This article is provided free of charge. However you can support my research and work via donations via my Ko-Fi hereApril 2022 marks the centenary of legendary screenwriter Nigel Kneale. This, the first in a two-part article, takes an in-depth look at the set dressing for the Hammer Films version of Kneale’s Quatermass and the Pit.
Hammer’s film version of Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass and the Pit (1967) – based on the earlier BBC tv serial – is widely regarded as one of the highlights in the canon of Hammer horror. Not just because of its splendid script, performances and direction under the guiding hand of Roy Ward Baker, but because of its stunning production design courtesy of Hammer veteran Bernard Robinson.
Having abandoned Bray Studios, Hammer was now in partnership with Seven Arts, ABPC, and Twentieth Century Fox – and for filming, decamped to MGM Studios near Borehamwood.
Filming took place from 27 February through 25 April 1967, with a convincing London street section and tube station built on the backlot.
Attentive fans have long noticed a bit of self-promotion from the Hammer brand within the production design of the film. As Wayne Kinsey notes: “In a cheeky bit of free publicity, one of the posters that adorned the wall of his tube station was from Hammer’s The Witches.”
But, this isn’t the only piece of advertising in the film – indeed, there are a number of posters on display, including several for Hammer products.
Considering the streets and tube station are fictional constructs, it is enlightening to see the efforts that the production team went to, to convey a believable space. The various posters on show do tie the film into its production period in 1967 in an unmistakable manner.
Kim Newman suggests that “For the most part, the serial uses fake products, companies and newspapers.”  But in actual fact, the bulk of the named products and companies are real. The posters are real. The magazines are real.
Thanks to the joys of modern home entertainment formats, it is possible to scrutinise the set in greater detail than a typical cinema outing.
The Posters of Hobbs End Underground Station
The underground station itself contains no fewer than three Hammer posters.
Kinsey is quite right when he notes the poster for The Witches. Visible on the wall in several shots is a standard British quad (approx 30 x 40″ in size). The artwork was by the legendary Tom Chantrell, and posters were screen printed, including vibrant dayglo inks. See the full artwork here:
The Witches had been produced at Bray Studios as part of the same deal as Quatermass and the Pit and had opened in London in November 1966, and as filming started on Quatermass was still playing on screens across the UK in places like the Alexandra Cinema in Coventry (demolished in 2014) and The Curzon in Belfast (demolished 2003).
In the frenzy that follows the fatal press conference towards the film’s climax, the poster will end up on the floor among the debris, covering the body of one of the injured. Itself perhaps a nod to The Witchs‘ own frenzied end (see above).
On the wall opposite the poster for The Witches, and to the left, just visible as various cast members enter the Hobbs Lane set is a quad for Dracula Prince of Darkness – another Tom Chantrell artwork, screen printed with dayglo inks (and one of my personal favourite Hammer posters). You can see it on the far left of the screengrab above – and in more detail in the picture below (of an original in my own collection – those inks are quite something!).
Dracula Prince of Darkness had been released to UK cinemas by Warner Pathe in January 1966, and by the end of February 1967 as cameras rolled on Quatermass was no longer screening (although it was playing at the Abbey Cinema in Wicklow, Ireland. It had still been playing regional screens in Irvine, Scotland, and Belfast in Northern Ireland the month before, and would pick up additional screenings after Quatermass wrapped (hitting the Lyric, Coventry in August).
Also visible in the shot above is a quad poster featuring artwork by Bob Peak for the film adaptation of musical My Fair Lady, starring Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. Another Warner Pathe release, it had made its way to UK screens at the end of 1964.
Perhaps surprisingly for cinema-goers in 2022, My Fair Lady was still playing cinemas at the time of the Quatermass production. Screening in March and April 1967 at the likes of Belfast, Warrington, Coventry, King’s Lynn, Lanarkshire and at the Oxford Cinema, Whitstable (which Hammer fans may note is now the Peter Cushing pub!).
Pictured to its right in the Hobbs Lane set is a promotional poster for daily Coach Air trips from London to Jersey, at the bargain price of £6 14s. I haven’t been able to identify the poster precisely, but it appears to be a 1967 Jersey Airways product.
From another angle, we can see two further posters on the platform itself. Just a couple of feet to the left of The Witches image that started this thread (just visible above) there is an advertisement for Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky.
