Rest in Peace: Hammer Films’ Don Sharp

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Rest in Peace: Hammer Films' Don SharpSome really sad news has emerged this holiday week as we’ve lost a true icon of our industry. While his name may not jump out at you unless you’re as obsessive as we are, his movies have been making people leap out of their skin for decades.

According to Variety, Don Sharp, an Australia-born film director who was brought in to revive Hammer Films’ sagging horror franchise in the mid-1960s — and succeeded — despite having no experience in the genre, died December 14th in Cornwall, England. He was 90.

Though the names most closely associated with Hammer are Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, it was director Terence Fisher who shaped the Gothic horror films that starred those actors. Fisher had directed films like Horror of Dracula and The Revenge of Frankenstein in the late 1950s, but the company lost its confidence in the helmer when his 1962 entry The Phantom of the Opera, later considered a cult classic, failed both at the box office and with critics.

When he came aboard at Hammer, he was assigned first to The Kiss of the Vampire. Sharp, who had recently done some work in British television, hired TV actors, and despite the fact that Lee and Cushing were nowhere to be found, the inexpensive but stylish film was a B.O. winner and a favorite to this day. Memorably grandiose scenes included a sequence depicting a sumptuous ball.

For Hammer, Sharp also directed The Devil-Ship Pirates and Rasputin: The Mad Monk, the latter with Lee; for other companies, he made several films similar to his Hammer efforts: Witchcraft, with Lon Chaney Jr., and The Face of Fu Manchu and The Brides of Fu Manchu, both with Lee.

We here at Dread Central would like to take this time to offer our sincerest of condolences to Sharp’s family, friends, and constituents. Thanks for the memories, sir. You will be missed.

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Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.