HAMMER AT BRAY II
( Martine Beswicke and James Bernard )
1998 the first “Hammer at Bray” meeting celebrated DRACULA’s 40th
anniversary. This year, on May 29, Hammer returned to Bray for the 50th
anniversary of Hammer Films. Just as last year all proceeds went to ‘The Ralph
Bates’ Pancreatic Cancer Fund’. The event was organised by Donald Fearney
and Simon Greetham. The tickets were available for £55 and limited to 200
arrived in London the previous day. My girlfriend, Anne, was with me, but as she
had no ticket for Bray (and – frankly – is not even half as obsessed with
Hammer movies as I am), decided to spend the day in London shopping at Harrods
therefore made my way to Bray alone: A train journey to beautiful Windsor,
followed by a short bus trip to the studios. In the bus the driver made us all
check our tickets and advised us that – in case we might have forgotten them
in the hotel or at home – substitutes could be arranged for at the entrance.
when I arrived at the studios nobody actually bothered about checking our
tickets. I guess I could have smuggled Anne in all along. Nobody would have
noticed. Hell, I could have even saved myself 55 quid! I spoke with other fans
later on and discovered that this experience was typical for the event: None of
their tickets were checked.
I finally entered the main building, I already caught side of the first queue.
A handful of people surrounded a middle-aged lady I couldn’t recognise
initially. Only when I looked over some shoulders to catch a glance at the
signed photos I discovered that it was actually Julie Ege who was over in Bray
for the day. She had arrived the previous day from Norway where she is now
working as a nurse in Oslo.
visitors throughout the day shared my ignorance about Julie Ege’s current
looks. Time takes its toll on all of us and it is sometimes hard to recognise
the one-time stars that have been out of the public eye for 20, 30 or even more
years. (Is it really that long ago?) Sex kitten Yvonne Monlaur has now the
beatified looks of a favourite granny. And whereas Andrée Melly has changed
beyond recognition, others - such as Veronica Carlson, Suzanna Leigh or Caroline
Munro - barely seem to have aged at all.
actual fact, some of the most entertaining aspects of the day was chatting to
all the other fans, seeking advice (“Who’s that girl?”) or helping out
with their queries (“What was the name of the film this gentleman was in?”).
times, it was quite bizarre. Some
guests were convinced they’ve seen Veronica Carlson’s quiet companion in
some Hammer movies. (It was her sister!) I was even one step short of asking a
very glamorous girl for her autograph, before I discovered that she was
"just" a fan.
much to do so little time…. The
first queue I joined was for Ingrid Pitt. There might have been only about a
dozen people in front of me at that stage, but, boy, did it take ages until it
was my turn. Ms Pitt is a very chatty person and every time she recognised
someone or somebody raised an interesting point, she talked and talked and
talked. Quite charming, even flattering if you’re the one she talks to, but
slightly enervating if you’re the last one in the queue instead with no sign
waiting for my turn, I at least managed to see my all time favourite Hammer
girl, Caroline Munro, make her entrance.
heading off for Bray my girlfriend was joking with me whether I will come back
with photos of Caroline Munro and myself. I told her I would certainly take some
pictures, but was adamant none of them would have me in them. For years seeing
photos showing fans together with their stars just made me cringe. Alas, when I
asked Ms Pitt whether I can take a photo of her, one very helpful fan (but
aren’t they all?), offered to take it for me to ensure I could be in it, too.
And, presto, years of photographic snobbery went down the drain and culminated
in me smiling into the camera like an overexcited schoolboy.
top of signing hundreds of autographs Ingrid Pitt also promoted her latest book
“Life’s a scream”. She charged £5 for every autograph but one. When I
handed over her “Bedside Companion for Vampires” she said: “I can’t
charge you for that. That’s my own book!” All the money also went to
Next came Caroline Munro: Silently claiming to be her No. 1 fan, I was pleased to hear that she recognised my name from her fan club. I was hoping, though, she wouldn’t remember that I was - as usual – late with my annual payments.
came the obligatory photo with her and I. (Why do girlfriends always have to be
so right?) At that stage I was way into the photo bug and even wondered whether
it might be possible to also get a picture taken with her and Ms Pitt.
the end I managed to obtain autographs by Caroline Munro, Ingrid Pitt, Suzanna
Leigh (THE LOST CONTINENT), Yvonne Monlaur (THE BRIDES OF DRACULA), Oscar Quitak
(THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN) and his wife Andrée Melley (THE BRIDES OF
DRACULA), Julie Ege, Martine Beswicke, James Bernard, Ray Harryhausen, Ian
Scoones, John Forbes-Robertson (THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES), Francis
Matthews and Veronica Carlson.
also saw Aida Young (Hammer producer), Eddie Powell (Christopher Lee’s stunt
double), Freddie Francis, Renee Glynne (Continuity Manager), Ralph Bates’
widow Virginia Wetherell (DEMONS OF THE MIND), Edward De Souza (KISS OF THE
VAMPIRE), Dame Thora Hird (THE QUARTERMASS XPERIMENT) and several others.
Reading articles on Bray afterwards I must have also missed at least a handful
of other Hammer staff that popped in for an hour or two.
weather was glorious. A lot of the action took place outside. The high flyers on
their boats down the Thames often waved over to us.
A lot of celebrities everywhere you looked. That’s the life!
highlights of the day for me were meeting Caroline Munro, Ray Harryhausen and
Ian Scoones, chatting to the fans and especially seeing my good old friends Uwe
Sommerlad (The Cushing Companion), Birte Laabs and Claudia Wickel from Germany.
