4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Peter Cushing Edition


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today is a very special day for fans of horror cinema.  It’s Peter Cushing’s birthday!  Peter Cushing was born 107 years ago today, in Surrey.  As an actor, Cushing appeared in a wide variety films but he’s probably destined to be forever remembered for playing Baron Frankenstein and Prof. Van Helsing in several Hammer films.  (He also apparently played a villain in an obscure sci-fi film in the 70s.)

By most accounts, Cushing was the kindest of men and quite a contrast to the villains that he often played.  My favorite Peter Cushing performance is his definitive interpretation of Van Helsing in The Horror of Dracula.  Cushing brought so much authority to the role that he not only made you believe in vampires but he also made you believe that he was the only person who could possibly defeat them.

One final nice note: Cushing and Christopher Lee were often at odds on screen but they were the best of friends in real life.  Lee, in fact, often said that he never recovered emotionally from Cushing’s death in 1994.

In honor of Peter Cushing, here are….

4 Shots From 4 Films

Hamlet (1948, dir by Laurence Olivier)

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957, dir by Terence Fisher)

The Horror of Dracula (1958, dir by Terence Fisher)

Scream and Scream Again (1970, dir by Gordon Hessler)

18 Days of Paranoia #18: Nineteen Eighty-Four (dir by Rudolph Cartier)


Well, here we are at the end of both March and the 18 days of paranoia.  We started things off with a review of The Flight That Disappeared and now, we end things with a look at the 1954 BBC production of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

“Orewllian” is a term that gets tossed around a lot nowadays, largely by people who the real George Orwell probably would have viewed rather dismissively.  Ever since the election of Donald Trump, for instance, it’s become rather common for certain people of twitter to say that “Orwell was right” or that we’re living in an “Orwellian nightmare.”  I remember after Trump’s press secretary blatantly lied about the size of the crowd at the inauguration, there was even a commercial that featured Zachary Quinto giving a hilariously overwrought reading of the final passage of George Orwell’s 1984.  “He …. LOVED …. BIG …. BROTHER!” Quinto declared while staring grimly at the camera.

Interestingly enough, many of the same people who complain about Trump’s lies being Orwellian never used the term during the previous 8 years, when we were being constantly told that a permanent recession was actually a sign of a strong economy and that if people liked their doctor, they could keep them.  The fact of the matter is that, for a lot of people, “Orwellian” is just a term that they use whenever a politician from the other side does something that they dislike.  It makes you wonder how many of them have actually read 1984 because, if they had, they would surely know that — if we truly were living in the world depicted in Orwell’s novel — no one would be allowed to acknowledge it and, in fact, Orwell and his books would have vanished down the memory hole.  Just the act of saying that we’re living in 1984 without getting sent to a reeducation camp is proof that we’re not (or, at least, we’re not just yet).

That’s not to say that 1984 isn’t an important work of literature.  In fact, it’s probably one of the most important books ever written, which is why it does it such a disservice to glibly toss around the term Orwellian.  Even if we aren’t living in Orwell’s world right now, it’s probably easier than ever to imagine a scenario where we eventually could.  The Coronavirus pandemic, for example, is just the sort of thing that could lead to the people accepting the idea that the government is meant to be a Big Brother and that those who disagree deserve to be reported for the good of the people.  It’s easy to imagine a future where people believe that history started with the Coranavirus and that everything that happened before the pandemic was just a hazy rumor, like Europe before the Renaissance.  As such, even if the term Orwellian is overused, 1984 is still a book that needs to be read and understood.

There have been several film adaptations of 1984, some of which are better than others.  My personal favorite is the 1985 film, which was directed by Michael Radford and which starred John Hurt and Richard Burton.  Running a close second, however, would be the version that was made for the BBC in 1954.

This version sticks closely to Orwell’s novel, though it downplays the book’s sexual themes.  (This is not surprising considering that this version was made for 1950s television.)  Though it condensed Orwell’s story, it hits all of the important points.  Winston Smith (Peter Cushing) is a member of the Outer Party who works at the Ministry of Truth and who lives a rather drab existence in London, “the chief city of Airstrip One.”  He is a citizen of Oceania, which has always been at war with Eurasia.  Winston lives under a system of government called Ingsoc and every day, he spends two minutes hating a mysterious figure named Goldstein.  All around him are posters of Big Brother, watching him and judging.

