Saturday, 2 December 2017


Today we remember Jimmy Sangster who would have been eighty-nine today. The welsh born screenwriter contributed his first script for the company as early as 1956, when for £200 he delivered X The Unknown. Sangster went on to become one of the key figures in Hammers crew, scripting both the ground-breaking adaptations The Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula. It’s well known that Cushing was not particularly fond of Sangster’s dialogue, yet he’s always been a screen-writer who I personally admire greatly.

It’s often been stated how clever these two adaptations are, Sangster’s interpreting of the Baron into a more debonair villainous figure and how he cleverly keeps the nuts and bolts of Stokers novel, but manages to keep it all in Transylvania, prime examples of this. More than this however, Sangster re-interpreted the Gothic with an added energy and pace, including a slew of action sequences that have gone on to be remembered as some of the greatest in the history of horror cinema. 

Even Sangster’s non-Hammer contributions to the horror genre are impressive, demonstrating immense talent. His late 1950’s films, The Trollenberg Terror, Blood of the Vampire and Jack the Ripper all have an edge of nastiness to them that made his work for Hammer so appealing. The final one in particular, whilst falling somewhat into obscurity is remembered for an incredibly gruesome ending. 

In 1972 Sangster also contributed one of the more popular Kolchak: The Night Stalker episodes ‘Horror in the Heights’, an incredibly dark and moving tale concerning an ancient Hindu spirit hunting down the elderly residents of a Jewish neighborhood.

This all pales in comparison to what I consider both his and Cushing’s greatest work, 1958’s The Revenge of Frankenstein. As far as sequels go Sangster avoids a rehash of the first film, taking both the character of the Baron and the story in new and exciting directions. From the Barons brain transplants resulting in the reversion of man into animalistic cannibalistic creatures, to the Baron himself no longer being the pupil but now the teacher.

Judy Geeson, Director Jimmy Sangster and Peter Cushing taking a rest
 and a cuppa during the shooting of Hammer Films 'Fear In The Night' (1972)

Jimmy Sangster with Ralph Bates
As its Christopher Lee Saturday it seems appropriate to discuss one of his and Lee's most popular contridutions Dracula Prince Of Darkness. Lee often commented that the dialogue within this sequel was so awful that he chose not to speak any of it at all. Again, having not read or being aware of the orignal dialogue what remains is delightfully entertaining and the plotting itself is once again remarkably clever.

Sangster expertly picks up the most obvious elements from Stokers novel that missed out on the first time, Thorley Walters Ludwig springs to mind, of course being an interpretation of the Renfield character along with Jonathan Harker's night in Dracula's castle forming the basis for the first act. 

He also makes some particularly braves choices, keeping Dracula off of the screen for the first forty or so minutes of the film and instead slowly building to his resurrection.

Instead if simply giving us a Val Helsing clone, Sangster creates an entirely new character in the form of Father Sandor, who would prove so that Dez Skinn would give him his own comic series in the pages of Hammer Halls of Horror.

Like Revenge before it Prince Of Darkness shows Sangster's writing can make the first sequel one of the most interesting entries in the series.    

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