The director Don Sharp, loved by horror fans for his association with Hammer Films, has died at the age of 89.
The Tasmanian-born Sharp left Australia for England after World War II, embarking on a career in films and television that lasted for four decades before his retirement. Among his most successful films as director were The Kiss of the Vampire (1962) and Rasputin the Mad Monk (1966), which starred Christopher Lee as the infamous Russian villain. He made two others for Hammer Films, the British studio still celebrated today for its Gothic horror movies of the fifties, sixties and seventies.
Outside Hammer, his other work in the genre included Witchcraft (1964), Curse of the Fly (1965), The Face of Fu Manchu (1965) and Psychomania (1972), a curiously watchable occult thriller about a gang of motorcycle-riding, devil-worshipping youths that starred George Sanders.
He turned his hand to every genre, however, and one of his most enduringly popular films is the 1978 remake of The Thirty Nine Steps. Its success secured a spin-off TV series for star Robert Powell in the role of Richard Hannay.
Don Sharp could always be relied on to craft a meticulously paced, splendid-looking feature film. The Kiss of the Vampire, about a bloodsucking cult headed by the decadent Dr. Ravna, stands out for its definite Hitchcockian flavour, thanks to a number of tightly directed suspense sequences. Watch the atmospheric opening scene and title sequence below:
Fans of Sharp’s era in British filmmaking, especially Hammer horror afficianados, will rue his passing as one more of the old school sadly dying off, leaving few stalwarts behind. Don Sharp belongs up there with names such as Terence Fisher (Dracula), Freddie Francis (Dracula Has Risen from the Grave) and Roy Ward Baker (Quatermass and the Pit) as one of the legends of the British Gothic horror genre.