Tag Archives: Peter Cushing

The Mummy (1959)

Hammer's 'The Mummy' (1959)We start out our Halloween Horror Movie Marathon appropriately enough with the classic team-up of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in Hammer studio’s The Mummy (1959). Cushing plays the good guy this time, while Lee is the titular monster.

The Plot: You’ve heard this story before, and you’ll most likely hear it again. Back in the days of ancient Egypt, 4000 years ago, lived a Princess Ananka (Yvonne Furneaux) who had a personal bodyguard named Kharis (Christopher Lee). When she died, Kharis tried to bring her back using the Scroll of Life. He was caught and to atone for his sins against Ananka’s god, he was bound in bandages so he could become Ananka’s bodyguard for all eternity in the form of an undead Mummy.

All is well until some determined archaeologists, Steven Banning (Felix Aylmer) and his son John Banning (Peter Cushing), find the final burying place of Ananka and dare to open it up for exploration.

Years later, a worshiper of Ananka’s god brings the Mummy to England to exact his revenge on the family who dared move Ananka’s body. Poor Papa Banning goes first, then assistant Joseph (Raymond Huntley).

John Banning is almost done for when his wife walks in – and wouldn’t you know it, she looks just like old Ananka, giving the Mummy a start. Confused and believing his princess is actually still alive, he leaves John alone and returns to his master.

John’s pretty ticked off now so he goes down the street to confront the Mummy’s master and they have an oh-so-polite insult-fest and then John leaves to return home.

The Mummy attacks again, this time kidnapping Mrs. Banning but before he can take her down into the bog, she is able to get away, pretending to be Ananka. The Mummy is shot many, many times and he sinks down into the muddy bog, never to be heard from again (?).

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This wasn’t one of my favorite Hammer horror films. Without Cushing or Lee I don’t think I could have sat through to the end. It was a little slow, a little repetitive, and Cushing’s character was a bit of a milksop up until he decides to confront the man setting the Mummy on his family. That scene is the highlight of the film and quite effective.

I did like the fact that Cushing’s wife was not a screechy, fearful woman. Yes, she fainted once, but if you walked in on an undead Mummy strangling your husband, I think you might faint as well. After that, she was clear-headed, intelligent and didn’t panic when it was time for her to pretend to be Ananka to save herself.

So, this is one of those ‘glad I saw it’ movies but one I doubt I’ll sit through again.

Halloween Decorations and Viewing Have Begun

I pulled out the Halloween decorations yesterday. Last year I didn’t decorate the house interior at all so I’m doing much better this time around.

I also finished my DIY Halloween wreath. I wasn’t able to find black feathers so I used red instead. I like it – but at the same time I don’t. It’s hard to explain.

Halloween Wreath

I do like my DIY spider, though. Just painted a couple of differently sized Styrofoam balls black and then covered that with glitter glue, joined them with a wooden dowel, stuck in eight black pipe cleaners (cut in half) and voila! Sparkly Spider.

I was going to dye the gauze black but found that it works the way it came. Looks like bloody spider webs, bwa ha ha ha!

We have started our Halloween horror movie viewing. Last week my husband received a review copy of Scream 4 and while we didn’t think it was the best of the franchise we thought it was still a lot of fun. So, we picked up the first three (real cheap) on blu-ray and watched all of them on Friday night.

Scream Franchise

That third one was pretty weak but they were all enjoyable. And man, were they ever so careful with continuity. I was really impressed. I especially liked the fact that Sidney was wearing her boyfriend’s fraternity letters from the second film throughout the entire third film and it wasn’t even commented upon. It was a nice detail for all the fans of the series.

Last night we watched the Amicus film The House That Dripped Blood, starring three of my famous brits – Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Jon Pertwee. The first time I saw it years ago I only vaguely knew who Jon Pertwee was. I enjoyed watching the film  much  more this time because Pertwee happens to be my favorite Doctor Who.

Pertwee and Pitt

Jon Pertwee and Ingrid Pitt

I am beginning to wonder if I’ll ever see a performance by Jon Pertwee in which he does not wear a ruffled shirt and a cloak. 🙂

Happy Birthday to Who?

