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A Tribute To Peter Cushing

My Opinion

When I was young Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee were two of my favorite actors (of course they both still are). If there was a movie on Friday Fright Night that had either of them (or Vincent Price) in it then I was determined to stay awake and watch it. Like the horror icons that came before them, Cushing and Lee took their work very seriously, even if at times the script didn’t measure up to their talent. I have great respect for the original horror movie actors (Lugosi and Karloff) but Cushing and Lee will always remain my true favorites and will always conjure those memories of watching their movies when I was a little kid.



Peter Wilton Cushing, OBE (26 May 1913- 11 August 1994) was an English actor, known for his many appearances in Hammer Films, in which he played Baron Frankenstein and Dr. Van Helsing, amongst many other roles, often appearing opposite his close friend Christopher Lee. A familiar face on both sides of the Atlantic, he appeared in the original Star Wars film and the Doctor Who films.

Early life

Cushing was born in Kenley, Surrey, England, the son of Nellie Marie née King and George Edward Cushing. He was raised there and in Dulwich, South London. Cushing left his first job as a surveyor's assistant to take up a scholarship at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. After working in repertory theatre in Worthing, West Sussex, he left for Hollywood in 1939, but returned in 1941 after roles in several films, one of them A Chump at Oxford (1940) appearing alongside Laurel and Hardy. His first major film part was as Osric in Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948).

Early career

In the 1950s, he worked in television, most notably as Winston Smith in the BBC's 1954 adaptation of the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, scripted by Nigel Kneale. Cushing drew much praise for his performance in this production, although he always felt that his performance in the existing version of the play, it was performed twice in one week and only the second version survives in the archives, was inferior to the first. During many of his small screen performances, Cushing also starred as Fitzwilliam Darcy in the BBC's 1952 production of Pride and Prejudice and as King Richard II in Richard of Bordeaux in 1955. He also went to Shoreham College for 1 term

Hammer Horror

His first appearances in his two most famous roles were in Terence Fisher's films The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula (1958). Cushing will always be associated with playing Victor Frankenstein and Van Helsing in a long string of horror films produced by Hammer Horror. These provided him with 20 years of steady employment despite being of often middling quality. Although talented as an actor, he admitted that career decisions for him meant choosing roles where he knew the audience would accept him. "Who wants to see me as 'Hamlet'? Very few. But millions want to see me as Frankenstein so that's the one I do." He also said "If I played Hamlet, they'd call it a horror film."

A shade under 6' tall and wiry, with a mane of increasingly iron-grey hair and an unemotional, meticulous delivery, he had an energetic onscreen presence. He often performed his own stunts.

Cushing was often cast opposite the actor Christopher Lee, with whom he became best friends. "People look at me as if I were some sort of monster, but I can't think why. In my macabre pictures, I have either been a monster-maker or a monster-destroyer, but never a monster. Actually, I'm a gentle fellow. Never harmed a fly. I love animals, and when I'm in the country I'm a keen bird-watcher," he said in an interview published in ABC Film Review in November 1964.

In the mid-1960s, he played the eccentric "Doctor" in two movies (Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 AD) based on the television series Doctor Who. He made a conscious decision to play the part as a lovable, avuncular figure, as a conscious effort to escape from his perceived image as a "horror" actor. "I do get terribly tired with the neighbourhood kids telling me 'My mum says she wouldn't want to meet you in a dark alley'." he said in an interview in 1966. He also appeared in the cult series The Avengers and then again in its successor, The New Avengers. In 1986, he played the role of Colonel William Raymond in 'Biggles'. In Space: 1999, he appeared as a Prospero-like character called Raan.

He was one of many stars to guest on The Morecambe and Wise Show - the standing joke in his case being the idea that he was never paid for his appearance. He would appear, week after week, wearily asking hosts Eric and Ernie, "Have you got my five pounds yet?" (A ludicrously low price for an artists fee, even in the 1970s). When Cushing was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1989, one of the guests was Ernie Wise ... who promptly presented him with a five pound note, but then, with typical dexterity, extorted it back from him. Peter was absolutely delighted with this, and cried: "All these years and I still haven't got my fiver!"

Cushing played Sherlock Holmes many times, starting with Hammer's The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), the first colour Holmes film. Cushing, who resembled classic Holmes portrayer Basil Rathbone, seemed a natural for the part, and he played the part with great fidelity to the written character -- that of a man who is not always easy to live with or be around -- which had not been done up to that point. He followed this up with a performance in 16 episodes of the BBC series Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes (1968), of which only six episodes survive. Finally, Cushing played the detective in old age, in The Masks of Death (1984) for Channel 4.

Death of his wife

In 1971, Cushing withdrew from the film Blood from the Mummy's Tomb when his wife died. He and actress Helen Beck had been married since 1943. The following year, he was quoted in the Radio Times as saying "Since Helen passed on I can't find anything; the heart, quite simply, has gone out of everything. Time is interminable, the loneliness is almost unbearable and the only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that my dear Helen and I will be united again some day. To join Helen is my only ambition. You have my permission to publish that... really, you know dear boy, it's all just killing time. Please say that."

Six years later, his feelings were unchanged: "When Helen passed on six years ago I lost the only joy in life that I ever wanted. She was my whole life and without her there is no meaning. I am simply killing time, so to speak, until that wonderful day when we are together again."

In his autobiography, he says he attempted suicide the night that Helen died, by running up and down stairs in the vain hope that it would induce a heart attack.

In 1986, Cushing appeared on the British TV show Jim'll Fix It. His "wish", "granted" by Jimmy Savile, was to have a strain of rose named after his late wife. Cushing's letter to the show, in copperplate handwriting, was shown, as was the identification and naming of a rose named "Helen Cushing".

Star Wars

In 1976, he was cast in Star Wars, which was shooting at Elstree Studios, Borehamwood, London. He appeared as one of his (now) most recognised characters, Grand Moff Tarkin despite having originally been considered for the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Cushing found accepting the role in a science fiction fantasy easy. "My criterion for accepting a role isn't based on what I would like to do. I try to consider what the audience would like to see me do and I thought kids would adore Star Wars."

Costuming difficulties resulted in a piece of trivia about Star Wars. He was presented with ill-fitting riding boots for the Moff Tarkin role and they pinched his feet so much that he was given permission by George Lucas to play the role wearing his slippers. The camera operators filmed him above the knees or standing behind the table of the conference room set. Also, during filming of Star Wars, a star-struck Carrie Fisher found it hard to deliver her lines to him and seem terrified in the presence of a charming, polished man who smelled of 'linen and lavender' when in their first scene together, her character speaks of Cushing's as having a 'foul stench'.

For Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas wanted Cushing, now deceased, to reprise his role as Tarkin through the use of archive footage and digital technology, but poor film quality made this impossible. Besides, the scene required a full-body appearance of Tarkin, which was unavailable due to Cushing's use of slippers instead of boots when performing. Instead, Wayne Pygram took the role, though he underwent extensive prosthetic makeup for his brief cameo.

Later career

After Star Wars, he continued appearing in films and television sporadically, as his health allowed. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer but without surgery managed to survive several years, though his health was precarious.

In 1989, Cushing was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. He retired to Whitstable, where he had bought a seafront house in 1959, and continued his hobby of birdwatching, and to write two autobiographies. Cushing also worked as a painter, specialising in watercolors, and wrote and illustrated a children's book of Lewis Carroll style humor, The Bois Saga.

His final professional engagement was as co-narrator of Flesh and Blood, the Hammer Heritage of Horror, produced by American writer/director Ted Newsom. As co-narrator, Cushing thus took his "last bow" with friend Christopher Lee, the BBC and Hammer Films. The narration was recorded in Canterbury near Cushing's home. The show was first broadcast in 1994, the week before Cushing's death from cancer in a Canterbury hospice, aged 81.

Hound of the Baskervilles and death

In an interview on the DVD release of Hound of the Baskervilles, Lee remarked on his friend's death: "I don't want to sound gloomy, but, at some point of your lives, every one of you will notice that you have in your life one person, one friend whom you love and care for very much. That person is so close to you that you are able to share some things only with him. For example, you can call that friend, and from the very first maniacal laugh or some other joke you will know who is at the other end of that line. We used to do that with him so often. And then when that person is gone, there will be nothing like that in your life ever again".

