This big ass blog takes on the remaining 13 movies I hadn’t yet posted about from my collection of Peter Cushing films. I’ve now covered virtually every horror movie he was in (!), with just a few stray titles still on my list to get that have yet to be released on physical media.
THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN (1957)
One of Cushing’s earliest horror films, this is a creature feature with not much creature. We don’t see the Yeti until the last few minutes!
Cushing is on a botanical expedition in the Himalayas, and a group of men shows up looking for the Abominable Snowman. So they join forces to go into the mountains together.
The leader of the other gang turns out to be a douche who wants to capture and exploit the Yeti while Cushing is in it for scientific research—a conflict that will echo through creature features for decades to come. Unfortunately, the movie is also super heavy on scientific theory dialogue.
As in many of these movies, the men are their own worst enemies as they turn on each other and themselves, but there’s also a catch—it appears they are being mind-controlled by the Yeti (that we never see). Indeed there’s a much more epic backstory for the Yeti than in most modern films that take on the mythical monster. Difference is, modern films deliver monster action, and this film doesn’t.
ISLAND OF TERROR (1966)
As if to make up for the huge creature feature disappointment of The Abominable Snowman, Cushing delves into full monster movie territory with this sci-fi/horror flick.
After a man goes missing on an island and is then found as a total pile of jelly, Cushing is called in as a scientist to determine what the cause could possibly be. I’m fairly convinced the victim’s face was the inspiration for “Ring face”.
No time is wasted in giving us the full monster Monty, with tentacle attacks easing us in before we get to see the huge snail-like creatures that crawl along the ground. They also drop out of trees and into the arms of victims occasionally, which made me laugh every time.
It’s just old school monster fun as a team is assembled to go hunt down and kill the creatures in the woods.
NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT (1967)
The lame title of this sci-fi/horror film is as watered down as the movie itself. To have both Cushing and Christopher Lee in a film this sterile is rather disappointing, and it’s not surprising that neither of them proves to be the true star. However, Night of the Big Heat is noticeably one of the building blocks for many films that have come after it.
On an isolated island, an inn owner has a dilemma—the new woman he hires is a hot young thing he had an affair with, and she’s determined to ruin his marriage.
Meanwhile, inn guest Christopher Lee is a secretive scientist who creeps around the island taking photos and using mysterious equipment, after which he locks himself in his room.
The island is subjected to unnaturally high temperatures, people start dying after hearing a high-pitched sound, a guy reports his sheep being killed (in a modern horror film we would have seen the mutilated sheep), and the main guy’s wife sees something crash land in a field.
Concluding there’s an alien life form, Lee, Cushing, and the small cast come together to figure out a way to fend off the invasion. This is a slow film and lacks suspense or scares. And the alien life form? It’s a glowing, pulsing mass that simply dies when it rains. Lame!
The highlight for me was when the husband discusses his new employee with his wife and says, “She was a slut and I wanted her!”
To me, this film feels like someone was really itching to have Peter Cushing star in a Herschel Gordon Lewis sleazefest, so they just did it themselves.
The plot has been revisited in various horror movies over the years. Cushing plays a plastic surgeon with a beautiful fiancée.
When the pair attends a totally sixties psychedelic dance party, the fiancée is horribly burned by a photography light that is so big it actually would have pulverized her head when it fell on her.
Determined to regenerate her skin tissue, Cushing experiments…on corpses, of course. And it works! The catch is, he has to give his woman the treatment regularly and needs fresh flesh. And so his brutal murdering spree begins.
A spree of three in total. Yawn! But the kills are very bloody, it’s magnificent to see Cushing’s hair not only out of place but looking like he stuck a finger in an electric socket, and he gets to touch some prostitute boob if you watch the international cut. Interestingly, the cleaner cut of the film features an entirely different scene with the prostitute—played by a different actress!
THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR (1968)
Since this creature feature has such a cheesy giant moth monster, it would have served the film better to just fill it with monster sightings instead of keeping the death scenes enshrouded in mystery for so long.
After a promising opening kill, Cushing appears as a detective investigating the deaths of various young men who were sucked dry.
He starts snooping around the home of a professor who is of course the one hiding the truth about the moth creature…it’s his daughter, who transforms at night!
I’m all about pretty boys being seduced to their deaths for a change, if only the silly monster had been exploited. Hell, this moth lady doesn’t even transform during her transformations. No special effects, just poof and she’s a moth.
And Cushing’s final battle shooting the moth out of the sky is such a letdown…for both the moth and us.
INCENSE FOR THE DAMNED (aka: Bloodsuckers) (1971)
This is a film that mostly forgets about the horror rather quickly.
Cushing plays some sort of college bigwig who pushes for a search for a prestigious young Oxford man who goes missing in Greece. And that’s all we see of Cushing until the end of the film.
A handful of the young man’s friends (white guy, Black guy, young white woman) go to search for him with the help of their contact in Greece, original Avenger Patrick Mcnamee (no, not those Avengers).
The most mesmerizing part of the film is a scene of the missing man with the mysterious young woman he’s met as they delve into an orgy that goes full-on drug trip with psychedelic rock blasting, strobe lights, and quick, flashing edits that transition into a bloody sacrifice by people in masks.
As the friends go around asking questions and chasing leads, the only other interesting part, which isn’t expanded on quiet enough probably due to when the film was made, is the suggestion that the Black guy may be hot for the missing friend. He vehemently denies it, yet when they finally locate the friend shirtless and delusional, the Black guy sure does touch his bare body a lot.
This one could have been a lot more interesting as a horror movie if it better teased what is implied at the end…vampire cult!
It’s like this film took a classic Hammer Films vampire movie, updated it to modern times, and then gutted all the vampire stuff until the intriguing conclusion. At least Peter Cushing finally returns for a few minutes to relish the vampiric aspects.
