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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have read in one or two reviews stating that Peter Cushing says The
Blood Beast Terror is the worst movie he ever appeared in. I disagree
and I found this rather enjoyable.
A series of vampire like killings are the result of a woman who periodically turns into a giant dead head moth, mostly at night. A mad scientist has been doing experiments on her to make her do this. Detective Peter Cushing is assigned to the case and the woman is burnt to death at the end, in her moth form but gradually changes back as she burns.
The movie also stars Robert Flemyng and comedy star Roy Hudd.
Despite reading bad reviews, I rather enjoyed watching this movie. A treat for horror and sci fi fans.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
I really had high hopes for 'The Blood Beast Terror'. An above average cast led by Hammer legend Peter Cushing, Robert Flemyng ('The Terrible Dr. Hitchcock') and Wanda Ventham (of cult TV series 'UFO'), and produced by the same company that made the excellent 'Witchfinder General' and one of the best non-Hammer movies Cushing was ever involved with, 'The Creeping Flesh'. Surely this was going to be an overlooked gem? Sadly no. While it isn't an absolute waste of time, it's nowhere near as good as 'The Creeping Flesh' or any Hammer movie from the same period. It reminded me in many ways of 'The Reptile' but it was nowhere near as good. Cushing and Flemyng give it their best shot, but despite a few effective sequences, it never really takes off, and the disappointing climax really lets the movie down. For rabid Peter Cushing fans only. Otherwise stick with his Hammer work, 'The Creeping Flesh' and 'Horror Express'.
Ignore the most negative of the comments, "The Blood Beast Terror" is
not total garbage. It has the Hammer Studio's feel which it was trying
to imitate; with a decent imitation of the Hammer Victorian production
design and a performance by Peter Cushing (as Police Inspector
Quennell). It is also features one of the few available film
appearances of Vanessa Howard, unfortunately she has only a supporting
scream queen role as Quennell's daughter Meg. Check out "Girly" if you
want to see a lot more of this underutilized actress.
"The Blood Beast Terror's" main weakness is its low budget which resulted in some horribly lame special effects, although the budget cannot be entirely blamed as just a little imagination in this area would have resulted in something far more effective. It also suffers from a condensed story that does not supply enough scientific details to make the basic premise interesting.
So instead of a sci-fi/horror picture, it is more of a detective story with some laughable horror elements. But it is a decent detective story with enough misdirection to produce several surprising revelations. Contrary to several other comments, I had no problem with the ending, finding the idea of a moth (even a giant one) being drawn to a flame quite appropriate, although so poorly staged as to be groan inducing.
There is some great comic relief in the underplayed performance of Glynn Edwards (as Sergeant Allen) and the overplayed performance of Roy Hudd, as the jaded morgue attendant who casually eats his meals off the slabs in the morgue (complete with cadavers). There is unintended comic relief in the casting of 30 year-old Wanda Ventham as the mad scientist's on-the-make "teenage" daughter. Nothing exceptional but a cut above much of the 60's cheap sci-fi and horror.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Inspector Quennell of Scotland Yard is called in to solve the mystery
behind the brutal killings of two young men, whose bodies were
completely drained of blood. The press favor the theory that they were
the victims of a giant bird of prey. Quennell (Peter Cushing) discovers
that both men were students of the distinguished entomologist Dr
Mallinger (Robert Flemyng), but he seems unable to help the inspector
with his inquiries. Meanwhile, a young entomologist called Britewell
(William Wilde) arrives at Dr Mallinger's home from Africa with some
specimens. It soon transpires that Mallinger during the course of his
research, turned his daughter Clare (Wanda Ventham) into a creature
that can turn herself into a giant Death's Head moth, which thrives on
human blood. After she seduces and kills Britewell, Quennell learns
from the local police station that Britewell was a colleague of
Mallinger's as the village constable gave him directions to his
mansion. However, when Quennell approaches Mallinger with these facts,
he denies ever meeting him. Quennell is now suspicious but Mallinger
and Clare flee to another remote district of the English countryside.
Quennell makes a discrete search of Mallinger's deserted house and
finds the body of his butler as well as the skeletons of other victims
hidden in Clare's underground lair. In the guise of a banker called
Thompson, Quennell takes his daughter Meg (Vanessa Howard) to the
village where Mallinger has fled having tracked him down because one of
his former servants overheard where he was taking his daughter. Having
successfully arrived in the village incognito, Meg befriends William
(David Griffin), a young man who catches butterflies and moths to study
them under his microscope. They go out on a hunt together and
accidentally stumble upon Mallinger and Clare's hiding place and
narrowly become victims themselves. Quennell realises that he must act
quickly and apprehend Mallinger and his fearsome creation before the
death toll reaches a horrifying level. In addition, Dr Mallinger is
working on a mate for Clare...
