Category Archives: Peter Cushing

Blu-Ray News #297: The Flesh And The Fiends (1960).

Directed by John Gilling
Starring Peter Cushing, June Laverick, Donald Pleasence, Dermot Walsh, Renee Houston, George Rose, Billie Whitelaw

The Flesh And The Fiends (1960) — aka Mania, aka The Fiendish Ghouls, aka Psycho Killers — has been sitting near the top of my Blu-Ray Want List since, well, Blu-Rays first started showing up. By whatever name you want to call it, The Flesh And The Fiends is a wonderfully nasty telling of the Burke and Hare story. This was Peter Cushing’s first non-Hammer horror film after becoming a star in the genre with pictures like Curse Of Frankenstein (1957) and Horror Of Dracula (1958). He’s terrific in this one. It was produced by the Robert Baker – Monty Berman team that gave us Jack The Ripper (1959).

Kino Lorber has given their upcoming Blu-Ray, with two cuts of the film and other extras, a release date of July 7.

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Filed under 1960, Donald Pleasence, DVD/Blu-ray News, John Gilling, Kino Lorber, Peter Cushing

Blu-Ray News #293: Dr. Who And The Daleks (1965) & Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD (1966).

I’ve never been a Dr. Who fan. But I absolutely adore Peter Cushing.

So I was really stoked to learn that Kino Lorber is bringing both of the Cushing Dr. Who theatrical films — Dr. Who And The Daleks (1965) and Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (1966) — to Blu-Ray in July.

These used to turn up on TV a lot in the 70s, where their Techniscope photography suffered quite a bit. It’ll be cool to see them in high definition — the Technicolor was gorgeous.

One more thing: wouldn’t that have been a fun night at Austin’s Longhorn Drive-In?

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Filed under 1966, 1967, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kino Lorber, Peter Cushing

Happy Birthday, Terence Fisher.

Terence Fisher
(February 23, 1904 – June 18, 1980)

Terence Fisher, Hammer’s go-to director, was born 116 years ago today. Here he is (with glasses) celebrating Susan Denberg’s birthday on the set of Frankenstein Created Woman (1967). It’s got Fisher and a birthday cake, that’s close enough.

Fisher’s classic, no-nonsense direction was behind great Hammer pictures like The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957), Dracula (1958) and The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1959).

I’d also like to wish my wife Jennifer a happy 22nd wedding anniversary. We didn’t choose the 23rd to honor Mr. Fisher, but it’s a really cool coincidence.

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Filed under 1967, Hammer Films, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher

Blu-Ray News #285: The Evil Of Frankenstein (1964).

Directed by Freddie Francis
Starring Peter Cushing, Peter Woodthorpe, Duncan Lamont, Sandor Elès, Katy Wild, David Hutcheson, Kiwi Kingston

Scream Factory’s Hammer series continues with The Evil Of Frankenstein (1964), the only picture in Hammer’s Frankenstein cycle not directed by Terence Fisher. Freddie Francis did this one.

Hammer went a different route with Frankenstein, following the doctor (Peter Cushing) instead of the monster. This let them come up with a different creature for each film. Since The Evil Of Frankenstein was done in collaboration with Universal, they could approach that studio’s “classic” look for the monster. (You know, the Boris Karloff/Glenn Strange sort of thing.) I’ve always found the results a bit, um, odd.

Nevertheless, this is a most welcome addition to the Scream Factory lineup. So far, the extras have not been announced, but the disc has a release date in mid-May. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1964, DVD/Blu-ray News, Freddie Francis, Hammer Films, Peter Cushing, Shout/Scream Factory, Terence Fisher

Blu-Ray News #279: Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell (1974).

Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Shane Briant, David Prowse, Madeline Smith, John Stratton

The last of Hammer’s Frankenstein series, Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell (1974) was also the final picture from Hammer’s terrific director, Mr. Terence Fisher.

Cut quite a bit, sitting on the shelf for a year or so and given a lame release in the States by Paramount, Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell has always gotten a bad rap, though it’s enjoyed a bit of a reappraisal in recent years. When Shout Factory kicked off their Hammer series, I was hoping they’d end up with this one — it deserves their level of attention.

