RIP Roy Ward Baker – Genre Director

Roy_Ward_BakerRoy Ward Baker, UK film director best known to genre fans for his Horror and Science Fiction films for  Hammer Studios, passed away Tuesday October 5th, 2010.
With a long career in the British film industry, beginning as a ‘tea boy’ or ‘gofer’ at Gainsbourgh Studios, Baker’s first film was THE OCTOBER MAN, a murder mystery starring John Mills as an amnesiac suspect.
His best remembered work is likely A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (1958), a very well-received version of the sinking of the Titanic.
Roy Baker (as he was sometimes billed) moved into television, directing episodes of THE AVENGERS and THE SAINT. THE FICTION MAKERS (1968)  was made into a feature film from two of Baker’s episodes of  the Roger Moore series, an amusing caper film that spoofed the Bond movies. THE CHAMPIONS, MY PARTNER THE GHOST (Randal and Hopkirk, Deceased) and DEPARTMENT S were among his TV genre credits.


In 1967, he directed FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH (aka Quatermass and The Pit), based on Nigel Kneale’s SF/Horror multi-part television play. This is one of the true classics of the genre, made by Hammer Films.
His next SF picture for Hammer was the “space western” MOON ZERO TWO (1969), which featured Catherine Schell (SPACE: 1999).
He then directed the horror films THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, SCARS OF DRACULA, and DOCTOR JEKYLL & SISTER HYDE for the British studio.
For their rivals Amicus, he helmed the horror Anthologies ASYLUM,  THE VAULT OF HORROR, and the gothic feature AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS.
Back with Hammer, he directed the English language scenes of THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1974, aka The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula), the studio’s last-ditch effort to continue their Dracula series by mixing it with Hong-Kong style Kung Fu action. This was Peter Cushing’s last performance as a Van Helsing.
Cushing & Mills in THE MASKS OF DEATH
Cushing & Mills in THE MASKS OF DEATH

In 1984 he would work with Cushing and Sir John Mills as Holmes and Watson in THE MASKS OF DEATH (aka Sherlock Holmes and The Masks of Death) for Tyburn Films, with  several other ex-Hammer individuals such as Anthony Hinds also involved. It was released as a theatrical film in a few areas, but as a TV movie in others.
He continued to work in television into the 1990’s.

3 Replies to “RIP Roy Ward Baker – Genre Director”

  1. Baker’s passing is indeed a loss, though I can’t imagine what SF-theme you are referring to in AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS, which is more of a severed hand horror film based on Fengriffin.

  2. You are, of course, entirely correct.
    That was a mistake left from a sloppy re-edit of the intital draft, the ‘ghost’ of an eliminated paragragh. I’ll make the correction, and thanks for pointing it out.

  3. Baker was more of a meat-and-potatoes director than a visual stylist, but that straightforward approach yielded some good results. I think 5 MILLION YEARS TO EARTH, VAMPIRE LOVERS, and possibly ASYLUM rank up there with some of the best work in the genre.
    He did not like being typecast as a sci-fi horror director, and his best films were probably NIGHT TO REMEMBER and the rather eccentric Western THE SINGER, NOT THE SONG, starring John Mills and Dirk Bogarde. Still, he made a truly significant contribution to the genre

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