Hysteria (1965) Puts Another Amnesiac In Harm's Way
MGM-Elstree was a buzzing hive in 1964 when
partnered with Hammer for Hysteria, another (and last) of B/W thrillers done by
the horror specialists to feed off success of Psycho. Jimmy Sangster had
written most of that group; now he would produce as well. This was likeliest a subcontract between Metro and Hammer, as Hysteria has belonged to the
former since '65 release and is currently available from Warner Archive. MGM
needed product to distribute and hired Hammer to supply it. There's
little about Hysteria to identify it as a Hammer film. The company was
transitioning out of Bray House and losing some of its distinctive identity in
any case. To shoot at Elstree and London
locations made Hammer product indistinguishable from others of similar type.
Bob Lippert could have sent a lead man like Hysteria's Robert Webber over and
gotten result same as chillers Witchcraft (Lon Chaney) or The Earth Dies Screaming(Willard Parker). Webber was functional if not
charismatic; he's an amnesiac who might have killed during blackouts. There are
bloody knives and a shower murder, these having more practical use in trailers
and publicity for Hysteria than in the narrative itself. Sangster said
later that he'd gotten tired of this stuff, and director Freddie Francis
confessed it was a miserable six-week shoot (Webber's misbehavior, among other
things). Wayne Kinsey tells the story with fascinating detail in his Hammer
history book. There's no hint of mod or swinging London among drab backgrounds captured here.
Even Webber's penthouse flat has lingering air of postwar austerity. Variety
said Hysteria should please "at the bottom ofa double bill," where
it sat mostly behind Signpost To Murder, another Metro suspenser, or Hammer's She
remake, also MGM handled in the US.