Kiss of the Vampire

The Kiss of the Vampire, 1963. Dir. Don Sharp. Watched on YouTube, so you don’t have to.

I’m feeling sick and feverish, so what better way to recuperate than watch a sick and feverish film from the sixties. Forgive me if I wander off topic or panic at any point. This is probably a bad idea, but here goes…

0.18 Starts with a horrible old tree, a bell tolling, a priest doing some incantation. I’m already sweating.

0.52 A burial, it seems. The pall bearers make an awkward turn and almost dump the coffin, but I don’t think it’s part of the script. I think Don Sharp decided not to reshoot as it would’ve made him late for lunch.

1.21 Whilst the pallbearers struggle to get the coffin in the grave (talk about an open goal), a mysterious cloaked figure watches from on top of a wall, waiting for his cue.

On a side note: Latin makes the service more sombre. I suppose if they were burying a Trekkie they’d do it in Klingon, which would also be effective.

1.50 Two old mourners notice the mysterious man in black. ‘He’s been drinking again’ says one. We get a close-up of the man. He’s got a marvelous pointy beard and moustache. If you have facial hair like that you’d be contractually obliged to wear a top hat and cloak.

2.05 The guy comes down to join the service. Everyone moves back nervously. The priest finishes off with some holy water sprinkling. The man takes the holy water, does his own sprinkling. Then holds out his hand for the gravedigger to give him the spade. Then he smashes the spade through the coffin lid, and you hear a woman scream from inside the coffin. Blood oozes out. Everyone screams and runs away (the priest screaming in Latin). Crashing orchestral music plays as the camera dissolves through the coffin lid …. onto the lips of a vampire! Then we get the title sequence. Lots of bloody lettering. Nice (but not helping my fever).

5.30 Cut to: A mysterious man in a gruesome old castle (the SAME mysterious man? I’m not sure. His face is obscured by a gargoyle). Anyway, he’s looking through a telescope at two people driving towards the castle in what looks and sounds like an old sewing machine.

6.00 It’s Gerald & Marianne. They’ve run out of petrol. Apparently Gerald brought Marianne along as an early form of SatNav, but they’ve gotten lorst, what with the twisty roads and what not. Gerald’s phlegmatic, though. He’s wearing gauntlets. (The two may or may not be connected).

6.30 Gerald goes off to find help, leaving Marianne in the car. (I say ‘car’ – it’s more like a leather hamper on wheels). ‘It’ll be quicker if I go alone’ says Gerald, slapping his gauntlets. ‘Try not to be long,’ says Marianne, although if it were me I’d be glad of a little Gerald-free time. And I’ve only known him 30 seconds.

7.10 The wind picks up. We hear wolves etc. Marianne looks anxious. I hope she’s got a pistol in that muff or she’s for it. She leaves the safety of the car (er-hem), sees the castle on the rocky prominence.

7.45 The mysterious man in the castle with the telescope (God I hope I learn his name soon because that’s just too much typing), comes into view. He’s a Peter Cushing wannabe – same ascetic look, same widow’s peak, same sad, sad eyes – except it’s not PC it’s (reading notes) Noel Willman playing Dr Ravna.

8.08 Marianne is so freaked by the wind in the trees and branches coming down that she leaves the car and runs through the forest. She runs straight into the original mysterious man in black (checks notes: Clifford Evans playing Professor Zimmer, so – Prof Zimmer from now on). He glares at her. ‘Go back to your car’ he says. ‘GO!’ (widening his eyes – which, when combined with that beard, leaves absolutely no room for doubt). ‘Yes’ says Marianne. She runs back – straight into Gerald’s gauntlets. He’s found a guy with a horse, an early form of the AA. ‘Gerald I was so frightened,’ she says. She’d be even more frightened if she’d seen what Prof Zimmer did at the funeral the other day.

8.58 Their car gets towed by the horse to the entrance of the Grand Hotel (which should really be called The Gothic Abandoned Hotel for accuracy). Gerald asks the guy with the horse to put the car somewhere else, but the guy says it’s okay, no one will want to stop there. Gerald gives the man twopence and asks him why not. ‘Good night, sir’ says the man, and drives off on the horse. Gerald pulls on his gauntlets and goes to catch Marianne up.

10.02 Marianne looks up at the hotel and you can tell she’s not impressed. The shutters are banging (which doesn’t mean ‘amazing’ in this context) and there’s almost certainly no wifi. It starts to rain (off camera, with a hose). They sprint inside.

10.11 Sheltering in the porch, Gerald takes off his gantlets and raises Marianne’s face by putting his finger under her nose and levering it up. I’m guessing this is beginning to seem like a VERY long and ill-advised road trip to Marianne.

10.23 A creepy doorman called Bruno opens the door in a creepy way and seems amazed they want a room. (All this creepy and they STILL want to stay?)

10.52 Bruno starts pulling the dust covers off the furniture and it’s probably a good job they put dust covers down because they absolutely are chock full of dust. He shouts up the stairs for his wife Anna to come quick because they have guests.

11.08 Anna comes down the stairs, one at a time, her hands straight down by her sides and her shoulders straight back, like she’s hypnotised or got sciatica or something. ‘Will you sign here, please?’ says Anna, opening the ledger of the damned (after blowing the dust off it – should’ve covered it).

11.52 She tells them all the rooms are vacant – except one. She looks positively terrified. I think we’ve all had guests like that.

12.10 Anna shows Gerald and Marianne to their room. They both look quite amused. A holiday adventure. Just a shame they don’t know the title of this particular adventure is ‘The Kiss of the Vampire’

12.47 Actually, once the dust sheets are off, their room doesn’t look too dusty. Vamp chic, I think you’d call it.

13.44 Bruno shows Anna some rice he found in their car. ‘Don’t you see?’ he says, excitedly. ‘They’re just married!’ Anna gives him exactly the look I’d have given him in the same situation.

14.00 The newlyweds are just sitting down to some tea when a carriage arrives outside. Gerald watches as the coachman gives Bruno a letter. Gerald has some shaving cream behind his ear (not the whole canister, just a blob). Marianne wipes it off, which is enough to start them kissing, only interrupted by Bruno running in with the letter. It’s an invitation to have dinner with Dr Ravna, the Peter Cushing knockoff with the telescope we saw earlier.

16.06 I have to say, the actress playing Marianne always looks as if she’s struggling not to laugh. I think I’d be the same. I mean – Gerald is wearing the most ludicrous dressing gown. It has two enormous satin lapels, like the running boards on the car. First the gauntlets, then the lapels. I bet it took a hundred takes to get this far. (And it’d explain why they didn’t have time to reshoot the fumbled burial). They decide to accept the invitation and go down to the carriage.

16.19 Prof Zimmer is hiding in the bushes watching as the carriage with the newlyweds rattles into Dr Ravna’s castle.

17.05 The big creaky door opens and a big creaky butler called Hans stands staring at them. ‘Good evening,’ says Gerald. ‘Dr Ravna is expecting us’. Hans bows and creaks aside. Marianne looks around at the bird in the cage, the drapes, the mad piano in the background – gets the giggles.

