DENIS GIFFORD'S
MONSTERS OF THE MOVIES
(1977)

 

Monster #5 - The Blood Beast Terror

 
 
 

United Kingdom, 1968

A Tigon British Film Production
88 mins, Eastmancolor, 1.66:1 aspect ratio, shot on 35mm film

 

Director - Vernon Sewell
Screenplay - Peter Bryant
Cinematographer - Stanley A. Long
Production Design - Len Harvey, Roger Dicken (special effects)
Make-Up - Rosemarie McDonald Peattie
Editor - Howard Lanning
Music - Paul Ferris

Peter Cushing (Inspector Quennell), Robert Flemyng (Dr. Mallinger), Wanda Ventham (Clare Mallinger),
Vanessa Howard (Meg), David Griffin (William)

 

 

Amidst the many ghouls and horrors featured in Monsters of the Movies there were a few that seemed slightly odd or even confusing to my 13-year old self, and the Blood Beast Terror was one of them.

Somewhat unsure about what a "deathshead moth" looked like, the accompanying image looked nothing like an insect to me. Somewhat eerie, yes, but also hard to figure out. And given the many delightfully horrific entries in the book, I remember not dwelling on this specimen too long. And once I got to re-re-reading Monsters of the Movies, I would skip the Blood Beast Terror altogether.

It wasn't until I got to watch the movie, a good four decades after first encountering the Deathshead Moth, that I was able to actually appraise Denis Gifford's choice for pages 12-13 of Monsters of the Movies.

 


(Carousel Books / Transworld Publishing)

 
Tigon British Film Productions (Tigon for short), founded in 1966, was active as both a production company (until 1973) and as a distributor (until 1983) for a wide range of films, although by far the largest of its output was made up of low-budget horror films, all produced in direct competition with Hammer and Amicus (somewhat ironically, Tigon had its offices at the original Hammer House in London's Wardour Street).
 

  The Blood Beast Terror was Tigon's third film but the first one released under their Tigon British Film Productions label. Shot on a budget of 40,000 at Goldhawk Road Studios in London's Sheperherd's Bush, it has the rather dubious distinction of having (supposedly) been refered to by Peter Cushing as the worst film he ever made (Senn, 2019).

Clearly intended to emulate Hammer's Victorian setting and style, screenwriter Peter Bryan (who had previously authored Hammer's Hound of the Baskervilles, Brides of Dracula and Plague of the Zombies) came up with the promising premise of having a Sherlock Holmes-like inspector as the pivotal character. Peter Cushing fit the role perfectly, with veteran Basil Rathbone cast as the evil scientist; unfortunately, Rathbone passed away before shooting started, and was replaced by Robert Flemyng (Rigby, 2015).

I was finally able to watch the movie by way of a 2018 limited (1,000 copies) German Blu-ray release. The movie is a 2K HD transfer mastered from the original 35mm negatives, and the image quality is very good, adding an extra layer of atmosphere. The English soundtrack is in its original mono format, giving a clear rendering of dialogue, music and background acoustics. Extras are limited to a (German) audio commentary, a booklet, and the original theatrical trailer.

 
So - was Peter Cushing right? The answer will always be a matter of opinion, but this is definitely not Cushing's worst movie.

"The Blood Beast Terror is still an agreeably old-fashioned (and thoroughly daft) Hammer clone with more to commend it than is generally acknowledged." (Rigby, 2015)

In many ways, The Blood Beast Terror is something of a low-budget cousin to Hammer's Gorgon (Gifford's Monster #26), drawing a lot of outright derogatory critcism that completely overlooks the movie's merits based on a limited set of faults concerning the monster-creature at the centre of the story. And whilst the basic concept behind the Deathshead Moth as well its visual rendition are mostly ludicrous, the movie builds up and sustains a strong and intense Gothic atmosphere, moves at a steady pace, and provides routine but strong acting from Cushing and the main cast. It also has a strain of humour that helps carry what silliness there is, in a deliberately entertaining way.

 
 
Monster Factor:

Overall Movie Rating:

  IMHO:

A classically told monster movie, Blood Beast Terror is terribly underrated. Whilst the basic concept of a scientist creating a hydra between a human being and a deathshead moth lacks weight and logic, the story told around it is pure Victorian penny dreadful delight. In spite of being a low-budget production, the Gothic atmosphere created by the visuals and the acting is perfect and carries both plot and characters with gusto.

This is far from Peter Cushing's worst movie (as per the attributed quote) and well worth watching.

 
 
 
 

Denis Gifford on Blood Beast Terror
in A Pictorial History of Horror Movies (1973)

Blood Beast Terror is represented only by a (not very convincing) still image of the Deathshead Moth.

 
 
 
 
SOURCES

GIFFORD Denis (1973) A Pictorial History of Horror Movies, Hamlyn

RIGBY Jonathan (2015) English Gothic, 2nd edition, Signum Books

SENN Bryan (2019) Twice the Thrills! Twice the Chills! Horror and Science Fiction Double Features, 1955-1974, McFarland Inc.

 


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The illustrations presented here are copyright material.
Their reproduction in this non-commercial review and research context is considered to be fair use
as set out by the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. par. 107
and in accordance with the the Berne Convention
for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.

All images from Monsters of the Movies (Carousel/Transworld) were scanned from my personal copy purchased in 1977
All images of Blu-ray or DVD covers were scanned from my personal copies

Page created 20 September 2023
Last updated 22 October 2023

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