Peter Cushing is as terrific as ever as the obsessively obsessed Dr. Frankenstein, his experiments hampered by all the physical damage he underwent in the previous films, namely burns from Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969). David Prowse is a much better monster here than in the unfortunate Horror Of Frankenstein (1970, not part of the Cushing Frankenstein saga). Of course, these two would be reunited a few years later in Star Wars (1977) — Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin and Prowse as Darth Vader. As the innocents pulled into Frankenstein’s madness, Shane Briant is quite good, while Madeline Smith isn’t given enough to do. Why make her a mute?

Terence Fisher doesn’t disappoint. His direction is as assured as ever, though the tone of Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell is certainly darker than the previous ones — which were plenty dark already. The cinematography this time comes from Brian Probyn and its color is more muted than Arthur Grant’s work on the two previous Frankenstein films. It certainly matches the tone of the film.

I’m curious to see what Shout Factory will be able to bring to this one in May. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1974, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Peter Cushing, Shout/Scream Factory, Terence Fisher

Blu-Ray Review: The Abominable Snowman (Of The Himalayas) (1957).

Directed by Val Guest
Written by Nigel Kneale
Based on his 1955 TV play The Creature
Cinematographer: Arthur Grant
Film Editor: Bill Linney
Music by Humphrey Searle

Cast: Forrest Tucker (Tom Friend), Peter Cushing (Dr. John Rollason), Arnold Marlé (The Lhama), Maureen Connell (Helen Rollason), Richard Wattis (Peter Fox), Robert Brown (Ed Shelley), Michael Brill (Andrew McNee)

__________

The Western part of North Carolina certainly gets its share of Sasquatch sightings. So many, in fact, that a small town (Marion) held its second Bigfoot Festival back in September. With all the talk of Sasquatch/Yeti/Bigfoot going on around here, Scream Factory’s Blu-Ray of Hammer’s The Abominable Snowman (1957) seems almost topical.

It’s a movie I’ve loved since I was a kid, and the chance to see Arthur Grant’s B&W Regalscope cinematography in high definition is a huge deal.

Stanley Baker and Peter Cushing in The Creature, live on BBC TV in January 1955.

The Abominable Snowman began as a live TV program from the BBC, The Creature, written by Nigel Kneale — drawing on recent Yeti sightings and Mount Everest expeditions for inspiration. It starred Stanley Baker as Tom Friend and Peter Cushing as John Rollason. Two performances were aired live in January 1955 — neither were recorded. What a drag.

Hammer Films had turned a Kneale TV serial, The Quatermass Xperiment, into a successful film in 1955 (they’d do the same with its TV sequel), and they bought the movie rights for The Creature. Val Guest, who’d directed the Quatermass feature was brought back. Peter Cushing, who’d not only starred in The Creature, but had begun an association with Hammer with The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), was also put on the payroll. Forrest Tucker was cast as Tom Friend, making the explorer/entrepreneur an American.

Nigel Kneale turned his own teleplay into a screenplay, calling it The Snow Creature — until someone realized there already was a picture with that title. (The Snow Creature is a cheap piece of junk from 1954, with the distinction of being the first Bigfoot movie.) Hammer eventually settled on The Abominable Snowman. In the States, the title was extended to The Abominable Snowman Of The Himalayas. Kneale gets solo credit for the script, but Val Guest did a rewrite cutting back on a lot of the dialogue.

The production kicked off with a small crew doing some location shooting in the French Pyrenees in mid-January 1957. None of the cast made the trip; they used doubles. Some of the impressive mountain scenes used a helicopter, others were snagged from a cable car. Principal photography ran from January 28th to March 5th at Bray and Pinewood studios. The monastery set was built at Bray (with waiters from local Chinese restaurants playing the monks), while the snowy mountain stuff required the larger space to be found at Pinewood.

The story is pretty simple, at least on the surface. Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker) brings an exhibition to a monastery in the Himalayas, where Dr. John Rollason (Peter Cushing) is conducting botany research. Tucker’s after the Yeti, and he convinces Cushing to come along. It would’ve been better for all concerned if they’d stayed home. They do indeed find the Yeti — gentle, intelligent creatures waiting around for us to wipe ourselves out so they can take over.

