The gentle face of horror

Born in 1913, Peter Wilton Cushing graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and began his acting career doing repertory theatre. He was in his mid-twenties when he made his first foray into Hollywood, making his film debut in 1939’s The Man With The Iron Mask—playing the back of Louis Hayward’s head. Several small roles followed, but this was a false start of sorts to his career. The war intervened, and its aftermath found Peter Cushing back in England. He had his most significant film role in Olivier’s Hamlet, in 1948—but it would be television in which he would make a name for himself during the 1950s. Working almost non-stop, Cushing won both popularity and critical praise for roles as diverse as Mr Darcy in Pride And Prejudice, Richard II in an adaptation of the play, Richard Of Bordeaux, and Winston Smith in 1984. His work won him a BAFTA in 1956, a year that also saw the founding of The Peter Cushing Appreciation Society (which is still going strong).

Then, in 1957, a group of producers began looking for a reliable, talented – and not too expensive – actor to play a mad scientist. They got much more than they had bargained for when they cast Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein: his brilliant, iconoclastic performance in the lead of The Curse Of Frankenstein was significantly responsible both for the success of the film, and for the birth of what came to be known as “Hammer Horror”.

And, like others before him, Peter Cushing subsequently found himself “typed”: his career from that point onwards was dominated by horror, science fiction and fantasy films, all of which were the better for his presence. One of the great “horror actors”, Cushing had the ability (often much needed) to elevate almost any production, never giving any sign of considering himself superior to his material. On his own and in partnership with his close friend, Christopher Lee, with whom he co-starred in twenty-two films, Peter Cushing would build one of the genre film’s great bodies of work.

So join us this month as we celebrate the work of one of horror’s true gentlemen:


All through May at the B-Masters’ Blog!

 
 

Liz Kingsley is the insane genius behind And You Call Yourself a Scientist!


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    High class horror

    SocietyAlthough Society isn’t a perfect movie, it is almost certainly quite unlike any movie you’ve seen before. Especially its unforgettable ending.

    Keith Bailey is the proprietor of The Unknown Movies Page.


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      It crashes

      WindowsNormally I applaud when any movie gets released on Blu-ray, but the recent announcement that Windows will be released on that format leaves me utterly bewildered. Is there really an audience for this?

      Keith Bailey is the proprietor of The Unknown Movies Page.


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        Xtro, Xtro! Read all about it!

        XtroThough it contains plenty of weirdness like a woman giving birth to a fully grown man, Xtro ultimately fails due to a script that contains both little story and little believable behavior by its characters.

        Keith Bailey is the proprietor of The Unknown Movies Page.


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          Fish ‘n’ Boots

          Giallo month has been fun enough that we’re keepin’ the sleaze going.

          DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS

          Ercoli made the scene in 1970 with his slick debut film, The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion and followed it up in 1971 with Death Walks On High Heels. These two films, along with Ercoli’s Death Walks at Midnight (1972), form a trilogy that, while unconnected narratively, share an overarching sense of style, set of obsessions, and an infatuation with Nieves Navarro (aka Susan Scott, one of the greats of the giallo) that binds them together in a way that is more important than a shared narrative. It’s likely that no matter how much you search, you’ll not find a film in the genre more adept than the aptly named Death Walks on High Heels at lingering lovingly over sexy go-go boots, nor will you find one that so sensuously films two people cramming oily hunks of fish into their mouths accompanied by sexy lounge music. Rarely has a giallo film taken “red herring” quite so literally.


          Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.


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            A Hatchet for Fantomas

            HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON

            Guest writer Carol Borden delves into the psyche of Mario Bava’s bizarre supernatural giallo about a man who is haunted by the ghost of the wife he murdered. The problem, however, is that everyone but him can see her. Well, that’s one problem. Hatchet for the Honeymoon is not the kind of film to watch for a kill count or ingenuous murders. It is the kind of film to watch for paranormal and sartorial phenomena, ghosts, discotheques, mysterious deaths, horrifying old toys, and the narration of a “paranoiac.”

            FANTOMAS

            A reprint from Teleport City, reformatted and edited and presented as a bonus round in Mezzanotte’s Il Fait PEUR! series. Teleport City/Mezzanotte regular Todd Stadtman takes a look at the swinging James Bondified update of Fantomas.


            Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.


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              Kids’ stuff

              Kid ColterThere are enough reasons to explain why you’ve probably never heard of Kid Colter, a family movie that lacks enough spark to engage kids or their parents.

              Keith Bailey is the proprietor of The Unknown Movies Page.


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                I Forgot Fantomas and Irma Vep

                Somehow, that somehow being my own lack of concentration, I neglected to post parts three and five of IL FAIT PEUR here. No big deal. They only cover the two main reasons I wrote the entire series, so…

                An Ungentlemanly Thief

                Louis Feuillade’s Fantômas was an adaptation of a series of novel that took the concept of the “gentleman thief” pioneered by the likes of Arsene Lupin and Raffles and dropped the “gentleman” part. The result was a series of controversial films in which a hooded maniac sows anarchy and death across Paris with seemingly no regard at all for whether the scheme is ultimately successful, as long as he creates fear and death in pursuit of his mad goals. Pursuing him every step of the way is policeman Juve, who in many ways is just as crazy as his arch nemesis.

                Paris After Midnight

                From vamps to Les Vampires, Louis Feuillade followed up Fantômaswith a spectacular and surreal crime series that gave the early silent era one of it’s most famous characters: the vamp of the Vampires, clad in an alluring black silk catsuit: Musidora. This penultimate chapter of our series looks at Feuillade’s masterpiece Les Vampires, the woman at the center of it, and the birth of horror on stage at Paris’ macabre Theatre Grand-Guignol.


                Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.


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                  Back Into the Shadows

                  The final installment of Mezzanotte’s IL FAIT PEUR! series. All six episodes are archived here.

                  BACK INTO THE SHADOWS

                  Immediately after completing Les Vampires, Feuillade threw himself into his next feature, another original crime serial called Judex, using most of the same cast as Les Vampires. The slow move toward domestic melodrama that crept into the end of Les Vampires was front and center in Judex, partly because Feuillade was under heavy fire from critics who felt Les Vampires was simply too ghoulish, too in love with its criminals, too subversive. But largely it was because as 1914 wound down, it was becoming clearer and clearer that this skirmish between France and Germany – and subsequently Great Britain, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Russia, Turkey, so on and so forth – wasn’t going to be a quick and clean affair.


                  Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.


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                    A movie that gives you (Ed) wood

                    Fugitive GirlsIf you can find the rare uncut version, Fugitive Girls will prove to be a perfect mix of soft-core material and unintentional silliness.

                    Keith Bailey is the proprietor of The Unknown Movies Page.


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