Category Archives: Peter Cushing

Blu-Ray News #131: Island Of Terror (1966).

Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Edward Judd, Carole Gray

More 60s British horror coming to Blu-Ray. I’m all for it, especially when it’s another teaming of Terence Fisher and Peter Cushing — and a really solid one like this.

Island Of Terror (1966) has cancer research gone horribly wrong on Petrie’s Island, with weird creatures injecting victims with a bone-dissolving enzyme. Its pseudo-science seems somewhat plausible (to me, at least — I’m a real bonehead when it comes to scientific stuff) and it has a pretty cool open ending. Shout Factory promises a new transfer from an interpositive, along with a number of extras. Can’t wait. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1966, DVD/Blu-ray News, Peter Cushing, Shout/Scream Factory, Terence Fisher

Blu-Ray News #105: The Creeping Flesh (1973).

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Directed by Freddie Francis
Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Lorna Heilbron, Michael Ripper

Mill Creek Entertainment has announced a three-picture Blu-Ray set for April called Psycho Circus. It consists of three features: Torture Garden (1967), The Creeping Flesh (1973) and Brotherhood Of Satan (1971).

For me, The Creeping Flesh is the cream of the crop. It’s a Tigon picture with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, directed by Freddie Francis. What’s not to like? A scientist comes back from Papua New Guinea with some bones. They get wet and flesh forms around them again — with slimy, murderous results.

Torture Garden (1967) is an Amicus anthology film from Freddie Francis again. It stars Jack Palance, Burgess Meredith and Peter Cushing, based on stories by Robert Bloch.  Then there’s Brotherhood Of Satan which I’ve never seen, but am eager to see — it stars Strother Martin and L.Q. Jones, just a couple years after they played Coffer and T.C. in Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969). The recent Mill Creek Hammer Blu-Ray twin bills were terrific, so I’m really looking forward to this set.

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Filed under 1967, 1971, 1973, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray News, Freddie Francis, Mill Creek, Peter Cushing, Sam Peckinpah

Blu-Ray Review: Hammer Films Double Feature Volume 2 — The Revenge Of Frankenstein/The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb.

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Mill Creek’s Hammer Films Double Feature Volume 2 presents a couple more hi-def Hammer horror films — one a classic, one not so much, but both looking great.

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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 (then he went and did a little thing called Star Wars).

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.

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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.

One thing: why didn’t Hammer put the tattoo on Cushing’s right arm in the later films? What a cool touch that would’ve been throughout the series.

For some reason, The Revenge Of Frankenstein has never looked very good on video. Shot in Technicolor and 1.66:1 by John Asher, it should really pop off the screen, the way The Gorgon (1964) does in Volume 1. But it’s always seemed grainy and a bit blown out, with the color too muted to match the typical late-50s Hammer esthetic. Though not a thing of great beauty, Mill Creek’s Blu-Ray is a huge improvement over the old Columbia DVD. The grain is there to remind you this was once on film, but it’s not a distraction; the color is a lot closer to what it must’ve looked like in theaters back in ’58.

This, folks, is a really good movie.

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The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb (1964)
Directed by Michael Carreras
Starring Terence Morgan, Ronald Howard, Fred Clark, Jeanne Roland

While Hammer knocked Dracula and Frankenstein out of the park, they had a harder time with the Mummy. The Mummy’s a difficult monster on the whole — cool-looking and creepy for sure, but not all that scary. In the Universal Mummy pictures, women have to trip and fall for the Mummy to catch them. Hammer’s The Mummy (1959) was pretty solid, but they seemed to have a hard time figuring out how to work the Mummy into the plots of the later movies. All that said, The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb (1964) still works pretty well.

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A group of Egyptologists bring an exhibit to London, backed by an American showman named Alexander King (Fred Clark). King is determined to exploit the artifacts for maximum profits, which doesn’t sit too well with the revived Mummy. The usual havoc follows.

This is an odd Hammer film. It wasn’t shot at Bray Studios, and there are very few of the regulars among the cast and crew. And while it suffers from the same limitations other Mummy films have (What do you do with this guy?), it has some nice atmospherics here and there. And it’s a thousand times better than the next one, The Mummy’s Shroud (1967).

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It’s easy to sing the praises of how The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb fares on Blu-Ray. It looks fantastic. The Technicolor is nicely presented and the Techniscope framing’s perfect. A big improvement over the DVD. And as with the first volume, you can’t beat the price.

