Carreras, (Sir) James

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CARRERAS, (Sir) James

Producer. Nationality: British. Born: 30 January 1909. Education: Attended Manchester Grammar School. Family: Married Vera St. John, 1926; son: Michael. Career: 1925—managed cinema in Manchester; joined his father in managing the Blue Hall circuit of theatres; 1939–45—Colonel in Army; 1948–72—Chairman of Hammer Film Productions; 1968—Hammer awarded the Queen's Award to Industry; 1972—sold shares in Hammer to his son. Awards: MBE, 1944; knighted ("for services to youth"), 1970. Died: In Henley on Thames, 9 June 1990.

Films as Executive Producer:


River Patrol (Hart)


Dick Barton—Special Agent (Goulding)


Dick Barton Strikes Back (Grayson); Dr. Morelle—the Case of the Missing Heiress (Grayson); Celia (Searle); The Adventures of PC 49 (Grayson)


Dick Barton at Bay (Grayson); The Man in Black (Searle); Meet Simon Cherry (Grayson); Room to Let (Grayson); Someone at the Door (Searle); What the Butler Saw (Grayson); The Lady Craved Excitement (Searle)


The Rossiter Case (Searle); To Have and to Hold (Grayson); The Dark Light (Sewell); Cloudburst (Searle); The Black Widow (Sewell); A Case for PC 49 (Searle)


Death of an Angel (Saunders); Whispering Smith Hits London (Whispering Smith vs. Scotland Yard) (Searle); The Last Page (Man Bait) (Fisher); Never Look Back (Searle); Wings of Danger (Fisher); Stolen Face (Fisher); Lady in the Fog (Scotland Yard Inspector) (Newfield); Mantrap (Man in Hiding) (Fisher); The Gambler and the Lady (Jenkins and Fisher)


Four Sided Triangle (Fisher); Spaceways (Fisher); The Flanagan Boy (Bad Blonde) (Le Borg); The Saint's Return (The Saint's Girl Friday) (Friedman)


Face the Music (The Black Glove) (Fisher); The Stranger Came Home (The Unholy Four) (Fisher); Blood Orange (Three Stops to Murder) (Fisher); Life with the Lyons (Guest); The House across the Lake (Heat Wave) (Hughes); Five Days (Paid to Kill) (Tully); 36 Hours (Terror Street) (Tully); Men of Sherwood Forest (Guest); Mask of Dust (A Race for Life) (Fisher)


The Quatermass Xperiment (The Creeping Unknown) (Guest); The Lyons in Paris (Guest); Break in the Circle (Guest); Third Party Risk (Deadly Game) (Birt); Murder By Proxy (Blackout) (Fisher); Cyril Stapleton and the Show Band (Michael Carreras); The Glass Cage (The Glass Tomb) (Tully); The Eric Winstone Band Show (Michael Carreras); The Right Person (Cotes)


X the Unknown (Norman); Just for You (Michael Carreras); A Man on the Beach (Losey); Parade of the Bands (Michael Carreras); Eric Winstone's Stagecoach (Michael Carreras); Women without Men (Williams); Copenhagen (Michael Carreras); Dick Turpin—Highwayman (Paltenghi)


The Steel Bayonet (Michael Carreras); The Curse of Frankenstein (Fisher); Quatermass II (Enemy from Space) (Guest); The Edmundo Ross Half Hour (Michael Carreras); Day of Grace (Searle); The Abominable Snowman (Guest); Danger List (Arliss); Clean Sweep (Rogers)


The Camp on Blood Island (Guest); The Snorkel (Green); The Revenge of Frankenstein (Fisher); Dracula (Horror of Dracula) (Fisher); Further up the Creek (Guest); Man with a Dog (Arliss)


I Only Arsked (Tully); The Hound of the Baskervilles (Fisher); Ten Seconds to Hell (Aldrich); The Ugly Duckling (Comfort); Operation Universe (Bryan); Yesterday's Enemy (Guest); The Mummy (Fisher); The Man Who Could Cheat Death (Fisher); Don't Panic Chaps! (Pollock)


The Stranglers of Bombay (Fisher); Hell Is a City (Guest); The Curse of the Werewolf (Fisher); The Brides of Dracula (Fisher); Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (Frankel); The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (House of Fright) (Fisher); Sword of Sherwood Forest (Fisher)


Pirates of Blood River (Gilling); The Damned (These Are the Damned) (Losey); Visa to Canton (Passport to China) (Michael Carreras); The Full Treatment (Stop Me before I Kill) (Guest); A Weekend with Lulu (Carstairs); Taste of Fear (Scream of Fear) (Holt); Watch it Sailor! (Rilla); The Terror of the Tongs (Bushell)


The Phantom of the Opera (Fisher); Captain Clegg (Night Creatures) (Scott); The Pirates of Blood River (Gilling)


The Devil-Ship Pirates (Sharp); Maniac (Michael Carreras); Paranoiac (Francis); The Damned (These Are the Damned) (Losey); The Scarlet Blade (The Crimson Blade) (Gilling); Cash on Demand (Lawrence)


The Evil of Frankenstein (Thompson); Kiss of the Vampire (Sharp); Nightmare (Francis); The Gorgon (Fisher); The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (Michael Carreras); Fanatic (Die! Die! My Darling!) (Narizzano)


She (Day); The Secret of Blood Island (Lawrence); Hysteria (Francis); The Brigand of Kandahar (Gilling); The Nanny (Holt)


One Million Years B.C. (Chaffey); Dracula—Prince of Darkness (Fisher); The Plague of the Zombies (Gilling); Rasputin—The Mad Monk (Sharp); The Reptile (Gilling); The Old Dark House (Castle); The Witches (The Devil's Own) (Frankel)