From Wikipedia


Laddie (1940)
Vigil in the Night (1940)
A Chump at Oxford (1940)
Women in War (1940)
The Howards of Virginia (1940) (uncredited)
Dreams (1940)
They Dare Not Love (1941) (uncredited)
Hamlet (1948)
Pride and Prejudice (1952)
Moulin Rouge (1952)
The Curse of Frankenstein (1956)
The Abominable Snowman Of The Himalayas (1957)
The Horror of Dracula (released in the UK under the title Dracula) (1958)
The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)
The Mummy (1959)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
John Paul Jones (1959)
The Brides of Dracula (1960)
The Hellfire Club (1960)
Cash On Demand (1961)
The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)
The Gorgon (1964)
Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965)
Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965)
Island of Terror (1966)
Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 AD (1966)
Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
The Torture Garden (1967)
Blood Beast Terror (1967)
Corruption (1968)
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)
Incense for the Damned 1970
Scream and Scream Again (1970)
The Vampire Lovers (1970)
The House That Dripped Blood (1971)
Twins of Evil (1971)
Tales From The Crypt (1972)
Dracula AD 1972 (1972)
Fear In The Night (1972)
Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)
Asylum (1972)
From Beyond the Grave (1973)
The Creeping Flesh (1973)
The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
Horror Express (1973)
Shatter (1974)
The Beast Must Die (1974)
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)
The Ghoul (1975)
At the Earth's Core (1976)
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
Shock Waves (1977)
The Uncanny (1977)
A Tale of Two Cities (TV) (1980)
House of the Long Shadows (1983)
The Masks of Death (1984)
Top Secret! (1984)
Biggles: Adventures in Time (1986)

My Reviews

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)- Hammer's first foray into horror and already they got it right. Peter Cushing is the overly ambitious Victor Frankenstein who inherits a fortune at a young age and hires a tutor who eventually becomes his lab assistant. They dabble in resurrecting the dead and then come across a way to make it work. And of course, Frankenstein goes too far and Christopher Lee as the Monster is created. Ego, edginess, science, and insanity are explored in this effective rewrite of the story. Hammer also set the standard for use of color, great sets, costumes, directing, writing, and acting in horror movies with this flick. If you like the Frankenstein story and dig Hammer films and haven't seen this one then it is a must see. Plain great old school story telling. A+.

Abominable Snowman, The (1957)- Peter Cushing in a pretty stereotypical monster/horror flick for the era; basically a King Kong tale. Cushing is a scientist in the Himalayas studying plants, or so he told his wife; he’s actually going on an expedition to try and capture the yeti. And things go from bad to worse as loud mouthed know-it-alls show up to capture the yeti more for fun and profit than science. Lesson learned. Overall not a bad flick, a tad dated but fun none the less. I’ll give it a B.

The Horror of Dracula (1958)- By modern horror movie standards this is a slow mover but remove genre tags and look at this as just the telling of a story (which we should do with all movies anyway), and I think you have a really good one. Apart from the battle between Dr. Van Helsing and Dracula (good and evil) this movie follows little of Stoker's original novel. It's not a retelling but a rewriting of it and it comes across as being a very original and fresh interpretation of the story. Jonathan Harker goes to Castle Dracula as a librarian, there to sort and check Count Dracula's massive collection of books, or so we are told. We soon realize that Harker is undercover and knows who, or what, Dracula really is. When his plans go awry and Dracula begins looking for revenge, Dr. Van Helsing enters the fray. This was one of Hammer's early horror movies and it again showcases the great Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing who were both on their way to horror movie infamy. Hammer proved that you could have a great story, great direction, great sets, and great acting, all on a budget. A-.

Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)- Classic sequel to Hammer’s "Curse of Frankenstein", here we find the good doctor about to be executed. Of course he has made a deal with one of the executioner and heads off to continue his work under the name Dr. Stein. He helps the poor (for spare parts of course), and takes a young eager doctor in as his assistant. The man who helped him escape needs a new body, and he gets one as the doc won’t back out of a deal, but the man’s eagerness to try out his new digs gets everyone in trouble. Peter Cushing is great again as Frankenstein, sitting somewhere between evil and sympathetic he pushes the doctor’s ambition to new lengths, and Hammer’s original take on the story works really well. The look and feel of these Hammer flicks is just great. Some of the lab scenes are goofy, like the eyes floating in the aquarium (check it out to see what I mean), but I’m pretty sure that was done tongue in cheek anyway. A

The Mummy (1959)- In the late 50s Hammer was making a name for itself redoing Universal Monster movies from the 30s. They weren't just re-filming them though they were rewriting them as well. After a pretty creative take on Dracula and a very creative remake of Frankenstein they tackled The Mummy. Christopher Lee was again the monster and Peter Cushing again the hero, and despite this it didn't feel formulaic. The indoor sets and the color of these early Hammer films is second to none (the 'outdoor' sets leave a little to be desired except maybe the swamp scene) and again the story is very creative. An Egyptian priest is having an affair with a princess; when she dies during a journey he ignores protocol and has her buried where she died rather than where she reigned. He is then caught attempting to revive her and is sentenced to be buried alive with her and protect her for eternity. 4000 years later English archeologists have the unfortunate luck of finding her tomb and being the first to disturb it. Lee and Cushing always take their roles very seriously and deliver whatever dialogue is asked with them like the professionals they are. If you like Mummy movies, and I don't, you'll like this one. B.

Brides of Dracula, The (1960)- Pretty classic Hammer material; Great sets, great acting, great use of vivid color, Hammer didn't skimp in those days. Dracula was killed... several times, and is still dead (not undead) throughout this movie (in other words Christopher Lee said "No") so the plot has Cushing's Van Helsing pursuing a vampire who has been chained up in his room by his own mother and kept alive by the blood of young traveling woman, and now has escaped thanks to one of those women. The vampire is so happy that he's asked her to marry him. It's a fairly original take on the legend and it works for the most part. The fight scenes are poorly staged and apparently flying bat special effects technology went nowhere from the 1930s to the 1960s but those are small issues. B-

Flesh and the Fiends, The (1960)- Classic black and white flick telling the mostly true story of Burke and Hare, a couple grave robbers back in the grave robber days who find a local doctor willing to pay top dollar for fresh cadavers, and what’s the best way to get a fresh cadaver? This is almost a black comedy with great performances by Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasance (as well as everyone else). Although not gory by today’s standards, in 1960 this was probably a tad edgy. An all-around great British Horror from the early 60s, A+.

Night Creatures (1962)- Hammer paired two of their favorite actors, Oliver Reed and Peter Cushing, in this tale that basically amounts to moonshiners and country legends, except they're in England back in the day running wine. There's a legend about 'marsh phantoms' that some have used to hide their activities from the revenuers but it won't last for long as the sly Captain is catching on. And why was the notorious pirate Captain Clegg buried as a hero in the church cemetery? Again, the twists at the end were seen miles away but this movie is a nice Hammer production with competent acting and directing and a good enough story. B-.

Evil of Frankenstein, The (1964)- Hammer did make Frankenstein out to be one evil cat except in The Evil of Frankenstein where he's suddenly a misunderstood scientist. Frankenstein is again run out of town so this time he returns to the original town he was run out of to start his experiments again in his own castle, which has been looted but good by the locals. Luckily he stumbles across his old monster (this movie has no continuity with the older Hammer Frankenstein movies). This movie has the usual good Hammer productions and Peter Cushing does his usual professional work as the Dr. but it ends up being a let down. The monster is a pale copy of Jack Pierce's Universal make up and never really produces any feelings of horror or sympathy. The Frankenstein mythos is just so much harder to work with than the Dracula/Vampire mythos. C-.

Gorgon, The (1964)- Strange little Hammer film which brings the Greek Gorgon/Medusa myth into more modern times, placing it in turn of the century Germany (I figure Hammer already had the sets and costumes at the ready). A town is plagued by a curse in which some people are found dead, turned to stone. The local doctor just writes the deaths off as heart failure, but that won’t due when some important people start turning up dead. Mainly, an artist whose rich influential father isn’t buying the story his son committed suicide after getting a local girl pregnant. The father shows up, and also dies a mysterious death, but not before writing a letter to his other son. The lid will soon be blown off the town’s secrets. Very little in the way of explanation is ever offered, the lines between good and evil, right and wrong are blurred and everything is played out like a Greek tragedy, which it is more or less based on, as love is what ends up getting everyone in the most trouble. Well acted and directed, the colors and sets and ‘feel’ are perfect early Hammer. This is only for those looking for the subtle atmospheric horrors, despite the subject material this is no monster movie, keeping that in mind I will give this a B+.

