This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
On the set of Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed
23 February 1904|
Maida Vale, London, England
|Died||18 June 1980
Twickenham, London, England
|Occupation||Film director, film editor|
Terence Fisher (23 February 1904 – 18 June 1980) was a British film director who worked most notably for Hammer Films.
Fisher was one of the most prominent horror directors of the second half of the 20th century. He was the first to bring gothic horror alive in full colour, and the sexual overtones and explicit horror in his films, while mild by modern standards, were unprecedented in his day. His first major gothic horror film was The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), which launched Hammer's long association with the genre and made British actors Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee leading horror stars of the era. He went on to film a number of adaptations of classic horror subjects, including Dracula (1958), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) and The Mummy (1959).
Given their subject matter and lurid approach, Fisher's films, though commercially successful, were largely dismissed by critics during his career. It is only in recent years that Fisher has become recognised as an auteur in his own right. His films are characterised by a blend of fairy-tale, myth and sexuality. They may have drawn heavily on Christian themes, and there is usually a hero who defeats the powers of darkness by a combination of faith in God and reason, in contrast to other characters, who are either blindly superstitious or bound by a cold, godless rationalism (as noted by critic Paul Leggett in Terence Fisher: Horror, Myth and Religion, 2001). For a detailed discussion of Fisher's work, see The Films of Terence Fisher: Hammer Horror and Beyond by Wheeler Winston Dixon (Auteur Publishing, 2017).
He was born in Maida Vale, a district of London.
Fisher broke into the film industry as an editor. At Gainsborough Pictures his credits included Tudor Rose (1936) and Jack of All Trades (1936) for Robert Stevenson and Where There's a Will (1936) and Windbag the Sailor (1936) for William Beaudine.
At Warner Bros he edited Mr. Satan (1938), On the Night of the Fire (1939), Atlantic Ferry (1940), The Peterville Diamond (1941), and Flying Fortress (1942). Fisher did Tomorrow We Live (1943) and Candlelight in Algeria (1944) for British Aviation Films, They Met in the Dark (1943) for Marcel Hellman, The Dark Tower (1943) for Warners, and One Exciting Night (1944). Among his final films as editor were The Wicked Lady (1945), one of the most popular British films of all time, and Master of Bankdam (1947).
Early films as director
Fisher's first film as director was A Song for Tomorrow (1948) a second feature for Highbury Productions. For the same company he did Colonel Bogey (1948) and To the Public Danger (1948). These were low budget films, though Fisher moved over to Gainsborough for more prestigious movies: Portrait from Life (1948) with Mai Zetterling; Marry Me! (1949) with Derek Bond; The Astonished Heart (1950) with Noel Coward (replacing Michael Redgrave during filming); So Long at the Fair (1950) with Dirk Bogarde and Jean Simmons. Fisher returned to supporting features with Home to Danger (1951) for Eros Films.
Fisher's first feature for Hammer Films was The Last Page (1951), one of a number of low budget thrillers that studio were then making, usually with an imported American star to appeal to the US market; The Last Page featured George Brent and Diana Dors. Hammer liked Fisher's work and kept him on for Wings of Danger (1952) with Zachary Scott, and Stolen Face (1952) with Paul Henreid and Lizabeth Scott.
After making Distant Trumpet (1952) for Meridian Films, Fisher returned to Hammer for Mantrap (1953) with Henreid; Four Sided Triangle (1953) with Barbara Payton; Spaceways (1953), a science fiction story, with Howard Duff; Blood Orange (1953), a crime film with Tom Conway; Face the Music (1954) with Alex Nicol; Murder by Proxy (1954) with Dane Clark; A Stranger Came Home (1954) with Paulette Goddard.
He made Final Appointment (1954) outside Hammer with John Bentley then went back to Hammer for Mask of Dust (1954) with Richard Conte. He made the comedy Children Galore (1955) with Eddie Byrne. Final Appointment led to the sequel Stolen Assignment (1955) and another movie with Bentley, The Flaw (1955) before he made two crime films, The Gelignite Gang (1956) and The Last Man to Hang? (1956). He was hired by Tempean Films to make a final crime thriller with an imported American star, Kill Me Tomorrow (1957) with Pat O'Brien (and a cameo from Tommy Steele).
Hammer Horror films
Fisher's career changed forever when Hammer asked him to direct The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), their first colour horror film. It was a huge success and made stars of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and really established Hammer as a leading brand name in the British film industry. Hammer called Fisher back for Dracula (1958), again starring Lee and Cushing; it was an even bigger hit than The Curse of Frankenstein, and for the rest of his career, Fisher worked almost exclusively within the horror genre. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), with Cushing, Lee, and André Morell was an adaptation of the famous Sherlock Holmes novel given a Hammer horror slant, whilst Cushing and Lee also starred in The Mummy (1959), a pastiche of the Universal Mummy movies of the 1940s.
The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), with Cushing and Francis Matthews, was a successful sequel to The Curse of Frankenstein, whilst The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959) was a remake of The Man in Half Moon Street (1945), and featured Lee in a more heroic role than usual, opposite Anton Diffring. Fisher directed another hit sequel, this time to Dracula, The Brides of Dracula (1960), starring Cushing and David Peel, whilst The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960) had Paul Massie in the title role and Lee in support, but it was one of the first Hammer horrors to lose money.