As I’m sure most couples do, my husband and I have many ‘running gags’ in our relationship. For example, If we see Mark Hamill’s name in the credits for anything we both exclaim ‘Mark Hamill?!’ in a tone of surprise.

One of our first running gags – in fact, it may be THE first – relates to my favorite Gentleman of Horror. When we first started talking on the telephone (it was a long-distance relationship) he started talking about an old horror movie and kept saying the name Peter Cushing as if I should know who he was. So, I asked him who he was talking about.

There was dead silence on the phone and I thought either we had been disconnected or he had hung up on me. I think he might have wanted to hang up on me because Peter Cushing was (and still is) one of his favorite actors. Chris listed off several of his older movies, which I had never heard of, and then finally, almost grudingly, told me that he played Grand Moff Tarkin in the original Star Wars movie.

It must have pained him when I told him I had no idea who that was and he had to say ‘Darth Vader’s boss.’

Now, whenever Peter Cushing’s name is mentioned, more often than not, the other one will say, “Who?”

Honestly, I find that whole exchange a bit embarrassing now. While he was totally awesome in Star Wars, Peter Cushing was so much more than that one character. I call him a ‘Gentleman of Horror’ because he belongs to a group of actors who starred in many of the horror films of the 50’s and 60’s playing men of education and class – even when those men were evil villains. I also include Christopher Lee, Vincent Price and Basil Rathbone in this club and I’m sure there are others that I just can’t remember at the moment.

It is today that we celebrate Peter Cushing’s birthday. He was born in 1913 and passed away in 1994.

Peter Cushing

Just the beginning…

I just found out that my ‘Does it All Come Down to Peter?’ post is a reference on the Doctor Who Wiki, ‘Tardis Index File.’

I know, it doesn’t really mean anything, but I feel all way famous now. 🙂

Does it all come down to Peter?

SPOILER ALERT: This post discusses things that have happened in season 5 of the new “Doctor Who” series

I’ve really been digging the new “Doctor Who” episodes. I’m warming up to Matt Smith even faster than I warmed up to David Tennant (whom is one of my top three favorite Doctors).

But I’ve noticed something about some of the props and story lines and it makes me wonder if maybe that non-cannon Doctor will finally be brought into the proper canon of the series. I’m talking about Peter Cushing’s Doctor, of course.

Peter Cushing starred as Doctor Who (they even called him that) in two feature films – Dr. Who and The Daleks (1965) and Dalek’s Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966) His Doctor was nothing like the television series Doctor. He was much more grandfatherly and even a bit of a bumbler. However, it was Peter Cushing so it was played perfectly. (Yes, I have a bias. Can you tell?)

In this 5th season of the new run of “Doctor Who,” it has been made very clear that past continuity will not be ignored. I loved the first 4 seasons, but Russell T. Davies – the show runner for seasons 1-4 –  was sometimes very self-indulgent and the stories often tended to ignore what came before Chris Eccleston as if it didn’t matter. If Davies didn’t come up with it, then it wasn’t pertinent.

Now that Steven Moffat has taken over, that sense of ‘oh, let’s just forget about all those other doctors’ has vanished. The first episode of the 5th season even featured film clips of all 10 doctors that came before Matt Smith. Yes, this happened during one of the Tennant Christmas specials, but this time it seemed more epic – like we were being reminded of his past incarnations for a reason and not just something to keep the fans happy.

I have a theory.

(But be warned – my theories rarely ever pan out. Almost every theory I’ve had about “Lost” has been completely wrong.)

It’s clear that the Arc Story of season five is this crack in space that Amelia Pond found in her bedroom when she was a little girl. It’s unclear whether this crack is everywhere, or if Amelia is creating it whenever she visits different places and times. What is clear is that it seems to be causing amnesia of some pretty important historical events – she doesn’t remember the Dalek attack on Canary Wharf for one. Unless she was vacationing with Donna Noble, it seems pretty hard to believe that she would just forget about something like that. And no one could forget seeing multiple planets in the sky when the Daleks once again tried to destroy Earth at the end of season 4.

There’s this issue of the new Daleks. They’ve very colorful. The series has had different color Daleks before, but not Technicolor. The only place that has had rainbow Daleks (that I can recall) is — in the Peter Cushing movies.

