by Marcus Hearn
Reviewed by Jef Burnham
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Marcus Hearn’s Hammer Glamour is a rarity among coffee table books for film lovers in that it is easy to flip through whilst being impressively informative. A careful perusal of this hardcover volume provides the reader with fascinating peeks into the lives of the buxom stars that fueled the success of the legendary, British studio, Hammer Film Productions. But Hearn’s compilation of numerous rare and revealing photos of the women of Hammer is the heart of this book.
The photographs collected in Hammer Glamour include everything from the iconic figure of Raquel Welch in her fur bikini from One Million Years B.C. to rare glamour shots from magazines such as Photoplay and Parade to candid photos of the stars at parties or on set. Just flipping through the pages, you can see in these images the dozen or so types of Hammer “girls” that evolved over the years. The earliest of Hammer’s actresses appear in modest, one-piece bikinis or full-length gowns for their glamour shots, while the later stars occasionally appear in these images fully nude save for a pair of vampire fangs.
As Hammer Glamour’s cover reads “Classic images from the archive of Hammer Films,” it may seem a bit pointless to beleaguer anyone with an analysis of the book apart from the images, but there is enough text that I think it warrants a look.
The majority of the text is devoted to two-to-four-page biographies of 50 of Hammer’s most prominent female stars, featuring new interviews with the stars of Hammer, including the women themselves. (There is also an appendix featuring one-paragraph bios of 25 other Hammer stars “not as closely associated with the studio.”) The bios adhere to a set structure, including where the actresses were born, how they came into the business, their experience with Hammer and where they are now. Unfortunately, the amount of information Hearn attempts to cover in the limited space around the photographs prevents them from feeling like anything more than fluff. Despite a more in-depth look at the history of Hammer in the introduction, I would have liked more about the actual productions he writes about; but Hearn is something of a Hammer expert, having also written The Hammer Story, and I suppose the information Hammer Glamour leaves you wanting can be found there.
The introduction does deliver a brief history of Hammer Films, but what’s particularly fascinating about this history is that it focuses on the evolution of the company’s taste in the casting of “Hammer girls” throughout the years, giving one a sense of just how much Hammer allowed sex to influence their business model. Hearn details how they marketed their films almost exclusively on their lead actresses’ appeal, promoting their film, She, by crowning Ursula Andress “The World’s Most Beautiful Woman” (which I’m not denying, but it is a pretty enormous claim to make). He also shows how the company’s lost its sexual finesse in the 1970’s, when filmmakers began banking on explicit content such as images of lesbian vampires and naked teenage nuns to sell tickets.
Most coffee table books intended for film lovers are arbitrary lists of movies some random person says you “must see” or compilations of film stills and quotes slapped together in a couple hours. Assuming you don’t have a problem with nudity, Hammer Glamour is something you’d be proud to have lying around your living room. The images and information Hearn offers up make it not only a necessity for Hammer fans, but an introduction to Hammer for those unacquainted with the studio that I highly recommend.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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