Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Cheapskate Horrorshow
Welcome back to The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween. 

It goes without saying that we in the Monster Shop love Hammer Films.
The poster
The Studio From Across The Big Pond turned out some undisputed classics in the world of horror and presented Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing to the world.  Today I'm taking a look at a film that's not as well-known as their Frankenstein and Dracula cycles, but is still a great suspense film nonetheless (something Hammer was also known for in their native England).  The film is Night Creatures, released in England as Captain Clegg.

The story of this film actually comes from a series of novels that began in 1915, written by Russell Thorndike, about Doctor Syn, a vicar from the village of Dymchurch who pursues revenge after his wife is seduced by his best friend.  In the course of his adventures Syn turns to piracy and becomes the most feared pirate of his day.  Upon his eventual return to Dymchurch, Syn takes leadership of the local smuggling ring (which is operating against a corrupt government) and takes on the identity of the ghostly Scarecrow Of Romney Marsh to protect the people of Dymchurch.  Much of this may be remembered by Disney fans as the story of the film Dr. Syn, Alias The Scarecrow, which also came from these novels.
The Disney version

The bad guys, and the badder guys...
Night Creatures opens with a crewman mutilated and left to die by notorious (and unseen) pirate Captain Clegg, as punishment for the rape and murder of Clegg's wife. (Nope, not very Disney.)  Several years later, the officious and by-the-book Captain Collier of the Royal Navy (Patrick Allen) is assigned to investigate reports of "Marsh Phantoms" in Romney Marsh, as well as enforce the excise tax on liquor trades there.  After discovering the dead body of a local townie named Ketch (Sydney Bromley, who dies of fright after being run down by said Marsh Phantoms), Collier begins throwing his weight around, which makes the townspeople very unhelpful in his quest for justice.  (This is one of those byproducts of having your local businesses seized and searched by unruly soldiers.)  The only person who treats Collier with any civility is the local parson, Dr. Blyss (Peter Cushing), who turns out to be the leader of the local smuggling ring, and cue the highjinks.  Said highjinks include the question of whether or not Captain Clegg is really dead (there's a grave in Dymchurch, and someone's in it, but still...), a deafmute in the employ of Collier, who goes nuts whenever he's around Parson Blyss (I'll leave
Participants in the obligatory romance
you to connect the dots on this one) and the obligatory love story between townie beauty Imogene (Yvonne Romain) and favorite son Harry Cobtree (Oliver Reed) which is endangered by Mr. Rash (Martin Benson), the jealous cohort of Parson Blyss.  And of course, there's the ongoing mystery of those pesky Marsh Phantoms.

The Marsh Phantoms
If you're used to Hammer being the home of horror, then this film is an introduction to some of Hammer's other output; in addition to horror, Hammer also produced comedies and thrillers like this one.  Night Creatures isn't a horror film in the traditional sense, but it is a suspenseful Gothic film with a bit of supernatural dressing, and the very busy if somewhat convoluted plotline keeps you interested in what's going to happen next.  Most modern horror films have eschewed this for buckets of gore and creative death, so if you're interested in seeing some old-fashioned ghostly mystery this Halloween, Night Creatures is a good place to start.

Join us again for The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween, coming soon...

MAD DOCTOR'S NOTE: Night Creatures is available in The Hammer Horror Series 8-Film Collection, which is available here.

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