At first glance one might assume that Hammer’s 1959 production The Stranglers of Bombay was a departure from the successful cycle of gothic horrors the company had been churning out since The Curse of Frankenstein (1957). The reality is that despite its distinct historical and cultural setting the film is a solid example of what was increasingly becoming known as ‘Hammer Horror’. The structure of the movie will be all too familiar to those well versed in the films of Hammer and specifically those of in-house director Terence Fisher. The narrative is clearly demarcated along the lines of good and evil, and the rather simplistic Manichean universe that bound Hammer’s horror cycle at the time is effortlessly maintained. The screenplay by David Zelag Goodman opts to emphasis sensationalism over an intelligent examination of colonialism. So while we are offered up such delights as brandings, eye gouging, and mutilation, the question of imperialism remains a vague backdrop. Nevertheless colonialism would form the background to a number of later Hammer pictures including The Terror of the Tongs (1961), The Brigand of Kandahar (1965), The Plague of the Zombies (1966), The Reptile (1966), and The Mummy’s Shroud (1967). The subject was never really explored with any degree of sophistication, but it did achieve a metaphoric highpoint in The Reptile. There was a great deal of potential in the premise of The Stranglers of Bombay for it to stand alone, but unfortunately it isn’t quite able to escape the strictures of a well rehearsed formula.
© Shaun Anderson 2012