Skull, The (1965)- Classic British horror tale with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee as competing collectors of occult objects. Cushing is given the opportunity to buy the cursed skull of the Marquis de Sade and asks Lee what he thinks. Lee tries to convince Cushing to never buy the skull, but Cushing can’t help it, and soon realizes his disbelief in the occult will not save him from it! A really good flick in the Hammer tradition (though not Hammer) that remains strong throughout with great performances by everyone; although the very end tries the old horror movie cliché pseudo-endings, which I hate. Chop off about the last 10 minutes and this is some great stuff! A

Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965)- Six strangers riding on a train. One happens to be well versed in the art of tarot reading and future predicting. So we get an Amicus omnibus, the first actually, from the Hammer copycat and it ain’t all that bad. Story one has a man return to his ancestral home to help the current owner remodel. Little does he know the current owner isn’t too happy with the previous owner’s family, and they have a history of werewolfism! Well told and well-paced, I’ll give it an A. Story two has a family returning from vacation to find a strange vine growing next to the house. They can’t seem to remove it so they call in some experts and they quickly realize that ‘a plant like that could take over the world’, especially if it figures out how not to be scared of fire. Campy but fun I’ll give it a B. Story three has a smart assed jazz musician play a gig in the West Indies. He comes back with the music he heard the voodoo practitioners play and despite being warned not to play it, he does so anyway and doesn’t get the results he’d hoped for. Not bad, played more for laughs and approached that way it works. A-. Story four involves a pretentious art critic who is always belittling an artist. The artist gets his revenge, but the critic is so humiliated he runs the artist over with his car, severing the artist’s hand. The rest is pretty easy to predict, complete with terrible FX. Christopher Lee is in this one as is Gandolf, but the FX are so bad it is distracting. C-. A young Donald Southerland winds up getting hitched to a young vampire in the fifth story and is convinced to kill her, and then, twist! I’ll give it an A-, well-acted and well-though out. So the wrap comes to a conclusion and you kind of think “Wait, so that wasn’t really anyone’s future?” Anyway, a pretty good flick if you like the Amicus omnibus approach, plus Cushing and Lee are both present! The grades average to a B+.

Torture Garden (1967)- Another British Amicus omnibus story featuring Burgess Meredith as a side show barker at a carnival. His bit is showing people their futures and seeing if they have the courage to change. Story one is about a man who wants his uncle’s inheritance and gets it, along with the source of the wealth, a witch in the form of a cat. Very well done and a strong start. A. Story two is about an overly ambitious young actress who will do almost anything to get a movie roll, and is shocked to find out what other actors have done to stay young. It was OK but the payoff wasn’t so good. B-. Story three is the weak point, a story about a jealous piano. C-. Story four is great and is about a man who is obsessed with buying original Edgar Allan Poe books, he meets his match in Peter Cushing. A+. Overall this flick wavers around between serious and campy, but for the most part it works pretty well and the wrap around is good too with a strong enough ending. This averages to a B+ which seems about right.

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)- Another example of pretty goofy material played straight as an arrow by Peter Cushing. Everyone involved knew this was pretty bad stuff. Frankenstein finds a way to trap the human soul and when his assistant is wrongly executed for murder, well, a perfect opportunity to try out his experiment; Couple that with his assistant’s girlfriend committing suicide when she finds out her boyfriend has been executed and you have a fresh place to put the soul. It is an insane take on ‘Romeo and Juliette’ for sure, along with the ‘Frankenstein should stop messing with Mother Nature’ lesson. It is very goofy, and a tad disappointing, but if you must see all things Hammer, then by all means, check it out! C+

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)- The good doctor keeps having his experiments messed up by people and now the police are hot on his trail again. He takes on another alias and moves in a boarding house to lay low, but ego and good fortune (or other's misfortune) get him again and open the door for more experiments. This time he must save a colleague, who was into the same experiments, from insanity and the insane asylum. He must do this by performing a brain transplant. A very original and well-acted extension of the Frankenstein story. It goes without saying that the monster is actually Frankenstein, not, well, The Monster, which isn't in this one anyway. If you like Hammer films you'll really like this one. A.