Walker’s Scotch had origins in Ayrshire in the 1820s, and its ‘striding man’ ident had been in use since 1908. There are many similar adverts based around the man with a plain white background, usually accompanied by the slogan “still going strong”. While I haven’t found an exact duplicate the following advertisement (found via Alamy) is similar:
This second version is closer in terms of wording, but lacks the obvious copy from the bottom of the Underground poster, but appears to be a modern repro based on a vintage advert.
Another Johnnie Walker poster is visible as the visitors exit the lift into the platform area, close to the Dracula poster.
And a third Johnnie Walker poster is present on the other side of the tunnel. We see it only fleetingly in a pan, but it carries a picture of a bottle of whisky and to its right a tumbler with a measure of spirits, and the legend “Johnnie Walker for all seasons”.
As the dishevelled soldier is taken to a seat, we can actually see the image of the whisky tumbler on one side of the frame, while Barbara Shelley takes out a hipflask and offers a tot. Then we see Quatermass taking a nip of whisky while one of the Johnnie Walker posters is clear in the back of frame, “I don’t normally before midday” – I think its safe to say this was a bit of careful product placement.
Disappointingly, the slogan “Choose English Cheese” which we can see as the soldier is being tended to, does not result in a cheddar and crackers picnic.
The ‘Choose English Cheese’ adverts, were part of a marketing strategy used throughout the 1960s and beyond by the Milk Marketing Board – a company Hammer worked with on multiple promotions, including during filming of The Mummy’s Shroud and Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires.
You can see a full authentic ‘Choose English Cheese’ poster, complete with cheesy stack, just behind the car in this photo taken in West End Lane in 1966 by Flickr user Libby Hall.
And, also from 1966 the same poster (identical to the one on the Hammer set) photographed in Trinity Street, Coventry on the Flickr account of Glen Fairweather.
To the left of the Johnnie Walker poster, visible over Barbara Shelley’s shoulder in the screengrab below, is another quad film poster…
This one is for Hotel, a Warner Bros melodrama directed by Richard Quine, which had just gone on UK release as Hammer commenced filming. [If you’re interested, there’s a quad on ebay from RareFilmPosters at the time of writing – January 2022 – here].
One other Hammer makes an appearance in the station set, just visible in the next image:
Easily missed, is the Tom Chantrell artwork on the quad poster for Hammer/Warner Pathe’s The Reptile. First released on a double bill with Rasputin – The Mad Monk in March 1966, it had just finished a short run at the Regal, Wadebridge in February 1967, and opened at the Broxburn Regal, West Lothian on 27 February and would continue a run of Irish and Scottish screens during March and April.
There are several other posters visible in the Hobbs Lane set. I’ve not been able to get a clear image of each of them.
Just beside the cordoned off platform is a rather bright advertisement with the words “express road services through the Thames Valley” (there’s another example beside the Dracula poster and lift doors). This is actually an advert for motorway services – fuel stations, accommodations, rest stops and their ilk – from South Midland Motor Services Ltd, and Thames Valley Traction Co. Ltd. It was designed by artist Royston Cooper in 1960 and outlines the coach routes from London to Worcester in a flower form. Cooper designed quite a few transport and health and safety posters during the 60s and 70s – many of you will know his work, without knowing his work.
The routes incidentally, take in High Wycombe and Maidenhead – right through the heart of the old Hammer country…
Unsurprisingly, a second Royston Cooper poster for the network is also present on the set. Depicting the route in a tree like form, you can see it in the next image. On the wall opposite is one of his flower posters, and you can also see a Johnnie Walker and Dracula Prince of Darkness images.
This also originates to c. 1960.
Also present are a travel advert advertising the “Sunny South Coast” with a large orange fish on a navy background. And on the right, what looks to be an advert for train services through the Northwest, Midlands and London. I have not been able to locate original examples of these at time of writing.
Seaside holidays were evidently the done thing, in the days before cheap international travel, and UK stations happily promoted the convenience of the transport network. One final example can be clearly spotted just to the left of the platform advert for the South Midland Motor Services.
The lovely example on the right of the poster for The Reptile, is advertising the pleasantries of Clacton and its daily entertainment. It does seem a rather apt choice for a Hammer film. Will Hammer had presented entertainment shows in Clacton for many years, and owned the West Cliff Theatre, alongside presenting shows in other venues in the town.
