Vampirella - The Unproduced Hammer Horror
1970's, Michael Carreras at Hammer films tried to bring Jim
Warren's cult comic strip hero , Vampirella, to the screen in a
mind-boggling, visual feast.
1977 the project collapsed. Over two years of work, and a vast
amount of money had gone into the project. Vampirella
might just have taken Hammer out of impending disaster and a new
life. As it was, the company sank soon after, its final real mark
being To the Devil... A Daughter.
article that follows, I hope to tell the story of that ill-fated
production, that virtually killed off Hammer as a viable
Details of the plotline, cast, crew and production ideas. And the
story of just why Vampirella never made it to the big-screen
Vampirella is a superbly sexual vampire inhabitant of the
planet Drakulon. She escapes and travels to earth and
befriends a wizard named Pendragon. During the hours of
daylight she acts as the sexy half of a top class mind
reading act with Pendragon - her ability to turn into a bat
is used to great effect. They live in the plush West End of
London with a base in Chealsea.
At night she works for the Space Operatives for Defence and
Security, otherwise known as SODS. This organisation is based
in Harley Street and is defending Earth from the Akrons, an
A vampiress herself, she preys on earthly vampires and
obnoxious humans. As she hunts the local vamires on earth she
is hunted down by the descendants of the Van Helsing family
and either kills them or manages to persuade them that she is
actually on their side.
Peter Cushing was cast, not to play Van Helsing, but
the lonely wizard Pendragon. Gene Kelley was also considered
for the part.
Barabara Leigh was cast in the title role, mainly due to her
adequate ability to please a crowd of adolescent fans. Sir
John Geilgud was Carreras choice for the commander of SODS.
Michael Carreras, the studio's producer was lending
his full support to the project. Jimmy Sangster originally
outlined the project and this was worked upon by John Starr,
Lew Davidson and Christopher Wicking. The direction was to
have been by Gordon Hessler or John Hough (the latter being
the more likely of the two).
There are a number of rumours surrounding this ill-fated
feature and its demise. The general consensus is that Hammer
simply couldn't find the backing for it.
Michael Carreras seems to have spent a lot of time trying to
pump money into Nessie with Euan Lloyd. His
resources stretched, the project began to falter. Nessie was
originally proposed in 1975, dragging on to 1979. In the end
it too was doomed. Vampirella was finally dropped in 1978.
came from a cult comic-strip from Warren publishing. In the
1980's Jim Warren lost all the rights to his characters after
going bankrupt. Although he is now trying to get them back
again, Harris comics currently publish the strip.
Hammer are alleged to have told Jim that they held the full
merchandising rights when the film was in pre-production. Jim
didn't take to this and one report has him storming off set [this
can't be right though, as I am not currently aware of sets
having been constructed for the feature]. Either way, Jim
wouldn't give Hammer those exclusive rights, and no-one was
prepared to bankroll it without them.
As it was a lot of time and money had gone into the venture.
Barbara Leigh appeared in a number of publicity stills for
the film, appearing on the cover of the magazine on a number
November 1975 Michael Carreras took Peter Cushing and Barbara
Leigh to the Monstercon convention in New York to publicise
their forthcoming venture.
Aimed at the young college types, the project spent over a
year in development, with AIP and Columbia both passing on
the project. The rights then reverted to Warren, and despite
attempts by Hammer to go into co-production with Warren
following the success of Star Wars in 1977, the project was
soon abandoned. Roy Skeggs left the company for a period
following this. Not long before the company's eventual
Leigh has looked upon the failure of the film as a big reason
to her failed career afterwards. Work was little and she has
claimed it to be part of some sort of conspiracy. Jim Warren
has also begun to speak out after years in silence.
the 1990's someone finally did get Vampirella to the screen.
The plot seems more or less as Hammer would have intended it.
Hammer's version though was littered with a large dose of
sexual action, martial arts and more. The 90's version was
lukewarmly received, former Who front-man Roger Daltrey
The project was Michael Carreras biggest regret. He saw the
promise that it held and was sorry it never came to be.
Michael died in 1994. As it is, Vampirella still gets
mentioned quite frequently as a potential film for future
development. Mind you, so many do. For now it rests as the
Hammer that almost was. That could have saved the company,
but ultimately, sank it.
Jonathan Sothcott, Ken
Simpson & Scott Stockwell and I am indepted to Marcus Hearne and Alan Barnes for their book on Hammer
films, The Hammer Story (1997, Titan Books)
I need your help
in completing this article. Over the coming weeks and possibly
months I will be regularly updating the text and information. Now
that the plot outlines and so on are up, I would like you to help
If you know anything at all about Vampirella, ie, the Hammer
production, the cast, crew, production details, publicity etc,
then please contact me, asap. I'm trying to gain a complete
picture of the project for the first time on the web. Most
important of all, does anyone know what really happened, to bring
the film to an abrupt halt?
will be credited, where due. No information is too small. There
are hundreds upon thousands who are unaware of the project other
than by name. Lets put that right.
e-mail me with
any information/comments/promotional material at firstname.lastname@example.org
the images belong to their respective copyright owners
article © RJE Simpson, 2000
Page posted Friday 4 February 2000
reformatted and reposted 24 August 2006
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