Scream and Scream Again (1969)- This is the only movie to have Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing, 3 of the greatest horror movie stars ever, in it. That's a drag. It's a drag because putting those 3 together could produce some good movies and also because this movie pretty much sucks. From the terrible 60s 'Spy Hunter' soundtrack to weird Nazi wannabe characters, to the much too long chase scene with the never-satisfactorily-explained vampire character, this movie just fails. Apparently scientists are developing super humans, kind of "bionic people". These Nazi types have a British spy plane pilot and want to see the case notes on these bionic people. Random stuff happens. The acting is pretty good, the directing is very dated as is the terrible music mentioned above. This is kind of sci-fi meets horror via James Bond. Fairly original but only because it's a bad idea, D-.

Twins of Evil (1971)- Hammer kept trying, you have to give them that much. So your flicks are falling out of favor with the public? Then add some blood and some tits and watch the profits soar. Well it didn’t quite happen that way. Here we get Peter Cushing trying like Hell to bring the subpar material up to muster, and it almost works. Cushing is an over-zealous witch hunter, who loathes the local count, who is a devil worshipper and maybe a vampire to boot, but can’t do anything about it. When his twin nieces come to live with him he realizes something has to be done as one of them becomes infatuated with the count. But which witch is which. Sorry, anyway, this isn’t a bad flick, simply because Cushing manages to be both horribly evil while wanting to only do good. You hate him, but he may be the only one who can help the village. Nothing is overly black and white in this one and Cushing is able to make that work, so for that I give it higher marks than maybe it deserves. B

Tales From The Crypt (1972)- This Amicus omnibus flick is based on the 50s comics of the same name (as is the 80s version). Story one has Joan Collins killing her husband on Christmas Eve to collect the insurance, she’s so wrapped up in the murder that she gets a little neglectful of the news report of an escaped homicidal maniac dressed as Santa Clause in her neighborhood. I give this one an A, almost an Italian Giallo. Story two has a man leaving his family to live with his mistress, during the move he dreams that they wreck the car and he becomes a corpse, or is it a dream? This one was OK, a little too circular for me, B. Story three has Peter Cushing playing a kindly old garbage collector. His neighbor would like to run him out of the neighborhood as his house is a mess, but he owns it outright so instead he plays a series of tricks on the old man, which of course backfire in a horrible way. This one is great and gets an A+. Story four has a rich businessman forced to declare bankruptcy, but just before he does he and his wife discover an old statue that has the power to make three wishes come true, of course, in Monkey’s Paw fashion, these wishes don’t turn out like they hope. I knew what was going to happen but the ‘how’ it happens is great. A. And finally story five has a miserly old military retiree taking over a home for the blind. While he lives in warmth and luxury, the home’s residence freeze and eat slop. Needless to say, he gets his in a most creative way! Good stuff but not the strongest of the stories. A-. All of the stories are very well acted, paced, and directed. Highly recommended if you like the British omnibuses of the 70s. A.

Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)- Dr. Phibes put himself in suspended animation at the end of the first film and now is back, looking for the River of Life in Egypt to resurrect his beloved Victoria, who, if you can recall, died on the operating table after an accident and the doctors who couldn't save her were killed off in the first Phibes film. When Phibes wakes up he realizes his house has been demolished and his map to the River of Life is gone. The guy who has the map has his own reason for wanting to find the River of Life so Phibes kills off anyone in his way in some interesting ways. This movie revives the very 'oddness' of the first and also the black comedy, which still holds up. It is an interesting plot but over all a weaker effort than the first. I liked the ending though, not what I expected. B.

Asylum (1972)- Amicus omnibus about a doctor interviewing for a job at an asylum. To get the job he has to figure out which inmate was the doctor who previously ran the asylum. They tell him the stories that drove them insane, which are: A man is tired of his rich wife belittling him so he decides to chop her up and put her in the freezer, she was into voodoo, he should’ve looked more into that. His mistress shows up and she too pays a price. Not a bad entry, but I wasn’t expecting camp from the get go I guess? I don’t know, I’ll give it a C. Story 2 has a broke and soon to be evicted tailor making a very special and expensive suit for Peter Cushing’s son. It just may reanimate the dead, or anything that wears it. Again, well executed, but frankly, a dumb ending. I’ll give it a C+. Story 3 has a young lady seemingly suffering from schizophrenia. Her friend that she got into trouble with is still visiting her though. Again, well done, can’t complain about quality, but kind of tedious and predictable, C. And finally the wrap around comes full circle with story 4, about a former doctor who makes little dolls that he plans on using to escape, and queue predictable twist, and give this one a C+. Obviously that averages to the middle ground between C and C+ so I’ll give it a C. No benefit of the doubt today. These stories were well done but I had trouble with a little too much camp in some spots. A straighter horror approach would’ve given better justice to the stories I think.

Horror Express (1973)- Lee and Cushing together again, this time in a Spanish production set on a Russian train leaving China for France in 1909. The copy I have isn't so good. The picture is dark, the color and sound bad. Still I enjoyed the movie. Lee is a smug archeologist who believes he has found the 'missing link' between man and ape. Cushing is a somewhat jealous compatriot who wants to know what Lee is up to. Lee loads his find into a big crate and gets on the train with Cushing and several other colorful characters. Chaos ensues as the missing link turns out to be alive and thirsting for ... knowledge? Find the movie and watch it to find out what I mean. Over-all effective movie, especially the blind zombies at the end, stick some zombies in a movie and it'll almost always bump its grade a letter. Basically it's 'The Thing' on a train. Or maybe better "The Creeping Flesh" which came out the same year and also stared Cushing and Lee. Solid B.

Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (1974)- Hammer’s last foray into the Frankenstein character and they bring it to a close on a pretty strong note. Here we find the baron living nicely in an insane asylum. There are plenty of test subjects in a place like that, and luckily, a bright new assistant too. The baron has some dirt on the asylum’s director so he pretty much has the run of the place and has been building a new man, with his usual ‘science first’ completely emotionless approach. Peter Cushing had perfected this part and plays it perfectly straight here for the last time. B+

Beast Must Die, the (1974)- Wow, this movie is a child of the 70s in every way imaginable. The clothes, the cars, the music, even the dialogue feels 70s (with great Shakespearean delivered lines like "You... make... me... ssssiiiiick..."). Remember boys and girls, when you try to be hip all you are probably really doing is dating yourself! A super rich guy who likes going on safaris decides to hunt the ultimate prey. Man? Close. Werewolf. He outfits his huge mansion and surrounding land with cameras, microphones, and sensors and then invites several people over who may or may not be serial killers and cannibals. He knows at least one of them is a werewolf too. I have no idea quite how he knows but Peter Cushing is along for the ride as the Van Helsing of werewolves. Red herrings flop all around as the director must have realized he had no where near enough material to make a full movie so he just extended it with tedious explanations and strange chase scenes (I guess the guy has basically kidnapped these people). Anyway, the decidedly unfair hunt is on but the werewolf makes a go of it and winds up with the advantage somehow. This is fun 70s craptacular stuff, a must see for those that love the Velveeta Cheese filled classics (where can I get the soundtrack?) I’ll give it a B on the craptacular scale, it’s actually well done, just pretty goofy.

Satanic Rites of Dracula, The (1974)- I've read so much bad about these later Hammer flicks that my expectations were really low, so naturally I liked it. I think this is an underrated movie. Yeah, the plot is convoluted espionage 70s James Bond hokum and the terribly dated music reflects that angle but it still worked pretty well. Yeah, it is an excuse to get some damsels in distress and for another face off between Dracula and Van Helsing so at the end of the day there is nothing really new but it is an OK take on the characters. Dracula has enlisted the help of some scientists as he has decided to destroy the world with a new and more deadly strain of the black plague. But won't that kill Dracula too since there will be no food? Van Helsing thinks that just may be Dracula's plan. There are some odd senseless devil worshipping scenes complete with naked lady alter, probably to generate some controversy and free hype thrown in for good 70s measure. And another thing you really notice from these Hammer vampire stories. These vampires have a TON of weaknesses. I mean really all you have to do is pick up a couple twigs and hold them up in a cross and DON'T DROP THEM! Or have some silver, or garlic, or sunlight, or holy water, or ... A B+ may be generous but that's what I'm giving it since I expected total crap and got a decent story.