The Revenge Of Frankenstein alone is worth the price of admission — it’s one of Hammer’s best, and it looks far better than previous releases. Think of The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb as a bonus. Recommended. And I hope Volume 3 isn’t too far behind.

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Filed under 1958, 1964, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Mill Creek, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher

Blu-Ray Review: Hammer Films Double Feature Volume 1 — The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll/The Gorgon.

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With a string of terrific Blu-ray releases, this Fall is really turning into a hi-def trip down Memory Lane — so much of the stuff that rotted my brain when I was a kid has been announced for release on Blu-ray. One of the first to make its way to my mailbox and Blu-ray player is Mill Creeks’ Hammer Films Double Feature Volume 1.

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The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll (1960; US Titles: House Of Fright)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Paul Massie, Dawn Addams, Christopher, 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. This has never been held up as a prime Hammer picture, but it’s well made and Christopher Lee’s in it.

Shot in MegaScope, The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll was released in the UK in Technicolor. No such luck in the States — AIP went with crappy Eastmancolor prints. Lucky for us all, Mill Creek offers up a gorgeous transfer from original, longer British material, with the proper title and the kind of eye-popping color these films are known for.

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The Gorgon (1964)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Richard Pasco, Michael Goodliffe, Barbara Shelley, Prudence Hyman

The Gorgon (1964) was the first Hammer film I remember seeing (during one of those local-station all-night Halloween marathons), and it had a huge impact on me. From the Technicolor to the blood to Cushing and Lee to the Gorgon herself, I absolutely loved this thing. And I still have a soft spot for it, even though the studio certainly made better films.

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It still has one of my favorite Hammer moments, as Professor Heltz (Michael Goodliffe) writes the letter while turning to stone. (That’d be a fun poll, wouldn’t it — “What’s your favorite single scene in a Hammer horror movie?”)

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On Blu-Ray, The Gorgon won’t turn anybody to stone. It’s beautiful. The color’s appropriately saturated, the 1.66 is spot-on and James Bernard’s score sounds great (and as eerie as ever). Some folks have been harsh on these Mill Creek Hammers, but I don’t get it. There are no complaints here. I’d love to have every horror movie the studio ever made looking as good as The Gorgon does here.

gorgonmummy-adBy the way, The Gorgon played theaters in a twin bill with The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb (1964), which is is included in Mill Creek’s Hammer Films Double Feature Volume 2, which we’ll get around to soon.

With these Blu-Rays in your collection, you might end up with some duplication from some of your other Hammer sets. But the improved picture quality and terrific price make it worth the double dip. For Hammer fans out there, this set (and Number 2) is highly recommended. Thanks, Mill Creek, and keep ’em coming!

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Filed under 1960, 1964, AIP, Christopher Lee, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Jerry Lewis, Mill Creek, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher

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)

DVD News #53: Hammer Films Collection Vol. 2.

Mill Creek has announced a second volume of Hammer movies. From the second of their Frankenstein pictures to one of their chicks-and-dinosaur movies, this is some good stuff.

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

The Snorkel (1958)
Directed by Guy Green
Starring Peter Van Eyck, Betta St. John, Mandy Miller

Never Take Candy From A Stranger (1960)
Directed by Cyril Frankel
Starring Patrick Allen, Gwen Watford

The Maniac (1963)
Directed by Michael Carreras
Starring Kerwin Mathews, Nadia Gray, Donald Houston.

Die! Die! My Darling (1965: UK Title Fanatic)
Directed by Silvio Narizzano
Starring Tallulah Bankhead, Stefanie Powers, Peter Vaughan, Yootha Joyce, Donald Sutherland

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Creatures The World Forgot (1971)
Directed by Don Chaffey
Starring Julie Ege

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Filed under 1958, 1963, 1965, 1971, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Mill Creek, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher

Blu-ray News #52: The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1959).

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Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Andre Morrell, Christopher Lee, Marla Landi

At the risk of being called an idiot with no taste, I’m gonna go ahead and say that The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1959) is the best movie Hammer ever made. It might be the best Sherlock Holmes movie, too, but I’m gonna leave it at that. Cushing makes a mighty fine Holmes, that’s for sure.

Twilight Time will bring it to Blu-ray in June. This, I think, is a two-pipe problem.

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Filed under 1959, Christopher Lee, Hammer Films, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher, Twilight Time