Movie Daleks

Movie Daleks

Series Daleks

Series 5 Daleks

Yeah, but so what? you ask. It could just be an hommage to the Cushing films. And you’re right, it very well could be.

But then I found out today that the new design of the TARDIS is very close to the TARDIS design from the films.

Here’s a quote from Moffat himself:

It’s not only the Doctor who’ll have regenerated in the new series. The Tardis has also undergone a significant makeover.

“There is a plot reason for it,” Moffat confirmed. “I always liked the Tardis from the Peter Cushing [Dr Who] movies, and wanted to make it more like that.”

Cushing's TARDIS

Cushing's TARDIS

Smith TARDIS

Smith TARDIS

Sounds like more hommage stuff going on, but what if it isn’t? What if Moffat is trying to reconcile not only past series contradictions but is also trying to bring in Cushing’s Doctor as well? Cushing has passed away, but that doesnt’ mean he can’t be mentioned or referred to.

Yes, just more wild speculation but there’s a big part of me that hopes I’m right. I don’t know how I would feel about there being Doctors in parallel universes but that’s one possibility of bringing in the Cushing Doctor.

(There have been two parallel universes that I have seen – one with John Pertwee and one with David Tennant – and neither of those had a ‘mirror’ Doctor. Doesn’t mean there isn’t one, but I had always hoped that the Time Lords were immune to the multiple universe theory.)

So, there’s my off-the-wall theory for the day fueled by my love of story continuity and admiration of Peter Cushing.

Horror Express

Movie Title: Horror Express (1972)
Starring: Christopher Lee as Professor Sir Alexander Saxton, Peter Cushing as Dr. Wells, Alberto de Mendoza as Father Pujardov, Julio Pena as Inspector Mirov, Silvia Tortosa as Countess Irinia Petrovska, George Rigaud as Count Maran Petrovski and Telly Savalas as Captain Kazan
Written by: Arnaud d’Usseau & Julian Zimet
Directed by: Eugenio Martin (billed as Gene Martin)

Two of my favorite actors who are frequent participants in many a horror film are Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Our latest October movie features both of them and for one of the few times, they are equals and are working together instead of trying to destroy one another.

In real life, Mr. Cushing and Mr. Lee were dear friends and enjoyed working together. Christopher Lee is best known for playing Dracula and Peter Cushing for playing Doctor Frankenstein for the Hammer studio. In Horror Express they play mere scientists and work together to hunt down a monster terrorizing the Trans-Siberian Express.

It’s the early 20th century and Professor Saxton (Christopher Lee), a prominent scientist in the field of archaeology has unearthed a humanoid creature, frozen in the Himalayas for millions of years. He believes the fossil will definitively prove evolution.

Countess Irina: I have heard of evolution. It’s… it’s immoral!
Professor Saxton: It’s a fact. And there’s no morality in a fact.

But before he can even get his find on the train, the dead bodies start appearing – the first right next to the crate containing his find. The local authorities know the dead man – he’s a well-known thief – but can’t explain why the man’s eyes have turned completely white.

Also traveling on the Trans-Siberian express is another prominent scientist, Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing). From the moment Dr. Wells steps into frame it is very clear that these two men share a mild animosity. Lee and Cushing play this perfectly and it’s a real shame that they couldn’t have shared more screen time as equals instead of mortal enemies.

Although the science is completely ludicrous, the sharp writing and superb performances by Lee and Cushing make this film a pleasure to watch. It also contains a few great quotes.

During the great monster hunt on the train, they deduce that the creature can actually body-hop and could be anyone. Saxton and Wells team up to look for the monster. Inspector Mirov walks in and finds them loading guns.

Inspector Mirov: The two of you together. That’s fine. But what if one of you is the monster?
Dr. Wells: Monster? We’re British, you know.

This movie is in public domain so beware of poor print quality. The best that we’ve seen so far is from Image, but that version is long out of print.

Rating: Eight Screaming Pumpkins out of ten.

Time…she slips through the fingers

Well, so much for my horror movie a day plan. I don’t want to do the whole making excuses thing because I really don’t have one – other than life.