18.00 Dr Ravna appears, walking down the stairs in the same way Anna did, like underneath the suit he’s shrink wrapped in cling film. He says he likes to be surrounded by beautiful things, and gazes into Marianne’s eyes as he hoovers the diamonds from her fingers with his lips. I love Gerald, though. He’s so guileless and hopeless. He has that way posh people have of talking very quickly – I mean DASH quickly – but only from the bottom half of the face, giving the occasional little jut of the jaw to emphasise a point. He could be surrounded by vampires and werewolves and bloody corpses and still say ‘Gosh I’m just so flabbergasted you managed to cook the whole bally thing up with so little time and so on.. well done you.’

18.40 A rapacious woman in red comes halfway down the stairs and then stops to eavesdrop when she sees they have company.

19.00 Dr Ravna asks them through to meet the rest of his family. There’s a sensitive looking guy playing the baby grand in a velvet jacket (the guy’s wearing the jacket, not the piano). Next to him is an intense woman with big hair and a horrible dress. It’s hard to say whether she likes the music or is waiting to shoot him, but I guess we’ll find out. Meanwhile, the rapacious woman in red (RWIR) puts on a cloak and slips out of the castle.

19.56 Dr Ravna introduces Sabina his daughter and Carl his son. Hans brings in some wine. Carl threatens to play some more after dinner.

20.10 The RWIR is tramping round a misty graveyard. She starts clawing at a fresh grave, saying ‘Why have you not been to see us, my sweet?’ Finds a handle. Just as she’s about to pull it, Prof Zimmer appears and grapples with her. They grapple for a little while (I can’t think of another word for grapple. Wrestling won’t do, because you might think he picks her up and does a body slam, which might be great but a little anachronistic). She shows her fangs and takes a chunk out of his wrist (he needs Gerald’s gauntlets). Prof Zimmer looks at the puncture marks. Does that mean he’ll be a vampire, too? Not sure.

21.44 The RWIR goes back to the castle. She does some more eavesdropping. Dr Ravna is explaining to his guests that ‘a few years ago I conducted a series of experiments, some of which went wrong… ‘ which is why he can’t return to the city of his birth. They all stand at the bottom of the stairs awkwardly whilst Dr Ravna makes a speech about the dirty feet of the peasants that trampled the grapes that made their wine and so on, the pheasants they ate that had been hanging for months. No one says anything. They probably think he doesn’t throw that many parties. Then they move on.

23.12 They settle down to listen to Carl play the piano again (Carl is a primitive form of Spotify). We get a close up of Dr Ravna. I love his hair. It must take him hours, smothering it in grease, then hanging upside down in the closet all day.

23.27 Carl plays something he composed himself. An intense little number that goes with his jacket.

24.00 Dr Ravna gives Marianne a green-tinged drink. I don’t know what’s more worrying, the drink or Carl’s playing. Dr Ravna hands Gerald a glass, too. ‘You have a singularly lovely wife’ he says to Gerald, who juts his chin out and says thanks, like a nervous swinger about to throw his gauntlets in the bowl.

24.30 Meanwhile, Prof Zimmer staggers into his house with his hand bandaged. He’s got a mobile of dried bats that I’m guessing he made himself. Nice. He pours vodka or maybe holy water over his wound. Takes a swig of it for good measure. Then holds his wrist over some flames to cauterise it. The pain is so terrible his ears actually waggle. Then collapses. I’m pretty sure he’s not a professor of medicine.

25.36 Dr Ravna gives Marianne some more green liquor. She’s sitting enraptured, listening to Carl go full Rachmaninoff. Dr Ravna, Sabina and Carl exchange loaded looks. He plays faster. Marianne rocks backwards and forwards in the Edwardian version of the mosh pit. Gerald comes over and helps her up. Sabina goes to call them a carriage.

28.54 The couple drive off in the carriage. Carl is playing the piano again. ‘Why did you let them go?’ says Sabina. ‘They have no petrol. They can’t leave until I say so,’ says Dr Ravna. Who probably exercises mind control over the local refinery or something.

29.47 Back at the hotel, Prof Zimmer is getting wasted with Bruno, who’s wearing his doorman jacket over his nightshirt. I’m guessing Prof Zimmer is the other guest, the one Anna was so scared of.

30.33 Going up to their room, Gerald and Marianne hear a woman sobbing. It’s Anna, holding a bundle of clothes like a baby. And then staring at a photograph, in case we didn’t get the point. They leave her to it.

31.33 The next day it’s raining, no doubt the same effects guy with the same hosepipe. Marianne stares out of the window and tries not to laugh. Gerald is doing calisthenics. Marianne kisses him between swings. The doorman interrupts to invite them down to breakfast. ‘We’ll be there in ten minutes,’ says Gerald. Then kisses Marianne again. ‘Or fifteen…’ (As racy as his little car).

32.00 A VERY long shot of Anna laying the plates for breakfast. They don’t even have bats on them. There’s an extra place laid for someone – the dead child? ‘No one comes here any more’ says Bruno, sadly. Then immediately brightens. ‘More bread?’

34.05 Marianne snoops in Anna’s room. Finds baby stuff, a bible, rosary etc. The photo. Turns out the photo is of Tania, the RWIR. ‘She looks like Anna’ says Gerald, driving home the stake, I mean, point.

36.15 Gerald confronts Prof Zimmer in the lobby. But Prof Zimmer won’t shed any light on the mystery – just says that they should leave. ‘Well! That puts ME in my place!’ says Gerald, chin out and then straight back in again. I feel quite protectively towards Gerald. I’d love to adopt him. As a pet.

36.35 Dr Ravna’s carriage arrives for them again. (Side note: why is everyone so grumpy looking? I know it’s Bavaria and everything, but it looks like they haven’t paid their actors in a long while). Sabina gets out of the carriage in the most ludicrous fur hat I’ve ever seen and says ‘We can’t stay long. Look. The weather’s changing.’ Which is a bad line to deliver at the best of times, but in THAT hat? I think she does it as well as anybody could expect. Carl looks furious, though. He’s missing his piano.

37.37 Carl tells them his father has ordered some fuel to be brought up from Konensburg express delivery, by ox. He also invites them to a party at the castle on Saturday.

38.30 They’re chatting about who’s coming and what they’ll be wearing, when Prof Zimmer stomps into the foyer. ‘It’s getting a little brighter,’ he says, sweating. ‘The weather is improving.’
Carl and Sabina run out, jump in the carriage. ‘Drive like the devil!’ he says to the coachman, who does a doughnut in the yard at about 2 miles an hour and they trot off back to the castle.

41.23 Later that evening (yeah – okay – I skipped a bit, but honestly, my fever isn’t getting any better), Gerald and Marianne are dressed up ready to go Dr Ravna’s ball. Just before they get in the carriage, Prof Zimmer staggers round the corner, making the horses and waiting staff whinny. ‘Madame!’ he says. ‘I beg of you. Be careful.’ Why he can’t come out with it and say ‘if you go to the party you’ll be drained of blood by the undead vampires there’ and make it clear to everyone, I don’t know. So of course, they drive on.