On the outside, Winston is a loyal party man but on the inside, he has questions and doubts.  How can he not when he works for the Ministry of Truth?  His job is to change history to reflect whatever the current version of it may be.  Some of his co-workers, like Symes (Donald Pleaseance), are openly cynical about what they do.  Others, like O’Brien (an imposing Andre Morell), seem as if they might be sympathetic to Winston’s doubts but Winston cannot be sure.  Meanwhile, Winston has found himself obsessed with Julia (Yvonne Mitchell), who is a member of the Anti-Sex League but who might have doubts of her own.  (Then again, she could also be a member of the Thought Police.)

When Winston is finally arrested for being a thoughtcriminal, it leads to a harrowing interrogation where he learns that truth doesn’t matter, the numbers add up to whatever the party says that they add up to, and that no one is strong enough to survive the ordeal of Room 101.

The BBC adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four was, for the most part, a live performance with a few filmed scenes inserted into the action.  Still, the fact that the majority of the actors were delivering their lines lives brings a certain immediacy to the film.  Everyone seem nervous and edgy.  In real life, that could have been due to the fear that they would miss a line but it also feels appropriate for people who spend every day of their life being watched and judged by Big Brother.  The entire production does an excellent job of creating a world where every minute is suffused in an atmosphere of dread and fear.  From the minute we first see him, Winston seems to know that he’s doomed.  The fact that Big Brother would rather torture and brainwash him rather than just make him disappear just makes things worse.

The production is full of actors — like Cushing, Morrell, and Pleasence — who would go on to become leading figures in the British horror industry and all of them do an excellent job bringing Orwell’s horror to life.  Peter Cushing, with his mix of intelligent features and neurotic screen presence, makes for the perfect Winston Smith and Andre Morrell is just as perfectly cast as the fearsome O’Brien.  The scene in which Winston is forced to confront Room 101 is still a harrowing one and this film perfectly nails the novel’s famous ending, doing so in a low-key manner that’s far more effective than the overwrought approach that other adaptations have brought to the final scene.

Nineteen Eighty-Four can currently be viewed on Prime.  The print is a bit grainy but that only adds to the film’s power.  It comes to us like a hazy vision of the future.

Other Entries In The 18 Days Of Paranoia:

  1. The Flight That Disappeared
  2. The Humanity Bureau
  3. The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover
  4. The Falcon and the Snowman
  5. New World Order
  6. Scandal Sheet
  7. Cuban Rebel Girls
  8. The French Connection II
  9. Blunt: The Fourth Man 
  10. The Quiller Memorandum
  11. Betrayed
  12. Best Seller
  13. They Call Me Mister Tibbs
  14. The Organization
  15. Marie: A True Story
  16. Lost Girls
  17. Walk East On Beacon!

Film Review: The Gorgon (dir by Terence Fisher)


Medusa, who is probably the best-known of the Gorgons who haunt Greek mythology, is a scary creation.

That may seem like a rather obvious statement to make but seriously, let’s consider just how scary Medusa is.  First off, there’s the fact that her hair is made out of snakes.  Snakes are frightening in general.  The other day, Doc caught a grass snake and tried to give it to me by dropping it at my feet.  I have never been quicker to jump away from a cat.  It’s not just Texas grass snakes that frighten me, though.  There’s the rattlesnakes that I used to see when my family was living in New Mexico.  There’s the water moccasin that I once saw swimming in Boggy Creek when I was up in Arkansas.  I’m pretty sure that I once saw a cobra slithering through downtown Denton but all of my friends insist that it was just a water hose that somebody left out.  Well, no matter!  Snakes are scary on their own but they’re even scarier when they’re growing out of someone’s head!

