Shock Theatre: The Hammer Horror Chewing Gum Cards


The gory Hammer Films trading cards of 1976.

In the 1970s and 1980s, chewing gum cards were all the rage amongst collecting-minded youth with a taste for cinema. From Star Wars to Superman, whole series of cards that would be hard to complete (especially as you were never told just how many cards were in a series) were hugely popular. The oddest of them all was the British Shock Theatre series, which didn’t feature stills from some new blockbuster, but rather from Hammer Horror movies from 1968 to 1973.

Dating from 1976, these cards from Topps came in packs of three, together with a slice of rock-hard, revolting and potentially mouth-lacerating chewing gum that would be quickly consigned to the bin. The stills were from Warner Bros Hammer releases – Dracula Has Risen for the Grave, Taste the Blood of Dracula, Dracula AD 1972, The Satanic Rites of Dracula and a token Frankenstein title, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. The back of the cards featured cheesy jokes (“shocking laffs”) and a straight-faced caption for the photo. There were 50 cards in the set (including no number 47 but two number 17s!).

A year before this set appeared in the UK, there was a US version that only got as far as test copies. This 1975 American version (Shock Theater) is notable for having different films included – non-Warner Brothers Hammer titles like Horror of Frankenstein, The Curse of Frankenstein and Scars of Dracula – and different captions on some cards. To make things even more mysterious, this set has no number 17, but two number 47s! Here are a few examples – if anyone has any more they’d care to share with us, please get in touch!

Can you imagine the outrage if these gory images were marketed to kids now?

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