Elstree Film Studios has a long and colourful history. The present facilities are built on land originally purchased in 1925, to locate a ‘silent’ studio constructed one year later. At that time, ALFRED HITCHCOCK was engaged as a staff director and was responsible for a number of films, including the first British talkie, Blackmail.
During the pre-war years, the Studios undertook pioneering work in colour films and produced the first French talkie and the first multi-lingual film. It launched a number of pre-war movie acting careers including those of CHARLES LAUGHTON, RAY MILLAND, STEWART GRANGER, LAURENCE OLIVIER, ROBERT NEWTON, ANNA NEAGLE, VIVIEN LEIGH and MAUREEN O’HARA.
During 1939, the original Studio closed and was commandeered for ‘wartime purposes’. A few years later, Warner Bros. Purchased a 25share in the parent company, ABPC, and the Studio was largely rebuilt before re-opening in 1948. The first major post-war movies were Stage Fright with MARLENE DIETRICH and The Hasty Retreat starring RONALD REAGAN. Post war careers launched at Elstree include RICHARD HARRIS, AUDREY HEPBURN, LAURENCE HARVEY and RICHARD TODD.
The 1950’s and 60’s saw productions such as Moby Dick with GREGORY PECK, Kings Rhapsody with ERROL FLYNN, The Dam Busters, Look Back In Anger and hit TV series such as The Avengers and The Saint. The stars GARY COOPER, JEFF CHANDLER and TALLULAH BANKHEAD were to make their last movies at Elstree.
Between 1959 and 1975 Hammer Films produced 39 films here starring such actresses as STEPHANIE BEACHAM, MARSHA HUNT and KATE O’MARA. Films included the comedies On The Buses and Man About The House, the ambitious The Lost Continent as well as the chiller thrillers for which the company is notorious, such as ‘The Horror of Frankenstein, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb and The Vampire Lovers.
Elstree was busy throughout the 1970’s and 80’s with productions such as Murder On The Orient Express, Never Say Never Again, the Star Wars trilogy, the Indiana Jones trilogy and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The post-production facilities were used on a wide range of movies, including Chariots of Fire, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Last Emperor.
During 1986, Cannon purchased the Studios and sold off the film library – before announcing closure plans during 1988. The complex was then purchased by Brent Walker who agreed with the planning authority to retain 15.5 acres as a film studio, in return for permission to sell 12 acres of land to Tesco Superstore for £19 million. The agreement involved rebuilding the facility and its leisure amenities, and maintaining them for 25 years.
The Section 106 planning agreement, signed in 1990, was designed to secure the Studio’s future. However, in 1993, Brent Walker announced it was closing the facility, as it wished to maximise the site’s value. A legal fight ensued that lasted until Brent Walker offered the Studio to Hertsmere Borough Council for £1.9 million in February 1996, in return for dropping all legal actions.
From 1988 onwards, a successful voluntary ‘Save Our Studios’ campaign was mounted, which resulted in world wide media coverage, a 700 strong audience at a public meeting and nearly 30,000 petition signatures. It was successful in enlisting the support of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Lord Attenborough and a host of stars including PETER CUSHING who offered to lie down in front of the bulldozers!
After Hertsmere Borough Council bought the Studio in February 1996, it soon reopened for business with a British Lottery assisted movie Peggy Su starring BURT KWOUK. Next to be produced was the $25 million Warner Bros. movie Watch That Man starring BILL MURRAY and JOANNE WHALLEY. This spoof spy thriller was subsequently re-titled The Man Who Knew Too Little.
Since reopening, Elstree Studios has proved an attractive facility for commercials including those for BT, Cointreau, Pontins, Success, One To One (with IAN WRIGHT), St.Ives Swiss Formula, Bisto (with JULIE WALTERS) and Puma.
Elstree has also attracted numerous television productions such as a 90 minute film of Jane Eyre for LWT, interiors for the long-running Last of The Summer Wine, Wuthering Heights, Big Women, The Fast Show and The Judas Tree ballet for Channel 4. Major television series to use Elstree’s sound stages include Kavanagh QC and Playing The Field and big TV productions include the BBC’s Tom Jones and Coming Home starring JOANNA LUMLEY and veteran actor PETER O’TOOLE.
Night Two : Waggon & Horses, Allum Hall, Hollybush Pub
Night Three : Gate Studios
The most interesting encounters they experienced, included the spirits of a family located in one of the large empty studios. It is belived this family died during the great plague of the 17th Century, and that the area where the studio now stands they passed away together, trying to escape from the awful disease.
Various paranomal activity occured during the investigation, including the switching off of a televsion set and a candle falling over many times.
First Broadcast : 6th May 2005
A self confessed super fan of Most Haunted and editor of GhostMag.com. Matt’s passion for ghost hunting began when he moved into a haunted house in his second year of university in Leicester! His favourite location is the Niddry Street Vaults in Edinburgh.