And then there’s the fact that if you look at Medusa or any of her sisters, you turn to stone!  I mean, it just takes one look and boom!  You’re a statue!  I imagine the process of transforming would feel terrible.  Can you even imagine?  Even worse would be someone trying to move your body and accidentally dropping you.  I mean, you could lose a finger!  I guess it wouldn’t matter since you would be dead but still, that would totally suck to lose a finger that way.

First released in 1964 and having since achieved a certain immortality based on frequent TCM showings, The Gorgon is a production of Hammer Film.  The usual Hammer monsters are replaced by Mageara (played by Prudence Hyman), a Gorgon who has somehow found herself in a typical, isolated Hammer village.  Neither Dracula nor Baron von Frankenstein are present in this film, though the actors who played them do have roles.  Christopher Lee is Prof. Karl Meister.  Peter Cushing is Dr. Namaroff.  Together, they solve crimes and hunt the monsters!

Villagers are getting turned to stone and innocent artists are being condemned to die.  We know that it’s all due to the Gorgon but it takes everyone else in the film a while to figure it out.  For instance, Paul (Richard Pasco) has to dig up his father’s grave in order to be convinced that the old man died from being turned to stone.  At first, the only person who truly seems to believe in the Gorgon is Namaroff’s assistant, Carla (played by Hammer films regular, Barbara Shelley).  By the end of the film, of course, everyone knows that Gorgons are real!  Of course, almost everyone has been turned to stone, as well.  Even by the standards of Hammer, the body county is high and the monster is merciless in The Gorgon.

It’s an effective Hammer film, though it’s never quite as much fun as Hammer’s Dracula or Frankenstein films.  The Gorgon takes itself perhaps a tad too seriously but, at the same time, you have to love any film that features both Lee and Cushing working together for once, as opposed to trying to kill each other.  Christopher Lee especially seems to be enjoying himself as Dr. Namaroff.  Lee reportedly grew quickly tired of playing Dracula and his joy of having a different type of role is palpable and perhaps the most likable thing about The Gorgon.  As for the Gorgon herself, she’s properly frightening.  I mean, she has snakes in her hair, after all.

When this movie last aired on TCM, there were technical difficulties during the last seven minutes of the showing.  The screen went blank and then viewers were treated to several different takes of one of the Gorgon’s victims trying to write a letter as he turned to stone.  It kind of freaked everyone out, to be honest.  Had the Gorgons taken over TCM?  Fortunately, order was restored in time for everyone to watch Plague of the Zombies.  Thankfully, things worked out.

Halloween Havoc!: Peter Cushing in TWINS OF EVIL (Universal/Hammer 1971)


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British babes Mary and Madeleine Collinson became the first set of twins to not only star as Playboy Twin Centerfolds (and we’ll get to that at the end of this post!!), but to star in a Hammer Horror film, 1971’s TWINS OF EVIL. Not only that, the lasses got to play opposite Hammer icon Peter Cushing as their puritanical, witch burning uncle. It’s the final chapter in Hammer’s Karnstein Trilogy (preceded by 1970’s THE VAMPIRE LOVERS and 1971’s LUST FOR A VAMPIRE), based on characters from Sheridan LeFanu’s 1872 novella , and it’s a sexy, blood-spattered scream!

As uncle Gustav Weil goes around the countryside burning young girls at the stake, his recently orphaned twin teenage nieces Maria and Frieda arrive from Venice. Prudish Uncle Gustav disapproves of the girls’ plunging decolletage (“What kind of plumage is this? The birds of paradise?”). While Maria is shy and demure, Frieda’s a…

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When It Comes To Halloween, Should You Trust The IMDb?


Dr. Sam Loomis

Like a lot of people, I enjoy browsing the trivia sections of the IMDb.  While it’s true that a lot of the items are stuff like, “This movie features two people who appeared on a television series set in the Star Trek Universe!,” you still occasionally came across an interesting fact or two.

