RIP Jimmy Sangster, Writer/Director
Jimmy Sangster (James Henry Kimmel Sangster), one of the major creative shapers of Hammer Studios’ horror output and the 1950’s-60’s British horror boom, passed away August 19th. He was 83.
Starting as a teenager in WWII England the Welsh-born Sangster worked on the production end of the film business before becoming a screenwriter.
At Hammer Studios he moved from Producer’s Assistant to Assistant Director before taking up screenwriting. Challenged to create a “Quatermass-style” sci-fi horror script after Nigel Kneale declined, James Sangster came up with X: THE UNKNOWN, which proved quite effective.
He was also given the screenwriting assignment on a script by Milton Subotsky (later to co-found Hammer competitor Amicus Productions) for a new version of Frankenstein. Jettisoning much of the rough screenplay, Sangster delivered a sly and decadent take on the old story, which director Terrence Fisher turned into a full-color tour-de-force, starring television star Peter Cushing and a little-known actor named Christopher Lee.
THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958) changed the little studio into a major player in the field of home-grown UK productions, and helped kick off a second life for horror films as main features world-wide.
Soon to follow for Hammer and other independents were HORROR OF DRACULA (1958), THE CRAWLING EYE (1958) ,adapted from the television serial THE TROLLENBERG TERROR, JACK THE RIPPER, THE MUMMY (1959), BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960), DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966), and the Bulldog Drummond spy mystery DEADLIER THAN THE MALE (1967).
Jimmy Sangster also took a few turns in the directors’ chair, helming THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN (1970), a misguided attempt to re-make CURSE as a sexy horror-comedy (with future Darth Vader David Prowse as a bald, semi-traditional flat-headed version of the monster). Sangster fared better as a director with LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971) and the thriller FEAR IN THE NIGHT.
Jimmy Sangster also directed a few American television shows, after leaving for a stint in Hollywood.
Genre shows he wrote for included CIRCLE OF FEAR / GHOST STORY (1972-73), THE MAGICIAN, THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, and THE NEW ADVENTURES OF WONDER WOMAN.
The episode of KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER that he penned, Horror In The Heights, is perhaps the best episode of that short-lived but beloved series.
Sangster wrote the TV movie GOOD AGAINST EVIL (1977), feature film THE LEGACY (1978), and the story for the Bill Cosby and Elliot Gould starring Disney comedy, THE DEVIL AND MAX DEVLIN (1981).
Jimmy Sangster essentially retired from the movie/TV industry in the 1980’s. His autobiography “Do You Want It Good or Tuesday?” was published in 1997.