Terence Fisher

Last updated

Terence Fisher
Terence Fisher.jpg
Born(1904-02-23)23 February 1904
Died18 June 1980(1980-06-18) (aged 76)
Twickenham, London, England
OccupationFilm director, film editor

Terence Fisher (23 February 1904 – 18 June 1980) was a British film director best known for his work for Hammer Films.


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 association with the genre and made British actors Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee leading horror stars of the era. He went on to film several adaptations of classic horror subjects, including Dracula (1958), The Mummy (1959), and The Curse of the Werewolf (1961).

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 most famous films are characterised by a blend of fairytale myth and the supernatural alongside themes of sexuality, morality, and "the charm of evil". Drawing heavily on a Christian conservative outlook, there is often 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 cold, godless rationalism. For detailed discussions of Fisher's work, see Terence Fisher: Horror, Myth, and Religion by Paul Leggett (McFarland and Co, 2002), British Film Makers: Terence Fisher by Peter Hutchings (Manchester University Press, 2013), and The Films of Terence Fisher: Hammer Horror and Beyond by Wheeler Winston Dixon (Auteur Publishing, 2017).


Early life

Fisher was born in Maida Vale, a district of London. He left school aged 16 and served in the Merchant Navy for five years. He first broke into the film industry as a clapper boy at Lime Grove Studios in Shepherd's Bush in 1933.


Fisher did his first work as an assistant editor in 1934. At Gainsborough Pictures he received his first editor credit on Tudor Rose (1936). Following this came 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 the 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 Noël 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; and 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) and the Final Appointment sequel Stolen Assignment (1955). Next came 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.

During the 1950s Fisher also worked frequently in British television, directing episodes of series such as The Adventures of Robin Hood and Sword of Freedom .

Hammer Horror films

Christopher Lee as the creature in The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), a huge international success Curse of Frankenstein 1957.jpg
Christopher Lee as the creature in The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), a huge international success

Fisher's career changed direction permanently when Hammer asked him to direct The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), their first colour horror film. It was the company's most important project to date, and Fisher was hand-picked by Hammer management to helm the movie as he had a reputation for reliability. Working from a script by Jimmy Sangster that re-imagined the lengthy original novel as a gruesome, morally ambiguous chamber piece, the film saw British TV star Peter Cushing cast as Baron Victor Frankenstein whilst the then little-known supporting actor Christopher Lee portrayed the Creature. It was a handsome-looking, quality production and an international box office smash; alarming British critics and raising the standard for what was acceptable in terms of on-screen violence and gore, the movie established Hammer as a leading brand name in the British film industry.

Hammer had even more financial success with Fisher's second gothic horror film Dracula (1958), starring Lee in the title role and Cushing as his adversary Doctor Van Helsing. Once again reducing the scope of its source novel in line with Hammer's budgetary constraints, the screenplay minimised both the geographical settings and the number of characters, and the result was a compact, atmospheric and action-packed chiller in which Lee portrayed the figure of the vampire Count Dracula as having an animalistic sexuality that had never before been presented on screen. It is today regarded as a trailblazer in the horror movie genre, the archetypal Hammer movie, and the greatest of Fisher's directorial efforts.

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 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, The Brides of Dracula (1960) starring Cushing, Freda Jackson, Martita Hunt and David Peel, whilst The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960) had Paul Massie in the title role with Lee and Dawn Addams in support, but it was one of the first Hammer horrors to perform disappointingly at the box office.

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 cult in Imperial India starring Guy Rolfe and Allan Cuthbertson. 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) starring Herbert Lom; it was one of Hammer's most expensive films but proved a relative commercial letdown, and following its release Fisher did not 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 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 it received poor reviews and was not a success.

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 once more for the black-and-white science fiction film The Earth Dies Screaming (1964), featuring American actor Willard Parker alongside 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, Barbara Shelley and Andrew Keir starring in Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), whilst Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) once again featured Cushing. Fisher, Cushing and Lee then worked together on Planet's Night of the Big Heat (1967), adapted from a sci-fi story by John Lymington.

Final films

For Hammer, Fisher and Lee next made The Devil Rides Out (1968), from the novel by Dennis Wheatley, which is 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 exciting movies.

After injuries sustained in a pair of road accidents resulted in lengthy periods of 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. A financial failure that was written off as being very much behind-the-times 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.

After several years in retirement, Terence Fisher died in June 1980 at the age of 76.


The following is a list of the theatrical films in which Terence Fisher received screen credit. Television productions are not included.