42.51 At Chateau Ravna all the guests are wearing horrible masks. The table is set with a sumptuous feast of white chocolate chicken and so on. Carl and Sabina bring Gerald and Marianne their masks – Gerald’s looks like a demonic walrus. I just hope there’s enough room for his chin.

44.30 The guests waltz very nicely. Gradually the dance floor clears until it’s just Carl waltzing with Marianne. The guests stare at them emptily. Maybe they want to waltz with Carl. Maybe they know what’s coming next (hopefully not Carl on the piano).

45.30 Gerald has disappeared somewhere. Marianne goes to get something to eat. Carl gets a mask that looks like Gerald’s and then catches up with her. He gestures for Marianne to follow him up the stairs, into a secluded part of the castle. He throws Marianne into a room and locks it. There’s the sound of sobbing behind a curtain. When she pulls it back she sees Dr Ravna lying on his back with blood dribbling from his mouth. She screams and runs to the door.

48.41 Meanwhile, Gerald is drunk, jumping after balloons and so on (Sabina is keeping him occupied; I don’t think it’s difficult).

49.07 Dr Ravna is standing in front of Marianne looking particularly vulnerable in a white silk blouse and pointy teeth. He holds his hands out to her, then beckons her forth (that sounds like the right language to use here). She stands up and walks slowly towards his bed. Lies down. He kisses her forehead, reveals his fangs and ….

50.26 ‘Where d’you think she could be, Sabina?’ says Gerald, down in the lobby. Sabina gives him a special glass of champagne and he collapses into a bucket chair. Sabina helps him upstairs where he collapses for keeps this time. The butler drags him into her room. Downstairs in the ballroom, the orchestra silently packs up and leaves. The guests bolt the doors and quietly take off their masks.

52.50 Dr Ravna is dressing Marianne in a white robe. Vampires like white (although it shows the blood terribly).

53.31 In the ballroom, all the guests have changed into white robes. They sit down on the floor unselfconsciously in a circle. It looks so uncomfortable I hope for their sake it’s not a long scene. Dr Ragna leads Marianne into the room. ‘Ladies & Gentlemen. May I introduce a new disciple…’ Close up on Marianne, and two puncture marks on her neck.

54.45 Gerald half falls down the stairs. Everything’s blurry. ‘What’s happened to the party?’ he says. Carl appears. ‘Where’s Marianne?’ says Gerald. Carl denies everything. ‘You came here alone. And you can leave that way.’ Hans throws him out.

57.38 Walking back to the hotel, Gerald gets run down by a carriage. But he gets found by Prof Zimmer, who checks his pulse (so maybe he IS a doctor after all). Puts him over his shoulder and carries him back to his room at the hotel.

59.01 Gerald wakes up alone the next day. He calls for Bruno. ‘Where’s my wife?’ he shouts. ‘What wife?’ says Bruno. OMG – they’re all in on it.

1.00.02 A police man talks to Gerald in the lobby. ‘I understand you wish me to issue a warrant, sir. Is that correct?’ But the interview doesn’t go well and it looks like the police are in on it, too. Can you get vampire police? I guess so. Gerald runs off to find Prof Zimmer, whose room has also got a stuffed crocodile and an hourglass – which makes him a REAL professor. ‘Please help me’ says Gerald. ‘My wife’s disappeared.’ ‘I know’ says the Prof. ‘She’s being kept in the chateau.’

1.02.17 Prof Zimmer gives Gerald a little speech about the devil and evil. I love the way he says those two words. ‘De-ville’ and ‘E-ville’ He’s never sounded more Welsh. He seizes his dramatic moment, whether he’s been paid or not. He paces around his room, ducking under the bat mobile (no – not the one you’re thinking of). ‘Do you know what a VAMP-eyre is?’ he rattles, snatching off his pince nez and almost taking his eyebrows with them. He tells the story of his daughter who left home, lived with a guy, mixed with the smart set, came home ‘what was left of her…riddled with disease’. Yes, a VAMP-eyre. Then he crosses himself. Families, eh?

1.04.48 Prof Zimmer has given Gerald a drug to help him sleep (poor Gerald’s getting drugged by just about everyone – and he was so happy at the beginning of his film in his gauntlets, wandering off to find the AA).

1.05.17 Nightfall. Gerald wakes up and hurries off to the castle. He knocks out one of the servants and gets inside. Breaks into Tania’s room. Persuades her to take him to Marianne. He follows her down spooky corridors – but it’s a trick! She leads him in to see Dr Ravna instead.

1.07.56 Gerald takes a swing at Dr Ravna but he ducks and gets him in an armlock. ‘You must not expect your Queensberry rules here, Mr Harcourt!’ he says (although I think ducking IS actually in the Queensberry rules).

1.08.23 Carl and Hans come in to help subdue Gerald (which isn’t that difficult). They use his own tie to tie his hands, rubbing it in, somewhat. Dr Ravna says he’ll bring Marianne in to show Gerald. Tania and Sabina go to get her.

1.09.29 Marianne walks in dressed in white, natch. ‘Don’t you want to see your husband?’ says Dr Ravna. ‘No. I only want to see you,’ says Marianne. ‘Prove to me that you do not love him.’ So she walks up to Gerald and spits in his face. ‘Well done, my dear!’ says Dr Ravna. Then asks Tania to initiate Gerald into their society (but I hope she wipes his face first because – well – hygiene issues…?)

1.10.40 Tania walks over to Gerald (I see a pattern emerging). She bares her fangs and bares his chest. Rakes his chest with her nails. Marianne looks like she’s trying not to laugh.

1.11.29 But…. Gerald has slipped his hands out of his tie. He pushes Tania away, then uses the blood on his chest to make the sign of the cross. Tania screams and everyone looks horrified (except for Marianne, who’s giggling).

1.11.33 Prof Zimmer bursts in the room. Gerald hits Hans with a stool, which he doesn’t appreciate. Grabs Marianne and runs out of the room with her.

1.13.00 Hans follows them outside. They hide round the corner. Hans isn’t the brightest butler in the mansion because he stands on the threshold looking puzzled. Meanwhile, Gerald pushes a gargoyle onto him, which is as labour intensive method of dealing with a vampire butler as I’ve ever seen. Prof Zimmer makes the sign of the cross on the front door, to buy them some time (although I’m guessing the mansion has more than one door, so…)

1.15.00 Prof Zimmer sends Bruno off to the police (yes – THAT police) with a note that’s supposed to convince them to come. ‘It’s a full moon. We’ve got work to do,’ he says as Bruno hurries off. Prof Zimmer tells Gerald he’s been working on a solution to the vampire question – a ceremony he’s distilled from a lot of medieval books he got from the library and so on, especially effective on a full moon with Capricorn in Uranus or something – which, luckily for them but not for the vampires – is tonight.

1.15.48 All the vampires are dressed in white back at the castle. ‘Well? What does he say?’ says one of the vampires, and then all the others chip in anxiously, proving the point that even the undead can get a little panicky sometimes. Dr Ravna appears in front of them back in his white robes, too. When the vampires ask him what’s going on, he says ‘they’re trying to destroy us’. When the vampires jump up and crowd round him for more, he explains the situation like this:

‘They came here tonight to take the girl away because they did not want to risk her life while they were trying to destroy us.’

