I had long intended to write an article on the topic on the 10 Stunning Women That Built Hammer Horror Productions. These women propelled Hammer Productions to the forefront of the British horror game. Unfortunately, news of the recent passing of Veronica Carlson just gave me an unwelcome motivation to make good on that intention. It is not an understatement to say that these women played a huge role in the success of Hammer Productions. Hammer Productions rose to its pinnacle during a transitional period in the world. The Hammer empire was built at the exact same moment that attitudes about women and their role in society were evolving.
This article will honor the women that built Hammer Horror Productions. While I have my favorites, we intentionally did not rank these women and they are listed in no particular order and this list is by no means all-inclusive.
Fantastically beautiful and stealing the audiences glance at every chance, Veronica Carlson starred in two really good Hammer horror films. In Dracula has Risen from the Grave (1968), she plays the standard role of a fiancée pulled away by the evil of Dracula. In Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), Veronica is subject to an extremely uncomfortable rape scene at the hands of Victor von Frankenstein. She also starred in The Horror of Frankenstein (1970). Veronica was a class act and a torch bearer for the Hammer brand. Veronica Carlson died on February 27, 2022 at the age of 77. Thank you for all the memories!
The film Dracula 1972 A.D. (1972), features two absolutely fantastic Hammer girls, but this section is only about one. Dracula 1972 A.D. crosses the divide between The Summer of Love and the soon to be cocaine fueled 70’s. Likewise, it needed a lady that presence and high-fashion sensibilities of the day to pull off the modern day Jessica Van Helsing. Stephanie Beacham jumps off the screen in this role. As her journey through the film took her through the gaudy trappings of 70’s Satanism and old school gothic jive of Christopher Lee’s Dracula, Stephanie Beacham stands out like a fembot in an Austin Powers movie.
For the record, Dracula 1972 A.D. is underrated, so says Malevolent Dark.
Many of the Ladies of Hammer Productions were famous for being damsels in distress, or at least one of the good guys. Linda Hayden is no exception in her role as Alice Harcourt in Taste the Blood of Dracula. However, she may be most famous for her non-Hammer role in the film Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) as the leader of a satanic coven, Angel Blake. She also starred across Vincent Price in the non-Hammer film Madhouse (1974). The point being, this girl has serious horror bona-fides. Linda Hayden is stunningly beautiful and carries a strong stage presence and piercing eyes.
Valerie Leon is another Hammer horror one-timer. She went on to also appear in multiple James Bond film. I guess when you think of it, being a Hammer girl shares a lot with being a Bond girls with the exception of the former being more sadistically deviant. When you watch Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, it’s pretty clear as to what the big deal is about Valerie. In a standard mummy trope, she plays dual roles. Her modern fashion sensibilities makes her portrayal of female lead Margaret Fuchs both stunning and sophisticated. But, her olive skin and intoxicating eyes combine to resurrect the exotic Queen Tera.
In the 70s, Hammer productions diversified their vampire portfolio from the tired tales of Count Dracula. They would embark on a set of films referred to as the Karnstein Trilogy. These films are especially famous for pushing the limits of vampire sexuality to include overt themes of lesbianism. Ingrid Pitt played multiple roles as Karnsteins in the first film in the series titled, The Vampire Lovers (1970).
Ingrid would go on to star in the Hammer production, Countess Dracula (1971) detailing the alleged crimes of the real Countess Bathory. She would also star in other non-Hammer favorites such as The House That Dripped Blood (1971) and The Wicker Man (1973). Ingrid Pitt died on November 23, 2010 at the age of 73. She was an remarkable ambassador for Hammer and the horror genre.
Madeleine and Mary Collinson
Speaking of Karnsteins, the next Hammer girls combine to create one of the most hyper-sexualized vampire pairs in the history of cinema. I am of course talking about the Collinson twins, Madeleine and Mary. The pair play the roles of Frieda and Maria Gelhorn. Once again, Hammer horror pushes the upper limits of sexuality and horror with groundbreaking depictions of lesbianism in the film. Notably, the Collinsons would also go on to be the first identical twins to serve as Playmates of the month for Playboy Magazine.
Madeleine Collinson passed away on August 14th, 2014 at the age of 62. Her sister Mary died on November 23, 2021 at age 69.
The great and wonderful Joanna Lumely also had her brush with Hammer productions. Joanna is most well known for her career in the British sitcom, Absolutely Fabulous and later starring in The Wolf of Wall Street as Aunt Emma. For Hammer, she starred in the often maligned, but mostly underrated The Satanic Rites of Dracula as Jessica Van Helsing. While she never played the role of a Bond girl, she did get up in the crazy intersections of the CIA, MI6 and an international conspiracy to raise Count Dracula in a bid for world domination. While she would eventually go on to other things, Joanna will always be known in horror circles as a woman that built Hammer Productions.
NOTE: We have been informed that Joanna Lumley indeed starred as one of Blofeld’s Angels of Death in Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). Does that count as a ‘Bond Girl’? You tell me! We will proudly stand corrected!
Next up is one of the most prolific horror girls to ever come from Hammer. She only starred in two Hammer productions. In her first, she starred alongside of Stephanie Beacham in Dracula 1972 A.D. (1972). She brought a bit of mynx to Stephanie’s playful kitten. She would later star in one of my all-time favorite Hammer films, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974). She also starred alongside Vincent Price in The Abominable Dr. Phibes and continued to appear in horror films well into the 80’s and beyond.
With her dark brown eyes, dark skin and long brown hair, she brought a welcomed new look Hammer’s traditional blond bombshell disposition.
In other list of Hammer girls, Jennifer Daniel often gets overlooked as one of the women that built Hammer horror, but she is absolutely wonderful in her few Hammer roles. She starred as Marianne Harcourt in the underrated Kiss of the Vampire (1963) where her sophistication and natural presence steals every scene she graces. She also starred in Terrance Fisher’s fantastic film, The Reptile (1966), as Valerie Spaldling. If you have not seen The Reptile, it has one of the iconic Hammer monsters of all time.
Jennifer Daniel passed away on August 16, 2017 at the age of 81.
Recognizing the 10 Stunning Women That Built Hammer Horror
It would be easy to dismiss these girls body of work as pretty pinup faces. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The women that built Hammer Horror were at the forefront of changing attitudes with respect to the role of women in society. Some of these women were heroes. Some redefined sexual roles. Others became movie monsters and villains. The bottom line is that Hammer Productions recognized the changing tide, and these women redefined what it means to be a horror girl. The women that built Hammer horror changed the horror game forever.
In closing, these women defined decades of early horror viewing. Sadly it is a sign of the times to see so many of these wonderful women deceased, but we celebrate their accomplishments and contributions to both the genre and cinema.