The Blood Beast Terror (US title: The Vampire Beast Craves Blood) was originally to have featured Peter Cushing as Inspector Quennell with Basil Rathbone playing Dr Mallinger. Unfortunately, Rathbone died just weeks before filming was due to commence at the Goldhawk studios in Shephards Bush London. Both Cushing and Rathbone had enjoyed acclaim as Sherlock Holmes as well as being cast in numerous horror films. It would of been interesting to see what sort of chemistry they would have created between them on the screen. Alas, it wasn't to be.
Nevertheless, the film has many fun moments such as British comedian Roy Hudd's comedy relief role as a mortuary attendant whose always scoffing pickled onions. In addition there's an amusing sequence in which Dr Mallinger's students stage a Frankenstein like play in the former's living room complete with hammy acting and lousy home made special effects. It's practically an in joke at theatrical mishaps like when one of the students goes to pull the curtain across the stage "Oops the curtain's stuck." he cackles.
As a horror film, it emerges as enjoyable on the cheesier side of British horror. For instance, it was clearly made on a shoestring (even cheaper looking than Hammer's films of the period) and Clare's transformation scenes into the creature aren't very satisfactory. Yet Peter Cushing and Robert Flemyng play their parts with a certain authority that makes the picture a lot better than you'd expect and director Vernon Sewell (a true veteran of the British film industry) keeps things moving at a good pace so the film never outstays its welcome. It is made all the more entertaining as it light heartedly sends up the genre with its in jokes about theatrical mishaps and cheesy effects. Wanda Ventham is excellent as the evil Clare portraying the character with a genuine sense of malice and evil. In summary, it is the distinguished cast and director who put this film a lot higher than it deserved. With lesser talents it would have been a complete disaster.
OK, not one of the better offerings of British horror, that's true. But
it does have Peter Cushing who is always fun to watch and I have to
give credit for the writers to try to bring a somewhat more original
monster to the screen than just another rehash in the Vampire or
Frankenstein vein. Well, come to think of it aside from making the
monster a moth ,this really is just another rehashed Vampire story with
a few elements from the Frankenstein storyline thrown in for good
I cannot help but wonder if the monster was inspired by the legend of the Mothman, the legendary beastie from West Virginia. The resemblance is pretty close. A man sized moth creature with red glowing eyes.
Shame more people have not seen this though, it's not as bad as its reputation. I find it pretty enjoyable.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm one of those who loves old horror films especially the one's from
England which have their own unique style but let's face it, not all of
them were top notch efforts and I think this clearly is one of those
despite it's sincerity. Story is set in Victorian England where bodies
have been piling up completely drained of blood and Police Inspector
Quennell (Peter Cushing) has taken over the case. He also notices that
the bodies have strange wounds about the face and this leads him to
believe that some sort of flying beast is what's causing their deaths.
What Inspector Quennell doesn't know is that his acquaintance Dr. Karl Mallinger (Robert Flemyng) who's an entomologist has somehow transformed his daughter Clare (Wanda Ventham) into a half human/half moth creature that feeds on blood. Clare has the ability to turn into this beast anytime she feels but she wants a male mate and her father has been very busy trying to bring to life another vampiric Deathshead moth but when he feels that Quennell's investigation has brought him too close they pack up and leave. Inspector Quennell tracks down Clare and Dr. Mallinger to another town but hasn't figured out exactly where they are living until his daughter Meg starts acting strange and when another body pops up this points him in the right direction to end everything!
This less than spectacular effort was directed by veteran Vernon Sewell who was no spring chicken in 1968 and would end up directing only one more film after this but one has to wonder if his age or the reception this film had that prompted that. Hammer Studios was so successful during the 1960's that it led to other studios being created such as Tigon Productions which made this film but it never had any huge hits and went kaput in the early 1970's. One of the big reasons (if not the entire reason) that this film fails to be suspenseful is because of the poor special effects which has Ventham in her moth form appearing in an outfit no different than the one that Susan Cabot wore in "The Wasp Woman" and I never could understand how these creatures could morph into another life form and have their clothes disappear! Wouldn't they be monsters wearing the same clothes like Lon Chaney Jr. did in "The Wolf Man"? I also noticed a few other things that may or may not interest anyone (but...who cares?) like the scene where the morgue attendant (played by creepy Roy Hudd) is having dinner on a slab with a body and if you look closely you'll see the cadavers foot move more than once. I also never did fully understand the reason Dr. Mallinger's scarred servant was so mean to the birds that were kept and for what purpose his death meant but I'm guessing it was to just keep him quiet...for good! It's also safe to say that Billy the bug catcher isn't going to be getting laid anytime soon because it appeared that the bleary eyed Meg was actually interested in him but all he wanted to do was kill bugs. He's about "THAT CLOSE" from being Renfield! The ending also hurts this film and it's hard to believe that some giant moth-creature would just fly into some fire and be killed after being intelligent enough to lure victims to secluded areas. If your a fan of English horror films (like myself) than you'll find this watchable and a good reason for that is the casting of Cushing who's mere presence raises this from junk to passable entertainment. I am recommending this because true horror film fans will find enough here to keep them interested and I have to admit that I'm one of those who's a sucker for these types of films even if it's not from Hammer.
