Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Jimmy Sangster, Writer for British Horror Films, Dies at 83” was the headline of a recent Times obit (NYT, 8/21/11). The Times noted that Sangster wrote “The Curse of Frankenstein,” “Horror of Dracula” and “The Mummy,” all produced by Hammer Films. If you grew up in the ’50s you will remember the genre. Usually there is a book-lined study, a roaring fireplace and a heath from which the howls of werewolves and their victims emanated. There were also the usual vampires, who left their mark not only through bites but by turning their victims into clones. Well it makes sense. If someone sucks your blood away, you’ve got to suck for survival. There were also a whole genre of films that took place on archeological digs in Egypt. Invariably an ingénue out of Cambridge, decked out in shorts, high socks and a pith helmet styled to look like Sherlock Holmes’ double visor hat, pushes the wrong button, unleashing a secretly entombed Egyptian Queen or princess whose soul transmigrates into the body of an aristocrat whose manse is not far from the dig. The princess who ruled way back when still has her marbles after a few thousand years and looks remarkable for her age, and she’s quite aware that another poor soul is paying the price for her reincarnation. Her rationale is simple—let me undo some curse or fulfill some ancient prophecy and I will gladly relinquish the body I’m illegally occupying. (The kind of lost souls you found in these old British movies were early versions of squatters.) Sangster was candid in describing his influences. “I wrote horror movies because it was my job,” the Times quoted Sangster as telling the Hammer Graveyard Web site. “So, when anyone asks me what were the influences that prompted me to be a ‘horror film’ writer, I tell them it was Wages!”

1 comment:

  1. I never knew that Jimmy Sangster wrote screenplays for horror films. I did know that he was a fine mystery and suspense novel writer. And I believe he wrote more novels than he did screenplays. After the near-collapse of Hammer Studios in the 1970s, he wrote for American television, penning episodes of BANAČEK, THE SIX-MILLION-DOLLAR MAN, and MCCLOUD.

    Sangster also wrote and produced the Bette Davis film THE NANNY (1965).


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