Interlude: Jimmy Sangster, 1927 – 2011

Jimmy Sangster has always been one of my heroes, and I was saddened to hear of his recent passing.  I actually heard the news a few weeks late (he died on August 19) but that’s only appropriate, since I saw his films a bit late as well — two or three decades after their release, in fact.

Sangster was by far the best screenwriter in the Hammer stable, with credits like  X the UnknownThe Horror of DraculaThe Curse of FrankensteinThe Crawling Eye and many others.  He wrote quickly.  His output was consistently good.  And he was an all-arounder, which is surprisingly rare in his profession. His scripts were well-plotted and suspenseful, his characters believable, his dialogue whip-smart.

In later years he turned to television, scripting episodes of Ironsides and Banecek and Movin’ On, giving even the most mediocre assignments far more than they deserved.  And unlike some television writers (I’m looking at you, Harlan Ellison) he never tried to make a show conform to his own sensibilities.  He was a master craftsman who knew exactly what the script required, and provided it.And when given the opportunity, as with “The Spanish Moss Murders” episode of  Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Sangster showed that he was still bubbling over with ideas.  He ran circles round the other guys, and he made it look easy.

When I grow up, I want to be Jimmy Sangster.