(Vampire or not, you’ve got admire his breath control).

The plan is to get Marianne back so they won’t be able to destroy them. Like a human shield. But how will they get her back, when the doors have got crosses on them?

1.17.00 Prof Zimmer is drawing a circle on his bedroom floor. (So this magic doesn’t require them to visit the chateau in person? Handy!) He leaves a gap in the circle so he can come and go. (If I was Gerald I’d be thinking of my options at this point). Back at the chateau, Dr Ravna is using mind powers to make Marianne walk to the chateau by remote control or something. Like a drone. I’m surprised Prof Zimmer didn’t think of that one. But he drinks a lot, sets fire to himself, so maybe it’s not so surprising after all.

1.18.19 Prof Zimmer has finished chalking the circle. He’s got the horn, the sword and some other stuff. Starts his incantation – which is basically the Welsh phone directory in reverse. Gerald is standing outside the circle, and chooses his moment to sneak away and check on Marianne. But dash it all! She’s gone!

1.20.13 Gerald and a priest (where did HE come from?) hurry through the misty woods on the trail of Marianne.

1.20.49 Prof Zimmer reaches the climax of his incantation, holding the sword above his head and commanding Beelzebub to appear. The door blows open, the bat mobile swings around, the candles go out.

1.21.12 Back at the castle, all the vampires are screaming as the wind rushes through the place. Marianne is still gamely walking on to the castle, followed by Gerald and his priest. Gerald catches up with her, they grapple or wrestle, I’m not sure, then the priest shows her his crucifix and bible, which totally works.

1.22.06 ‘Look! Look!’ says the priest, holding his crucifix up again. Thousands of crudely animated, sub-Scooby Doo bats are converging on the castle. The vampires can only watch in horror as the animated bats are supplemented by rubber bats on strings, smashing through the windows, invading the castle. There now follows the best mass slaying of vampires by rubber bats on strings I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen literally this one. Full credit to the actors – paid or otherwise – who scream and do their best to look terrified as they’re brutalised by the things. They may as well have been savaged to death by Furbies. It’s dreadful. I’ll never forget it.

1.23.42 Meanwhile, Marianne comes to her senses in the forest. The marks on her neck have gone. Everything’s going to be alright. And they’ll have a ripping honeymoon story to tell the folks back in Henley.

The End.

That’s it! So what’ve I learned?

  1. Bavaria’s nice if you’ve got gauntlets and plenty of petrol.
  2. Don’t drink the green cocktails.
  3. Vampires are people too. And they work very unsocial hours.
  4. You MUST get a building inspector to sign off on your gargoyles from time to time.
  5. Treatment for a laceration of the wrist is compression and elevation – NOT holy water and open flame.

The Abominable Snowman

The Abominable Snowman, 1957. Dir. Val Guest. Watched on YouTube so you don’t have to.

No excuses for choosing yet another Peter Cushing movie. I just wanted to see him again, okay? There’s something horrifically reassuring about him. And whilst you’re wondering about that, can I just say he was a lifelong vegetarian, wildlife enthusiast but had a fear of the dark? Fine. So settle down with your laptop in the LYE-BREH-REH as we press play on The Abominable Snowman.

1:08 Opening shots of the Himalayas, with a ponderous score like a sherpa making an ascent with saucepans on their feet.

1:39 Hairdressing is by Henry Montsash. I wonder if he did the Yeti, too. I think the Yeti mightn’t be so abominable if it had a stylish bob.

2:20 Starting in a monastery. Lots of chanting. A monk plodding across the courtyard with some sticks on his back. If you didn’t like snow, or heights, or chanting, I suppose you just wouldn’t volunteer for this shit.

2:37 I mean – austere doesn’t cover it. Even the carved faces in the pillars are grimacing.

3:05 Two monks take a plate of tea through to an elderly monk who’s either meditating or performing his morning ablutions with austere dignity.

3:14 Actually, there are two scientists in the room as well – Peter Cushing and Richard Wattis, who are hunched over a microscope getting ludicrously excited over some Latin names. ‘Yees – that’s Gackomandis Perficorus’ or something. Their film names are as follows: John & Peter. So when I say John I mean Peter. And when I say Peter I mean Richard. I hope that helps.

4:18 The scientists are there to study some exciting herbs. The lead monk lets them take a whole bunch (quite literally). PC (I’ll call him that because otherwise I’ll get confused and anyway who cares his name is supposed to be John) – PC explains to the lead monk that he used to be a climber so he knows the Himalayas well. He had to give the climbing up because he had a ‘stupid accident’ although he doesn’t go into details – maybe he tried to abseil down an icicle or something, not sure.

6:01 The lead monk freaks PC out by saying the rest of the team will be there in ‘a few hours’ – this is pre-mobile phones, of course, and anyway the reception would’ve been patchy even if he had one. The lead monk’s eyes go a bit crossy, which disconcerts PC, because he’s a plant doctor not an ophthalmologist.

6:30 Richard Wattis – whose nickname is Foxy for some reason – strides across the courtyard. His legs really are VERY long (an advantage in the mountains, you’d think). He takes some herbs to Helen, PC’s scientist wife who’s also on the trip. Foxy complains about the country, the cold, the tea &c. He seems quite high maintenance. Maybe useful in an avalanche (as a cave prop), but otherwise strictly comedy value. Helen seems sensible. Her sweater is very 1950s, which means pointy. Also useful in an avalanche.

7:08 Back with the lead monk, who seems to be a trance (probably all the herbs). He’s talking about the men who are coming, particularly worried about the leader of the party, who seems to be searching for something (I’m guessing a yeti, but I’m not a scientist, or a scriptwriter). By the way, I’ve never seen sleeves as big as the lead monk’s. Each arm is the size of a tent. Warm, I’d guess, but a bastard for housework. The lead monk also seems to know when Helen is approaching – explaining that ‘here one has an awareness of many things’ – except the size of your sleeves.

9:00 Helen comes in with a box. The lead monk lets it slip that PC is going on a climbing expedition – then leaves them to it. Helen is furious. After what happened with the icicle.

10:30 So it all comes out. It’s not just a botanical expedition. PC wants to look for ‘that creature’ (she doesn’t say abominable but you can read it in her expression).

10.36 Cut to a monk banging two enormous bells with a gigantic cotton bud – a symbol of the domestic we just witnessed. Or dinner, maybe.

10:48 It looks like the monks are about to have some kind of festival. There’s actually some glittery ribbons around, which is a nice change from all the stone. Helen is in the kitchen making supper (well – it is the 1950s). The other scientists arrive, wearing mittens on strings, which is cute. The scientists are loud types – the kind of guys who walk with a swagger and their arms crooked out, mittens or no. Helen gives them tin plates with a scoop of stew so tiny you’d think she’d mistakenly served them the relish instead. But they seem happy enough. I don’t think they’re the brightest snowballs on the mountain.