From Beyond the Grave (1974)- British horror omnibus with Peter Cushing running an antique shop called ‘Temptations’. You will find what you want in his store, but be careful not to try and take advantage of the old man, he knows the value of his goods, and he’ll cut you a deal, but you will be the one who pays! In story one a man buys an old mirror which seems to make people want to hold séances, and, as it turns out, there’s a reason for that. Someone is trapped in the mirror and they need human blood to trade places with someone outside. Predictable but well played I’ll give it a B. Story two sees a businessman, very unhappy with his home life, befriend a beggar (he steals a war medal from the shop in the wrap around story to impress the beggar) and winds up getting on very well with the beggar’s daughter. As the businessman’s dreams of a happy life look to be coming true, we realize something isn’t quite right, but of course it’s too late. This was a strange tail very well executed; I’ll give it a strong A. In story three a man trades the tags on an expensive snuff box to get it for cheap and winds up with an elemental on his shoulder. Only an eccentric psychic can see the elemental but soon enough the man believes her and wants an exorcism. This is more a comedy relief type of story and it works really well on that level, another A I think. The final story involves a man who must have a very ornate door for his pantry. Of course once mounted the door doesn’t open to his pantry, but to a large blue room with someone who seems intent on trapping people there. While this story seemed the weakest overall to me, the tie in to the wrap around was pretty good so watch closely. I’ll give it a B. That averages to an A- actually but I liked the wrap around with Cushing so much I’ll bump it to an A even.

At the Earth’s Core (1976)- How did I miss this when I was a kid? I would’ve loved it! So what did my adult self think seeing this for the first time? Peter Cushing gets to really ham it up in this Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation. He’s a half-crazed and very Victorian/British professor who invents a machine that will dig straight through the planet to the other side. While doing just that the machine loses power and Cushing and his assistant, a not too bright but very loyal and bad-ass former student of the professor’s, get out to discover an entire world at the Earth’s core (hence the brilliant name). The world is full of prehistoric plants, giant dinosaur like animals, and people. People who are rounded up and made to be slaves of these birdlike creatures who have ESP. Yeah, it is weird as hell, very low budget (it was Amicus Studios’, a studio almost as famous as Hammer for their horror output, last flick), and goofy to boot. Like I said, had I caught this when I was young I would’ve really loved it, and since I’m still me I pretty much liked it still! Silly, silly stuff with the worst monster suits ever that I am going to give a B+ to.

Shock Waves (1977)- Nazi Zombies! Peter Cushing and John Carradine! Awesome! Almost. Some annoying tourists get trapped on an island in the Caribbean after their boat is hit by an ancient looking freighter running at night with no lights. The captain, a pissed off Carradine, quickly winds up dead despite being an old salt full of all reason and no superstitious sailor stories. Everyone else takes the tiny dingy to the nearby island and find Peter Cushing waiting on the return of his SS squad, who he knows will be out to get him, and everyone else. When the Nazi Zombies do show up they are pretty effective and there are some pretty awesome shots and atmosphere generated here and there. Obviously shot on a budget (most of which probably went to Cushing, Caradine, and the underwater camera), this flick does muster some atmosphere and is important in the scheme of Zombie movies I think, but it does drag on with scenes of people walking around and Cushing’s part all but wasted. Too bad, this one is just full of potential and not much else, also, if you’re a gut munching gore zombie fan you’ll hate this one. More Nazi Zombie flicks followed, mostly terrible, but Carradine starred in ‘Revenge of the Zombies’ which was probably more or less the first Nazi Zombie flick in 1943. I’ll give this a B, I really dug some of the shots but felt like too much was left out for it to work well.

Monster Hunter