Picture above: Ian Hendry wearing a special effects mask created by Roy Ashton for the film – Tales From The Crypt (1972)

Roy Ashton was one of cinema’s greatest make-up designers and created most of Hammer’s most famous and memorable monsters. We take a look at his work on Ian Hendry and Peter Cushing in Tales From The Crypt (1972) – through the lens of some great behind the scenes pictures and reference photographs.

Tales From The Crypt 1972 Ian Hendry as Carl Maitland
Picture: A rare reference photograph of Ian Hendry wearing a special effects mask created by Roy Ashton for the film. Photograph from the Ashton & Leakey Collection
tales-from-the-crypt-roy-ashton-peter-cushing
Picture: Make-up artist Roy Ashton works on Peter Cushing’s corpse look for the segment Poetic Justice.
Tales-from-the-Crypt_05 Peter Cushing
Picture: Peter Cushing ready for action! Tales From The Crypt (1972)
Roy Ashton in Studio Vault of Horror 1973

Picture: A reference photograph of Roy Ashton (1909-1995) in his studio fitting a death mask onto an actor for ‘Vault of Horror’ (1973), taken by an unknown photographer in 1973. Other prosthetic creations by Ashton are evident. Photograph from the Ashton & Leakey Collection.

Roy Ashton

Howard Roy Ashton (17 April 1909 – 10 January 1995) was an Australian tenor, associated for a while with Benjamin Britten’s English Opera Group, and make-up artist who became particularly associated with his work on the Hammer Horror films.

See: Roy Ashton in Wikipedia

In 1955, Ashton was finally forced to make a choice. Invited to work with Orson Welles in Madrid for the film Mr. Arkadin, Ashton was on location when he received a message that English Opera Group wanted him to take part in a revival of Albert Herring. Having already promised to work on the film, though no contract had been signed, Ashton turned the EOG job down, so finishing his association with the group. His work as a make-up artist was a more lucrative and stable source of income, so he devoted himself to that career. However he would always fondly remember his singing career: “Nothing can compare with the thrill of appearing before a great gathering, of hearing the thunder of the applause delivered to a sincere artist,” he wrote.

On the production of Invitation to the Dance (1955), Ashton found himself working as assistant to Phil Leakey. They were soon firm friends, and worked together on several films. Leakey introduced Ashton to Hammer Films, so starting a relationship for which Ashton is best known.

Although he had a long and varied career in British films, Ashton is chiefly remembered for his work on the Hammer’s horror films. After assisting Leakey on The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Ashton found himself in charge of make-up for The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) when Leakey, having had his retainer cut by the company’s associate producer, Anthony Nelson Keys, left the company in disgust. Ashton’s main effort on that film, to transform a Great Dane into the title character, was barely a success, the result only appearing briefly in the final cut. His next film, The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959), involved transforming Anton Diffring into “a living corpse”: “To produce all the ravages of time and debauchery, I felt that the final effect should be a cocktail of fatal diseases spreading rapidly across his body. Glandular fever, smallpox, cholera, typhus and typhoid, represented some of the ailments that Bonner had come into contact with (through his unseen travels) as a crusading physician.” The result was widely admired: over a decade later the American make-up artist, Dick Smith, consulted Ashton about the effect to create make-up to age Dustin Hoffman as an 103-year-old man in Little Big Man, and was to repeat the effect in several subsequent films.

Ashton subsequently created some of the studio’s most celebrated images in films, such as The Mummy (1959), The Curse of the Werewolf (1960) and The Reptile (1966). Ashton was particularly proud of the make-up he created for The Curse of the Werewolf, which he claimed he created quite unaware of the make up by Jack Pierce in Werewolf of London or that used in Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête. Hearing in advance that Hammer were planning to make Curse of the Werewolf, he obtained a copy of the script and spent weeks in preparation before he was approached by Keys to undertake the job. Ashton also recommended that Oliver Reed should be cast in the title role: “His powerful bone structure was just right for the appearance and his gifts as an actor were perfect for the part. In addition, he resembles a wolf anyway when he is very angry.” Through Oliver Reed, Ashton met the Australian dental surgeon Phil Rasmussen, who gave useful advice about creating fangs for the werewolf make-up; so started a professional relationship which was to continue in several subsequent films.

Ashton also worked on a number of Amicus horror films, including The House That Dripped Blood (1971), Asylum (1972), and Tales from the Crypt (1972), and worked on Tigon’s The Creeping Flesh. As well as horror films, he worked on Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther series.

Until next time,

Neil Hendry
Editor, Official Website of Ian Hendry

Further Reading

A detailed account of the life and work of Ian Hendry in the new biography:

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