Of course, sometimes, you just come across something that makes so little sense that you can only assume that it was posted as a joke.  For instance, I was reading the IMDb’s trivia for the original 1978 Halloween and I came across this:

Peter O’Toole, Mel Brooks, Steven Hill, Walter Matthau, Jerry Van Dyke, Lawrence Tierney, Kirk Douglas, John Belushi, Lloyd Bridges, Abe Vigoda, Kris Kristofferson, Sterling Hayden, David Carradine, Dennis Hopper, Charles Napier, Yul Brynner and Edward Bunker were considered for the role of Dr. Sam Loomis.

Now, some of these names make sense.  Despite the fact that Sam Loomis became Donald Pleasence’s signature role, it is still possible to imagine other actors taking the role and perhaps bringing a less neurotic interpretation to the character.

Peter O’Toole as Dr. Loomis?  Okay, I can see that.

Kirk Douglas, Sterling Hayden, Charles Napier, Steve Hill, or Lloyd Bridges as Dr. Loomis?  Actually, I can imagine all of them grimacing through the role.

Walter Matthau?  Well, I guess if you wanted Dr. Loomis to be kind of schlubby….

Abe Vigoda?  Uhmmm, okay.

Dennis Hopper?  That would be interesting.

Mel Brooks?  What?  Wait….

John Belushi?  Okay, stop it!

Dr. Sam Loomis

My point is that I doubt any of these people were considered for the role of Dr. Loomis.  Both director John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill have said that they wanted to cast an English horror actor in the role, as a bit of an homage to the Hammer films of the 60s.  Christopher Lee was offered the role but turned it down, saying that he didn’t care for the script or the low salary.  (Lee later said this was one of the biggest mistakes of his career.)  Peter Cushing’s agent turned down the role, again because of the money.  It’s not clear whether Cushing himself ever saw the script.

To be honest, I could easily Peter Cushing in the role and I could see him making a brilliant Dr. Loomis.  But, ultimately, Donald Pleasence was the perfect (if not the first) choice for the role.  Of course, Pleasence nearly turned down the role as well.  Apparently, it was his daughter, Angela, who changed his mind.  She was an admirer of John Carpenter’s previous film, Assault on Precint 13.  Carpenter has said that he was originally intimidated by Donald Pleasence (the man had played Blofeld, after all) but that Pleasence turned out to be a professional and a gentleman.

Laurie Strode

Of course, Halloween is best known for being the first starring role of Jamie Lee Curtis.  Curtis was actually not Carpenter’s first choice for the role of Laurie Strode.  His first choice was an actress named Annie Lockhart, who was the daughter of June Lockhart.  Carpenter changed his mind when he learned that Jamie was the daughter of Janet Leigh.  Like any great showman, Carpenter understood the importance of publicity and he knew nothing would bring his horror movie more publicity then casting the daughter of the woman whose onscreen death in Psycho left moviegoers nervous about taking a shower.

There was also another future big name who came close to appearing in Halloween.  At the time that she was cast as Lynda, P.J. Soles was dating an up-and-coming actor from Texas named Dennis Quaid.  Quaid was offered the role of Lynda’s doomed boyfriend, Bob but he was already committed to another film.

Not considered for a role was Robert Englund, though the future Freddy Krueger still spent some time on set.  He was hired by Carpenter to help spread around the leaves that would make it appear as if his film was taking place in the October, even though it was filmed in May.

Robert Englund, making May look like October

Interestingly enough, Englund nearly wasn’t need for that job because Halloween was not originally envisioned as taking place on Halloween or any other specific holiday.  When producer Irwin Yablans and financier Moustapha Akkad originally approached Carpenter and Hill to make a movie for them about a psycho stalking three babysitters, they didn’t care when the film was set.  It was only after Carpenter and Hill wrote a script called The Babysitter Muders that it occurred to Yablans that setting the film during Halloween would be good from a marketing standpoint.  Plus Halloween made for a better title than The Babysitter Murders.

And, of course, the rest is history.  Carpenter’s film came to define Halloween and it still remains the standard by which every subsequent slasher movie has been judged.  Would that have happened if the film had been known as The Babysitter Murders and had starred John Belushi?

Sadly, we may never know.

10 Horror Stars Who Never Won An Oscar


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It’s Oscar night in Hollywood! We all may have our gripes with the Academy over things like the nominating process (see my posts on THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND STAN & OLLIE and THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD ), but in the end, we’ll all still be watching – I know I will!

