the attendees of the Hammer Horror course at Queen's University Belfast,
outside the Excelsior cinema on 21 June 2008. Photo ©RJE Simpson 2008,
All rights reserved.
From left to right: Raphael Marrinan ; Paul Hutchinson; Roy Spence
(owner of The Excelsior); Robert J.E. Simpson (tutor); Raymond Cummings;
Mark McKeown; Sean McDonald; Stephen Walsh.
The short course on Hammer Horror being run at Queen's University Belfast as
part of the Open Learning scheme, came to a close last weekend (21 June). Taught
by unofficialhammerfilms.com editor, Robert Simpson, the five week programme
provided an overview of Hammer's complex history and sought to address the issue
of what exactly constitues a "Hammer Film". A special sixth class was organised
which included an educational visit to The Excelsior cinema, a private venue near Comber in
County Down owned by filmmaker Roy Spence. The private event took advantage of
the venue's period dressing and sought to present a programme which emulated a
genuine late 1960s cinema-going experience. Robert believes "in order to
properly appreciate the success and attractions of Hammer films, one needs to
look at the way they were marketed and experienced by audiences. Rather than
look through our tinted-glasses of hindsight, we need to try and get into the
minds of audiences of the time, and this seems like the perfect way to do it. It
provides a great fun day out and a real talking point for the course too."
was treated to a four-hour programme which included trailers and newsreel
footage from 1959, the short Hammer drama-documentary about Ireland -
O'Hara's Holiday - and Hammer features The Mummy and The Man Who
Could Cheat Death. During the screening attendees were treated to ice lollys
and cartons of juice in the best 1950s style.
In a nod to
the giveaways of the 50s and 60s, each member of the class received a sheet
featuring miniature reproductions of the American lobby card set for The
Mummy, and copies of the new Hammer Horror stamps.
ten week version of the course is also being developed for January 2009 and
Robert is looking to take the project to other areas.
information on future courses, or to speak to Robert about running one in your
area, email him on firstname.lastname@example.org