Instead of doing another dedicated review, I thought I would make a list of horror movies I have seen and enjoyed and little blurb as to why they made the list. That way, if I flake out again, you’ll have a few movies to take a look at and maybe rent for yourself.

Mr. Sardonicus (1961)

From the back of the DVD box: Desperate to retrieve a winning lottery ticket, a greedy baron unearths his father’s corpse. An enormous jackpot is his reward, but not without a price: his face is frozen permanently into a hideous grin. He enlists his fiendish one-eyed servant to help him lift this horrible curse, but their schemes fail. Finally, he turns to a noted neurosurgeon – and his wife’s former lover – to cure him.

Based on a novella by Ray Russel and produced and directed by the legendary William Castle, master of ballyhoo.

I have only seen this movie once and it was a few years ago but I do remember that despite it’s simple shooting style and story, it is quite effective and the make-up for the grin still gives me the willies. (I won’t post a picture here. You’ll just have to see it for yourself.)

Purchase Mr. Sardonicus

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The Wicker Man (1973)

A creepy, understated horror flick about a small community of druids lead by Christopher Lee and investigated by Edward Woodward due to a missing child that the community claims never existed.

I didn’t bother to see the remake. Subtlety isn’t common in modern film-makers’ vocabulary and I doubt this film would work without it.

Purchase The Wicker Man

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Horror Express (1973)

This would be a typical ‘stuck on a train with a killer/monster’ movie but both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are thrown into the mix which instantly makes it a horror classic. Besides, it has one of my favorite Peter Cushing lines of all time which means nothing out of context.

And for all you Kojak fans, Telly Savalis appears as the arrogant Captain Kazan. Who loves ya, comrade?

Purchase Horror Express

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The Changeling (1980)

The Changeling is a chilling tale of the ghost of a wronged child haunting the house in which he was murdered. George C. Scott gives a splendid, understated performance of a man who, after losing both his wife and daughter in a car accident, moves into the large house and attempts to help the spirit find peace.

The ending of this movie can seem a little goofy, but the film up to that point is genuinely scary and just a touch heart-wrenching.

This movie has no overt special effects and relies on story, performances and sound effects to scare you and does so to great effect. I never thought I could be afraid of a little rubber ball, but apparently, I can.

Purchase The Changeling

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Legend of Hell House (1973)

Huh. It’s starting to look like 1973 was a good year for horror movies, eh?

Based on Richard Matheson’s novel Hell House – and fortunately, the screenplay was also written by Matheson – this film is about a group of investigators visiting a house that is no doubt very haunted. The leader of the group believes he has invented a machine that can de-haunt it. I doubt that it’s any great spoiler that it doesn’t work.

You can’t stop ghosts. You just can’t.

Purchase The Legend of Hell House

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Okay, there’s five movies for you sink your teeth into if you haven’t already. And if you have – enjoy them again!

From Beyond the Grave

I will be doing my best to review at least one item a day this month. Those items will have something to do with scary stuff – it’s October you know and Halloween is my favorite holiday. I even got married on it.

Last night I asked the husband to pick a horror movie that wasn’t too scary and that I hadn’t seen before and that had Peter Cushing. So, he picked an old Amicus anthology film titled From Beyond the Grave.

Just so you know that title has absolutely nothing to do with the movie.

As with all anthology films, some segments are better than others. However, if one doesn’t strike your fancy, there’s always a good chance that the next one just might. This one only has one weak story.

In many of the anthology films that Peter Cushing appeared in, he was the major character of one of the segments. In this film, Cushing is the main character of the framing sequence. This might seem a lesser role, but it has the advantage of letting the viewers know that even if the segment they’re currently watching isn’t all that good, they’ll at least get to see more of Peter and that’s always a good thing.

Cushing’s character is an old, kindly owner of an antique shop called Temptations. Each main character of our tales comes into this shop and purchases an item. All but one of these fellows finds a way to cheat the poor old man out of the price he deserves.

This film starts out with a very weak story. The only saving grace it has is the presence of David Warner as its lead character. He comes into Temptations and finds a 400 year-old mirror whose selling price is marked at 250 pounds. Warner tells Cushing it’s not nearly as old as it really is and gets it for a pretty heft discount.