13.58 The new arrivals sound off about the yeti. One of the scientists – the one with the most sensitive chin – says he’s seen the footprints. ‘On the Rakaposhi glacier’ (which TOTALLY sounds made up. ‘Yeah – I saw some too. On the Gapagoomi slopes’). Anyway, he seems pretty anxious about the whole affair. He was with a climbing party, two years ago…. followed the tracks till they disappeared on some bare rocks…’ ‘You’re an impressionable man, Mr McGee,’ says Helen, shovelling in the relish. She’s right. He seems amazingly disturbed by the fact that he saw some big footprints. God knows WHAT he’d do if he saw the real thing (which hopefully won’t be long).

15:30 Tom, the lead scientist, pulls out an heirloom – a silver cylinder with inscriptions that PC translates – something about protection against a local god. Tom gives it a twist to reveal what’s inside – a giant tooth. ‘The canine tooth of an ape or a gorilla’ says PC, measuring it with a tape measure Helen probably gave him.

16:20 A gong is struck outside. Tom opens the door and sees all the monks dancing around with two ferocious looking dragon masks. They seem to be enjoying themselves in an austere kinda way. ‘Holy men doing a holy dance! Hey – this is good! Jock – get a picture!’ laughs one of the scientists – NOT someone you’d want on an expedition into the Himalayas, then. He’d make a trip to the shops unbearable. I’m hoping he gets eaten first. Then maybe the guy with the sensitive chin. Then Tom. But not PC. I hope he’s okay (and doesn’t do anything stupid with any icicles).

17:00 The actor playing Tom is Forrest Tucker. He’s extremely crabby & craggy. He makes the Himalayas look like a bunch of scatter cushions. Mind you – he’s not so ornery he doesn’t accidentally sit down on a dirty plate to explain about the expedition. But I suppose the others are too scared to say ‘watch the plate’ or ‘here’s a cloth to clean the relish off your pants’.

18:00 Tom explains that the territory they’re heading into is ‘like the craters of the moon’ with lots of rockfalls and so on – terribly dangerous. Which freaks Helen out – even when they say they’re taking Kusang, a sherpa who’s actually seen a yeti. PC ducks the issue of whether he intends to go along too by saying he’ll show the tooth to the Lama (who I’ve disrespectfully been calling the ‘lead monk’ and for which I apologise).

19:06 The Lama says he knows the object. It was stolen many years ago. He says it’s not a real tooth, though. Tom isn’t put off. He’s still going. His dimple demands it. PC says he’ll go, too. Helen storms off. The Lama gives PC some advice – which sounds like a warning about climate change, but that’s me talking from the future. The yeti as a stand in for the global climate emergency – which is pretty abominable, I have to say, so…. ‘Go in peace’ says the Lama, and waves him off to a background of more chanting.

21:40 Down in the yard, Ed (the mouthiest scientist) is packing their rucksacks for the trip – in a VERY shouty way, I have to say. I mean, doesn’t he KNOW about avalanches? I’m guessing not. I’m guessing he’d laugh like a donkey when he saw one coming, and carry on laughing till he got whacked by a million tonnes of ice and grit. Which is what it’s like talking to Tom, BTW.

22:15 Helen comes up to PC with an ice pick – looking like she’s in two minds whether to give it to him or hit him with it.

22:40 Can I just say – I’ve never seen Peter Cushing looking SO good as he does here in his steampunk explorer goggles, woolly hat, cagoule and corduroy trousers tucked into woolly socks. And I’m sure any Yeti would think the same. They’d probably lick their paw, slick their hair back and say ‘JOLLY nice to meet you old chap’.

23:00 Helen has a premonition she’ll never see him again so she gives him one last kiss. ‘Be careful, my darling,’ she says. Their fond farewell overlooked by the Lama from the balcony with a sour expression on his face along the lines of: Don’t come running to me when the Yeti rips your legs off.

23:50 And they’re off – into the Himalayas. Five seconds later and Ed is complaining they’re walking too fast. ‘Last time we went an easier way,’ he says, like maybe there’s a ski lift or something. They all start singing ‘John Brown’s body lies a mouldering in the grave…’ to keep their spirits up. Kusang hangs well back and who can blame him.

25.20 PC points to three men on the skyline who seem to be following them. ‘Let’s just keep moving,’ says Tom. Who’s surname seems to be ‘Friend’. Which seems unlikely.

25.56 The three men start shooting at them. Ed shoots back, his chin sticking out so far he can use it to steady the pistol.

26:50 Tom and Ed shout at each other when the team stops to rest. Why they have to shout at each other the whole time is anyone’s guess, although maybe it’s some elaborate courting ritual.

27:30 They need to ‘rope up’ to go along a steep bit to the hut that Tom says is over the ridge. PC has a rope that looks about long enough to reach from here to the bathroom, and about as thin as a bootlace. No wonder Helen was worried.

28:08 Ed’s shouting causes a small avalanche. ‘No more shouting’ says PC. ‘You got that, Ed?’ shouts Tom.

29.30 The one with the sensitive chin (I must find out his name) loses his footing and the rest of them have to haul him up the ridge. (Maybe I’ll find out what it is when he gets to the top. Maybe Ed’ll shout it out.)

30:10 Inside the hut the guys eat stew. Ed shouts about having to bury the empty stew cans. Tom helps himself to a tiny bit more stew, which looks suspiciously like shit. You really do have to be tough to be a mountaineer – as well as have good lungs.

31.30 PC smokes his pipe and tells them how he thinks the yeti lives – eating hares and voles and things like that, roots and what have you. Occasional forays online. He describes his theory of parallel evolution, chuffing on his pipe and looking meaningfully at Ed.

33:20 Ed and Tom break it to PC that they want to capture the Yeti, not study it. ‘Did you think we’d just want Jock here to take a picture of it…?’ Jock! His name’s Jock! Now my studies are complete. You’ll find me in the LYE-BREH-REH with a large BREN-DEH.

33:40 They all shout at each other, except for Jock, who puffs anxiously on his fag and stares at the door. He thought he heard a scream. They rush outside. Shout at each other to be quiet. Then go back inside. ‘Jock? You need some sleep,’ says Tom. I don’t get the impression this is a restful kind of trip, though.

35:20 PC and Tom go outside for a smoke because the wind’s dropped. Eurgh! Tom puts two fags in his mouth, ligths them both and hands one to PC. The last time I saw that done was Paul Henreid to Betty Davis in Now Voyager. What’s Tom going to say now? ‘Don’t let’s ask for the moon; we have the stars…’? (Except shouted).

36:40 Tom lays out his plans for the Yeti, which seems to boil down to TV appearances, chat shows, that kinda thing. To satisfy a curious world. And maybe start a new brand of cosmetics.

37:20 Back at the monastery the monks are arguing with Helen – who knows what about? The dreadful stews she’s been making, maybe? Foxy comes to her aid and shouts at them, which seems to work, as shouting seems to be general currency round these parts. The monks are angry because they haven’t been paid, which is fair enough. Helen’s worried that the monks know the party isn’t coming back. ‘Drink this and take some tablets,’ says Foxy. (I get the impression in these early films that the women either had to cook, look sexy, have hysterics or get sedated).

39:00 Foxy goes to speak to the Lama about the restive monks. The Lama is in deep meditation, an expression on his face much like mine when I do these reviews. Foxy goes out again.

