Bernard Robinson designed some of Hammer's greatest productions until his premature death in 1970. I first became aware of Bernard Robinson through his delightful widow the puppeteer, Margaret Robinson who also worked on many Hammer films, amongst others. The knack that Bernard possessed was that he managed to give Hammer's films an very expensive look working from a tiny budget. Both space and materials were extremely limited at Bray Studios. Robinson got over this by ingeniously disguising previously used sets for different films, sometimes even for different scenes within the same film. Many films set he designed such as the hallways of the castle in Horror of Dracula (1958, pictured), for instance, doubled as the Holmwood crypt, and Dracula's crypt from the same year was recycled as Frankenstein's laboratory in Revenge of Frankenstein.
Perhaps his biggest challenge was the 1962 Phantom of the Opera, which required a huge water-tank to be constructed for the Phantom's underground lair. Once again he proved his ability to work miracles out of the barest of resources, creating one of Hammer's most memorable and haunting setpieces.
His sets on the Bray back lot were mammoth works of construction that would usually be employed for two or three films before being replaced. Among his best were the 1958 Castle Dracula/Baskerville Hall for Horror of Dracula and The Hound of the Baskervilles, respectively, the Gothic castle doubling for Dracula, Prince of Darkness and Rasputin, the Mad Monk in 1965, and perhaps supremely, the 19th-century Cornish village that provided the setting for The Plague of the Zombies and The Reptile in 1966. In Bernard’s spare time for which was very limited he wrote about antique furniture and was preparing a book on the subject before his untimely death. Another passion was paintings but painting for himself and his particular sense of humour. Bernard found the time to paint very limited. In his painting the ‘’Tax Inspectors we see Bernard’s humour bounce through with a crazed inspection in of tax officials going over a corpse with magnifying glass and probe. In ‘’The Aupair’’ Robinson take on the foreign au pair invasion of the 1970s, this au pair, in casual wear, tennis racket to the ready and a general coolness to the sight of the parents and children within the interior - Mother on her knees and father laying a table whilst holding a dangling child. The style of Bernard Robinson’s paintings could be associated with the great cubists or abstract painters of the period such as Picasso and Braque; his handling of paint bear him out as a phenomenal painter who knew his craft and, like Picasso’s heavy narrative, he informs by subtle messages conveyed with a rigour of style and oil to canvas that its hard not to be impressed and informed at once. These paintings form part of a private collection of oils that will be shown next year (2013). For further information please go to visagegallery.co.uk Bernard Robinson is survived by his widow, the artist and Hammer film mask maker, Margaret Robinson.