One of my gripes over the years has always been how the horror genre has gotten little to no attention from Oscar over the years. Sure, Fredric March won for DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE , but there were plenty of other horror performances who’ve been snubbed. The following ten actors should have (at least in my opinion) received consideration for their dignified work in that most neglected of genres, the horror film:

(and I’ll do this alphabetically in the interest of fairness)

LIONEL ATWILL

 Atwill’s Ivan Igor in MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM goes…

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Creature Double Feature 6: FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (Hammer/20th Century-Fox 1967)/FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (Hammer/Warner Bros 1969)


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Hammer Horrors were a staple of Boston’s late, lamented “Creature Double Feature” (WLVI-TV 56), so today let’s take a look at a demonic duo of Frankenstein fright films starring the immortal Peter Cushing in his signature role as the villainous Baron Frankenstein.

FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN was the fourth in Hammer’s Frankenstein series, made three years after EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN. The Baron is back (after having apparently been blown to smithereens last time around), this time tampering with immortal souls rather than mere brain transplants. The movie features some ahead-of-its-time gender-bending as well, with the soul of an unjustly executed man transmogrified into the body of his freshly dead (via suicide) girlfriend, now out for vengeance!

Young Hans (Robert Morris), who watched his father guillotined as a child, grows up to work for muddle-headed alcoholic Dr. Hertz (Thorley Walters , in an amusing performance), who revives the cryogenically frozen Baron…

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A Blast From The Past: Peter Cushing — A One Way Ticket To Hollywood


I’m not sure if you can be a true fan of horror (especially British horror) without loving Peter Cushing.

The actor played many roles over the course of his long career.  In fact, the first film in which he and Christopher Lee both appeared was not a horror film but instead Laurence Olivier’s 1948 production of Hamlet.  (They both also appeared in 1952’s Moulin Rouge.)  However, Cushing will probably always be best known for his Hammer roles and, of course, his villainous performance in Star Wars.  Peter Cushing was not only the virtuous Prof. Van Helsing but also the far less virtuous Baron Frankenstein.

According to almost every interview that I’ve read, Peter Cushing was a genuinely nice and professional person, one who didn’t personally care for horror films but who never took it personally when he was recognized for appearing in them.  Though they regularly played rivals on screen, he was close friends with Christopher Lee.  I once read an interview with Lee where he said that, decades later, he still hadn’t recovered from Cushing’s death in 1994.

Below, you’ll find a documentary from 1989.  It was called Peter Cushing — A One-Way Ticket To Hollywood.  It’s basically just Peter Cushing talking about his life and career for 49 minutes but it’s a charming little documentary.  Peter Cushing comes across as being very nice and very British.  He discusses not only his horror films but also his work in Star Wars and his performance as Winston Smith in a 1954 production of 1984.

It’s a nice documentary and I offer it up on Halloween as a tribute to one of horror’s gentlemen.

(Thank you to VintageTreats for uploading this!)

4 Shots From 4 Peter Cushing Films: Corruption, Scream and Scream Again, Asylum, Shock Waves


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Today, we pay tribute to one of the greatest British film stars with….

4 Shots From 4 Peter Cushing Films

Corruption (1968, dir by Robert Hartford-Davis)

Scream and Scream Again (1970, dir by Gordon Hessler)

Asylum (1972, dir by Roy Ward Baker)

Shock Waves (1977, dir by Ken Wiederhorn)

Horror Scene That I Love: The Monster Reveals Itself In The Curse of Frankenstein


Today’s horror scene that I love comes from the 1957 classic, The Curse of Frankenstein!

In this scene, the Monster (Christopher Lee) reveals himself and then promptly attack his maker (Peter Cushing).  My favorite thing about this scene is that zoom shot of the Monster’s face after the bandages have been removed.  The look he’s giving Frankenstein leaves no doubt about how the Monster feels about being reanimated.

Knowing that Lee and Cushing were close friend in real life makes this scene all that more enjoyable.