Archive for Peter Cushing

The Blood Beast Terror (1967)

Posted in Cryptids, Horror, Lee & Cushing with tags , , , , on August 17, 2012 by MONSTERMINIONS

The cryptid entity known as Mothman first made news by alleged appearances in the Point Pleasant area of West Virginia in 1966, with additional sightings through 1967. Mothman was reported as a dark, winged creature with glowing red eyes. Most accounts claimed that the creature was bi-pedal with a general humanoid appearance. After seeing The Blood Beast of Terror (1967), I can’t help but think U.S. accounts of mothman inspired this British Tigon film. I wonder if there is a connection?

The film opens in a tropical expedition setting with a young entomologist collecting bright green insect pupae from a rotting stump. Back in England, we meet Dr. Carl Mallinger (Robert Flemyng, in a role originally cast for Basil Rathbone), also an entomologist, who is lecturing college students about the identification and taxonomy of various insects, including potter wasps and various moths of the family Sphingidae. These are the hawk moths, including the Death’s Head Moth (genus Acherontia). This is the moth later made famous by author Thomas Harris in The Silence of the Lambs (1988). The moth appears earlier in the Dali Buñuel film Un Chien Andalou (1929). The moth has a vague pattern of a skull on it’s thorax.

Several bloody murders have occurred proximal to Mallinger’s estate. Detective Inspector Quennell (Peter Cushing) investigates. The found bodies are always scarred and bloody, with blood drained from the bodies. At one crime scene Quennell discovers several flat irregular-shaped shingles. He consults with Mallinger about possible birds that might attack a human. We also learn that Mallinger has a deaf, scarred underling who cares for a large eagle kept in the dungeon.

Mallinger also conducts electro-experiments with a static discharge machine and a leyden jar (an early capacitor).

And he has a giant half-pupated mummy-like mothman in his basement… He applies a static discharge…

Peter Cushing carries this film. He once remarked that he felt The Blood Beast Terror was his worst film. It’s not bad, but it suffers from a choppy mid-section and poor closing special effects. I wasn’t impressed with the flying mothman fx. Still, genre completists and Cushing fans will want to see this film. Watch Cushing’s hand mannerisms. Along with Bela Lugosi he was a master at capturing your attention with hand gestures.

That’s not a flat top haircut! Beware the pupating Blood Beast Terror!

This film is available through Amazon as a Redemption | Kino Lorber DVD Release. The print is sharp and contrasty. I paid about $12 for it. I think it might be cropped from the original aspect ratio based on the opening titles.

Alternative poster and title The Vampire-Beast Craves Blood.

Twins of Evil (1971)

Posted in Horror with tags , , on August 13, 2012 by MONSTERMINIONS

In Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography (McFarland, 1996), authors Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio write that Twins of Evil (1971) was perhaps Hammer’s last great vampire film.  I agree and prefer it to the confusing, albeit unusual Vampire Circus (1972)(which is well-worth seeing) and the dated “modern” vampire yarn Dracula A.D. (1972), starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, which followed a year later.

Twins of Evil moves along at a fast clip. It’s never boring and has an unusual storyline with puritan zealot Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing) and his brotherhood followers chasing down evil within a European village.  Eye candy materializes in the film as Frieda and Maria Gellhorn, played by former Hefner Playmates Madeleine and Mary Collinson, respectively.  The two arrive in the village under the watchful and stringent care of Gustav Weil.  One is naughty (Frieda) and one is nice (Maria).  Frieda takes interest in the local heavy, Count Karnstein (well played by Damien Thomas).

Karnstein of course dabbles in the black arts and eventually becomes a vampire.  He in turn infects Frieda. There’s also plenty of sex interjected into the story.  Twins of Evil was loosely based on Camilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu.  Twins of Evil offers female vampires interested in buxom girls. It held my attention.  The set design and cinematography will also keep Hammer fans happy.  Did anyone notice that the score sounds a bit like Elmer Bernstein’s march from The Magnificent Seven (1960)?

Damien Thomas, still active in film, also appeared in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977). He played aristocratic types well and in this film, makes for an eloquent and creepy lead vampire. It’s a shame Hammer didn’t cast him in more vampire films.

Here’s the lovely and incredibly sexy Madeleine Collinson (I think I got that right) under soft focus photography.

Karnstein fears his fate.

Twins of Evil is available as a DVD/Blu-ray package from Synapse films. The supplements include a well-constructed documentary on the film and Hammer in the early 1970’s and a fascinating film on Hammer Collectibles, and other extras. A few folks have complained about the graininess of the Blu-ray print, but it looked fine to me on my 720P HD cathode ray tube. This is a film that all vampire fans should own.

Collinson Twins, Playboy October 1970:

Island of Terror (1966)

Posted in Cult Movies, Horror, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , on May 22, 2012 by MONSTERMINIONS

This film is quintessential b-movie monster greatness and one of my all-time favorites.  Everything works beginning with rapid editing, fine direction by Hammer regular Terence Fisher, an original and taut score, a moody setting (there’s Brocket Hall again), a terrific supporting cast (Niall MacGinnis), an unusual story about cancer research gone bad, the inimitable Peter Cushing and the unforgettable turtle monsters or Silicates.  Island of Terror (1966) is a fast paced film.  Like The Thing from Another World (1951),  Doom Watch (1972), and The Wicker Man (1973),  the movie benefits from the uneasiness of an unknown terror threatening an isolated and unprepared group of people. Terence Fisher’s direction is sublime.  However, this is not a Hammer production.

In some ways, Island of Terror reminds me a bit of a 007 flick —I like how Peter Cushing (Dr. Brian Stanley) and Edward Judd (Dr. David West) don Level A radiation suits. They look like Dr. No!  My friend Jim thought the film to be a “little bit Dr. Who-ish”.   The monsters look like they might appear in a Dr. Who episode.

You’ll notice the research facilty as Karswell’s mansion Lufford Hall (Night of the Demon, 1957). This is the historical home of Lord Brocket, in Hertfordshire, England.  It’s in several films.

Here’s a plot rundown.  An island off the coast of Ireland harbors a research facility and specialists using radioisotopes in hopes of finding a cure for cancer.  A body of local farmer Ian Bellows is found devoid of bone structure.  His body is essentially a big mass of jelly.  A local Dr. Landers (Eddie Byrne) examines the body and recruits input from mainland Dr. Stanley (Peter Cushing) who specializes in pathology.  Both doctors are dumbfounded and consult with bone specialist Dr. David West (Edward Judd).  The three good doctors and West’s wealthy girlfriend Toni Merrill (Carole Gray) fly to the Island of Terror via a Sikorsky helicopter.

The doctors examine the corpse of Ian Bellows and discover numerous minute puncture wounds and discover that his bones and skeletal structure have been completely dissolved.  Other bodies are discovered. They recruit the aid of a local constable and investigate the cancer reasearch facility run by a mysterious Dr. Philips (there are a lot of doctors in this film).  Several “jelly” bodies are discovered.  The constable pokes around in the wrong place…

Still in the catacombs of the research facility, Stanley, Merrill, West and Landers encounter a strange slug-like creature with a hard tough carapace and long snake-like tentacle.  Landers grabs an ax…

The doctors discover that the creatures or “silicates” become dormant when they split.  They multiple much like primitive organisms… One silicate becomes 2, then 4, 8, 16 and so on… 

Peter Cushing and friends learn that Doctor Philips research into creating cancer fighting cells led to the creation of the durable, deadly multiplying silicates.  Local islanders are informed.  I particularly like Niall MacGinnis (Karswell in Night of the Demon) who plays one of the island leaders toting a shotgun.

Peter Cushing approaches one of the silicates with a Geiger counter…

I won’t spoil the ending, but Cushing has an encounter…

Island of Terror is tremendous fun.  This film serves as a template on how to make a good sci-fi/horror film:

  1. Hire Terence Fisher (or other experienced horror/action film director)
  2. Hire Peter Cushing (or Christopher Lee)
  3. Hire good writers.
  4. Create a weird and interesting monster and have it stalk people in an isolated setting.
  5. Film on location.
  6. Don’t make the film too long.
  7. Add punchy score.
  8. Never ever add CGI unless it’s a superhero movie like The Avengers.

