March Hammer Glamour comes to us courtesy of an actress who made her indelible impression on horror fans in only three films for the studio. Veronica Carlson was, famously or not-so-famously (depending on your awareness of Hammer lore), discovered by studio head James Carreras while thumbing through a newspaper. Carreras was so taken by her beauty and presence that he offered her a role opposite Christopher Lee in Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968),despite the fact that she had only appeared in a few minor TV roles, including an appearance with Roger Moore on The Saint. And whether the image used on it was that of Carlson’s or of a model who looked very much like her, she will be forever associated with one of the great one-sheets in horror movie history, created for the domestic release of DHRFTG, which certainly helped lure fascinated eight-year-olds like myself into the theater. As if the dangling carrot of a new Hammer Dracula epic weren’t already enough, a certain emerging curiosity about the female form was too much to resist, and for many a young prepubescent man of my generation Veronica Carlson became not only an icon of horror but of a curious new desire.
Fortunately, she was a very good actress too. Her role as Anna, opposite Peter Cushing and Simon Ward in the Hammer’s masterpiece Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed was an excellent showcase for her dramatic talents—she has not only a horrifying encounter with Cushing’s malevolent Dr. Frankenstein, but also one of the movie’s most memorable set pieces, in which she tries to keep some buried body parts unearthed by a garden’s broken water main hidden from the sight of intruders in Frankenstein’s hideaway. Her final Hammer appearance was in Jimmy Sangster’s rather odd, not entirely ineffective Horror of Frankenstein (1970). She went into retirement from acting five years later and despite a couple of minor appearances in the mid ‘90s has remained out of the spotlight.
Carlson currently lives with her husband and children in South Carolina where she enjoys the occasional fan convention appearance to punctuate her successful career as a professional artist. She may never have won an Oscar, and most wouldn’t even know her name, but for those of us whose lives and appetites as film fans were shaped in part by her brief time within the horror genre, Veronica Carlson remains a great monster movie beauty, one with a lot more strength and determination than your average distressed damsel. She holds a very special place in my heart—right next to the stake of horror movie love she helped drive through it, of course.
Peter Cushing and Veronica Carlson suck it up on the set of Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (Picture courtesy of The Peter Cushing Blog)
And here's a very good interview from 2011 courtesy of Mark Redfield's blog An Actor's Notebook in which the actress talks about her career as an artist and her unexpected rise to Hammer Studio stardom.