Friday, November 09, 2007

The Blood Beast Terror – review


Directed by: Vernon Sewell

Released: 1968

Contains spoilers

This was a movie from Tigon films; now if Amicus were Hammer’s poor relation then it seems to me Tigon were Amicus’ poor relation – which isn’t really a good pedigree. That said this does have Peter Cushing in it and a rather unusual vampire. The unusual vampire, however, is not necessarily a good thing.

Victim on the heathAfter views of an expedition in Africa, looking for moth chrysalis, we cut to England and a hansom cab being drawn through the heath. The cabbie hears a scream, stops and goes to investigate. He finds a young man bloodied and dying. There is the sound of flapping and the cabbie gasps as he sees something, unseen to us, that makes a guttural screech.

Kevin Stoney as GrangerDr Carl Mallinger (Robert Flemyng) is giving a talk on entomology. Detective Inspector Quennell (Peter Cushing) arrives at his home and is told by the scarred and officious butler, Granger (Kevin Stoney), that it is inconvenient for his visit but Quennell enters the talk and sits at the back. After the lecture the Inspector asks Mallinger about a student who has been killed, Fisher, and the entomologists informs him that it is a terrible waste. During this a student places a spider (fake or dead?) on Mallinger’s daughter’s arm, Clare (Wanda Ventham) screams and faints. Suddenly the policeman is called, his sergeant (Glynn Edwards) has arrived.

The body of the new victim has been found and Quennell, on looking at him, realises he is still alive and calls for Mallinger. The Professor seems reluctant to help, as he looks at the body, but the young man dies anyway.

Back at the station Quennell is informed that the cabbie is to be sent to an asylum as he is raving. Going to see him he hears a tale of a creature with big eyes and giant wings. The inspector then goes to the morgue, and these morgue scenes have a generally unfunny comedy relief in the form of the attendant and we discover that the latest victim is number 6, that all the victims are men, they have damage to the thorax and are drained of blood.

a clue?The police search the heath but there is little to see, except some strange things dropped around the area, which the Inspector takes to Mallinger to identify. He seems shocked when he sees them and tries to take them all, for testing, but Quennell only lets him have one.

Wanda Ventham as ClareA naturalist, Britewell (William Wilde) turns up at the police station looking for Mallinger’s house. He is recently returned from Africa, where he has been collecting samples for the professor. He is taken to the house by a bobby. Once there he falls for Clare and we see more of the Professor’s strange mood swings. Clare is part of an amateur production of a Frankenstein based play that the Professor’s students put on in the house. Following the play Britewell sneaks off for an assignation with Clare but she purposefully looses him in the woods… he is attacked.

gosh... a mothAhh, our vampire emerges and it is… a moth. That’s right… a giant, man sized moth. I cannot begin to tell you how rubbish this looks, it is the pits of monster makeup, but there you have it. Now we are in the time of gas lamps, rather than the electric bulb, but you’d think this thing would be easily distracted/destroyed by putting a light on… hold on, I’m perilously close to giving the climax away! To a degree this probably should have been a “Vamp or Not?” but I stuck to the generic line that it is genre – just.

making a blood beastAnyhoo, having denied knowing Britewell the Prof knows that the jig is up and legs it with Clare. Quennell is quickly on his tail. We learn little more about the moth – who is also Clare if you hadn’t realised (don’t worry, it is blooming obvious so I don’t class that as a spoiler). We know that she has a taste for human blood; we know that Mallinger created her and we know he is making a mate for her. The mate, it seems, needs human female blood to grow. The things Quennell found on the heath were scales from the giant moth wings.

Robert Flemyng as MallingerMallinger seems to be a jack of all trades. He is a Professor of entomology, he is a doctor, he is a mad scientist, he is very proficient at hypnosis and he is, above all else, very bad at not looking guilty whenever anything comes around that might give the game away. Indeed our cast of characters all seems a little odd in one way or another.

Peter Cushing as QuennellCushing, as always, is excellent. You could put him in anything, it seems, and he would shine. Cushing went on the record as saying that this was the singularly worst film he ever made. I guess part of the problem is that the concept was from a different age to when this was filmed. If this had been a cheesy, 50s drive-in we might have accepted it more – but it is filmed in such a dead pan way (other than the comedy character) that its audacious premise seems all the more bizarre.

The beast in all its 'glory'That said, there is some camp value to a giant moth bumbling around the countryside and I’m tempted, for this reason alone, to give this 2 out of 10. A word of caution, I got my DVD cheap from ebay – fair enough – but it is the French edition. The film is on the disc in either English or French, but the French subtitles are embedded into the English version rather than being a separate subtitle track, so you have to put up with subtitles through when you don’t need/want them.

The imdb page is here.


The T said...

I have the film in a decent american edition. The film is slightly horrendous, though I liked it more than I thought I would. The moth deserves to be seen. It's...magical in its crapiness. Cushing saves the day and makes the film watchable, i agree 100% with that. What a venerable actor he was!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi the T, sorry its taken a while to moderate your comments but I have been away. Welcome to the site