Wednesday, 30 October 2013

HORROR IN ROYAL WINDSOR



Think of Windsor and what words come to mind?  Royalty? River? Castle?  These are the things that Windsor is best known for, but what may be less well known is the role the town has played in the making of some of the best-known horror films, particularly those made by Hammer Films.  The focal point for the filming was the gothic-looking turretted building called Oakley Court on the outskirts of Windsor next to the River Thames.  Oakley Court is currently a hotel, although it was reportedly put up for sale earlier this year.  Because of its dramatic, spooky appearance and its location adjacent to the Bray Studios Oakley Court came to be used for a large number of film productions, some 200 in all. 

In 1957 Peter Cushing was filmed at Oakley Court dabbling in science with monstrous consequences in The Curse Of Frankenstein.  The following year Cushing was joined by the other great horror supremo Christopher Lee in Dracula, in which Oakley Court portrayed Arthur Holmwood's house.  In 1960 the building's entrance became the entrance to Castle Meinster in The Brides Of Dracula.  Then it was a girls' school in Nightmare (1962).  In 1964 Frankenstein made another appearance in The Evil Of Frankenstein, with Oakley Court as the Frankenstein family castle near Karlstad.  The building appeared as Nahum Witley's house in Monstor Of Terror (1965) and Hamilton Manor in The Plague Of The Zombies (1966).  The building's castle-like appearance served it well again in And Now The Screaming Starts (1973) when the exterior of the building depicted Fengriffen Castle.  The musical comedy The Rocky Horror Show made use of Oakley Court in 1975.  At the time of filming the hotel was to all intents and purposes a decrepit shell of a building, with buckets dotted around for catching the rainwater coming through the holes in the roof.  The building was used for the exterior castle scenes, while parts of the interior were used for the criminologist's study, the dining room, Brad's room, Janet's room and Columbia's room. 

However, the filming of films in the horror genre in Windsor was not exclusively confined to Oakely Court.  In 1955 The Quatermass Experiment made use of a number of locations around the town.  This horror classic featured a half-man half-monster called Carroon.  While mutating, Carroon steals drugs from a chemist's shop: the building used is the Woods Of Windsor shop on Queen Charlotte Street, incidentally the shortest street in Britain.  The scene featuring the discovery of a trail of slime was filmed in Goswell Hill, beside the railway station.   In 1966 the comedy Carry On Screaming featured a scene involving a police station which was filmed in St Leonard's Road.  The building used for the police station was a former fire station, but is now an arts centre.  Sergeant Bung's house in the film was on Queens Road.

So, on the occasion of Halloween lets turn down the lights, put on one of these classic horror films and give thanks to Oakley Court and to Windsor for their contribution to the horror film industry.

Map of the town. 

File:Windsor sceptre.jpg
A tranquil scene that belies the horror lurking within.  Photo by Mark Furney, via Wikimedia Commons

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