Ok let me just say this right now. Anyone who doesn’t love Peter Cushing is absolutely insane. Peter Cushing is the man, and no matter how good or a bad a film it, it’s always better for his presence in it.
In this film, he plays Inspector Quennell, a police inspector investigating a series of murders, where the victims are all sliced up and drained of blood, apparently killed by some kind of a creature rather than a human being. After finding some very large scales scattered around the crime scenes, the inspector consults with a local professor of entymology, professor Mallinger (Robert Flemyng) to see if he knows what they could possibly be. The professor seems to be hiding something, and there’s something mysterious going on with his daughter as well. Could the secrets they’re hiding be related to the mysterious chain of murders, and how deep do those secrets really go? What’s really going on, and how are Mallinger and his daughter involved in it all? You’ll have to watch the film to find out.
This film is set in what looks like late 19th or very early 20th century Britain. It’s never stated specifically, but judging by the clothes and the settings, I’m guessing it’s around that time. It was produced in the UK in 1968, and anyone familiar with the look and general feel of the films of this era will have a pretty good idea of what to expect with this film.
This film, at least story-wise, was a bit of a mixed bag for me. The performances were excellent, but the story felt like it lost its way here and there, particularly during a rather large section of the film where the professor’s students were putting on a play in the professor’s mansion. That scene went on for a very long time, and while it was really very good, it slowed down the story tremendously and only served to give the professor an idea about using electricity in his experiments, which only ended up being a very small part of the story anyway. The rest of the film was pretty coherent and on point.
There were a couple of other stand out characters in this film who deserve recognition. The police seargeant, Sergeant Allan (Glynn Edwards), was a competent officer and played his role as such. He managed to be likeable and seemed very on the ball, which was spot on for how the character was supposed to appear. Another side character who I found really entertaining was the morgue attendant, played by Roy Hudd. Every time they were in that morgue, which was really little more than a large, dark and cold stone room (remember the era), he was always eating something, and or giving his thoughts on the murders based on the wounds he saw on the bodies. He really brought out the best in the character, making him both likeable and funny. It’s sad when side characters, who add so much to any film, don’t get the recognition they deserve, and these two definitely deserve it.
This being a monster movie, naturally there has to be a monster. I won’t spoil it for you what the monster actually is, other than reminding you that Professor Mallinger is an entymologist. That should at least point you in the right direction. Without actually saying what the creature is, I will say that the creature’s costume was pretty cool looking. I only wish we had been able to see it in action more. Most of the time, when it was attacking someone, it was in quick shots, darkness, or had its back to the camera. You do get to see a second creature however in the professor’s lab that’s in a coocoon of sorts. So you at least get a good look at that one. The costume is fun, but is rather nondescript except for the head, which is really quite cool looking.
The ending of the film was actually rather predictable, though I found it to be very poorly executed. The camera work on it was just horrible, never allowing a single good look at how it happens.
Regardless of any problems this film has with regard to story or anything else, it actually is a fun and entertaining monster movie, and the performances really save it from whatever other issues it may have. There’s nothing wrong with this film that can’t be overlooked, so I would strongly recommend seeing it based on not only the wonderful performances, but also because it’s really a good old fashioned monster thriller that can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone, though I suspect that people who are fans of these types of films will enjoy it a lot more than someone who’s just seeing it randomly.
The blu-ray release of this film looks absolutely amazing. The quality is excellent, as is the sound. It was mastered in HD from the 35mm negative and contains the original theatrical trailer and production stills. While it’s short on special features, the quality of the film just shows once again that Kino Lorber cares deeply about the quality of the products they put out, and that’s why they’re one of the top tier distributors out there today. Do yourself a favor and pick yourself up a copy of this one. Based on simply the performances alone, you won’t be sorry.