Movie: The Blood Beast Terror (1968)

So many British movie producers in the 60’s and 70’s tried to emulate the output of Hammer Studios and that’s not a bad goal to have in mind.  Unfortunately, too many of such movies failed to capture that undefinable magic that elevated the best work of the legendary studio above that of their peers.

Such is the case of most of the pictures released by short-lived Tigon British Film Productions.  There’s only a couple of releases of theirs which stand out in my mind.  One is Blood on Satan’s Claw, which I respect more than I like.  The other is Witchfinder General, which I don’t even like—though I can appreciate Vincent Price eschewing camp to play a truly despicable villain.

But much of their output was pictures like the curious but inevitably forgettable Doomwatch.  Similarly, 1968’s The Blood Beast Terror apes the visual style of Hammer’s gothic horrors while neglecting to put much of anything of interest in that space. 

It is set in Victorian-era England, of course.  Young men keep turning up dead from what, on the surface, would seem to be something akin to a vampire attack.  There aren’t the tell-tale holes in the neck, but there is a fair amount of blood loss and the coroner is unable to determine the cause of death.

Robert Flemyng plays an etymologist with a suspicious demeanor.  The people who are getting knocked off are consistently only a degree or two of separation from him.  Also, there’s far more talk about moths in this picture than what would be warranted if the professor wasn’t up to something.  I swear Jame Gumb wasn’t as obsessed with Death’s Head moths as much even the most marginal characters are in this.

Peter Cushing plays a police inspector working to solve the murders.  I have yet to find a source for this information, but he apparently considered this one of the worst features he made.  I disagree with that, but at least he stays true to his work ethic and does not phone in his performance.  From the quality of his performance, you would think he was doing Shakespeare at the Globe Theater.  Now there was a man with class.

At first, Cushing suspects some kind of bird is killing people.  Given all the talk about moths, it isn’t much of a surprise it is a actually a mothman…or mothwoman, perhaps?

The weird aspect of The Blood Beast Terror is how incredibly slight it feels.  I was conscious of scenes taking an inordinate amount of time to complete.  I kept noticing how we wouldn’t proceed to the next scene until all of the characters left a room and the door was shut behind them.  I’m not sure a better movie overall could have made from this material, but I know it could have been better edited.

Dir: Vernon Sewell

Starring Peter Cushing, Robert Flemyng, Wanda Ventham

Watched on Kino Lorber blu-ray