Vampirella, one of the most famous films that horror studio Hammer Films never made, will be performed live in a production featuring one of the studio’s most famous stars, Caroline Munro, later this month.
Vampirella – based on the much-loved vampire character and comic created by Forrest J Ackerman and comic book artist Trina Robbins for Warren Publishing – was planned to be a big-budget Hammer horror in the 1970s. Peter Cushing was signed on to star, along with former Beatle Ringo Starr and Hollywood legend Orson Welles, with Barbara Leigh as the superhero vampire. But the studio’s financial woes meant that it was canned at the eleventh hour.
Now, Caroline Munro – Bond girl and star of Hammer’s Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter and Dracula AD 1972 – and her daughter Georgina Dugdale, alongside actor/director Jonathan Rigby, are to take part in a script reading of Vampirella at London’s Regent Street Cinema on 17th October 2019.
The project has been devised at De Montfort University, Leicester by Dr Kieran Foster, whose PhD focused on Hammer’s unmade films. Hammer Films sent him Christopher Wicking‘s original script for the film, based on the comic character who first appeared in 1969, a time when Hammer was looking for a new angle and using a comic character to front a film was far less common.
“Vampirella is a legendary ‘film that never was’ for a lot of Hammer fans,” says Kieran, “and to be able to give a glimpse of what might have been, especially with actors like Caroline Munro taking part, is amazing.
“It’s exciting for us to be able to give it a premiere – it will be an immersive experience for the audience with animation, a live reading, and specially commissioned original music.”
Kieran has worked with DMU Animation graduate Karlton Dolo, who has created an original animated prologue and commissioned composer Luke Jackson to write a score which has a distinctive 1970s vibe. Media Production student Adam Fox is creating credits and recording the performance.
The poster for the reading is the work of Graham Humphreys, an illustrator and designer with 40 years experience, who has illustrated numerous film posters and more, largely with a horror theme. A limited edition book, Graham Humphreys – Drawing Blood: 30 Years Of Horror Art, was published by the Proud Gallery in 2015.
Kieran explains: “Back in the 1970s, Vampirella got so close to being made. In 1975, you had Peter Cushing being flown out to America to promote it, people were doing location scouting. Hammer knew they had to spend money to attract American investors but unfortunately, they just could not get the money.”
“It’s ironic really, because just a couple of years later you have Superman, which was a comic book adaptation. The chances are that if they had made it, it would have been crushed under its own weight, but as a live reading, it will be amazing. It has a punchy plot that sprints through. I think it will be a lot of fun.”
Jonathan Rigby, an Associate Research Fellow at DMU’s Cinema and Television History Institute (CATHI) adapted the script, which features the heroine meeting Hell’s Angels, James Bond-esque spies and more.
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The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.