TWINS OF EVIL (1971)
A follow-up to The Vampire Lovers, which was the first of a Hammer trilogy, Twins of Evil is quite cool because it a) blends witchcraft and vampires into one plot, b) uses a swapping twins plot, and c) brings more sex to the Hammer name than most of their films.
Cushing leads a vigilante group of witch hunters that burns innocent women, starting immediately with the first scene.
Meanwhile, Cushing’s twin nieces come to live with him, and one in particular loathes his rigid religious way of life and plans to rebel against him. So…
She gets involved with a handsome count who draws her into Satanism and vampirism. But her identical twin is really going to complicate matters…
It’s yet another Hammer vampire film, but this one delivers some sexy stuff, including the count’s hunky bodyguard, a sex scene in which a candle is stroked quite erotically, and hints of lesbianism, with a female vampire sucking on a tit. On top of that, Cushing performs a juicy beheading.
I, MONSTER (1971)
It’s another take on Jekyll and Hyde, yet both the title and the character names have been changed. There’s nothing new here, but a few things make this a satisfying adaptation.
- a) Christopher Lee is the most fun I’ve ever seen him in the role of the devious monster.
- b) We get to see Lee pitted against Cushing.
- c) The monster attacks children. Yay!
FEAR IN THE NIGHT (1972)
This may just be a Hammer Films masterpiece, and I’m not just saying that because it’s not a period piece for a change. It’s not only an immersive suspense mystery, it is a fantastic stalker film.
Our main girl is about to start a new life with her teacher husband when she is attacked in her own home…and gets a serious surprise when she fights back. Problem is no one really believes it happened because she had a nervous breakdown recently. When she’s attacked again, even her husband doubts her.
The school headmaster, played by Peter Cushing, encounters her touring her husband’s new workplace, so he shows her around, but he is like a pervy old man. It’s a very uncomfortable scene that reminds us of how easily women can be preyed upon when they’re attempting to be polite.
Her paranoia leads to the best scene in the movie, which is also the most infuriating. Her husband has to leave for the night, so she gets a shotgun then proceeds to turn out all the lights before going upstairs! WTF? When she hears a noise, she has to go downstairs in the dark to turn them all back on!
But this shit turns into a kick ass chase packed with so many elements of slasher chase scenes that were on the 80s horizon. It had me totally braced to find out where the film was going, although it seemed pretty obvious, especially when you have a vixen like Joan Collins come on the scene.
Not sure if it seems predictable just because I’ve been watching these kinds of film for so long, but even so, there were still enough twists in the plot to keep this old horror whore interested.
TENDER DRACULA (1974)
I don’t know if something gets lost in the translation from the original language, but this French farce is an absolute nonsensical mess in which not only does nothing happen, but the material that does fill the time isn’t even vaguely funny.
Two writers and their girlfriends are sent to the mansion of an actor who has decided to give up his career playing vampire roles to do romances.
That actor is played by Peter Cushing, who at least finally gets to lighten up and smile quite a bit for a change.
Beyond that I have no idea what was going on. I can’t even vaguely describe a plot to you. I can tell you there are a couple of really annoying musical numbers, including one in which the two main girls sing naked.
And the only other moment of note is Cushing taking a woman over his knee and spanking her. Seriously, that is the highlight of this film because it’s so out of character for this iconic horror actor.
LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF (1975)
It might be directed by a Hammer alum and star Peter Cushing as a doctor hunting down a werewolf that looks very much like Oliver Reed in The Curse of the Werewolf, but this is not a sequel or a Hammer film.
It’s an illogical story of a baby raised by wolves. He grows into a feral boy and ends up as a sideshow freak.
When he becomes a man, he starts turning into a werewolf even though he was never bitten by anything!
He then falls for a prostitute at a brothel and kills off any John that pays for sex with her. Funny considering this judgmental werewolf is the one living in the sewers.
Killer POV is represented by the screen going red, there are often injections of close-ups of the bloody werewolf mouth, and the real killing spree starts 65 minutes in.
After that, Cushing and his team grab their werewolf hunting necessities and go down into the sewer to take care of business. It’s a fairly boring film overall.
THE GHOUL (1975)
Pre-dating many slashers and backwoods horror flicks that came after it, The Ghoul doesn’t quite deliver on the horror the premise lends itself to.
Elitists at a country estate are having a car race. One couple’s car runs out of gas, they split up, and the woman is welcomed into the estate of Peter Cushing. He serenades her with his violin, which he spends most of the movie playing.
Meanwhile, William Hurt is a psychotic gardener, there’s a witchy woman living in the house, and there’s something in the attic…
The movie pulls a Psycho, with a lead character switcheroo deep into the movie. There’s even a kill scene in a bed that seems to take its style—hearing more than seeing the gore—from the famous shower scene.
More snobby victims show up at the mansion to be killed off, but this film is way before the time of high body counts, so it’s ultimately rather tame. As is the thing in the attic when it’s finally revealed.
THE DEVIL’S MEN (aka: Land of the Minotaur) (1976)
Donald Pleasence vs. Peter Cushing in a battle between good and evil sounds like it can’t go wrong, right? Wrong.
It virtually feels like there’s no script for this film, just loads of scenes of a cult kidnapping blonde girls in Greece and then worshipping a big statue of a Minotaur in a cave. Over and over and over and over.
Half the time I wasn’t even sure if shit was really supposed to be happening or if Donald’s priest character was experiencing nightmares or hallucinations while investigating the disappearances of the tourists.
Whenever Donald gives a speech about evil, it feels like he’s rehearsing for his role in Halloween two years later. The few times Cushing appears on screen it feels like he’s collecting a paycheck. And all the black, red, and white hooded cultists just gave me icky Klan vibes.