However, Hammer didn’t only assign him to gothic chillers; The Stranglers of Bombay (1959) was a different kind of horror, a tale of the thuggee cut in Imperial India starring Guy Rolfe. Fisher had a change of pace when he directed Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) for Hammer, with Richard Greene reprising his small screen role as Robin Hood from the ITV series on which he had previously worked with Fisher. Also featured in a supporting part was Oliver Reed shortly before Hammer cast him in the lead role of Fisher’s The Curse of the Werewolf (1961). Then came The Phantom of the Opera (1962) with Herbert Lom; it was one of Hammer's most expensive films but proved a box office disappointment, and following its failure Fisher didn’t work for Hammer again for over two years.
Director for hire
German company CCC Film hired Fisher to make his first movie outside Hammer since 1957, Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962), starring Lee as Sherlock Holmes, but making the film was an unhappy experience for the director and it remains an obscurity. Lippert Pictures then employed Fisher for The Horror of It All (1963), a horror comedy starring Pat Boone, but the film received very poor reviews.
He finally worked for Hammer again when they reunited him with both Cushing and Lee for The Gorgon (1964), a personal favourite of the director, before Lippert used him a second time for the black-and-white science fiction film The Earth Dies Screaming (1964), featuring Dennis Price and Fisher’s close friend Thorley Walters.
Fisher directed another science fiction film, Island of Terror (1966), for Planet Film Productions, which starred Cushing alongside Edward Judd. Back at Hammer he worked on further entries to their most famous franchises, with Lee starring in Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), and Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) again featuring Cushing. Planet then hired the trio of Fisher, Cushing and Lee for Night of the Big Heat (1967), another sci-fi tale, adapted from a story by John Lymington.
For Hammer, Fisher and Lee next made The Devil Rides Out (1968), from the novel by Dennis Wheatley, originally a box office disappointment but now a very highly regarded genre classic, whilst Cushing starred in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), which was conceived as a climax to the Frankenstein series; it was another favourite of Fisher’s and stands up as one of his most suspenseful and genuinely exciting movies.
After lengthy periods of ill-health and convalescence, Fisher returned to Hammer for the final time to make Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974), which was to be his last film. Written off as a behind-the-times flop when it was first released, more recently the movie has been reappraised as a worthy and melancholic ‘last hurrah’ for Fisher and Hammer’s style of horror in general.
The following is a list of the theatrical films in which Terence Fisher received screen credit. Television productions are not included.
- Tudor Rose (1936) as T.R. Fisher
- Where There's a Will (1936)
- Jack of All Trades (1936) as Terry Fisher
- Windbag the Sailor (1936)
- Mr. Satan (1938)
- On the Night of the Fire (1939) a.k.a. The Fugitive (US)
- That's the Ticket (1940)
- Atlantic Ferry (1941)
- The Peterville Diamond (1942)
- Flying Fortress (1942)
- Tomorrow We Live (1943) a.k.a. At Dawn We Die (US)
- They Met in the Dark (1943)
- The Dark Tower (1943)
- Candlelight in Algeria (1944)
- One Exciting Night (1944)
- The Wicked Lady (1945)
- Master of Bankdam (1947)
- A Song for Tomorrow (1948)
- Colonel Bogey (1948)
- To the Public Danger (1948) short
- Portrait from Life (1948) a.k.a. Lost Daughter (US)
- Marry Me! (1949)
- The Astonished Heart (1950) with Anthony Darnborough
- So Long at the Fair (1950) with Anthony Darnborough
- Home to Danger (1951)
- The Last Page (1952) a.k.a. Man Bait (US)
- Wings of Danger (1952) a.k.a. Dead on Course (US)
- Stolen Face (1952)
- Distant Trumpet (1952)
- Mantrap (1953) also as co-screenwriter, a.k.a. Man in Hiding (US)
- Four Sided Triangle (1953) also as co-screenwriter
- Spaceways (1953)
- Blood Orange (1953) a.k.a. Three Stops to Murder (US)
- Face the Music (1954) a.k.a. The Black Glove (US)
- Murder by Proxy (1954) a.k.a. Blackout (US)
- A Stranger Came Home (1954) a.k.a. The Unholy Four (US)
- Final Appointment (1954) a.k.a. The Last Appointment (US)
- Mask of Dust (1954) a.k.a. Race for Life (US)
- Children Galore (1954)
- Stolen Assignment (1955)
- The Flaw (1955)
- The Gelignite Gang (1956) a.k.a. The Dynamiters (US)
- The Last Man to Hang? (1956)
- The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
- Kill Me Tomorrow (1957)
- Dracula (1958) a.k.a. Horror of Dracula (US)
- The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
- The Mummy (1959)
- The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959)
- The Stranglers of Bombay (1959)
- The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960)
- Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960)
- The Brides of Dracula (1960)
- The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
- The Phantom of the Opera (1962)
- Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962)
- The Horror of It All (1963)
- The Gorgon (1964)
- The Earth Dies Screaming (1965)
- Island of Terror (1966)
- Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
- Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
- Night of the Big Heat (1967) a.k.a. Island of the Burning Damned (US)
- The Devil Rides Out (1968) a.k.a. The Devil's Bride (US)
- Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)
- Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)