions during 1934 and 2 years later they purchased the site. Rock Productions built 4 new large stages and began making films including the 1937 feature The Edge Of The World.

The studios were owned by British National Films Ltd between 1939 and 1948, although during this period a large portion of the studio was taken over by the Government for war work.

During 1953 the studios were leased to Douglas Fairbanks Jr, mainly for television production (including the Douglas Fairbanks Presents series and Alfred Hitchcock Presents) but were sold to Lew Grade’s Associated Television in 1962. Most of ATV’s larger productions came from this site, most notably the international hits The Saint and The Muppet Show. After contract negotiations in 1968 requiring more regional coverage for the Midlands, more programmes came from their new studios in Birmingham, notably Crossroads, Bullseye, Tiswas and a few other small-scale programmes.


Sale to the BBC

When ATV was restructured as Central Independent Television in 1982, one of the conditions of their licence renewal by the governing body of the ITV network the Independent Broadcasting Authority was that ATV should leave any London-centric facilities and become more focused on the Midlands, the part of the United Kingdom that they broadcast ITV programmes to. They remained in operation by Central up until 1984, when their new main production centre in Nottingham was completed. When the BBC bought the site in 1984 in order to produce EastEnders, they did not purchase the equipment within the building. As a consequence studio technicians were instructed to make the equipment inoperable. When the BBC moved in they repaired the less-damaged equipment, sometimes using spare parts from the same pieces of equipment that the BBC inherited. The EMI 2001 television cameras used in studios 3 and 4 at BBC Television Centre, Shepherd’s Bush were moved into the newly-renamed “BBC Elstree Centre”, along with ATV/Central’s old EMI 2001s that were repairable. As stated above, any working part from the more damaged EMI 2001s were kept as spares. Meanwhile, the BBC replaced the BBC Television Centre studio 3 and 4 cameras with Link 125s. Only studio TC1 kept the EMI 2001s up until 1989, as their picture quality was generally considered by the BBC to be superior to pictures produced by other brands of camera. Elstree’s first new cameras were to be Thomson TTV-1531s, one of the last plumbicon tubed cameras to be made – being replaced in the mid 1990s with Thomson TTV-1542 and TTV-1647 lightweight cameras using, the then, new camera technology of CCDs. Widescreen was introduced in 1999 using Philips/Thomson LDK 100s.

As stated above, the studios were bought by the BBC in 1984 to become the home of EastEnders, but many other programmes have been made there – Top of the Pops, ‘Allo ‘Allo!, You Rang, M’Lord?, Grange Hill, Hangar 17 and Holby City – amongst others past and present.

As part of cost-cutting measures, it is believed that the BBC will try to sell the Elstree site. This rumour coincides with the news story[1] that EastEnders will move to Pinewood Studios, as its backlot containing the Albert Square exterior needs to be reconstructed to bring it up to HD production standards. 2010: Plans to relocate Holby City and EastEnders are currently on hold and the BBC will continue to produce both shows at the BBC Elstree site at least through to 2013. Work is underway to take both shows over to HD by upgrading existing sets. However, a move to another location (whether or not it will be Pinewood…) at some point in the future cannot be ruled out.


Elstree Studios, Borehamwood

British National Pictures Ltd purchased 50 acres (20 ha) of land on the south side of Shenley Road and began construction of two large film stages in 1925. The first film produced there was Madame Pompadour in 1927.

Elstree Studios, Shenley Road.


Elstree Studios – The main gate entrance, Shenley Road.


British International Pictures Ltd (BIP) took over the studios in 1927 and the second stage was ready for production in 1928. In 1929 Blackmail, the first British talkie to go on release, was produced at the studios. With the death of silent films came the construction of 6 new sound stages on the site and three of these were sold on to the British and Dominions Film Corporation (see below) with BIP retaining the remaining stages. BIP were absorbed into the Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC) in the early 1930s.

During the Second World War the studios were used by the War Office for storage.

In 1946 Warner Brothers acquired a substantial interest in ABPC, appointed a new board and decided to rebuild the stages. The rebuild was completed in 1948 and work began on Man On The Run followed by The Hasty Heart starring Richard Todd and Ronald Reagan. In 1968 Electrical and Musical Industries (EMI) bought control of ABPC and the studios were renamed EMI Studios.

In 1979 Thorn Electrical Industries merged with EMI and the studios were renamed Thorn-EMI Studios. However, the studios did not fit in with the parent company’s operations and in 1985 they were put up for sale. A management team beat off all other prospective buyers with the help of Alan Bond but the team had difficulty raising their share of the purchase price and Bond took over. Soon afterwards he sold the studios to the Herron-Cannon Group in 1986. Despite the turmoil of this period, the studios were used for some very well known films including the first three Star Wars films, and the Indiana Jones trilogy. At one time during the 1980s, six of the top ten box office hits of all time had been produced at the studios. In 1988, Cannon sold the studios to the leisure and property company Brent Walker plc and much of the backlot was sold off and a Tesco superstore was built.

The Elstree Studios facility hosts some historic soundstages.


Stages at Elstree Studios.


A “Save Our Studios” campaign was launched in the 1988 by local Town Councillor and studio historian Paul Welsh, with the support of many old stars and the general public. Hertsmere Borough Council stepped in and bought the remaining studio in February 1996 and appointed a management company, Elstree Film & Television Studios Ltd., to run the studios in 2000. The purchase ended an eight year struggle that was due to have culminated in High Court action. Brent Walker’s offer to sell the site to the Council, for an undisclosed sum (but no more than its worth as a film studio), represented a victory for the local authority in upholding the planning agreements that protected the studios.