Ah, they don’t make ’em like they used to…

Film Location Info:


Horror Express / Pánico en el Transiberiano (1972)

Posted in Horror with tags , , , on December 6, 2011 by MONSTERMINIONS

This $350,000 Spanish-made film from Scotia International might be the last great pairing of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.  It’s one of my favorite horror films of the 70’s —it’s intelligent, well-acted, beautifully photographed and paced, and suspenseful. It’s different. The horror is a shape-shifting alien that could’ve been heisted straight from a John W. Campbell novel. Actually, an alternative title for the movie could’ve been The Host.  Horror Express (Pánico en el Transiberiano) benefits from two effective plot devices: 1) an alien presence is introduced and we’re not quite certain of it’s abilities, and 2) the story pits the good guys versus the monster in an isolated setting —in this case a runaway Trans-Siberian passenger train. Sound familiar?

We’ve seen this before in The Thing from Another World (1951), It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958), Jaws (1975), Alien (1979), The Thing (1982), Predator (1987) and many other films.  The formula of an uneasy alliance with limited resources fighting an unknown horror in an isolated setting is also successful in Horror Express.

Recently, a new pressing of the film is available for the first time as a Blu-Ray / DVD combo pack from Severin.  The film looks and sounds terrific (no more scratches) and includes several supplements:

  • An introduction from the editor of Fangoria Chris Alexander
  • Various interviews, including director Eugenio Martín
  • 1973 audio commentary/interview with Peter Cushing
  • An interview with composer and Telly Savalas’ friend John Cacavas
  • Various trailers

The plot is simple enough. In 1906, British professor of anthropology Saxton (Christopher Lee) leads an expedition to Szechuan Province and discovers the frozen remains of a two-million year old ape-like hominid or missing link.  He carts the frozen fossil on board a Trans-Siberian passenger train bound presumably from Peking to Moscow.  Of course that’s where the fun begins.  Also on board the train is nosey Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing), the mad monk  Pujardov (Alberto De Mendoza)(who’s really good in this film), a microbiologist, a metallurgist, an engineer, an inspector, a countess, a gorgeous stowaway (Helga Line) and several other characters. Later, the wacked-out Cossack General Kazan (Telly Savalas) enters into the mix.  The missing link thaws, gives a local baggageman the evil eye (more on this later), and escapes from the crate using a bent nail.  This is one smart missing link.

Seems there’s a bit more to this cave man.

Ah cooked fish eyes.  Maybe there is a connection?  After an autopsy of the above baggageman who has a brain as “smooth as a baby’s bottom”, Dr. Wells quickly surmises that the missing link has the ability to sorb memories from it’s victims.

You know you have a good film with the presence of Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Telly Savalas.  I like the off-beat casting of Savalas as the thug General Kazan. He punches Christopher Lee!  You don’t see that often. Savalas was always charismatic whether he was playing Ernst Stavro Blofeld in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969 -one of my favorite 007 films) or as the TV character Kojak.  He had a likeable, albeit smarmy screen presence, and he delivers in Horror Express.  The modern actor Vin Diesel reminds me a bit of Savalas.

The mad monk Pujardov hosts the alien presence and takes control of the Trans-Siberian Express.  What will happen?

Overall, the new pressing of Horror Express is a must for horror fans.  This film has a strong cult following and is on many all-time horror film lists.  It works for me from the opening chords of a dramatic score by John Cacavas and Christopher Lee discovering an iced fossil in China.  How can you go wrong here?  On a side note, Horror Express is also available as an iPhone Application.  The print isn’t bad and worth a few bucks.

Mark A. Miller, 1995. Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and Horror Cinema: A Filmography of Their 22 Collaborations, McFarland.

The Old Magnified Eye Gag

Posted in Horror, Miscellania with tags , , on March 24, 2011 by MONSTERMINIONS

I watched Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (Hammer, 1973) last night. There’s a scene where Dr. Frankenstein (the inimitable Peter Cushing) sorts through some eyeballs dangling from optic nerves, and inspects them using a huge magnifying hand lens.

That has to be the inspiration for the hilarious sight gag (no pun intended) from Top Secret (1984), where Cushing does the same, but pulls away the lens only to have an enlarged eyeball!

Frankenstein and The Monster from Hell is also notable because Peter Cushing and David Prowse both star in the film, predating Star Wars (1977) a few years.