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Hammer Films' classic horror titles could still come back from the dead

October 4, 2010 |  2:38 pm

The commercial failure of "Let Me In" at the box office this weekend likely won't deter Hammer Films, the resurrected genre label that produced the picture, from pushing forward on several new movies.

The company has been mining its library and is still keen on reboots of several genre projects that could wend their way to screens.

Among Hammer's priorities at the moment are two other vampire films: "Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter," the story of a man who pursues vampires that are mysteriously stalking young women (the original was directed by "Avengers" television writer Brian Clemens) and "The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires," an Eastern-flavored tale that starred monster-movie staple Peter Cushing and was released in this country as "The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula."

Hammer is also developing a movie based on the Professor Bernard Quatermass character, a principled scientist who must fight ominous alien forces, which figured into three of its movies as well as numerous BBC programs.

All three of these titles are in early development -- they're at the stage of locking down writers -- so don't expect them at the multiplex next month. Still, for the many cult fans of Hammer's genre catalog, the development momentum is encouraging news. Rights issues can bog down library remakes, and certainly have done that to Hammer's films, many of which have had complicated chains-of-title in the 35 years since Hammer was last active. But all legal snags have been removed for at least these three pictures, executives say.

The company, incidentally, also has several new, non-remakes in development, including Daniel Radcliffe's post-"Harry Potter" picture "The Woman in Black" and an Irish supernatural story titled "Wake Wood." There's also remake movement on "The Nanny," the little-seen Bette Davis horror movie, though that title is not as far along.

Hammer finds itself in an interesting but complicated position -- it holds rights to coveted titles that generate goodwill among a cadre of horror fans. But many of them are also cult films, which raises questions about the size of their audience. And a remake can touch off sensitivities among the hard-core fan base.

A middling box-office performance also has a way of slowing down development, even for companies that can finance their own films, as Hammer can. At the very least, it can make for hesitancy about a given genre, so don't be surprised if the vampire movies get lapped by some of the others.

Hammer executives today declined to comment on their current mind-set in the wake of the strong reviews but weak domestic box office for "Let Me In" -- though did say last week, even as it was becoming clear that the movie would not be a success, that they were making a long-term play.

"People have a strong expectation in the U.K. that Hammer means something special," said Nigel Sinclair, co-chairman and chief executive of Hammer parent company Exclusive Media Group. " 'Let Me In' has given a lot of people reason to believe in our mission."

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter." Credit: Hammer Films


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