Of course the mirror cleans up beautifully and he hangs it in his flat. A friend says it looks like it belongs in the home of a medium so they decide to have a séance. As a result, a ghost trapped in the mirror appears to Warner and demands that he bring him victims so that he can be freed from the mirror.

This segment started out kind of creepy – ghosts and mirrors tend to scare me and the first time the ghost appears is genuinely chilling. However, all tension leaves the piece almost immediately and the viewer is subjected to a stony-faced Warner seeking out victims to sacrifice to the Mirror Man.

We never have a chance to really care about this guy. He starts out as a cheat and we learn nothing about him to gain our sympathy. His only saving grace is the fact that he fights the ghost one time and saves a woman we can only assume is his girlfriend from a grisly end. This is not directed well enough to make the viewer really believe he loves her and doesn’t do anything to make us feel for what is the character’s obvious destiny.

In the end, the ghost is freed and it’s no surprise when Warner is then placed inside the mirror to search for another hapless soul to help free him.

Fortunately, the rest of the movie is substantially better.

Our second character to be tempted, Mr. Lowe (Ian Bannen), is a man who keeps eying some war medals in the Temptation shop’s window. We quickly find out that his time in the service was the only time Lowe felt any self-worth. His shrew of a wife quickly shoots him down from that high horse, reminding him that he never saw any combat and he was just as useless then as he is now. His son just sits at the table and smirks at all the nasty remarks both of his parents hurl at each other.

So, he returns to the shop. Cushing puts one of the medals aside and tells him he can have it as soon as he brings in documentation proving he used to have one that he lost. Lowe agrees but when Cushing steps away, he takes the medal and runs.

He befriends an out-of-work war veteran, Jim Underwood (Donald Pleasance.) Underwood starts calling him sir and saluting him making this man feel important for the first time in his life.

Soon, Pleasance invites the man home for tea and introduces him to his daughter, Emily (Angela Pleasance – Donald Pleasance’s real-life daughter). When we first meet Emily she appears quite homely but ends up appearing strangely beautiful – a trick done more with attitude and good acting than any physical changes made to the actress.

Of course the man falls in love with meek, accommodating Emily and when she asks him if he wants her to stab a doll modeled after his wife, he tells her that he does.

When he gets home, he is surprised (although we are not) to find his wife dead, their son hunched in a corner. Seconds later, Pleasance and his daughter arrive and walk in the door in black formal clothing. The traditional wedding march starts and they walk toward Lowe so that Underwood can give his daughter away. This scene could be seen as rather silly – the music sending it straight over the top – but the smiles on the Underwoods’ faces make it more eerie than loopy.

Of course, all can’t end well for Lowe – he stole from gentle Mr. Cushing, after all – and he meets the same end that his previous wife suffered and in the same exact way. The Underwoods weren’t there to help out that old milksop Lowe – they were there to help out the always-smirking punk of a son.

So, we return to the Temptation shop to see what cheat is going to come in next. We find nicely dressed man, Reggie Warren (Ian Carmichael) looking over some snuff boxes. He switches the tags on a couple and walks out paying four pounds for a much more expensive box.

He takes the train home and is told by an eccentric woman, Madame Orloff (Margaret Leighton) that he has a rather nasty elemental on his shoulder. He dismisses her, of course, but after some unseen force attempts to kill his wife, he calls Orloff and asks for her help.

This story is simple but it is the most humorous and the performance of Leighton is probably the best in the film. The character’s self-confidence and lack of pretension about her work is refreshing.

But don’t worry; it doesn’t end well for Warren. Madam Orloff rid him of the elemental, but it didn’t go far.

Our last tale is a little different. William Seaton (Ian Ogilvy) comes in and buys a door from Mr. Cushing and although he talks down the price from 50 to 40, he does so honestly. Cushing turns his back on Seaton and we see him pick the money back up, but when he leaves, a pile of money is still in the register.

The antique door is a monster – almost literally. Big, ornately decorated and dirty Seaton finds it irresistible and places it in his office, replacing the stationary cupboard door.

