Review: The Blood Beast Terror
Peter Cushing stars as a Scotland Yard detective-inspector investigating a series of strange murders that leave the victims drained of blood and covered in unusual scratches. Robert Flemyng plays an entomologist acquaintance who might be able to shed some light on this bizarre mystery. Wanda Ventham (Benedict Cumberbatch’s mum!) plays Flemyng’s pretty daughter, whilst Vanessa Howard plays Cushing’s daughter, and William Wilde plays a foppish young entomology enthusiast whom Ventham takes a shine to.
Robert Flemyng reportedly hated working on it, and Peter Cushing apparently considered it the worst movie he ever appeared in. Cushing was known for being an utter gentleman, with even long-time friend and co-star Christopher Lee writing in his autobiography about just how gentle and rarely to complain the man was. So one wonders, is this 1968 creature feature/murder-mystery hybrid is bad as all that? Well, my guess is Cushing’s feelings are more akin to Flemyng’s, in that the experience of making the film was probably an unhappy one for some reason or another. That he was apparently only making the film due to the costs of his beloved wife’s medical needs around the time likely added to the unhappiness as well. Quality-wise, I’d still place the dreadful “Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150AD” as Cushing’s worst, and from memory “Bloodsuckers” was pretty substandard too. Directed by Vernon Sewell (The not very good “Curse of the Crimson Altar”, the appalling “Burke and Hare”) and scripted by Peter Bryan (Hammer’s solidly entertaining “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and “The Brides of Dracula”), the film is still completely unmemorable and below par.
It’s amusing from time to time, occasionally rather bloody, and Robert Flemyng in particular is very fine. Cushing, like Flemyng doesn’t let his feelings about the film show on screen with a rock-solid acting effort. It’s just that Flemyng has the more interesting role to play. There’s also an amusing, mugging, bug-eyed cameo by Roy Hudd as a mortuary attendant who eats on the job. Yeah, that’s sanitary. On the downside, William Wilde gives the most irritatingly posh, self-satisfied performance I’ve seen in a while. He’s a constant and gigantic aggravation in a film full of rather posh, affected people that you almost expect a prissy Michael Palin to turn up asking ‘Anyone for tennis?’.
The film is too thin, simplistic, and cheap on the whole and entirely unable to be defended. For a film that runs under 90 minutes there’s so much time-wasting and padding that the final twenty minutes are horribly and awkwardly rushed. Want an example? We get a fucking six minute sequence that gives us a stage play version of the Burke and Hare grave-robbing story. Yeah, there’s a slight reason for the reference, but still…did we really need six straight minutes of it? The title monster’s origin also isn’t adequately explained to my liking. Of course any explanation would be utterly absurd, but that’s not a debit for me. Just give me something.
Some people might be brought in purely by the promise of a blood-sucking vampire moth creature. A mixture of “Mothra” and “The Bride of Frankenstein” (with a touch of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”), it’s not nearly as much fun as it sounds, as the script seems to forget all about the blood beast for large chunks of the film. Instead it’s cheap, padded out, and although a couple of the performances are fun, the film largely isn’t. Quite shoddy for a studio (Tigon British) who also gave us the very fine Vincent Price film “Witchfinder General”, the solid western “Hannie Caulder”, and “The Sorcerers” with Boris Karloff.