The distinctive poster with its girl and inflatable duck is by illustrator Daphne Padden (21 May 1927 – 21 September 2009). She worked extensively during the 1950s, 60s and 70s on advertising material in a distinctive style (echoed by the satirical work of Scarfolk today), mostly in watercolour and gouache.
An example with very wording to the one used in the Hammer set can be found on the Flickr account of Velda.
Padden’s work was not unfamiliar on the London Underground. In 2010 works at Notting Hill Gate station uncovered a time-capsule of film posters and Padden posters dating to around 1959. There’s no Hammer posters among them (though plenty of names familiar to fans), but it does have eerie echoes. You can see more photos and read more background here.
I have spotted at least three other posters in the Underground station that I cannot identify – if at a future date I am able to, I will update this article.
While that takes us safely through the posters in the Hobbs Lane interior, there are a number of other names and logos seen throughout the film. Some of these are quite probably examples of product placement from sponsors, and not merely being used for verisimilitude. I’ve left a few examples for others to play with, but have attempted to identify any advertising on walls within the sets, should you wish to build your own Quatermass and the Pit replica set.
In part 2 of this study we will look at some of the advertising outside of the Hobbs Lane station set.
Robert JE Simpson
8 April 2022
If you enjoyed this, you can follow my Hammer Films research on Twitter at @exclusivephdThis article is provided free of charge. However you can support my research and work via donations via my Ko-Fi here
Wayne Kinsey, Hammer Films: The Elstree Years (Tomahawk Press, 2009), p24
Kim Newman, BFI Film Classics: Quatermass and the Pit (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019)
Occasionally you get side-tracked down a tangential path when researching. The document equivalent of the wikipedia hole. I can recall occasions where a curious piece of information leapt out at me from the page, and prompted a diversion into another ream of files to see if anything else could be elicited.
I collect postcards among other things, and in amongst them are a small selection of Hammer related images – mostly of landmarks long forgotten. But among my favourites are those in which the Hammer element has crept in and isn’t actually the main focus of the picture.
Take for example this picture postcard of London. Its split into two via the diagonal line – in one half Westminster Bridge, the other the bustle and lights of Piccadilly Circus:
What grabs the attention for me, isn’t the fairly standard view of Piccadilly, but the poster in the bottom right hand corner. Adorning part of the Trocadero is, well let’s see if a close-up helps…
Yes, that’s a huge billboard for nothing less than the Exclusive / Hammer production Quatermass II.
The postcard itself has been colourised by the looks of it, but its still a wonderful glimpse of the famous Hammer films as part of the everyday London landscape, pocketed and sent across the world in picture form by tourists.
I managed to find another colourised postcard snap which includes nearly all the billboard:
What’s made abundantly clear in this image, is just how big a deal Hammer was making of their X certificate – a category that just a year before was perceived as a kiss of death for a film’s commercial chances. The X is worn as a badge of honour.
There are black and white versions of this view, but I’ve chosen to show the colour images because they help the imagery stand out.
The building is today part of the Trocadero centre (possibly soon to be turned into a hotel), but was from 1934 under the control of United Artists as the London Pavilion. Opened as a music hall in 1885 and used for cinema exhibition from 1908 until 1981, and is sited at 1 Piccadilly Circus. It has over the years been used to house a number of Exclusive and Hammer titles. [I was in it a few years ago when it played host to the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not exhibition, blissfully ignorant of its Hammer connections].
In 1961 as part of the popular Ladybird books series for children, The Ladybird Book of London was published, with text by John Lewesden and art by John Berry. The book contains a rather lovely painting of Piccadilly at Night featuring a familiar billboard:
This wouldn’t be the last time that a Hammer horror title would make its presence felt in a book primarily aimed at children, but it is a rather lovely portrait of the city and the impact that the illuminated advert outside the Pavilion had in the evening during late May and into June 1957.
Historians deal with prime sources of a number of kinds, including oral histories, newspapers, archival records, and photographs. Its easy to forget that sketches and illustrations can be just as informative and telling primary sources as any of these. There’s as much fuzziness as some oral reminiscence, but the ‘truth’ is very much on display.
I love that with both the postcards and the book, the Quatermass branding is subtly shared with thousands of unsuspecting members of the public. How many people who saw that banner had their curiosity piqued? In the days before home video, this might well have been a tease that would take years to be sated…
I’ll share more of these sorts of images in future blog posts, and in the book. I’m always interested in seeing the marquees and displays of our favourite films – marketing is a hugely important part of the film process.