The world of cinematic horror fiction lost a true great yesterday: the wonderfully prolific Jimmy Sangster passed away at the age of 83. The man’s name might not ring any immediate bells, but any true horror fan (especially a British one) could tell you he was the go-to screenwriter for a large portion of the very best Hammer Films. (Hammer Films being a production company that churned out lots of horror films in the 1950s and ’60s.) When Hammer opted to resurrect old Universal favorites like Dracula and Frankenstein, Mr. Sangster was the man behind the typewriter. His 1958 double feature of Horror of Dracula and The Revenge of Frankenstein would be the envy of any horror screenwriter, but Jimmy Sangster just kept on banging ’em out.
Intent to Kill, The Snorkel, Blood of the Vampire, The Crawling Eye, Jack the Ripper, The Mummy, The Man Who Could Cheat Death … and all of those before 1960! The man’s highlights from the swingin’ ’60s include The Brides of Dracula, Scream of Fear, Nightmare, Maniac, and Dracula: Prince of Darkness. Basically this guy completed scripts like you and I go see movies. Mr. Sangster’s later career consisted of lots of television and a few weird flicks like John Huston’s virtually unwatchable Phobia and the sweet-natured Bill Cosby / Disney comedy The Devil and Max Devlin. (He also directed three features in the early ’70s: The Horror of Frankenstein, Lust for a Vampire, and Fear in the Night.)
So while Jimmy Sangster was a gifted and very prolific storyteller, regardless of who his employers were, the man will always hold a comfortable seat in the annals of classic horrordom. Directors like Terence Fisher and Freddie Francis deserve a lot of the credit for delivering the goods during the Golden Era of the British production company, but without Jimmy Sangster, there would have been no Hammer Films.
Our condolences to Mr. Sangster’s friends and family.