Now that I am living in Ireland I am lucky to see them maybe once a year.
Caroline from her cinematic releases way back in the 70s, it was a delight to
finally see her in person. She is an extremely friendly and open woman. Where
Ingrid Pitt leaves the impression that she damn well knows she’s the centre of
attraction (Boy, can she be snappy if something doesn’t go her way, believe
me!), Caroline comes across as a genuinely pleasant and cheerful woman who
enjoys meeting up with her fans and admirers. And together with Martine Beswicke
and Julie Ege she also was, of course, one of three Bond girls at Bray. (Let’s
throw in Edward “THE SPY WHO LOVED ME” De Souza as a Bond guy for good
definitely something about the special effects people. Maybe it is the fact that
for most of the time, they work behind the camera and are often not recognised
by the cinema going public, but both Ray Harryhausen and Ian Scoones
were a real pleasure to talk to.
from some stills, I also asked Ray Harryhausen to sign a guidebook to the
Babelsberg studios in Berlin. The studios now house large parts of the Ray
Harryhausen collection, models, designs etc. Mr Harryhausen was very interested
in that booklet and went though the pages one by one, commenting on the
different kinds of models before signing the book.
had met him before years ago at the Festival of Fantastic Films in Munich where
he showed the right amount of openness and mystery. Although the explanation for
most of his tricks are in the public domain now, one or two of them are still
quite baffling and he refuses – rightfully! – to discuss those. Some things
are better of veiled in mystery. No wonder that he won an Oscar (Lifetime
another Academy Award winner was at Bray: Freddie Francis received his two
Oscars as a cinematographer for SONS AND LOVERS and GLORY.
caught up with Ian Scoones at the bar. Over a pint he chatted about his house in
Spain. We joked about the advantages of being an ex-pat. He showed me photos of
his studio, paintings, models (amongst them a gorgeous replica of the robot
Maria from METROPOLIS) and current projects. He then went through THE HAMMER
STORY, commenting on Denholm Elliott and Oliver Reed who was buried just a week
or so before Bray, before signing his autograph into the book. Ian Scoones was
so relaxed and chatty. Lovely chap and ideal pub companion.
biggest regret is not meeting up with Michael Ripper. He was at Bray in the
morning and everywhere I went I heard from others that “he was just here”. I
missed him several times by very narrow margins.
People who were lucky enough to have met him told me that he left around
auction took pace at the end of the day. A lot of rare and expensive items went
under the hammer. (Yes, yes, I know: I’m not the first person to use this
pun.) Ingrid Pitt made an excellent auctioneer. I was just happy that credit
cards weren’t accepted. Otherwise, my bank manager might have wanted to have a
word with me the following week.
give you an example of the kind of prices charged. The first lot consisted of
three items: a gold silk tie owned and worn by Mr. Peter Cushing, a typed letter
by Mr. Peter Cushing discussing his friend Mr. Christopher Lee and signed in full
by Mr. Peter Cushing and a print of Peter Cushing’s original art work for the
unfilmed Hammer Project “The Savage Jackboot”.
lot was sold for more than….. £600!!! Some other items changed owners for £1000
me a cynic, but as much as I admire the Hammer movies and would love to have
some of the collector’s items, I don’t believe that the kinds of prices
charged at the auction are indicative of the real value of the lots. True,
Hammer films are currently riding high again in the collector’s market and
generate an awful lot of interest at the moment. However, it remains to be seen
whether collectors got value for money or might end up one day with terrible
headaches over some of these overpriced possessions. Oh well... This might be
jealousy speaking from my side. And after all, the money went to charity.
a day of glorious sunshine, thunder and lightning finally struck at the end of
the day. Never have I seen lightning at such close range. What an atmosphere!!!
Very spooky. And how appropriate! Jokes passed the round about a perfect end for
a perfect Hammer day.
all the trains were seriously delayed and I barely managed to make it back to
London in time to meet up with Anne for a Thames dinner tour. Next to us in the
boat two silicon enhanced girls were seated who cheerfully chatted about their
times in the Playboy mansion. Ah, my friends, but that’s another story….
has it that there might be another “Hammer at Bray” meeting either next year
or in two years time. I would strongly recommend attending if you get the
opportunity. I will definitely be there again given half a chance. It is a
fantastic occasion to meet up with a lot of the stars and fans. It is great fun
and a memorable day out.
only ideas I have to improve the running of the event are all related to the
costs. If any of the organisers read this, please take notice:
is a fair price for an event of this kind, especially as the proceeds go to
charity. However, anyone who pays that kind of money for an event would like to
have their tickets checked. Otherwise the temptation might arise and fans may
like to sneak in for nothing.
for autographs needs to be evened out. I strongly believe that after paying £55
entrance fee, no further autograph charges should be attempted unless photos are
purchased. It is very irritating to see that some A-list celebrities like
Veronica Carlson charge nothing, whereas minor stars like Oscar Quitak charge £3
per autograph. It is especially irritating to discover that autograph fees can
vary even with one and same actress: Meet Suzanna Leigh in the studios and you
pay 3 quid, meet her outside and you pay nothing.
But those are just minor complaints: What’s a pound or two extra when you can chat with the artists you have admired for all those years!
COPYRIGHT HOLGER HAASE, 2000
Holger with Caroline Munro!
Holger with Ingrid Pitt!