My local horror film factory...
Merton Park had one of the many small suburban film studios spread around the outer reaches of London. They flourished when there was a demand for different weekly movies with full-length supporting B-movies. The government also had a tax incentive that ensured a regular proportion of films in British cinemas had been produced in Britain.
Operating between 1929 and 1967, Merton Park Studios had a long-running success with adaptions of Edgar Wallace crime dramas. But when I noticed the studios' name also cropping up on horror movies, I was excited that a few world-famous cult films had been made locally. Not necessarily 'cult' because they were any good, though!
Hopefully the 'hospital' location in Invasion (1965) is still around for me to visit. In the story, the building is cut off from the outside world when two (Japanese?) aliens visit Earth. Invasion is a good example of the 'pub invasion' genre, where Earth-shattering events take place while witnessed from a confined space.
First contact is made with a handful of humans, as opposed to the whole world like in The Day The Earth Stood Still. This scenario is of course perfect for low budgets (see also The Man From Planet X, Devil Girl From Mars, Target: Earth, Night of the Big Heat, and The Earth Dies Screaming). It stars the late Edward Judd of First Men In the Moon, Island of Terror and The Day the Earth Caught Fire.
Merton Park's best known non-horror film must be The Leather Boys (1963). A 'kitchen sink' drama set in the South of England for a change. Rita Tushingham (from A Taste of Honey) accuses her new young husband that he'd rather hang out with another motorcycle buddy than stay at home with her.
The original book was a little more explicit at hinting at the relationship between Colin Campbell and Dudley Sutton's characters. The movie is affectionately heralded for its snapshot of many bygone London locations, including bikers' hangout, the Ace Cafe, which is still there today.
Timeslip (aka The Atomic Man, 1955) stars Faith Domergue (This Island Earth) and Peter Arne in a twisty high-tech (for 1955) thriller that makes British B-movies look respectable! Full review here.
The Case of the Mukkinese Battle Horn (1956) is only twenty minutes long, but deserves a special mention for the blossoming talent that it captured. There's an early multiple role for Peter Sellers (Dr Strangelove, The Pink Panther) as well as an early producer's role for Michael Deeley, long before he made The Italian Job and Blade Runner. It's also the best visual record of the influential humour of The Goons radio show. This short but very funny film is the rare jewel in Merton Park Studio's filmography. For a full illustrated review, follow the above link.
MERTON PARK FILM STUDIO HORROR FILMS
Devil Doll (1964)
The Projected Man (1966)
The Frozen Dead (1967)
This week, I visited the only building still standing from the studio complex. The Long Lodge (the long black building near the bottom of the map) was used as the studio's headquarters. The neighbouring Leather Bottle pub, (at the bottom left of the map) is also still around. The lodge can be found on the Kingston Road, opposite a small parade of shops between Raynes Park and Wimbledon, and has two commemorative plaques outside (pictured) which I feel rather sells it short.
For more information, here's a recent article by movie expert Tise Vahimagi, about the Edgar Wallace thrillers that were shot at Merton Park Studios.
The British Movie Forum has a short thread about the studios, through which I found the rare floor plan.