With Halloween just around the corner, there’s nothing better than stocking up on some vintage British horror, and genre fans are being spoilt this month with a collection of classic titles being resurrected from the vaults. First up, 1967’s The Blood Beast Terror, a schlocky gothic melodrama from Hammer’s horror rival, Tigon Pictures, starring the iconic Peter Cushing and TV’s UFO star Wanda Ventham (better known today as the real-life mother of TV’s Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch).
The mystery, which actually feels like a Sherlock Holmes adventure, finds Ventham playing Clare, the buxom daughter of entomologist Dr Carl Mallinger (Robert Flemying), who can transform herself into a giant bloodsucking moth. Peter Cushing plays vacationing Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Quennell who cuts short his holiday to investigate the deaths of young men found drained of blood. And it’s not long before Quennell starts putting two and two together…
Thanks to the film’s sterling performances (despite Cushing and Flemying hating the movie), Paul Ferris’ creepy sound score (he also did the brilliant Witchfinder General) and period setting (most of which is shot at Grim’s Dyke House in Harrow, North London – a location which also saw Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price film there in the late 1960s), I have a real soft spot for this 1967 piece of horror hokum and the excellent Odeon Entertainment Blu-ray release is a welcomed improvement on my old VHS copy and way better than the prints showing on TV. Also included on the release is a documentary on the late Peter Cushing, an interview with Wanda Ventham, theatrical trailer and stills gallery.
Released 22 October on Blu-ray, Odeon Entertainment
A HAMMER TRIO RESTORED ON 22 OCTOBER
The Devil Rides Out (1968) Double Play, Studio Canal
Adapted by Richard Matheson from Dennis Wheatley’s 1934 novel, The Devil Rides Out is one Hammer chiller that’s pure class. It’s also a personal favourite of star Christopher Lee who plays the urbane aristocrat Duc de Richleau who goes to war with a satanist (Charles Gray, at his most sinister best) after rescuing a young couple from a coven. Two of the documentaries included on the release look at the extensive work that went into restoring the horror favourite, while there’s a great featurette on Dennis Wheatley’s work with Hammer, and an amusing commentary featuring Christopher Lee, Sarah Lawson and Marcus Hearn. Visit the FanHub.
Rasputin, The Mad Monk (1965) Studio Canal
In this potent mix of gothic horror and historical drama, Christopher Lee takes on the role of the real-life Russian mystic who worms his way into the household of the Tsar by seducing and hypnotising the Tsarina’s lady-in-waiting, Sonia (Barbara Shelley). While far removed from the events described in Prince Felix Yusupov’s memoir about Rasputin, this chiller gives star Christopher Lee free rein to play his Rasputin to the hilt, and this is laid bare in one of the featurettes that appear on the release. The other is a wonderful period piece about Hammer novelisations (how many do you remember?). Stars Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Francis Matthews and Suzan Farmer also provide an informative commentary. Visit the FanHub.
The Mummy’s Shroud (1967) Double Play, Studio Canal
Victims are strangled, set on fire and chucked out of windows in this third entry in Hammer’s mummy franchise. While Andre Morell gets star billing, it’s Hammer regular Michael Ripper, Roger Delgado (the original and best Master in TV’s Doctor Who) and Catherine Lacey (The Sorcerers) who really shine in this so-so spookfest. The Studio Canal release features two documentaries, trailers, and a gallery. Visit the FanHub.
…AND ONE FOR BRITISH HORROR ANTHOLOGY FANS
Grave Tales (DVD, FGS Productions)
Brian Murphy plays a gravedigger sharing four tales of terror, featuring a host of other veteran character actors, with a genealogist in London’s Abney Park cemetery in this surprisingly well-crafted low-budget homage to vintage British horror portmanteau films.