Tucker and Cushing are perfect for their roles, and they really put this one over. Guest’s direction is quite good — keeping things moving, building tension and doing a great job of cutting together the location and studio stuff — they say he kept a Moviola on the set so he could refer to the mountain footage. This was cinematographer Arthur Grant’s first film for Hammer, and it looks terrific. He’d eventually replace Jack Asher as Hammer’s go-to DP.

I’ve raved about Scream Factory’s previous Hammer Blu-Ray releases, and The Abominable Snowman continues their stellar track record. When they received the HD material, they found it five minutes short. That footage has been reinstated from an (upscaled) SD source, though you can watch the shorter, all-HD version if you prefer. Either way, it looks terrific (go with the complete one), with the B&W ‘Scope a real knockout. The sound’s good, giving real power to the windy sound effects and Humphrey Searle’s score. There are plenty of extras, too — commentary, trailer, Joe Dante’s Trailers From Hell piece, etc. A nice package all-around.

​In the UK, ​The Abominable Snowman was often paired with Mamie Van Doren in Untamed Youth. Now that was a nice night at the movies. I highly recommend The Abominable Snowman Of The Himalayas. It’s still the best movie ever made about Bigfoot (to be honest, it doesn’t have much competition) — and this Blu-Ray is the perfect way to see it (especially if you’ve got a big TV).

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Filed under 1957, 20th Century-Fox, Arthur Grant, Forrest Tucker, Hammer Films, Lippert/Regal/API, Mamie Van Doren, Peter Cushing, Shout/Scream Factory, Val Guest

Blu-Ray News #259: From Beyond The Grave (1974).

Directed by Kevin Connor
Starring Ian Bannen, Ian Carmichael, Peter Cushing, Diana Dors, Margaret Leighton, Nyree Dawn Porter, David Warner, Ian Ogilvym Lesley-Anne Down

Amicus Productions specialized in anthology horror pictures like Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors (1965) and Tales From The Crypt (1972) — and From Beyond The Grave (1974) was the last one. It gave Kevin Connor his first directing assignment, and he’d go on to do pictures like The Land That Time Forgot (1975) and At The Earth’s Core (1976), both with Peter Cushing and Doug McClure.

Warner Archive has announced From Beyond The Grave for an October Blu-Ray release. The great Peter Cushing in high definition is always a good thing. Recommended.

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Filed under 1974, Amicus Productions, Diana Dors, Donald Pleasence, DVD/Blu-ray News, Peter Cushing, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #257: Hammer Volume 4 – Faces Of Fear.

The folks at Indicator have done a terrific job with their Hammer Blu-Ray sets — and I expect just as much from this one.

Scream Of Fear (1961; UK title: Taste Of Fear)
​Directed by Seth Holt
​Starring Susan Strasberg, Ronald Lewis, Ann Todd, Christopher Lee

Hammer made a string of Psycho-inspired thrillers in the early 60s. One of the best of the bunch is Scream Of Fear, which borrows more from Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques (1955) than it does from the Hitchcock picture. Susan Strasberg is terrific as the handicapped young woman who is being systematically scared to death by a conniving couple. Jimmy Sangster’s script, Seth Holt’s direction and Douglas Slocombe’s black and white photography are all top-notch.

The Revenge Of Frankenstein (1958)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Eunice Grayson, Francis Matthews, Michael Gwynn

The Revenge Of Frankenstein (1958) is the second entry in Hammer’s Frankenstein series, coming after The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957). Hammer went a different route than Universal — they follow the Doctor, not the Monster, which lets the stories go in all sorts of different directions. And more important, it established Peter Cushing as a leading horror star through the 70s.

Revenge picks up where Curse left off. Frankenstein escapes the guillotine, flees to Carlsbruck and builds a successful practice under the name Stein. Of course, he’s conducting his usual experiments on the side — and they go horribly wrong. Frankenstein transplants the brain of a willing assistant into the newly constructed monster, giving the crippled young man a stronger, straighter body. Or that’s the idea anyway.

This, for my money, is one of Hammer’s finest films. Cushing is terrific as the brilliant doctor completely taken over by arrogance and misguided ambition (making it quite appropriate during this Presidential election). Eunice Grayson and Francis Matthews are good as the nurse and young doctor caught up in Frankenstein’s mayhem. Michael Gwynn is really superb as the monster, perfectly balancing the sympathy and horror the part requires. His performance is what makes the movie work as well as it does. Jimmy Sangster’s script is more disciplined than usual, free of the diversions that can lead his films astray. And Terence Fisher’s direction is as assured as ever.