As editor

  1. Tudor Rose (1936) as T.R. Fisher
  2. Where There's a Will (1936)
  3. Jack of All Trades (1936) as Terry Fisher
  4. Windbag the Sailor (1936)
  5. Mr. Satan (1938)
  6. On the Night of the Fire (1939) a.k.a. The Fugitive (US)
  7. That's the Ticket (1940)
  8. Atlantic Ferry (1941)
  9. The Peterville Diamond (1942)
  10. Flying Fortress (1942)
  11. Tomorrow We Live (1943) a.k.a. At Dawn We Die (US)
  12. They Met in the Dark (1943)
  13. The Dark Tower (1943)
  14. Candlelight in Algeria (1944)
  15. One Exciting Night (1944)
  16. The Wicked Lady (1945)
  17. Master of Bankdam (1947)

As director

  1. A Song for Tomorrow (1948)
  2. Colonel Bogey (1948)
  3. To the Public Danger (1948)
  4. Portrait from Life (1948) a.k.a. Lost Daughter (US)
  5. Marry Me! (1949)
  6. The Astonished Heart (1950) co-director with Antony Darnborough
  7. So Long at the Fair (1950) co-director with Antony Darnborough
  8. Home to Danger (1951)
  9. The Last Page (1952) a.k.a. Man Bait (US)
  10. Wings of Danger (1952) a.k.a. Dead on Course (US)
  11. Stolen Face (1952)
  12. Distant Trumpet (1952)
  13. Mantrap (1953) also as co-screenwriter, a.k.a. Man in Hiding (US)
  14. Four Sided Triangle (1953) also as co-screenwriter
  15. Spaceways (1953)
  16. Blood Orange (1953) a.k.a. Three Stops to Murder (US)
  17. Face the Music (1954) a.k.a. The Black Glove (US)
  18. Murder by Proxy (1954) a.k.a. Blackout (US)
  19. A Stranger Came Home (1954) a.k.a. The Unholy Four (US)
  20. Final Appointment (1954) a.k.a. The Last Appointment (US)
  21. Mask of Dust (1954) a.k.a. Race for Life (US)
  22. Children Galore (1954)
  23. Stolen Assignment (1955)
  24. The Flaw (1955)
  25. The Gelignite Gang (1956) a.k.a. The Dynamiters (US)
  26. The Last Man to Hang? (1956)
  27. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
  28. Kill Me Tomorrow (1957)
  29. Dracula (1958) a.k.a. Horror of Dracula (US)
  30. The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)
  31. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
  32. The Mummy (1959)
  33. The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959)
  34. The Stranglers of Bombay (1959)
  35. The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960) a.k.a. Jekyll’s Inferno / House of Fright (US)
  36. The Brides of Dracula (1960)
  37. Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960)
  38. The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
  39. The Phantom of the Opera (1962)
  40. Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962)
  41. The Horror of It All (1963)
  42. The Gorgon (1964)
  43. The Earth Dies Screaming (1964)
  44. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
  45. Island of Terror (1966)
  46. Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
  47. Night of the Big Heat (1967) a.k.a. Island of the Burning Damned (US)
  48. The Devil Rides Out (1968) a.k.a. The Devil's Bride (US)
  49. Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)
  50. Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)

Related Research Articles

Lon Chaney Jr. American actor

Creighton Tull Chaney, known by his stage name Lon Chaney Jr., was an American actor known for playing Larry Talbot in the film The Wolf Man (1941) and its various crossovers, Count Alucard in Son of Dracula, Frankenstein's monster in The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), the Mummy in three pictures, and various other roles in many Universal horror films. He also portrayed Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men (1939) and supporting parts in dozens of mainstream movies. Originally referenced in films as Creighton Chaney, he was later credited as "Lon Chaney, Jr." in 1935, and after Man Made Monster (1941), beginning as early as The Wolf Man later that same year, he was almost always billed under his more famous father's name as Lon Chaney at the studio's insistence. Chaney had English, French, and Irish ancestry, and his career in movies and television spanned four decades, from 1931 to 1971.

Peter Cushing British actor

Peter Wilton Cushing,, was an English actor best known for his roles in the Hammer Productions horror films of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, and as Grand Moff Tarkin in the 1977 film Star Wars. His acting career spanned over six decades and included appearances in more than 100 films, as well as many television, stage and radio roles. Born in Kenley, Surrey, Cushing made his stage debut in 1935 and spent three years at a repertory theatre before moving to Hollywood to pursue a film career.

Hammer Film Productions Ltd. is a British film production company based in London. Founded in 1934, the company is best known for a series of gothic horror films made from the mid-1950s until the 1970s. Many of these involved classic horror characters such as Baron Frankenstein, Count Dracula, and The Mummy, which Hammer reintroduced to audiences by filming them in vivid colour for the first time. Hammer also produced science fiction, thrillers, film noir and comedies, as well as, in later years, television series. During its most successful years, Hammer dominated the horror film market, enjoying worldwide distribution and considerable financial success. This success was, in part, due to its distribution partnerships with American companies United Artists, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, American International Pictures and Seven Arts Productions.

