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The Creeping Flesh (1973)

PG | | Horror, Sci-Fi | 1973 (UK)
A Victorian-age scientist returns to London with his paleontological bag-of-bones discovery from Papua New Guinea. Unfortunately, when exposed to water, flesh returns to the bones ... See full summary »


Freddie Francis


Peter Spenceley (original screenplay), Jonathan Rumbold (original screenplay)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Christopher Lee ... James Hildern
Peter Cushing ... Emmanuel Hildern
Lorna Heilbron ... Penelope
George Benson George Benson ... Waterlow
Kenneth J. Warren Kenneth J. Warren ... Lenny
Duncan Lamont ... Inspector
Harry Locke ... Barman
Hedger Wallace Hedger Wallace ... Doctor Perry
Michael Ripper ... Carter
Catherine Finn ... Emily
Robert Swann Robert Swann ... Young Aristocrat
David Bailie ... Young Doctor
Maurice Bush Maurice Bush ... Karl
Tony Wright ... Sailor
Marianne Stone ... Female Assistant


A Victorian-age scientist returns to London with his paleontological bag-of-bones discovery from Papua New Guinea. Unfortunately, when exposed to water, flesh returns to the bones unleashing a malevolent being on the scientist's family and friends. Written by Ray Hamel <hamel@primate.wisc.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Spine chilling... See more »


Horror | Sci-Fi


PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

1973 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Cuerpos vivientes See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Freddie Francis took over directing from Don Sharp at short notice. See more »


When Emmanuel visits Dr. Hildern after the death of his wife, a book stand appears out of nowhere between cuts, to the right of Hildern at his desk. See more »


Emmanuel Hildern: Now, listen to this in relation to what happened last night when I was cleaning the skeleton. It's about the primitive people of New Guinea today who believe that their ancestors were a race of giants who carried on a titanic war between good and evil when the world was created. When the Evil One shall be exposed, the Sky Father shall weep. Weep, Waterlow! That means rain! Water! Weep for the departure of Paradise from the Earth. And his tears - water again, do you see? - his tears, falling ...
See more »

Alternate Versions

Early UK cinema versions were cut by the BBFC to remove a shot of a sailor's slashed throat. All later releases were uncut. See more »


Featured in Svengoolie: The Creeping Flesh (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

A Cushing Delight
18 January 2010 | by BloodTheTelepathicDogSee all my reviews

Unlike other Peter Cushing outings, in which he garners star-billing, he is undoubtedly the "star" of this picture. Here he plays a absent-minded professor who finds the skeletal remains of a giant man/ape creature and brings them home to his lab in England. Although he is on the verge of occupational success, his personal life is slipping. Determined to win a prestigious science award for his discovery, he fails to give ample time to his daughter Penelope (Lorna Heilbron) who wants to know more about the mother she has never known.

Cushing isn't alone in this picture; he gets support from fellow horror icon Christopher Lee. Lee plays Cushing's half brother who operates an asylum--the very asylum Cushing had his whore of a wife sent to when Penelope was just a child. Lee serves as a nemesis for Cushing because he is seeking to win the same science award Cushing is with his research on electroshock therapy. The two men use science as a method of explaining the perverse things they do, culminating, for Cushing, in injecting Lorna Heilbron with an experimental serum he has concocted in order to keep her from the nuthouse. But the serum has the reverse effect: it speeds up her route to wearing strait-jackets.

This is a wonderful horror film, the likes of which aren't made anymore, as the genre has descended into revolting displays of gore that test an audience's gag reflex. This is story and character driven--not blood and guts driven--with Cushing carrying the piece. Both horror icons, Cushing and Lee, are in splendid form and Lorna Heilbron, as the female lead, is equal to the task of sharing the screen with them. She does a marvelous job as Penelope, beginning the film as a meek do-as-your-told daughter before transforming into a depraved nutcase that dances in the courtyard in her nighty to the music that only plays in her head.

There are enough Darwin principles and theories used in this film to sustain interest of science aficionados. Even with all the science talk, this is a quite a splendid film. Keep in mind, this is nothing like modern horror films. The monster has a fifteen minute screen time and the lone "gore scene" is tepid at best when Lorna Heilbron slits the throat of a sailor trying to rape her.

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