Jimmy Sangster

Producer, writer, director
Born 1927

Jimmy Sangster worked his way up from the bottom of the Hammer ladder, becoming one of the key figures in its success. He joined Hammer in 1949 (on The Man in Black) as an assistant director, and wrote his first screenplay for A Man on the Beach in 1955. His second script was X the Unknown in 1956, but his big break was to come with The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), for which he had to re-imagine the Shelley myth without recourse to the 1931 film (under legal threat from Universal). He subsequently scripted many of the great gothic classics, including Dracula (1958), The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958) and The Mummy (1959).

In the mid-1960s, as producer and writer he was the chief architect of Hammer's cycle of sub-Hitchcockian psychological thrillers, beginning with Taste of Fear, otherwise known as Scream of Fear (1961). It was in the writer-producer mode that he was at his strongest. The Nanny (1965) is testament to this: a tight, stylish, suspenseful production with an intelligent script. One has only to compare Evelyn Piper's mediocre novel with the film to appreciate the miracles Sangster was able to work with the poorest of material.

In the 1970s, he turned his hand to direction, with far less success. The first of the three feature films he directed was The Horror of Frankenstein (1970), a ham-fisted attempt at a black comedy reworking of The Curse of Frankenstein. This was followed with the embarrassingly bad Lust for a Vampire (1971) and the banal thriller Fear in the Night (1972). This was to be his last film for Hammer.

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