The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll (1960; US Title: House Of Fright)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Paul Massie, Dawn Addams, Christopher Lee, David Kossoff, Oliver Reed

Hammer always put their own spin on the horror standards they tackled, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde is no exception. Their Dr. Jekyll (Paul Massie) is rather boring, but his potion transforms him into the suave, yet lecherous and murderous Mr. Hyde. Minus the murder part, this seems like a precursor to Jerry Lewis’ The Nutty Professor (1963). This framework provides ample opportunity for everything from rape and murder to snake-charming — the kind of stuff censors pounced on, resulting in a cut-up American release from American International.

The Damned (1963; US Title: These Are The Damned)
Directed by Joseph Losey
Starring MacDonald Carey, Shirley Anne Field, Viveca Lindfors, Oliver Reed

Fleeing the harassment of a motorcycle gang (lead by Oliver Reed), a couple (MacDonald Carey, Shirley Anne Field) winds up in a cave occupied by a group of children — the product an experiment to create a race of radiation-friendly humans.

Hammer sat on this one a while before releasing it, and in in the States it was cut to just 77 minutes. It’s never been given its due, though it’s cherished by fans of Joseph Losey. Indicator, of course, is offering up the original cut, not the chopped-up American thing.

Coming November 18, this Region-Free set loads each picture up with extras — from interviews and trailers to commentaries and photo galleries. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1958, 1960, 1961, 1963, AIP, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Indicator/Powerhouse, Oliver Reed, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher

Blu-Ray News #251: The Flesh And The Fiends (1960).

Directed by John Gilling
Starring Peter Cushing, June Laverick, Donald Pleasence, Dermot Walsh, Renee Houston, George Rose, Billie Whitelaw

The Flesh And The Fiends (1960) — aka Mania, aka The Fiendish Ghouls, aka Psycho Killers — has been sitting near the top of my Blu-Ray Want List since, well, Blu-Rays first started showing up. By whatever name you want to call it, The Flesh And The Fiends is a wonderfully nasty telling of the Burke and Hare story. And I’m so stoked to hear that Kino Lorber is bringing it to Blu-Ray some time in 2020.

PETER CUSHING FLESH AND THE FIENDS PCASUK 715

This was Peter Cushing’s first non-Hammer horror film after becoming a star in the genre with pictures like Curse Of Frankenstein (1957) and Horror Of Dracula (1958). He’s terrific in this one. It was produced by the Robert Baker – Monty Berman team that gave us Jack The Ripper (1959).

Kino Lorber is promising two cuts of the film. There was the UK version (94 minutes) and a slightly longer “Continental” cut that adds a bit of nudity here and there for good measure. (The cut titled Psycho Killers that played in the US in 1965 only runs a pathetic 74 minutes.)

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Filed under 1960, Donald Pleasence, DVD/Blu-ray News, John Gilling, Kino Lorber, Peter Cushing

Blu-Ray News #246: The Abominable Snowman Of The Himalayas (1957).

Directed by Val Guest
​Screenplay by Nigel Kneale
Based on the teleplay “The Creature” by Nigel Kneale
​Starring Forrest Tucker​, ​Peter Cushing​, ​Maureen Connell, Richard Wattis​, ​Arnold Marle

Over the years, this early Hammer film has been as hard to see as its maybe-real namesake, The Abominable Snowman Of The Himalayas (1957). There was a letterboxed laserdisc and early DVD from Anchor Bay, which is now a collectors’ item. So Scream Factory’s announcement of an upcoming Blu-Ray is big news.

An early Bigfoot movie, The Abominable Snowman Of The Himalayas left some mighty big shoes to fill. It appeals to me on so many levels — Hammer Films, Peter Cushing, Forrest Tucker (a staple of 50s Westerns), Regalscope, Val Guest and on and on.

Black and white CinemaScope (which is what Regalscope was) looks great on Blu-Ray, and Scream Factory has done a tremendous job with all their Hammer releases so far. There’s no release date for this yet (it was announced at Comic-Con this weekend). I can’t wait. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1957, 20th Century-Fox, Forrest Tucker, Hammer Films, Peter Cushing, Shout/Scream Factory, Val Guest