I suppose it’s normal that most screenwriters who pass away go to that Underwood in the sky with little ceremony. Sometimes we don’t even notice their passing ourselves, and often we don’t realise how much certain screenwriters mean to us or what they’ve given us over the years.
Jimmy Sangster was a self-effacing screenwriter, director, producer who, while giving DVD commentaries recently, seemed surprised that anyone would be interested in his life’s work. But to this screenwriter, he was a name I recognised and one of the first screenwriters to have a direct effect on me.
His main claim to fame was writing many of Hammer’s key horror movies through the late 1950s and 60s, and these were the films I grew up on, watching them on TV in the 70s.
He wrote their seminal Dracula and Frankenstein films, as well as other Hammer classics like The Mummy, The Brides of Dracula, Jack the Ripper, The Siege of Sidney Street, The Hellfire Club, The Nanny and the utterly awesome Dracula: Prince of Darkness.
What he helped to create was a uniquely British take on gothic horror, dripping with dread and barely concealed eroticism.
He probably scared the shit out of me more than anyone before or since.
Little did I know that, at the same time, in his role as writer-story editor, he was also entertaining me with his scripts for pre-watershed US TV shows like Banacek, Wonder Woman, Cannon, McCloud, Six Million Dollar Man, Ironside and the brilliant return to late night horror, Kolchak: The Night Stalker.
He wrote about his Hammer-to-Hollywood life as a screenwriter in the brilliantly titled book Do You Want it Good or Tuesday?, which is well worth checking out.
He died on on 19 August, aged 83, and his work meant a lot to me.
Read more about his life and career in the Guardian obituary. And see him here interviewed in a Hammer Horror special: