Category Archives: 1962

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

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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.

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

Why Isn’t This On Blu-Ray?

Directed by Don Siegel
Starring Steve McQueen, Bobby Darin, Fess Parker, Harry Guardino, James Coburn, Bob Newhart, L.Q. Jones and Nick Adams

Don Siegel directed it. It’s got Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Fess Parker, L.Q. Jones, Nick Adams and Bob Newhart in it. Harold Lipstein’s black and white cinematography is perfect. Newhart does a GI version of his telephone routine. And Bobby Darin has a flamethrower.

It’s got everything going for it, everything but a Blu-Ray release, that is. It’s a Paramount, Olive, why don’t you license it?

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Filed under 1962, Don Siegel, James Coburn, L.Q. Jones, Nick Adams, Steve McQueen

Remembering D-Day.

This is a movie blog, so we’ll pay tribute to those who fought on the beaches of Normandy via color stills from The Longest Day (1962, which is in glorious black and white CinemaScope), itself a tribute to the many sacrifices that helped push World War II toward its end.

Here’s the crew hard at work recreating the events of June 6, 1944.

Richard Burton (as Officer David Campbell) and Richard Beymer (as Private Dutch Schultz). Burton took time off from Cleopatra (1963) to shoot his scenes. Cleopatra was bleeding 20th Century-Fox dry at the time, which had a huge (negative) impact on Darryl Zanuck’s budget for The Longest Day.

Robert Mitchum as Brigadier General Norman Cota.

Richard Todd as Major John Howard. Todd’s voice is one of God’s great gifts to mankind — I would listen to him (or Richard Burton, for that matter) read the phone book.

John Wayne as Lt. Colonel Benjamin Vandervoort.

From the Army’s website: “The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 Soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolf Hitler’s crack troops.”

To quote John Wayne in an entirely different movie (John Ford’s She Wore A Yellow Ribbon): “Lest we forget.”

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Filed under 1962, 20th Century-Fox, John Wayne, Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Roddy McDowall, Sean Connery

Blu-Ray News #128: The Manster (1959).

Directed by Breakston and Kenneth G. Crane
Starring Peter Dyneley, Jane Hylton, Tetsu Nakamura, Terri Zimmern

The Manster is an American movie, shot in Japan in 1959, but not released till 1962. Some might say it shouldn’t have been released at all. Whatever your take on it, it’s coming to Blu-Ray from Shout Factory.

Peter Dyneley plays Larry Stanford, an American reporter in Japan who’s injected with an experimental serum by a demented scientist. At first, Larry’s transformed into a drunken womanizer (or make that even more of a drunken womanizer), then he goes all the way to become a murderous freak with two heads.  There’s a rampant sleaziness to the whole thing that goes way beyond what we normally expect from a 50s monster movie (though The Brain That Wouldn’t Die comes pretty close).

The Manster played the States in a double bill with Georges Franju’s Eyes Without A Face (1959), which was retitled The Horror Chamber Of Dr. Faustus. One’s an eery classic, one’s a bad-movie milestone. Both are highly recommended.

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Filed under 1959, 1962, DVD/Blu-ray News, Shout/Scream Factory

Blu-ray News #63: Hammer Horror 8-Film Blu-ray Collection.

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Universal has announced a terrific Blu-ray set of eight Hammer horror films, coming in September.

Brides Of Dracula (1960)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starrings Peter Cushing, David Peel, Yvonne Monlaur

The Curse Of The Werewolf (1961)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Clifford Evans, Oliver Reed, Yvonne Romain, Catherine Feller

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Phantom Of The Opera (1962)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Herbert Lom, Heather Sears. Thorley Walters, Michael Gough

Paranoiac (1963)
Directed by Freddie Francis
Starring Janette Scott, Oliver Reed, Sheila Burrell

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Kiss Of The Vampire (1962)
Directed by Don Sharp
Starring Clifford Evans, Noel Willman, Jennifer Daniel

Nightmare (1964)
Directed by Freddie Francis
Starring David Knight, Moira Redmond, Jennie Linden

Night Creatures (1962; UK Title: Captain Clegg)
Directed by Peter Graham Scott
Starrings Peter Cushing, Yvonne Romain, Patrick Allen

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The Evil Of Frankenstein (1964)
Directed by Freddie Francis
Starring Peter Cushing, Sandor Eles, Peter Woodthorpe, Katy Wiuld, Ducnam Lamont, Kiwi Kingston

These are some key Hammer films, and I’m dying to see Night Creatures — which I’ve somehow never seen.

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Filed under 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, DVD/Blu-ray News, Freddie Francis, Hammer Films, Oliver Reed, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher, Universal (-International)

Blu-ray Review: The Brain The Wouldn’t Die (1962).

Brain The Wouldn't Die LC8

Directed by Joseph Green
Produced by Rex Carlton
Screenplay by Joseph Green
Story by Rex Carlton and Joseph Green
Director Of Photography: Stephen Hajnal
Film Editors: Leonard Anderson and Marc Anderson
Music: Abe Baker and Tony Restaino

Cast: Jason “Herb” Evers (Dr. Bill Cortner), Virginia Leith (Jan Compton), Leslie Daniels (Kurt), Adele Lamont (Doris Powell), Marilyn Hanold (Peggy Howard), Bruce Brighton (Dr. Cortner), Eddie Carmel (Monster)

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One of the great things about the DVD/Blu-ray era we find ourselves in is that somebody like Shout Factory will come along and make a cheap movie look like a million bucks. And with The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962) — a picture that’s probably available at your local dollar store looking like crap — that’s exactly what they’ve done.

Brain The Wouldn't Die LC4

Dr. Bill Cortner (Herb Evers) is a brilliant surgeon who’s conducting some bizarre transplantation experiments at his family’s country estate. When his fiancé Jan (Virginia Leith) is decapitated in a car wreck, Cortner preserves her head in a pan while he heads out to burlesque houses in search of a new body. In the meantime, Jan begins to communicate telepathically with a hideous mutant (Eddie Carmel) locked up in Cortner’s basement. From there, it gets weird.

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Shot around Tarrytown, New York, in 1959 under the title The Black Door, it wasn’t released until AIP picked it up in 1962. (Somewhere along the way, it was going to be called The Head That Wouldn’t Die.) AIP trimmed the picture a bit for release, and that’s the way I saw it countless time on the late show as a kid. As cheap and crummy as it may be, I always found it creepy and unsettling.

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The new Blu-ray from Shout Factory was transferred from the original negative. It’s finally offered up uncut — 100% of its gore and sleaze are intact. It’s absolutely stunning to look at — which makes you realize just how (surprisingly) well it was shot to begin with. The contract levels are perfect, making this a superb example of high-definition black and white. There are plenty of extras, too, from a commentary to some “international” scenes to the MST3K episode featuring the film.

While I can’t really recommend the movie itself — a 53-year-old no-budget gore movie is a bit of a niche product, it’s easy to recommend the Blu-ray. We’ve come to expect this kind of video treatment for something like Casablanca (1942), 2001: a space odyssey (1968) or the Bond films. To see a picture like The Brain That Wouldn’t Die given such attention makes my heart feel good. Thanks, Scream Factory.

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Filed under 1962, AIP, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Shout/Scream Factory

Blu-ray News #43: The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962).

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Directed by Joseph Green
Starring Herb Evers, Virginia Leith, Leslie Daniel, Adele Lamont, Bonnie Sharie, Eddie Carmel, Sammy Petrillo

This independent piece of junk was released by AIP, ensuring it better distribution than it deserved. And while The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962) is really terrible, it’s a lot of fun — something you can’t say about a lot of good movies!

A scientist’s fiancé is decapitated in a car wreck. He preserves her head in a pan while he heads out to burlesque houses in search of a new body. In the meantime, the fiancé is communicating telepathically with a hideous mutant locked up in the basement — she doesn’t like the pan, she wants to die. Sheer genius.

Our friends at Scream Factory are giving it the full treatment on Blu-ray, with a new hi-def transfer from the uncut negative. Supplements include the episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 that featured it, a commentary, an alternate scene, trailer and still gallery. It’ll be released in December.

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Filed under 1962, AIP, DVD/Blu-ray News, Shout/Scream Factory