Ask anyone to name a British horror production company and they’re going to say Hammer, right? But for nearly 20 years there was another company on the block, Amicus. Whereas Hammer excelled in its period horror, Amicus specialised in producing contemporary portmanteau movies, short scary stories bundled onto the same film reel, mainly because they were cheaper.
At 11.30am on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday – tomorrow – film historian Matthew Sweet presents one of his terrific screen documentaries, Houses of Horror, which looks at the creative rivalry between the two film companies during the Sixties and Seventies.
It’s curious how the blurb never appears in daylight:
It’s almost a given that the story of British horror movies belongs to Hammer films. The studio, with its lurid combination of sex and death, lashings of blood and gore, has given it a special stake in British hearts. It made over 200 films, such as Dracula and Curse Of Frankenstein with a recurring, legendary cast, including Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and its 2007 revival drew heavily on past mystique.
Hammer was the most successful British film company of all time but, throughout its heyday in the 60s and 70s, it did battle with a much smaller, poorer, creative, upstart rival – Amicus films. Amicus was a small British horror studio that pioneered the much loved ‘portmanteau’ picture, such as Tales Of The Crypt and Vault Of Horror – each movie a composite of four or five short stories, whose connection is revealed at the end.
Matthew explores the productive rivalry between the two contenders for the heart and soul of British horror, in a blood-curdling tale of low-budget, gore-spattered one-upmanship that’s full of chilling atmosphere and fun.
If you’re down London way on Thursday – yes, tomorrow – there’s a Polish Crime Night at Belgravia Books. Novelists William Brodrick, Mariusz Czubaj, Anya Lipska, and Joanna Jodełka will chat energetically about Polish crime fiction, which is becoming an increasingly popular territory for readers looking for the next big thing in the genre.
The session is chaired by journalist Rosie Goldsmith at Belgravia Books in Ebury Street, Victoria. The event at 7pm is free, but you have to rsvp, so remember to let them know you’re coming.
Some of you may not be able to attend that fine event because you’ll be busy making some last minute adjustments to your Debut Dagger entry. Every year the Crime Writers’ Association encourages unpublished authors with the award, the winner of which is announced at it annual awards dinner in the spring.
The deadline for this year’s competition is this Friday, the 31st. that’s one, no, two days away! Submissions must include the first 3,000 words – or fewer – of your novel, and a synopsis of the rest. The entry fee is £25. All the shortlisted authors will receive a professional assessment of their entries. You can get all the details right here. If your manuscript is sitting in front of you, waiting to transmit its awesomeness to the world, I bid you good luck.