40:00 Back out on the jolly ol’ Himalayas. Lots of crashing cymbals and so on. The director probably said ‘Write me some majestic shit’. And this is what he got.

40:45 The party has split up. Tom, Ed and Kusang, and then PC and Jock. PC is digging around in the snow looking for herbs he can smoke in his pipe. Jock admits he doesn’t like climbing or expeditions. He only came because he’s become obsessed with the footprint and the Yeti. He says he paid Tom to let him come on this expedition – but he promises to try not to do anything too dangerous.

42:38 It’s heavy going (the expedition AND the film). PC and Jock reach the crest of a ridge and when they look over see that the rest of the guys are gone. ‘Helllooooo?’ shouts PC. Nope. Not even a bellow from Ed in return. When Jock shouts HELLO he seems to squeeze his butt cheeks. Just a little detail I’ve noticed (but that PC has chosen to ignore).

43:57 Unfortunately Jock steps in a bear trap, no doubt set by Tom for the Yeti. Ed runs over and sets him free. Also says the plan worked and they caught ‘one of those things’. (He also says ‘Watch out! It’s icy up here’ – which is an odd thing to say to anyone in the Himalayas, but hey – that’s Ed.)

45:50 Turns out, what they’ve caught is a monkey. ‘That’s a Langor!’ says PC. ‘Let it go!’ Some trackers.

46:50 Later on they gather round a radio for a weather forecast ‘for Himalayan climbing parties’. Blizzards! ‘That’s all we need!’ says Ed, who seemed surprised earlier to find ice. I guess he normally goes on expeditions to Staten Island, or maybe Coney Island if he’s feeling adventurous.

48:11 Turns out Tom Friend isn’t his real name (I thought the Friend bit was suspicious). He was mixed up in some earlier scandal about some wolf children. ‘Why – you’re nothing but a fairground trickster!’ says PC. They fight. Break the radio. ‘It’s the altitude – makes you lose control’ says Tom (or whatever his name is).

48:44 The monkey (or Langor) starts screaming. They run out of the tent, leaving Jock to recover and be anxious on his own. They find the cage all bent out of shape and the monkey / Langor gone. ‘I…I just don’t understand this!’ shouts Ed. (Erm… yeti?) They find some big ol’ footprints. ‘15..16 inches long!’ (Erm… yeti?) ‘There’s no doubt about it. There was something else here, too,’ says Tom, looking round. (Erm… YETI?)

50:07 Back in the tent, Jock watches in anxious horror as a horrible hairy hand (erm… YETI?) wriggles under the canvas and reaches for the rifles. Kusang arrives, sees it and screams (not a great look for a Himalayan yeti guide, but still). The rest of the team hurry over with flares and smelling salts. Jock is in some kind of fugue state. They grab a load of guns and even more flares and then shout at Kusang to tell them what he saw. ‘I see… I see what man must not see…’ he says, ‘I see…. YEEEETTTTTIIIII’ – then runs off down the mountain pursued by Tom.

52:07 Tom stops chasing Kusang when he notices that the bear trap has been all broken up. He flashes his torch about, then hurries back to the tent where he finds Jock still in a trance – ‘hypersensitive to the presence of the beast’. In lieu of anything else, Ed rushes out to shoot wildly. A terrible beast howls in the darkness (Erm – yeti?) Looks like Ed got lucky. The three of them follow a bloody trail. Find the yeti dead behind a boulder. We know it’s dead because Tom flexes its horrible hairy hand about. ‘That’s really it,’ he says, sensitively. Ed goes off to get a sledge. They listen to other yetis calling to each other across the valley. There’s more than one. (Ya think? Otherwise they woulda died out YEARS ago).

56:08 Back at the monastery, Kusang bangs on the gates. He collapses into the other monks’ arms (and sleeves). Helen sees all this and doesn’t take it well. She wakes up Foxy then goes off to see the Lama. Faints at all the creepy statuary, then wakes up being offered tea by the Lama (probably with sedatives in it). The Lama says he can’t do anything to help PC because his destiny is controlled by his own actions (and he can’t fly the helicopter because of his sleeves). Foxy arrives to take her back to her quarters where there’s some cooking or maybe something hysterical to attend to.

59:20 I take it back! Helen has put on a sheepskin jacket and a headscarf and she’s heading out into the Himalayas to find PC. She’ll take some sherpas along, too, and a packed lunch. Foxy puts on a tie.

1:00:05 Back in the tent, Jock has recovered enough to ask what the yeti looks like. PC says it had a kind of sadness. No doubt being shot didn’t help.

1:00:01 They all hunker down in a cave, dragging the dead yeti – or deti – on a sled. The other yetis call mournfully to each other across the valley. Jock crawls out of his tent. Trudges off through the snow towards the sound. Reaches the top of the mountain.

1:02:41 PC goes back to the tent – finds it empty. Tom runs up. Together they watch Jock climb higher then fall to his death, crashing like a very poorly constructed mannequin down onto the polystyrene rocks below.

1:04:31 Ed shoots a couple more yetis as they attack the cave. ‘You don’t know what it’s like!’ he says as PC and Tom run up. Tom gives him a drink of whisky. He says the sun was in his eyes… he couldn’t get organised… and he missed them. Ed panics for a bit – says ‘they’ll know it was me!’ Then seems to recover. ‘Ah – I’ve had it before’ he says. ‘Me and this grizzly one time…’ Despite his misgivings, Ed agrees to act as bait – to hide in the cave with a net over his head and tempt the other yetis in like that. Hmm. Ed seems okay with it, though.

1:06:39 Helen and Foxy have made it as far as the first hut. Helen wants to press on but Foxy tells the sherpas they’ll camp there and maybe Helen can make them some stew.

1:07:40 Tom tells Ed they’ll keep him covered from the tent. Ed settles down. I get the impression Ed isn’t the sharpest icicle in the cave.

1:08:11 Ed sits and waits on a ledge with a rifle on his lap and a cross-eyed look of cluelessness on his face. The blizzard outside means Tom & PC can’t see a damn thing from the tent. Instead they argue about the morals of the case. Tom doesn’t want to just take a dead yeti back to be pickled or something. He wants something he can take to dinner parties and maybe a promotional tour of some kind (I must admit I lost the thread of his argument). Earn some greenbacks, anyway.

1:10:00 Meanwhile, back in the cave, Ed keeps rubbing his eyes – never a good look for someone who’s supposed to be ready to spring a trap.

1:10:20 ‘See anything?’ says PC as Tom looks out of the tent again. ‘No,’ says Tom. ‘I thought… for a second… nah! Let’s have a cigarette…’

1:10:50 But as soon as PC shakes out a couple, they hear a gunshot and some grunty, abominable noises. They hurry out of the tent into the blizzard. In the cave, Ed’s rifle jams! He looks up in terror as the shadow of a yeti falls across him…. ‘TOM!’ he yells.

1:11:14 They eventually make it to the cave. The net is ripped to pieces. Ed is lying on the ledge, dead – with a horrified but at the same time strangely camp expression, like the yeti killed him in a particularly abominable way.

1:11:55 PC wonders why the gun didn’t go off – but then finds it was loaded with blanks. ‘I didn’t want another dead one,’ says Tom.

1:12:28 PC and Tom finish knocking a grave marker in ‘EDWARD SHELLEY’ carved in wood, on a pile of stones so small they must’ve buried him standing up.

1:14:00 It looks like the yetis knew the gun was loaded with blanks ‘by thought transference.’ PC says that the yetis didn’t kill Jock – he fell when he climbed without a boot. And Ed died of a heart attack. PC says that the yetis aren’t the problem – THEY are. Tom doesn’t seem fazed – has another cigarette, which probably adds weight to the theory.

1:14:40 PC holds back the sheet and examines the yeti’s face (we’re not given that pleasure, though). He says it looks like an old face, a kind face. He says maybe the yetis are just waiting for mankind to go so they can have a crack at ruling the planet. ‘Suppose we’re the savages?’ says PC. ‘The WHAT?’ says Tom, savagely.

1:16:41 PC thinks he hears a weather forecast telling them they must get off the mountain immediately. He goes a bit crazy and tries to leave the cave. (I’m guessing it’s a yeti thought-transference thing again). Tom holds him back. ‘What’s the matter with you – are you cracking up?’ he says – having done his counselling certificate.

1:17:17 Suddenly Tom seems to hear someone calling ‘Help me!’ from outside. (I’m guessing it’s maybe a yeti voice throwing thing). Tom goes crazy, grabs a pistol. Wrestles with PC but elbows him out the way and runs outside the cave. Shoots the pistol in the air. Causes an avalanche. Gets buried and dies.

1:20:30 PC digs his way out of the cave. Staggers around the polystyrene boulders for a while, then heads back to the cave. Inside, sees the shadows of two yetis on the wall. They approach him. You see the top half of the face of one of them. One looks like Ken Dodd, coming backstage after three hours straight at the Winter Gardens. PC passes out.

1:22:50 Helen is in the hut. She’s woken up by a yeti call. Goes outside. Foxy wakes up. Goes after her.

1:24:15 Helen is climbing mindlessly in the snow. Finds PC frozen stiff. Foxy catches up – sees a big footprint nearby (erm… yeti?)

1:25:14 Back at the monastery a monk bangs the bell with the giant cotton bud again. A LOT of chanting. The Lama is talking to Helen and Foxy … and as the camera pulls back…. to PC, as well! He thawed out quite nicely, thank goodness. ‘What you were looking for does not exist?’ says the Lama to him. ‘Yes. I am certain of it,’ whispers PC ‘There is no yeti!’ says the Lama, widening his eyes, hypnotically. The orchestra swells. Distant shot of the Himalayas – a yeti waving goodbye on a crest (no, not sure about that bit).

The End.

That’s it! So what’ve I learned?

  1. The Himalayas can by icy, so go steady
  2. Shouting is not good for team morale or avalanches.
  3. Yetis are strong, have big feet but don’t get on with Langor monkeys.
  4. If you can’t take the chanting, keep outta the monastery
  5. Peter Cushing can play anything (so long as it’s Peter Cushing)

The Blood Beast Terror

The Blood Beast Terror, 1968. Dir. Vernon Sewell. Watched on YouTube so you don’t have to.

Just a couple of things before we start. Firstly, I can only apologise for jumping straight in with another Peter Cushing film. I couldn’t help myself. I just wanted to hear him say LYE-BREH-REH again. Secondly, the title. It feels like something you’d get from the horror film equivalent of a band name generator. I love the way it packs in those three emotionally loaded words, with ‘the’ thrown in front to give it a vaguely grammatical anchor. The other names they probably considered were The Skull Scream Claw, or maybe The Fang Spurt Chop – which probably sounded more like a recipe, so that’s why they didn’t use that. So – on (with the headphones) and out (with any other plans for the morning) as I press play on The Blood Beast Gruesome, or whatever. Peter Cushing, at least.

00.10 It starts with three guys in a canoe. The guy in front couldn’t be more white. He’s wearing a white pith helmet, a white military suit. He’s carrying a rifle and pointing at things he’s interested in shooting. The two guys paddling the canoe are black. So I’m guessing we’re in colonial Africa, and the scene is meant to portray sensitively and adroitly the historical UK engagement with that particular continent.

Side note: I’m guessing they really shot it in Henley.

1.08 They park the canoe and the white guy gets out. He’s carrying a little lunch box, or maybe a specimen box, or maybe a box of wipes for his helmet, not sure yet. White isn’t a great colour to wear when you’re sloshing through mud. Just saying. Why make work?

1.42 He uses his rifle to swipe the undergrowth aside (not great from a health & safety point of view). Sees lots of beautiful monkeys and parrots he’d like to kill – but he’s looking for something in particular…

2.05 He sees some interesting pods and puts them in his box to smoke later.

2.20 Cut to: a horse drawn carriage. POV just behind the coachman. A dark country lane. A gong is struck and we see the red titles: ‘Tony Tenser presents’ (love the name, BTW. I’m already tenser). The Blood Beast Terror in 60s gothic script, along with the kind of score that’s like the orchestra staggered back from the pub, picked up an instrument they didn’t know, and the conductor said ‘I don’t care – just be horrific’.

3.26 Favourite name (amongst some nice ones): Peter Bryan (screenplay). Only because I love names that are basically two first names strung together. It’s the eponymous equivalent of a shrug.

3.50 After the credits, we stay with the carriage. The white horses spookily lit by the carriage lamp. Although having said that the whole thing looks quite romantic. I wouldn’t mind an evening carriage ride through the woods. Until…

3.56 …the sound of a man screaming somewhere. The coachman pulls up. Gets out. Takes his lamp and goes to investigate. Finds a young guy lying on the ground in a bloody frilly shirt (by which I simply mean a frilly shirt with some blood – I wouldn’t say it’s excessively frilly – er-hem). There’s a lot of overhead flapping. The coachman looks up in horror as something ‘orrible descends on him.

4.50 ‘Next slide please…’ as we cut to the selfie of a toothy insect.

4.55 ‘The potter wasp’, says the professor. We’re in the middle of an Edwardian magic lantern kind of presentation about insects. The professor says ‘antennae’ in a really weird way – emphasising the ANT syllable. ANT-en-AYE. I mean, okay, so he’s a professor and everything – but REALLY?

5.10 The audience of young Edwardian gentlemen are listening to the professor with as much animation as a shop window filled with smoking mannequins. They’re staring at him as if he’s the biggest and dullest thorax they’ve ever had the misfortune to listen to, but hey! It’s the early 1900s and no-one has a smartphone.

5.26 The professor goes on and on in a vaguely sexualised way about the life of the potter wasp. Again – early 1900s. No alternatives. The young Edwardian gentlemen will go home from the lecture and fantasise about wasps in corsets.

5.45 They should have called this film The Boring Insect Lecture. Because we seem doomed to sit in the room listening to this professor banging on about the colouration of various species of moths. Which would be completely amazing if you liked moths. But I think they should have carried some kind of warning at the beginning.

5.55 Thank God! Peter Cushing strides up to a front door and pulls the bell. I hope it’s to interrupt the professor, because otherwise I’m going to completely moth-out.

