John Gilling

John Gilling (29 May 1912 – 22 November 1984) was an English film director and screenwriter, born in London. He was chiefly known for his horror movies, especially those he made for Hammer Films, for whom he directed The Shadow of the Cat (1961), The Plague of the Zombies (1966), The Reptile (1966) and The Mummy's Shroud (1967), among others.

John Gilling
John Gilling

(1912-05-29)29 May 1912
London, England
Died22 November 1984(1984-11-22) (aged 72)
Madrid, Spain
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter
Years active1935–1975


Gilling left a job in England with an oil company at the age of 17 and went to Hollywood, where he worked at a number of jobs, some of them in the film industry, before returning to England in 1933.[1] He entered the British film industry immediately as an editor and assistant director, starting with Father O'Flynn. He served in the Royal Navy in the Second World War.

After the war Gilling began screenwriting with Black Memory in 1947, and made his directing debut with Escape from Broadmoor (1948). Gilling also produced and directed Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (a.k.a. Vampire Over London / My Son the Vampire) in 1952. Gilling continued through the 1950s making several entertaining 'quota quickies' such as The Voice of Merrill for Monty Berman's Tempean Films and entered television directing in several British made series that received international distribution such as Douglas Fairbanks Jr Presents and Gideon's Way, as well as Monty Berman's The Saint, The Champions, and Department S. Of his films for Tempean the film historians Steve Chibnall and Brian McFarlane say: "Gilling shows in all of them a capacity for establishing the premises of his plots economically and evocatively, for developing them with clarity and speed, for giving competent players a chance to invest their characters with a feeling and detail that go beyond stereotype, and for making deft use of limited locations and settings."[1]

Starting in 1956 Gilling directed and wrote several films for Albert R. Broccoli and Irving Allen's Warwick Films beginning with Odongo. Perhaps his very best film as a director is The Flesh and the Fiends (1959), the story of Dr. Robert Knox and the West Port murders, which starred Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasence. For his own production company John Gilling Enterprises he made Fury at Smugglers' Bay in 1961.

Gilling first worked for Hammer Films in 1961, directing The Shadow of the Cat. He achieved his greatest fame with several of their horror films such as The Plague of the Zombies and The Reptile, as well as making the non-horror Hammer films The Pirates of Blood River (1962) and The Scarlet Blade (1963). Gilling also directed the crime thriller The Challenge starring Anthony Quayle and Jayne Mansfield, the science fiction film The Night Caller (1965) starring John Saxon and Maurice Denham, and the second Charles Vine spy movie Where the Bullets Fly (1966).

Following a final round of work in British television Gilling relocated to Spain, where he came out of retirement in 1975 to make Cross of the Devil, his final film.





  1. Steve Chibnall & Brian McFarlane, The British 'B' Film, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2009, pp. 133–35.
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