The Mondo Esoterica Guide to:

Val Guest

  About Val Guest:

Born Valmond Maurice Grossmann in London, 1911, Guest broke into drama from an early age, acting in the theatre and writing screenplays, including the funny Will Hay comedy Oh, Mr Porter (1937) - he soon progressed into composing and directing in the 1940s, helming a variety of now forgotten comedy films. His arrival at Hammer pictures came in 1953 when he bumped into actor Ben Lyon in London and was invited to write and direct Life with the Lyons (1954). His strong direction was quickly acknowledged by the studio and in 1954 he directed their first colour film Men of Sherwood Forest (1954) and Lyons sequel The Lyons in Paris (1954). The next year, Guest was chosen to direct Hammer's biggest film to date, their first X rated horror themed picture, The Quatermass Xperiment (1955). The film proved very popular and after shooting a couple of independent films, Guest returned to Hammer to shoot the sequel Quatermass 2 (1957) and The Abominable Snowman (1957) - a vehicle for the studio's biggest new star Peter Cushing. Never a fan of horror films, he avoided Hammer's new gothic horror pictures, instead helming a couple of comedies as well as gritty war dramas The Camp on Blood Island (1958) and Yesterday's Enemy (1959) and completing his work for the studio with the equally gritty crime drama Hell is a City (1960).

Guest left the studio to work on his own production, the sci-fi paranoia piece The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), followed by a variety of pictures including medical thriller 80,000 Suspects (1963), and David Niven spy comedy Where the Spies Are (1965) - this role lead Guest to a directoral role in Bond spoof Casino Royale (1967), a film he described as a complete mess. A last fling with Hammer Films came in 1970s when Guest wrote and directed the rather generic fantasy picture When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970). After this, with the decline in British cinema, came the rather absurd soft-core Confessions of a Window Cleaner (1974) and the action/crime film Killer Force (1976) as well as directoral roles on several television series. He retired after directing part of the final Hammer TV series Hammer House of Mystery and Suspence (1984). In recent years Guest penned an autobiography So You Want to be in Pictures? (
Reynolds & Hearn Ltd 2001) and recorded a number of interviews and audio commentaries for his films. He died in May 2006.

DVD Reviews: Films directed by Val Guest

The Abominable Snowman (1957)
UK DD-Video Region 0 DVD
Cushing goes in search of the Yeti in this rather over-written but well directed film that avoids becoming mere monster fodder.
Partly recommended.
Hell is a City (1960)
Anchor Bay US Region 1 DVD
Stanley Baker is a police officer on the trail of a killer in 1960s Manchester in this very realistic crime film for Hammer.
Men of Sherwood Forest (1954)
German E-M-S Region 2 DVD
An early Hammer film with a fun swashbuckling plot and good cast/sets, but low budget means it is rather small scale.
Partially recommended.
Quatermass 2 (1957)
UK DD-Video Region 2 DVD
A grim, conspiracy based sci-fi picture, much bigger than the first, with strong production and direction.
Recommended to Hammer and sci-fi fans.
The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)
UK DD-Video Region 2 DVD
Based on the BBC TV series, this film marks Hammer's first real move into horror themes and is well directed by Val Guest.
Partly recommended to Hammer and sci-fi fans.


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All text in this site written by Timothy Young - July 2006.
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