The studios are most commonly known for being the home of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and the current location of the Big Brother UK house (previously at Three Mills Studios in Bow, East London). The Big Brother House is actually built on top of the studios’ old underwater stage where scenes in The Dam Busters (1955) and Moby-Dick (1956) were filmed. Elstree Film & Television Studios Ltd’s lease expired at the end of March 2007.

Elstree Studios are operated by Elstree Film Studios Ltd, a company controlled by Hertsmere Borough Council. Feature film production continues alongside television production, commercials and pop promos; recent productions include 44″ Chest, Bright Star, 1408, Son of Rambow, Amazing Grace, The Other Boleyn Girl, Notes on a Scandal, Breaking and Entering, Flyboys, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Dancing on Ice and Are You Smarter Than A 10 Year Old? for Sky television and many more.


Station Road Studios, Borehamwood

A single large stage was built in Station Road in 1928 by Whitehall Films Ltd but the company was wound up in 1930. In 1935 Julius Hagen, the owner of Twickenham Studios, bought the site and formed a new company JH Studios.

Financial difficulties forced Hagen to sell the studios to MP Productions in 1937.

During WWII the studio was used by the government for storage.

In 1950 the site was bought by J. Arthur Rank who renamed it Gate Studios and made religious films.

Production ceased in 1957 and the site was sold to Andrew Harkness, a manufacturer of cinema screens. Harkness Screens moved out of the site in 2004 and the building was demolished in 2006 to make way for apartments new properties, with the development being named Gate Studios in an homage to the former site.


British and Dominion Studios, Borehamwood

In 1930 British and Dominion bought three new sound stages from British International Pictures Ltd on the adjoining site before their construction was completed. Film production continued until 1936 when fire destroyed the 3 stages. British and Dominion made substantial investment in Pinewood Studios and moved production to Iver Heath, Bucks.

The support buildings that remained after the fire were sold off to various companies including Frank Landsdown Ltd, who opened a film vault service. The music stage was bought by the Rank Organisation for the production of documentary films. It later became the headquarters of the film and sound-effect libraries.


Elstree Way Studios, Borehamwood

Amalgamated Studios Ltd constructed a large studio on the north side of Elstree Way between 1935 and 1937. The company was unable to meet the cost and sold out to Arthur Rank.

During WWII the studio was used by the government for storage.

In 1944 the studio was purchased by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) although they did not take possession until 1947. After improvements the studio contained 7 stages totalling over 70,000 square feet (7,000 m2) of floor space.

MGM continued production at the site up until 1970 when they moved to the EMI Studios on Shenley Road (see above). The site was demolished and redeveloped for industrial use and housing.


Danziger Studios, Elstree

The Danziger brothers built a studio, New Elstree, to the west of Aldenham reservoir in 1956. It was used mainly for television production but proved unprofitable and closed in 1962.


Millennium Studios, Elstree Way, Borehamwood

Established in 1993, the Millennium Studios on the south side of Elstree Way offered TV and film production space together with associated services. Millennium Studios have now relocated to Thurleigh near Bedford.[2]


Selected film and television shows made at Elstree Studios

Madame Pompadour (1927)

Blackmail (1929)

Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

The Hasty Heart (1948)

The Dam Busters (1954)

Moby Dick (1956)

Ice-Cold in Alex (1958)

Lolita (1962)

633 Squadron (1964)

One Million Years B.C. (1966)

Up Pompeii! (1971)

Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)

Valentino (1977)

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

The Shining (1980)

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

The Great Muppet Caper (1981)

The Dark Crystal (1982)

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)

Never Say Never Again (1983)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Return to Oz (1985)

Dreamchild (1985)

Labyrinth (1986)

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Willow (1988)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Closer (2004)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

The Other Boleyn Girl (2006)

Breaking and Entering (2006)

The King’s Speech (2010)

Kick-Ass (2010)

Superman: Requiem (2011)



Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

The Tweenies

Doodle Do

Big Brother (and its spin-offs)

Department S

Dancing on Ice

Bad Girls

The Saint

The Avengers

The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss

Are You Smarter Than A 10 Year Old?

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Greek Myths

The Hoobs


Clarendon Road Studios

BBC Productions


Grange Hill 1985 – 2002

Holby City – despite its sister programme, Casualty, being shot in Bristol, and soon to be Cardiff

Kilroy – a studio debate show hosted by Robert Kilroy-Silk

Top of the Pops (until 2001)

Newsroom South East



Other productions

The Edge Of The World (1937)

Douglas Fairbanks Presents (1953 to 1955)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955)

The Saint (1962 to 1968)

The Golden Shot

The Muppet Show (1976 to 1981)

Auf Wiedersehen, Pet Series 1 (1983)

Family Fortunes (Series 1 and 2, before production was moved to the ATV Centre, Birmingham)

Dead Set (2008)


MGM Studios

Edward, My Son (1949)

Conspirator (1949)

Ivanhoe (1952, designer Alfred Junge’s castle setting was to dominate the Borehamwood skyline for some years after)

Young Bess (1953)

I Thank a Fool (1962)

The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964)

The Prisoner (1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

[edit] British and Dominion Studios

The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)



1. Sets too shabby for latest TVs force EastEnders out of town – Times Online

2. Millennium Studios website accessed 8 December 2010.



Castle, Stephen; Brooks, William (1988). The Book Of Elstree & Boreham Wood. Buckingham, England: Barracuda Books Ltd. ISBN 0860234061.

Warren, Patricia (1983). Elstree: The British Hollywood. Publisher: Batsford.

Warren, Patricia, (1983). British Film Studios: An Illustrated History. Publisher: Batsford. ISBN 0-7134-8644-9

Welsh, Paul (1996). Elstree Film & Television Festival Programme. Elstree and Borehamwood Town Council.

Peecher, John Phillip (1983) The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Publisher: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-31235-X