The Viking Queen (Chaffey); Frankenstein Created Woman (Fisher); The Mummy's Shroud (Gilling); Quartermass and the Pit (Five Million Years to Earth) (Baker); A Challenge for Robin Hood (Pennington-Richards)


The Anniversary (Baker); The Vengeance of She (Owen); The Devil Rides Out (The Devil's Bride) (Fisher); Slave Girls (Prehistoric Women) (Michael Carreras); Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (Franics); The Lost Continent (Carreras)


Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (Fisher); Moon Zero Two (Baker)


Taste the Blood of Dracula (Sasdy); Crescendo (Gibson); Horror of Frankenstein (Sangster); Scars of Dracula (Baker); The Vampire Lovers (Baker); When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (Guest)


Creatures the World Forgot (Chaffey); Lust for a Vampire (Sangster); Countess Dracula (Sasdy); On the Buses (Booth); Hands of the Ripper (Sasdy); Twins of Evil (Hough); Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (Baker); Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (Holt and Michael Carreras)


Shock (The Creeping Unknown) (Francis); Dracula A.D. 1972 (Gibson); Vampire Circus (Stark); Fear in the Night (Sangster); Straight On till Morning (Collingson); Mutiny on the Buses (Booth); Demons of the Mind (Sykes)


On CARRERAS: articles—

Films and Filming (London), vol. 6, no. 1, October 1959.

Little Shoppe of Horrors (Waterloo, Iowa), no. 4, April 1978.

Obituary in Variety (New York), 13 June 1990.

Obituary in New York Times, 13 June 1990.

* * *

The reputation of James Carreras rests on the output of a single, low-budget production company, Hammer Films—and specifically on the movies it produced between 1954 and 1970. During that period Hammer established, for the first time, an indigenously British style of horror movie; and if Carreras himself had relatively little to do with the creation of that style, he deserves every credit for fostering and encouraging it, in the teeth of virulent critical outrage.

Carreras has sometimes been compared to Michael Balcon. Like Balcon, he ran a small, self-contained studio on paternalist lines—in his case at Bray in Berkshire, in a rambling 19th-century country house whose Gothic architecture provided ready-made sets for numerous Hammer movies. Bray, like Ealing, offered supportive opportunities to beginners and continuous employment to a regular team of actors and technicians. But where Balcon was closely concerned with the style and ethical stance of the films he produced, Carreras—as he readily admitted—cared only about saleability. "If tomorrow the public decided it wanted Strauss waltzes," he once observed, "we'd be in the Strauss waltz business."

Hammer was founded in 1948 as the production arm of Exclusive Films, a distribution company set up by Carreras's father Enrique and his partner William Hinds, a one-time music hall performer whose stage name was Will Hammer. James Carreras, having served a pre-war apprenticeship as usher, cashier and projectionist in his father's chain of cinemas, returned after his war service to take over the running of the newly formed Hammer. His corporate policy was brutally simple: to make films guaranteed to show a profit.

Since the minuscule budgets scarcely ran to star actors, Hammer often went for presold subjects—films based on characters well known from British radio or TV. So when in 1953 the BBC broadcast a hugely popular science fiction TV serial, The Quatermass Experiment, Hammer promptly snapped up the rights. The film version (respelt Xperiment to exploit the British censor's new adults-only "X" certificate) went down well both in Britain and the USA, as did two follow-ups—X the Unknown and Quatermass II.

Shrewdly deducing that it was the horrific, rather than the sci-fi, element of these films that was hooking audiences, Carreras looked round for similar properties and realised that not since the great Universal cycle of the 1930s had the classic Gothic myths of Dracula and Frankenstein appeared on screen—and never in colour. The Curse of Frankenstein launched Hammer's horror cycle, along with the careers of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and—according to David Pirie—"reintroduced into Britain the cinema of action and spectacle, of imagination and myth." It also set the style for its successors: full-blooded, sensual stories, straightforwardly told, in plush period settings that owed nothing to Universal's shadowy Germanic expressionism.

Such elements, though, should probably be credited less to Carreras than to his collaborators—in particular to his partner, the producer/screenwriter Anthony (son of William) Hinds, the director Terence Fisher, the screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, art director Bernard Robinson, and cinematographer Jack Asher. What James Carreras contributed was consummate salesmanship—or perhaps showmanship might be a better term. Hammer's films were promoted with fairground razzmatazz and vigorously presold to foreign distributors, especially in the United States. By the late 1960s, over 80 per cent of Hammer's revenue came from overseas earnings, an achievement that won the company the Queen's Award for Industry.

Having no particular commitment to horror, Carreras was always ready to explore other avenues. In the wake of Psycho, Hammer produced a run of psychological thrillers—Maniac, Paranoiac, Hysteria and so on—and the success of One Million Years B.C. inspired several more fur-bikini sagas. Where this serviceable, down-to-earth approach showed its limitations was when a filmmaker tried to subvert the studio formula for imaginative ends, as Losey did with The Damned. Neither Carreras nor anyone else at Bray could grasp what Losey was after, and the film wound up badly mutilated.

This may also explain why the most intriguing and distinctive horror films of the period were left to Hammer's rivals—Gordon Hessler's Scream and Scream Again for Amicus, or Michael Reeves's Witchfinder General for Tigon. Though even here Hammer could claim some indirect input, since both Tigon and Amicus were operating within a market that Carreras had opened up for them.

By the end of the 1960s, Hammer horror, initially so reviled by squeamish critics, had become respectable enough to feature in retrospectives at the National Film Theatre in London. But with the cutback in American financing, Hammer's market was shrinking, and in 1969 Bray studios were sold. Soon afterwards James Carreras withdrew from control of the company, handing it over to his son Michael, and within three years Hammer had ceased production.

—Philip Kemp

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Carreras, (Sir) James

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