I've always heard atrocious things about this Hammer imitation, but it
wasn't that bad IMO. It may be the only time I've seen Peter Cushing
appear that he was walking through a role, though. He just doesn't seem
very interested and I've read somewhere that he considered this his
"worst horror film". I don't know whether this was his own approach to
the material or the spawn of director Vernon Sewell. Maybe it was the
part of a police inspector that didn't showcase Cushing to his best
I haven't seen THE REPTILE yet, but apparently this film is very derivative of it. I thought that the Deathshead moth creature was reminiscent of THE WASP WOMAN myself, but this wasn't a bad thing; the creature makes some pretty satisfying appearances and killings.
The ending is very weak and the whole approach comes off on the superficial side. But one could do much worse for a horror movie.
You'll have to agree about one aspect of this movie these British scriptwriters sure knew how to think up appealing titles! Look at this: blood + beast + terror Separately, these three words already make every horror lover slaver. Together, they form the title to a seemly indispensable horror film. Sadly, this is a very wrong perception. The Blood Beast Terror is not a vital British horror picture. Especially not compared to so many other titles from that era. Although the plot of this film features a few promising and creative aspects (the still unknown universe of insects!), it develops itself very slow and tediously. The twists near the end don't really offer any surprises or innovative elements. Certainly not if you're familiar with the more famous Hammer monster movies like `The Reptile'. Peter Cushing stars as a cop investigating murders that are seemly committed by a giant death's head moth. Dr. Mallinger (Robert Flamyng) and the stunningly beautiful female resident in his mansion are behaving suspiciously, so Cushing goes undercover in rural Britain. His cute daughter and a bug-worshiping nerd accompany him. There's absolutely no tension to detect in this film. Maybe that's partially due to the far-fetched plot, but I rather blame the tame directing-skills of Vernon Sewell and the truly limited depth of this film. The characters in `Blood Beast Terror' are weak and uninteresting, while the make-up effects are downright ludicrous. The transformation-sequences that turn wench into moth are really, really cheap! And yes, I do keep in mind that the film is over 35 years old now. Even then, the special effects look stupid, mind you! In the same year of 1968, the production company (Tigon Productions) released `The Witchfinder General' starring Vincent Price. That film is at least a dozen times better and one of the most atmospheric movies I ever saw. A proof that the Hammer studios weren't the only ones who were able to create timeless, compelling horror. My advice: skip this one and continue your search for the more essential golden Brit-horrorfilms.
So do you think that moths are scary? I know someone who does but I doubt even they would find much fright in this anemic slice of British horror hokum. Peter Cushing lends his usual good performance and the period detail is well executed but the blood-sucking moth creature is too silly for words. Fans of creature features may think that the moth beast looks a lot like the bee monster in Roger Corman's THE WASP WOMAN. The destruction of the vampire beast moth creature at the climax is particularly pathetic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A somewhat peculiar period piece, involving Darwinian experiments with
insects, an unseen, blood drinking horror, and a dedicated police officer
seeking to track down a vampire killer.
The action opens as an expedition into deepest Africa yields several rare cocoons of the Deathshead moth. Not that this is a particularly rare species, but presumably the African version is. Better, it will be something which researcher Robert Dr. Mallinger (Robert Flemyng) can test some radical new theories upon.
Some years later, Mallinger is living in seclusion in England, still conducting his researches. Living with him is his young daughter Clare (Wanda Ventham), who attracts the interests of several young men in the locale. These are students assisting the doctor, as well as amateur dramatists, and they produce a rather bizarre play of Frankenstein, complete with deliberately quaint special effects, during a lull in the overall action.
Clare is drawn to one of these students, and goes off with him. However, they're briefly separated, and something kills him.
This brings in the local police, and Inspector Quennell (Peter Cushing). Quennell arrives with his own daughter, Meg (Vanessa Howard), in tow.
The investigation goes nowhere, as the scientist is unwilling to assist. In the meantime, Meg is becoming friendly with the seductive Clare.
It is revealed that Mallinger has been somehow crossing the moth larvae with human beings. His "daughter" (who drinks blood when excited) is the first to hatch. Two more are awaiting hatching in the cellar, which has been kept to a specific temperature.
In the final minutes of the film, the unhatched creatures are destroyed, as is Clare. The experiment is ended.
Not all that bad for an imitation of the Hammer period and atmosphere. The unborn creatures are an interesting design, as is the angle of the pseudo-daughter actually being a hideous, blood thirsting creature with the intellect to master speech and whatever else it needed in order to pass unnoticed as a human being. It's also always nice to see a new role for Peter Cushing.
A few scenes, such as the play-within-the-movie are slow and distract from the plotline, but overall, it's a decent minor film.
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