However, the next time he opens it, he finds not a box of paper but a large Blue Room decorated in late 18th century style. He also finds a book written by the room’s owner – a man who purposely studied all things evil and how he could use it to his advantage.

The story is simple but this is often best, especially in a horror movie like this that isn’t really scary but relies on atmosphere more than plot.

The room itself was a great set piece. In one scene, the room seems to be becoming devoid of color and it was then that I realized the blueness of the room was being done with lighting. Because of this, the changes made to the room over the course of the story were subtle and quite eerie.

This story does end on a happy note. Even though he has to demolish the door to do it, the evil man and his blue room are destroyed completely and the Seaton and his wife live.

And why is this? It’s not for certain but it seems that it’s because he didn’t cheat our dear, kind Mr. Cushing.

The film ends with the attempted robbery of the shop. Turns out dear, kind Mr. Cushing is impervious to bullets and large metal objects being thrown at his head. The thief, backing away from the menacing shop owner, falls backwards into a spike-lined coffin.

So, the overall moral of this story is – don’t frack with Peter Cushing. Unless you’re Luke Skywalker, it will always end badly for you.

IMDB Entry

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Where it all started

I consider myself a big entertainment buff and have been since I was thirteen. I try to keep myself informed about what’s going on in the biz, read my entertainment sites, read the magazines, listen to the news. I’ve been this way since I was thirteen. In fact, I can even give you an exact date if you need it (August 30, 1985).

Before I saw Back to the Future on that fateful August night, I had my favorite actors – Shaun Cassidy was the first actor I can remember singling out and then Tom Hanks when he was on Bosom Buddies – but my ‘fanship’ of those two was nothing compared to what happened when I finally noticed Michael J. Fox.

If you don’t believe me, check this out. Yeah. That’s my website. I’m not ashamed of it – a little defensive, maybe – but never ashamed.

After becoming the uber-geek-fan of MJF back in 1985, I started reading every teen magazine my parents would let me buy, attempting to keep abreast of all things Michael J. Fox. As a result, I started following other ‘non-threatning boys’ careers such as Ralph Macchio, Ricky Schroeder and Kirk Cameron. I read most of those magazines from cover to cover and eventually started reading more grown-up, more reputable publications as well. I just wanted to know what was going on and after a few years, it wasn’t just those cute boys I was interested in.

However, my obsession with all-things-MJF did not stop just because my interests were expanding. Because of my teenage angst obsession, I started trying things those fan magazines said he liked. I even tried Linguini in Clam sauce, for cripes sake – and that was some of the nastiest stuff I ever tasted. Ugh!

He was often quoted as saying he was a big James Cagney fan. I had never even heard of James Cagney so I had no idea what he was all about. And so, one Friday night in Southeast Texas, the local t.v. station had a James Cagney film on their schedule – Something to Sing About. Fortunately, I wasn’t one of those kids that wouldn’t watch anything in black and white – I watched Mr. Ed every night on Nick-at-Nite – and I watched it. And loved it.

It snowballed after that and now I’m a huge fan of classic films of all genres – musicals, comedies, dramas, film noir, gangsters – you name it. If I happen across anything in black and white on television, I’ll stop to see what it is or who’s in it. I won’t always do that for color films.

I never really met many others who were into films, music, books and television the way I was. I feel extremely lucky that I met a man who is just as interested as I am. I’m doubly fortunate in that we have a lot of the same likes, but we also have many different likes. Before I met my husband, I had never heard of Bruce Campbell and I wouldn’t have been able to name Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee if you showed me their pictures. Now, I can’t imagine my entertainment world without them. And while I’ll never really feel the need to ever see The Girl Hunters ever again, I am honestly glad that I at least saw it once.

It’s not the most important area of my life and I know that it’s not as important as trying to keep out economy out of another great depression but I’m glad that I have plenty of places to go whenever things get tough. I can watch a movie, read a book, listen to some music and even though the problems may not go away, I almost always feel better able to face that problem. Even though entertainment doesn’t rank up there with world peace, it’s still pretty consequential.

So, my thanks go out to Mr. Fox. He changed my life in many ways and for most of those changes, I’m still grateful.