Hot on the heels of his “31 Days of Hammer” in January, Jules is at it again in March, treating us to a chronological run through the classic era of British Horror, from the late ’50s to the end of the ’70s, with one review every day for the entire month.
You can check out the rest of our “31 Days of British Horror” by CLICKING HERE.
Starring: Peter Cushing, Wanda Ventham, Robert Fleming
Director: Vernon Sewell
It goes without saying that The Blood Beast Terror isn’t the best horror film you’ll ever see. Hell, it’s probably not even the best horror film about a blood-drinking giant moth you’ll ever see.
Supposedly Peter Cushing’s least favourite film he appeared in, you can kind of see his point, but in all honesty, it’s not that bad. Okay, it’s fairly stupid and noticeably cheap, with a weak ending and a monster best kept to the shadows, but it features some lovely location work, moves along at a brisk pace and has a Peter Cushing in it.
Work with me here. I’m trying.
A series of murders shock a quiet English countryside village in the late 19th century. The victims ate all young men and all found completely drained of blood with their throats torn out. The only witness is a coachman who has been driven insane by what saw- a giant horrific winged creature with huge eyes.
Investigating the murders, Inspector Quennell (Peter Cushing) of Scotland Yard and his assistant, Sergeant Allan (Glynn Edwards) realise that the most recent victims were students of the renowned entomology professor Dr. Carl Mallinger (Robert Flemying), who lives locally with his daughter Clare (Wanda Ventham) and their butler, Granger (Kevin Stoney).
Initially Quennell goes to Mallinger for his expert advice, but eventually his suspicions are aroused by the pair, but the truth is more fantastic than he could ever believe. Clare is a vampiric were-moth, aided and abetted by her scientist father who is attempting to create a mate for his daughter…
Despite its daft premise and cheap, almost TV episode feel, The Blood Beast Terror is still an entertaining romp for the most part. With a script by Peter Bryant— previously responsible for Hammer gold like for The Hound of the Baskervilles, Brides of Dracula and Plague of Zombies, not to mention Cushing in full-on Holmes mode, this should really be a minor classic at least, but it’s quite some distance from that.
There’s a nice conceit of a play within the play, with Clare acting on stage a story that seems to be equal parts Frankenstein and Burke & Hare, the latter of which director Sewell would then go on to make as his final film in 1972 and reinforces the themes of hubris and science going wrong that form the backbone of the film.
Cushing is charming as ever, though there’s a definite lack of his usual sparkle. It’s not much, as he’s far too professional to ever give a half-hearted performance, but by his own lofty standards, it’s not one if his best.
Wanda Ventham is the other stand out here, giving quite an intense turn as the were-moth Clare. There’s a steely, predatory feel to her in her human form and Ventham sells that exquisitely.
Shame then that the actual moth form is so dreadful. The male version in its cocoon isn’t too bad, plus it’s a factor in one if the film’s creepiest scenes, the blood transfusion between it and Quennel’s daughter Meg (Vanessa Howard), but when Clare is in full flight, it’s not good.
The Blood Beast Terror isn’t as bad as its reputation suggests, but it’s not massively better either. A missed opportunity.
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy