Freddie Francis was first and foremost a cinematographer, and made his mark in that field, winning two Academy Awards and numerous other awards and nominations. It was for his direction that he is remembered by horror fans, however.
His first film for Hammer was as photographer on the nowadays-rarely seen thriller Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (1959). His debut as a director for Hammer was in 1963, however, with the psychological thriller Paranoiac. His cameraman was John Wilcox, but Francis's visual flair is still keenly felt. He followed with four more films for Hammer: Nightmare (1964), The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), Hysteria (1965) and Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968). He made perhaps his best films for rival studio Amicus, with horrors including Dr Terror's House of Horror's (1965), The Skull (1965), Torture Garden (1967) and Tales from the Crypt (1972). For Tigon (a third-runner to Hammer and Amicus) he directed the impressive The Creeping Flesh (1973).
He is also noted for a handful of truly dreadful horrors, such as The Deadly Bees (1967) and Trog (1970).
In his Hammer work, he lacked the sophistication of Terence Fisher. The Evil of Frankenstein was an abortive mess, playing like a parody of the old Universal monster movies. One of its few redeeming qualities is its occasional flash of visual style, Francis again working with John Wilcox. Dracula Has Risen from the Grave can be criticized for its confused and arbitrary subtext, but there is no denying that the film has great visual power, its fantastic images standing among the very best most striking of Hammer's output.
In cinematography, he won Oscars for Sons and Lovers (1960) and Glory (1989). Probably his most celebrated film as cinematographer was The Innocents (1961), now widely regarded as one of the all-time greatest British horror films. One of his most celebrated films was The Elephant Man (1980), gorgeously lensed in black-and-white for director David Lynch. Martin Scorsese later used him on the 1990 remake of Cape Fear.
In later life, in common with many of Hammer's artists, he showed scant regard for his horror films.