<i>Dracula</i> (1958 film) 1958 horror film directed by Terence Fisher

Dracula is a 1958 British gothic horror film directed by Terence Fisher and written by Jimmy Sangster based on Bram Stoker's 1897 novel of the same name. The first in the series of Hammer Horror films starring Christopher Lee as Count Dracula, the film also features Peter Cushing as Doctor Van Helsing, along with Michael Gough, Melissa Stribling, Carol Marsh, and John Van Eyssen. In the United States, the film was retitled Horror of Dracula to avoid confusion with the U.S. original by Universal Pictures, 1931's Dracula.

<i>The Curse of Frankenstein</i> 1957 film by Terence Fisher

The Curse of Frankenstein is a 1957 British horror film by Hammer Film Productions, loosely based on the 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley. It was Hammer's first colour horror film, and the first of their Frankenstein series. Its worldwide success led to several sequels, and the studio's new versions of Dracula (1958) and The Mummy (1959), and established "Hammer Horror" as a distinctive brand of Gothic cinema.

John Gilling 1912-1984; English film director and screenwriter

John Gilling was an English film director and screenwriter, born in London. He was chiefly known for his horror movies, especially those he made for Hammer Films, for whom he directed The Shadow of the Cat (1961), The Plague of the Zombies (1966), The Reptile (1966) and The Mummy's Shroud (1967), among others.

<i>Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed</i> 1969 film by Terence Fisher

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is a 1969 British horror film directed by Terence Fisher for Hammer Films, starring Peter Cushing, Freddie Jones, Veronica Carlson and Simon Ward. The film is the fifth in a series of Hammer films focusing on Baron Frankenstein, who, in this entry, terrorises those around him in a bid to uncover the secrets of a former associate confined to a lunatic asylum.

<i>Dracula: Prince of Darkness</i> 1966 British horror film directed by Terence Fisher

Dracula: Prince of Darkness is a 1966 British supernatural horror film directed by Terence Fisher. The film was produced by Hammer Film Productions, and is the third entry in Hammer's Dracula series, as well as the second to feature Christopher Lee as Count Dracula, the titular vampire. It also stars Andrew Keir, Francis Matthews, and Barbara Shelley.

Jack Asher English cinematographer

Jack Asher B.S.C. was an English cinematographer. His brother Robert Asher was a film and TV director with whom he worked on several occasions.

<i>Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell</i> 1974 British horror film directed by Terence Fisher

Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell is a 1974 British horror film, directed by Terence Fisher and produced by Hammer Film Productions. It stars Peter Cushing, Shane Briant and David Prowse. Filmed at Elstree Studios in 1972 but not released until 1974, it was the final chapter in the Hammer Frankenstein saga of films as well as director Fisher's last film.

Michael Ripper British actor

Michael George Ripper was an English character actor born in Portsmouth, Hampshire.

<i>The Revenge of Frankenstein</i> 1958 film by Terence Fisher

The Revenge of Frankenstein is a 1958 British horror film made by Hammer Film Productions. Directed by Terence Fisher, the film stars Peter Cushing, Francis Matthews, Michael Gwynn and Eunice Gayson. In the United States, it was released in June, 1958 on a double bill with Curse of the Demon.

Michael Carreras was a British film producer and director. He was known for his association with Hammer Studios, being the son of founder James Carreras, and taking an executive role in the company during its most successful years.

Eddie Parker (actor) American actor

Eddie Parker was an American stuntman and actor who appeared in many classic films, mostly westerns and horror films. Some of his more famous films and serials include the 1943 "Batman", The Crimson Ghost, Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, and Rear Window for Alfred Hitchcock as well as many classic Universal horror films. He appeared three times in the early television series, Tales of the Texas Rangers, and also performed stunts for that program.

George Woodbridge (actor) English character actor

George Woodbridge was an English character actor in theatre, films and television from the 1930s to the 1970s. Born in Exeter, Devon, his ruddy-cheeked complexion and West Country accent meant he often played publicans, policemen or yokels, most prominently in horror and comedy films.

Sir James Enrique Carreras was a British film producer, who, together with William Hinds, founded the legendary British film company Hammer Film Productions.

A horror icon is a person or fictional character that is considered to be significant to horror fiction within mediums such as film, literature, television, or video games.

Valerie Gaunt British actress (1932-2016)

Valerie Sheila Gaunt was a British actress.

Frankenstein is the title of several horror-adventure films loosely based on the 1818 novel of the same name by Mary Shelley, centered on Baron Victor Frankenstein, who experiments in creating a creature beyond human.

The World Of Hammer is a British television documentary series created and written by Robert Sidaway and Ashley Sidaway, and produced by Robert Sidaway.