Hammer Glamour, the book for which the coffee table was invented, and has patiently waited for these past centuries, is finally in my hands...
In fairness, as others have noted, it is in some respects a confusing publication, and in some respects a disappointment.
There seems little logical reason why some of the stars are given full entry status in the main body of the book while others are relegated to the 'Also Starring' directory at the back. It is nothing to do with number of appearances for the studio, nor even number of leads, since the main section includes numerous 'one-shot' stars, including one-shot supporting roles.
I suppose the standard is icon-status, but even then there are some odd anomalies that transcend mere difference of opinion: Catherina Von Schell, Jennie Linden and Rosenda Monteros all make it into the main section, while Niké Arrighi, Maggie Kimberly, Heather Sears and Angharad Rees do not. If iconic relevance is the issue, do Judy Geeson and Stephanie Powers really justify inclusion in the main text if Susan Strasberg doesn't?
The loss of Joan Collins from all consideration (a top-16 full-page inclusion in the 'Brides of Dracula and Others' photo-spreads from the beloved old House of Horror paperback) is perhaps not a huge surprise in a 'how the mighty have fallen' kind of way, the iconic merry-go-round being what it is, but how to account for the following no-shows: Virginia Wetherell, Katya Wyeth, Pippa Steele, Anoushka Hempel? And as Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires continues to grow in popularity, I think they'll come to regret excluding Shi Szu as well...
. Obviously, this is not a book one turns to with a thirst to read about anything. Therefore criticism of the more or less perfunctory text seems redundant, although the talk of exciting new interviews and research rather invites it, as does a tone of peevish disapproval in relation to some of the studio's excesses that sits oddly with the book's own raison d'etre. (Is "the lingering close-up" of Jenny Hanley's bosom after being attacked by a bat really "one of the most depressing shots in any of Hammer's early 70's films"?)
There's little new in the interviews, though a fascinating section on Vera Day, a more or less forgotten but plainly significant starlet of the fifties, is a notable exception. And I was glad to find out that Susan Denberg is still alive, and to learn a little more of my favourite vampiress, the monumental Marie Devereux.
.But mainly, the writing is just there to fill the gaps between photos, and that's fine. Not that a few odd choices haven't been made, even in this department. My own favourite, Veronica Carlson, for example, is represented by two large, shiny-faced studio portrait shots, rather than anything more evocative of the Hammer mood. If they had decided only to use official Hammer shots, that obviously narrows the field, but why relegate the now classic Frankenstein Must be Destroyed mooching-about-in-a-graveyard publicity session to the back cover?
. And I'm not certain that all of the main pictures are Hammer shots. Is the one of Susan Denberg on page 55? or Valerie Leon on page 97? (By the way, chaps: look at this latter picture very closely.)
I know that part of the idea is to reproduce rare and lesser-known images, but if isolating and celebrating the exact ingredients of the Hammer glamour style is the primary aim, then there should be at least some emphasis given to analysis of the really classic images.
The obvious choice for endpapers or back cover was surely the irresistible embarrassed-looking-cast-of-Vampire Lovers-lined-up-on-a-coffin session, which makes only a walk-on appearance (in a lesser-known shot without the coffin).
.And it's surprising to see Caroline Munro in her AD 1972 boots in a black and white car park rather than on the film's sets, to see so little of Denberg in that wonderfully fraudulent Created Woman session with Cushing, to see so little made of Hazel Court (one of those strange 'shovelling hay' pictures), or to see not even one picture of Leon in her Mummy's Tomb nightie ...
. But that's more than enough carping. Funny how every review of this book I've seen begins by listing its various faults and disappointments, then sort of verbally shrugs its shoulders as if to say but what the hell?
But what the hell? This is not a book that's going to get boring too quickly. If I've inadvertently given the impression that this book is anything other than a treat, or pretty much the Christmas present you've always dreamed of, let me hasten to correct my error. So here, with the official Carfax Abbey Seal of Approval, are Caroline, Yutte, Martine and Madeline.
And don't say I never do anything for you.
Who are your favourite Hammer starlets? Please take part in my poll at the top of the page. You can vote for as many as you like, and if you opt for 'other' leave me a comment to say who you prefer and why. The results will be tabulated and revealed in a later post, as another cheap excuse to include a load of pictures of them looking foxy.