The Hammer and The Cross

Episode 17 of PZ’s Podcast! It’s not the hammer and the sickle. It’s not the […]

Mockingbird / 9.30.10

Episode 17 of PZ’s Podcast!

It’s not the hammer and the sickle. It’s not the red crescent. It’s not even the Cross and the crown.

It’s the Hammer and the Cross!

This week’s podcast talks about the Christian symbolism in the Hammer Horror films.

They came from England, starting around 1955 with the ‘Quatermass’ movies and “X – The Unknown”. Then came “Curse of Frankenstein”, followed by “Horror of Dracula”.  The rest is history.

That little independent motion-picture company, operating from an office off Piccadilly Circus and a former country house on the Thames River in the village of Bray, pumped out one after another after another of sumptuous-looking Technicolor gothic horror movies. They were hugely successful in America and remained a gift that kept on giving, until, in the early 1970s, exhaustion set in, fashions changed, and everybody got old.

I’m not the first person who’s ever noticed the repeating Christian imagery in almost all these movies. Wonderful Peter Cushing emphasized it in an interview before he died.  A very nice Presbyterian minister named Paul Leggett produced a book about it.  The ‘Hammer’ composer James Bernard always commented on it, as did Terence Fisher, who directed many of the best ‘Hammers’, though Bernard and Fisher would use the expression “the triumph of good over evil”.

These movies are a trip, from the riveting, groundbreaking “Horror of Dracula” to the anti-Puritan but still Cross-brandishing “Twins of Evil”; from “The Reptile”, with its jaw-dropping, “I am a Doctor of Theology!” climax, to Hammer’s “Hound of the Baskervilles”, in which Peter Cushing informs a C of E Bishop that he, ‘Sherlock Holmes’, is fighting evil with just as much determination as the Bishop.  (Ironically, and humorously in that particular one, the Bishop is a lot more interested in entymology than in fighting evil.)

This week, with slight tongue-in-cheek and warm, devoted affection, PZ summarizes the 20-year golden age of Hammer Horror, in terms of that mighty symbol, the Cross. I hope you will like it.

Incidentally, October is ‘Hammer Horror Month’ on the Turner Classic Movies channel.  Every Friday evening, during prime time, you can see them all.  They will almost all be there, Good Fridays for us all.  You wait and see.

To listen, click here.