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Vampirella - The Unproduced Hammer Horror

In the 1970's, Michael Carreras at Hammer films tried to bring Jim Warren's cult comic strip hero , Vampirella, to the screen in a mind-boggling, visual feast.

In 1977 the project collapsed. Over two years of work, and a vast amount of money had gone into the project. Vampirella might just have taken Hammer out of impending disaster and a new life. As it was, the company sank soon after, its final real mark being To the Devil... A Daughter.

In the article that follows, I hope to tell the story of that ill-fated production, that virtually killed off Hammer as a viable production company.
Details of the plotline, cast, crew and production ideas. And the story of just why Vampirella never made it to the big-screen with Hammer.



Barbara Leigh plays Vampirella on the cover of the comicYEAR

Henry Southerton

John Hough

Vampirella is a superbly sexual vampire inhabitant of the planet Drakulon. She escapes and travels to earth and befriends a wizard named Pendragon. During the hours of daylight she acts as the sexy half of a top class mind reading act with Pendragon - her ability to turn into a bat is used to great effect. They live in the plush West End of London with a base in Chealsea.
At night she works for the Space Operatives for Defence and Security, otherwise known as SODS. This organisation is based in Harley Street and is defending Earth from the Akrons, an alien race.
A vampiress herself, she preys on earthly vampires and obnoxious humans. As she hunts the local vamires on earth she is hunted down by the descendants of the Van Helsing family and either kills them or manages to persuade them that she is actually on their side.

Peter Cushing was cast, not to play Van Helsing, but the lonely wizard Pendragon. Gene Kelley was also considered for the part.
Barabara Leigh was cast in the title role, mainly due to her adequate ability to please a crowd of adolescent fans. Sir John Geilgud was Carreras choice for the commander of SODS.

Michael Carreras, the studio's producer was lending his full support to the project. Jimmy Sangster originally outlined the project and this was worked upon by John Starr, Lew Davidson and Christopher Wicking. The direction was to have been by Gordon Hessler or John Hough (the latter being the more likely of the two).

There are a number of rumours surrounding this ill-fated feature and its demise. The general consensus is that Hammer simply couldn't find the backing for it.
Michael Carreras seems to have spent a lot of time trying to pump money into Nessie with Euan Lloyd. His resources stretched, the project began to falter. Nessie was originally proposed in 1975, dragging on to 1979. In the end it too was doomed. Vampirella was finally dropped in 1978.

Vampirella came from a cult comic-strip from Warren publishing. In the 1980's Jim Warren lost all the rights to his characters after going bankrupt. Although he is now trying to get them back again, Harris comics currently publish the strip.
Hammer are alleged to have told Jim that they held the full merchandising rights when the film was in pre-production. Jim didn't take to this and one report has him storming off set [this can't be right though, as I am not currently aware of sets having been constructed for the feature]. Either way, Jim wouldn't give Hammer those exclusive rights, and no-one was prepared to bankroll it without them.
As it was a lot of time and money had gone into the venture. Barbara Leigh appeared in a number of publicity stills for the film, appearing on the cover of the magazine on a number of occasions.

In November 1975 Michael Carreras took Peter Cushing and Barbara Leigh to the Monstercon convention in New York to publicise their forthcoming venture.
Aimed at the young college types, the project spent over a year in development, with AIP and Columbia both passing on the project. The rights then reverted to Warren, and despite attempts by Hammer to go into co-production with Warren following the success of Star Wars in 1977, the project was soon abandoned. Roy Skeggs left the company for a period following this. Not long before the company's eventual bankruptcy.

Barbara Leigh has looked upon the failure of the film as a big reason to her failed career afterwards. Work was little and she has claimed it to be part of some sort of conspiracy. Jim Warren has also begun to speak out after years in silence.

In the 1990's someone finally did get Vampirella to the screen. The plot seems more or less as Hammer would have intended it. Hammer's version though was littered with a large dose of sexual action, martial arts and more. The 90's version was lukewarmly received, former Who front-man Roger Daltrey standing out.
The project was Michael Carreras biggest regret. He saw the promise that it held and was sorry it never came to be. Michael died in 1994. As it is, Vampirella still gets mentioned quite frequently as a potential film for future development. Mind you, so many do. For now it rests as the Hammer that almost was. That could have saved the company, but ultimately, sank it.


With thanks to:- Jonathan Sothcott, Ken Simpson & Scott Stockwell and I am indepted to Marcus Hearne and Alan Barnes for their book on Hammer films, The Hammer Story (1997, Titan Books)

I need your help in completing this article. Over the coming weeks and possibly months I will be regularly updating the text and information. Now that the plot outlines and so on are up, I would like you to help me.
If you know anything at all about Vampirella, ie, the Hammer production, the cast, crew, production details, publicity etc, then please contact me, asap. I'm trying to gain a complete picture of the project for the first time on the web. Most important of all, does anyone know what really happened, to bring the film to an abrupt halt?

All assistance will be credited, where due. No information is too small. There are hundreds upon thousands who are unaware of the project other than by name. Lets put that right.


e-mail me with any information/comments/promotional material at

the images belong to their respective copyright owners

article © RJE Simpson, 2000
Page posted Friday 4 February 2000
reformatted and reposted 24 August 2006


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Site launched Sunday 8th August 1999