Night Creatures (1962, AKA Captain Clegg).

Directed by Peter Graham Scott
Screenplay by John Elder (Anthony Hinds)
Based on Russell Thorndike’s Dr. Syn character
Music by Don Banks
Director Of Photography: Arthur Grant
Film Editor: Eric Boyd-Perkins

Cast: Peter Cushing (Parson Blyss/Captain Clegg), Yvonne Romain (Imogene), Patrick Allen (Captain Collier), Oliver Reed (Harry), Michael Ripper (Mipps), David Lodge (Bosun), Derek Francis (Squire), Jack MacGowran

__________

What if Heaven was a place where you’ve got a stack of old movies starring, or made by, all your favorites — that you’ve never seen? Like maybe another couple Scott-Boetticher Westerns, a second George Lazenby Bond movie — or a Peter Cushing Hammer picture you somehow missed while here on Earth. Well, that last little slice of Heaven materialized here in Raleigh, North Carolina, over the weekend. I finally got around to checking out Night Creatures (1962, UK title Captain Clegg).

There’s an interesting bit of history to this one. Hammer Films planned to remake Dr. Syn (1937), which starred George Arliss as the mysterious smuggler Reverend Doctor Christopher Syn — based on the novels by Russell Thorndike.

But it turned out that Disney also had their eye on Dr. Syn, for their Wonderful World Of Disney TV show, and had acquired the rights to the novels themselves — versus Hammer’s remake rights to the old movie. Disney’s eventual three-part TV program starred Patrick McGoohan and William Sylvester. (In the mid-70s, it was re-cut and played US theaters as Dr. Syn, Alias The Scarecrow. I thought it was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen.)

Anyway, back to Hammer. To avoid any legal hassle from the Disney people, Hammer changed the character’s name to Captain Clegg and made a few other modifications. There’s still a scarecrow, there’s still plenty of brandy to be smuggled and taxes to be avoided. But we now get the creepy Marsh Phantoms. Stills of the Phantoms that turned up in my monster movie books and magazines had me wanting to see this movie to a ridiculous degree.

Somehow, it took me more than 40 years to catch up with Night Creatures. But it was worth the wait.

Turns out, it’s not really a horror movie at all, it’s a dark, moody pirate/adventure story. Hammer was pretty good at pirate movies. Their The Pirates Of Blood River, from the same year as Night Creatures and with some of the same cast, is a hoot — and they’d follow it with The Devil-Ship Pirates in 1964. Both star Christopher Lee.

I’m not gonna spoil things by giving you a synopsis. It’s too good a movie for me to screw it up for you.

Night Creatures is Peter Cushing’s movie all the way, in spite of some strong work from Oliver Reed, Michael Ripper (who’s got a bigger part than usual) and the lovely Yvonne Romain. Cushing gets to do plenty of action stuff, which he’s always very good at. It’s shame he’s known these days primarily for standing around and being mean in Star Wars (1977). Cushing is so versatile, and he really gets to show his range in this one, going back and forth from ruthless pirate to compassionate preacher numerous times over the course of the picture’s 82 minutes. Over the last year or so, I’ve developed a real love of Cushing. He’s a joy to watch.

Patrick Allen is appropriately hateful as the government man sent to track down the band of smugglers and clashing with the Marsh Phantoms along the way. The Phantoms’ scenes deliver the goods I’d be waiting decades for — though I’d love to have seen what Jack Asher, Hammer’s other DP, would’ve done with those scenes on the moors. His stylized color effects always knock me out. There isn’t a thing in this movie that isn’t cool.

Peter Graham Scott directs Yvonne Romain.

I finally came across Night Creatures in the Hammer Horror 8-Film Collection Blu-Ray set from Universal. It looks great, as do all the other pictures. I saw Hammer’s Phantom Of The Opera (1962) on film repeatedly as a kid, and the spot-on transfer looks exactly as I remember it. Night Creatures gets my highest recommendation. It’s become a new favorite around my house.

9 Comments

Filed under 1962, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Michael Ripper, Peter Cushing, Universal (-International)

9 responses to “Night Creatures (1962, AKA Captain Clegg).

  1. john k

    I remember seeing CAPTAIN CLEGG as a 15 year old double billed
    with Hammer’s PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.
    That Universal set is wonderful and CAPTAIN CLEGG holds up very,very
    well. Cushing was at the top of his game in this one.
    Very odd that we have not had,so far, a Blu Ray of Gilling’s SHADOW
    OF THE CAT I live in hope as it’s a very effective thriller.
    Another Gilling/Cushing film on the missing list is the non Hammer
    Swashbuckler FURY AT SMUGGLERS BAY,while not in the same league
    as CAPTAIN CLEGG it does have 2.35 widescreen going for it.

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  2. Jeremy Entract

    Hammer was very fortunate to have Peter Cushing on their books as he was a very fine actor and MADE these films in so many ways. Of course, it worked both ways – the Hammer films made Cushing a big name star.

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  3. Walter

    I fondly remember being captivated by “The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh” Parts I, 2, and 3 which first aired on WALT DISNEY’S WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR anthology series on February 9, 16, and 23, 1964. It
    was vividly memorable because of the weird eerie mask worn by the leader of the marsh smugglers as he rode astride his horse pell-mell across Romney Marsh in 1770’s England. The Scarecrow’s slouch hat and flapping coat and his cackle of a laugh have always remained in my minds eye.. Also, the opening song and the image of the Scarecrow, riding past a real scarecrow as he rode off into the night, has stayed with me all these years.. When the mask comes off it is the face of the fine actor Patrick McGoohan. This was Disney at its adventurous best.

    NIGHT CREATURES(1962) is another Hammer production that I saw as a youngster and never forgot, especially the horrific beginning. This is not your usual pirate movie and I’m not going to give away much, because it is a joy to watch with all its twist and turns and Peter Cushing at his best as an illegal liquor-running vicar awash in all his polite rudeness, which he is a master at. I agree with Jerry in that Hammer and Peter Cushing go hand in hand. This is a wonderful Hammer production.

    John, I have never seen THE SHADOW OF THE CAT(1961) or FURY AT SMUGGLERS BAY(1961). I think that these movies are right up my lane.

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  4. Mike Richards

    It’s a shame that the Walt Disney DVD version is practically impossible to get, unless you want to spend 200 dollars or more collectors price !
    Please Disney, can we also have widescreen DVDs of Westward Ho The Wagons and Great Locomotive Chase. Then we can dump the awful 4×3 pan and scan versions.

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  5. Walter

    Mike, amen to that. You’re lucky to find a copy of the 2008 limited DVD release for less than $200. The two-disc set includes the American television version and the theatrical version DR. SYN, ALIAS THE SCARECROW in widescreen format. It also includes the original introductions by Walt Disney and a documentary on Disney’s interest in the property. The Disney version was shot on location in England. The church in the movie is St. Clement’s Church in the village of Old Romney, which was restored by the film company. The Walt Disney Company released a limited pressing of 39,500 DVD’S, Needless to say they were sold out in less than a month.

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  6. Mike Richards

    Walter, thanks for the Dr. Syn information, though I had read quite a lot about the film and the filming before.
    About 2 years ago we were driving through Dymchurch, which is on the edge of Romney Marsh, and I saw a great poster advertising the “Day of Syn” on the coming August bank holiday, it’s a bi-annual festival.I took a photo, If I knew how to upload a picture onto Hannibal 8 I’d show you the poster.

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  7. Mike Richards

    Walter, thanks for the link. That’s a great poster, though not mine. I guess I photographed poster from the previous festival .
    The poster I saw is same as image on the link below, but with different text. It said Day of Syn, August Bank Holiday, Smuggling, Drinking, Flogging and Wenching.
    https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/DoctorSynTheScarecrow

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    • Walter

      Mike, you’re welcome. That is a really good poster of the Scarecrow. Also, that is a good link you sent, very informative. Thanks

      Like

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