No matter how a casting for British Hammer Film Productions – Europe’s epicenter of crude horror and gothic films between the 1950s and 1970s – ended, to be invited in the first place, as an actress, you had to be extremely beautiful with a bosomy figure to remember.
And even if those women on the screen usually became the victims of Technicolor monsters, mummies, undead, Vampires, mad scientists, sadists, creeps and other people one would not like to meet, without them and their noteworthy performances Hammer films would obviously be entirely forgotten today.
In Women of Hammer Horror hundreds of actresses are listed by author Cotter, each entry revealing their roles in a Hammer production or another horror, fantasy or sci-fi picture. This is usually backed by a brief biography and later screen appearances. More than sixty b/w pictures, poster reproductions and film stills illustrate their acting careers. (This title is not a story of Hammer films, a director’s memoir or a critical approach to the films, mind you).
As the popularity of the actresses here ranges from more or less unknown (listed as “beautiful girl” in the credits, if they were lucky) to famous movie star, some entries are but two or three sentences long. Others, enter the screen darlings and international stars, are much longer. For example, two pages are devoted to the great Veronica Carlson. Julie Ege receives one and a half page of coverage, one page for Raquel Welch, Caroline Munro and Susan Denberg each, while the contributions of others, such as Melissa Stribling, Imogen Hassall or Jenny Hanley are reported on half a page.
However, there are hundreds of entries dealing with actresses, mostly from England, the US, Germany, Austria and other European countries and probably not even the most conspicuous Hammer fans will know them all. The company, founded in 1934, has a back catalog of around 300 titles; and only one-third of that are actually horror films. Still, it is this genre that made Hammer famous.
Cotter’s 200 pages of cinematic biography are informative, even ironic and at times won’t take the movies (basically some of the plots) too seriously; nevertheless, he always appreciates the characters and their respective scenes for which these ladies are still celebrated.
A 30 page appendix lists the Hammer horror pictures in chronological order and a brief foreword by Veronica Carlson, blonde star of several vampire films featuring Christoper Lee and Peter Cushing, opens the book. The late Robert Michael “Bobb” Cotter from Pittsburgh had a legendary reputation as an expert on B-movies and horror pictures and magazines.
Fans of horror films and scholars of British movie history will enjoy the reprint. (This is the 2021 paperback edition, the title originally was published in 2013 as a hardcover).
Review by Dr. A. Ebert © 2022
Robert Michael Cotter. The Women of Hammer Horror: A Biographical Dictionary and Filmography. McFarland, 2021, 250 p.