Through out its illustrious career, the Hammer film studio became synonymous with two things: horror and sex. The studio’s reputation encompassed both the lurid Technicolor gore; and the heaving cleavages of its female stars.
To say that’s all Hammer movies were does them a great disservice, yet the two key elements of horror and glamour have become the trademarks for which the company was known. Alongside the great Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, numerous beauties also graced these fine films.
There’s a great book, “Hammer Glamour” by Marcus Hearn (Titan Books, 2009). If this topic is of interest to you, I recommend you pick it up. I’ve been lucky to meet some of the female stars of classic Hammer movies at fan events, and they’ve been kind enough to autograph my copy of the book for me.
It’s no easy task, but here are my favourite ten Hammer actresses. It’s been a pain-staking process analysing the contribution of each of these ladies, but my selection is below.
10. Martine Beswicke
Appearing in three Hammer movies (One Million Years BC, Prehistoric Women and Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde), Martine Beswicke’s career with Hammer covered both gothic horror and dinosaur movies. Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde is her greatest contribution, where in a novel twist on the traditional tale, she plays the evil “sister” transformed from Dr Jekyll (Ralph Bates). She also appeared in two Bond movies – From Russia with Love and Thunderball. I’ve met Martine and she happily signed my copy of “Hammer Glamour”.
9. Barbara Shelley
The lovely Barbara Shelley appeared in more Hammer movies than anyone else on this list. Her films include The Gorgon, Rasputin the Mad Monk and Quatermass & the Pit. Barbara’s best role, however, was in Dracula Prince of Darkness, where she is transformed from Victorian lady to vampiric creature of the night. She also appeared in the great Village of the Damned. Again, Ms Shelley has signed the book, I’m very happy to say – she was extremely nice, for a vampire.
8. Stephanie Beacham
I remember Stephanie Beacham from numerous television appearances growing up, notably Dynasty. She appears in Dracula AD 1972 as Jessica Van Helsing, granddaughter of Peter Cushing’s Professor. A great camp classic, this is one of my favourites, and Stephanie looks ravishing. I’ve yet to meet Stephanie to ask her to sign the book, I’ve got my fingers crossed.
7. Veronica Carlson
Starring in three Hammer horror films, Veronica holds the distinction of having starred alongside two different Baron Frankensteins: Peter Cushing (in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed) and Ralph Bates (The Horror of Frankenstein). She also appeared in Dracula Has Risen From the Grave – all great films. Ms Carlson was lovely when I met her not too long ago.
6. Valerie Leon
Although she appeared in just one Hammer film, Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb, Valerie Leon makes a fantastic impression in it. A great film and a beautiful actress. She also appeared in Carry On and Bond movies, making her a true 70’s film sensation. You can read more here. Very charming and another welcome signature for the book.
5. Ingrid Pitt
No-one encapsulates Hammer Glamour more than Ingrid Pitt. She seems synonymous with horror movies. Classic films she starred in include the brilliant The Vampire Lovers and Countess Dracula, alluring as the evil Countess. She also starred in genre classics for other studios, such as The House That Dripped Blood and The Wicker Man. Sadly, Ingrid passed away in 2010. A true legend.
4. Kate O’Mara
Gorgeous Kate O’Mara appeared in The Vampire Lovers and Horror of Frankenstein. Prim in the former and sexy in the latter, Kate’s contribution to Hammer is excellent. Her exotic looks have been a regular on-screen ever since, I remember her well in Dynasty. I’ve not met Kate, but would love her to sign my Hammer Glamour book.
3. Madeline Smith
Appearing very briefly in Taste the Blood of Dracula, Madeline Smith looks absolutely dazzling in The Vampire Lovers and Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell. She also appeared briefly in Theatre of Blood and was a Bond girl in Live and Let Die, as well as numerous other film and TV credits. Ms Smith has signed the book and was very nice too.
2. Raquel Welch
Possibly the most beautiful woman to ever walk the planet, Raquel Welch became a screen icon when she appeared in One Million Years BC. Unfortunately, she never appeared in any more Hammer movies (hence she only reaches number two in this list). Raquel has made many other great films in a pretty fabulous career, since her debut in that “silly dinosaur movie” (her words, not mine!).
1. Caroline Munro
The stunning Caroline Munro appeared in two of my favourite Hammer films, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter and Dracula AD 1972. She’s also appeared in many other cult classics – try At the Earth’s Core and Starcrash, for starters. Ms Munro is probably most famous for her role as Naomi in The Spy Who Loved Me. With her beautiful, long brunette hair, I’ve been smitten with Caroline for a long time. She’s also a very lovely person with plenty of time for her fans, as I found out when I met her. Caroline Munro is a Queen of classic cult cinema, and top of the Hammer Glamour list!
Meeting Caroline Munro at NEC Memorabilia
A special mention should be made to some of the lovely ladies who didn’t make the top ten, including Joanna Lumley (Satanic Rites of Dracula); Catherina Von Schell (Moon Zero Two); Julie Ege (The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires) and Ursula Andress (She). There are many more, of course.
If you’d like to buy a copy of “Hammer Glamour”, you can find it here.