6.10 A butler so haughty he probably has a higher certificate in haughtiness, haughts his way across the lobby and very haughtily opens the door.

6.12 ‘Good Evening Inspector’ he haughts. ‘Good Evening,’ says the inspector. (I’m really REALLLY hoping he asks to be shown to the LYE-BREH-REH. No. He doesn’t. He asks to see Professor Mallinger (you can tell he’s a professor by the ovipositor and the disposition of the sucking mouthparts).

6.30 When the butler turns to take the inspector’s hat you suddenly see he’s got terrible scarring down the right side of his face, which makes for a more interesting butler, in my opinion, and goes some way to forgiving the haughtiness.

6.47 ‘The privet hawk moth,’ the professor explains, ‘is to be found around privet…’ The inspector glances round the hall to see if anyone else is thinking what he’s obviously thinking.

7.12 The lecture ends and everyone claps (except me). The professor says he’ll answer any questions, and asks someone to ‘raise the gas’. I’d want to ask why they can’t raise the quality of the lectures.

7.50 The butler haughts in with a tray of glasses, followed by Wanda Ventham dressed as Marie Antoinette. The inspector and the professor share a moment, their noses almost touching. The inspector is sucking on a mint or something, which makes him seem even sexier, but it’s probably just because they’ve all been smoking.

8.13 A horse-drawn police carriage pulls up outside. Even the horses are wearing helmets (I think).

8.30 The inspector says he’s come to ask the professor about ‘young Fisher’ (the guy who was found dead earlier). ‘One of my best students, brilliant chap’ says the professor. ‘What was the coroner’s verdict?’ ‘Murder by person or persons unknown’ says the inspector. Wanda screams. Closeup on a rubber spider on the arm of her dress. She faints. Two of the students grab their toy spider back (I’m guessing they’re not the professors best students, and not particularly brilliant). The professor goes over and slaps the student holding the spider.

9.05 The butler haughts in and tells the inspector his sergeant’s outside and wants to see him.

9.27 The sergeant shows the inspector another student they found, thrown in the back of the police carriage . ‘Watch your clothes,’ he says, ‘there’s blood everywhere.’ ‘Get the professor,’ says the inspector. When the professor comes out he asks the inspector to stand clear, then reaches in and kills the student. ‘It’s too late, I’m afraid,’ he says. ‘He’s dead.’ (When they said the professor was deadly they didn’t just mean his teaching style).

10.20 The inspector is talking to the sergeant back at the station. The sergeant has the kind of sideburns that are actually just a moustache that extends backwards. Or more technically, half a beard.

10.48 The doctor, a big guy in a too-tight suit, waddles in dabbing his neck with a red handkerchief. ‘How’s he doing, doctor?’ says the inspector. ‘Mad as a hatter’ says the doctor. He means the coachman, apparently. ‘We’ll have to get him to the asylum in the morning,’ he says, pulling a sympathetic ‘that’s how we deal with loonies in the 1900s’ face. The inspector goes to see the coachman.

11:40 The doctor and the inspector go into the cell to see the crazy coachman (who’s not SO far gone he forgets to call them SIR). ‘It had horrible eyes!’ he says. ‘And wings, sir!’ The doctor reassures him by holding him down. The inspector wanders out and thinks about what’s happened. The sergeant brings him some moustache – sorry – tea. The inspector wonders if the coachman couldn’t have done the murders. They all go next door to the morgue to examine the bodies.

12:53 Turns out, Roy Hudd works in the mortuary, but he’s a professional and can play to any crowd. It helps that he’s wearing a comedy mortician’s outfit, being a white shirt, leather apron, red neckerchief and stout walking boots. He’s sitting down to have a pork pie and a tankard of ale, with a corpse on the table. The sheet doesn’t cover the feet – because Roy has used the feet as a mug holder. He cleans his fork on the sheet, then starts in on the pie. Nice.

13.10 The bell rings. It takes him half an hour to open the mortuary door, which might be Roy improvising a laugh or just a dodgy door, it’s hard to say. Eventually he lets the doctor and the inspector in. ‘Hallo ‘allo!’ he says, stooping, rolling his eyes. ‘You brought me something, ‘ave you?’ Silence.

14.00 Roy carries on regardless, being an old trooper. He says he ‘always puts the interesting ones by the window’. When even THAT doesn’t get a laugh, he goes back to his food. ‘Pie tonight!’ he says. ‘Well – makes a change from cold meat. Hey?’ The doctor and the inspector turn their backs and perform their autopsy (which sounds fancy, but just involves a lot of lip-pursing and tentative stroking of the corpse’s ears). ‘Drained of blood,’ the doctor says. ‘There’s been six of ‘em so far!’ says Roy, rolling his eyes some more. ‘You’ve been most helpful’ says the inspector, heavily.

16.14 Cut to: a comedy policeman suddenly standing up in the tall grass. A documentary about wild policemen? No – the inspector has set them all out to look for weapons. You can tell we’re in the country now because the inspector is chewing a grass stalk (he’s out of mints).
The sergeant hands him some odd little things they found in the area. ‘Pop them in this envelope, would you?’ says the inspector. ‘I’m going to see Professor Mallinger.’

17.30 The professor is in another mood, chucking chemicals around in his laboratory. The inspector comes in and asks him whether there are any eagles round the area. He says the coachman (who’s now in a ‘mental home’ apparently) says he saw one. The professor says that ‘eagles are indigenous to mountainous countries’, which kills the vibe somewhat. The inspector switches off and reaches for his mints. ‘How large are the claws of an eagle?’ he says, eventually. ‘Come with me, inspector,’ says the professor. He shows him a stuffed eagle. They rule it out as a suspect.

19.38 The inspector shows him the strange things in the envelope the sergeant gave him. They look like tiny leaves (but I’m guessing they’re moth-related). The professor says he’ll examine them in his laboratory (I wish he’d let Peter Cushing say LAB-OR-A-TREH. It’d be better than nothing.) The inspector leaves.

20.20 There’s a scream from somewhere in the house. It’s the butler, prodding a live eagle with a broom handle. The professor sends him away (but doesn’t slap him like he did the student). The eagle looks at the camera just about as confused as I am at this point.

21.20 The professor goes down into the cellar. Puts on a pervy leather helmet. Unbolts a door. Picks up a whip. Goes through to the sound of supernatural screams – eagle, human or Wanda, it’s hard to say.

22.10 A meeting with the chief of police. A singular individual. His hair is as lustrous as the fleece of a coal-black man goat. This fabulous creature says they’ll blame the murders on a wild animal, and meanwhile, carry on searching the heath. ‘Very good, sir,’ says the inspector, crunching his mint intemperately.

22.35 Cut to: a newspaper hoarding that says: POLICE SEEK BIRD OF PREY.

22.48 A guy in a pastel suit walks into the police station (which sounds like the beginning of a joke, which in a way, I suppose, it is). We only see him in profile, which is mostly nose. The way he says his lines – it’s like the script was carved in granite. ‘Can you tell me the way to Clare House, please?’ he says. ‘I’m a complete stranger.’ He goes on to explain to the suspicious sergeant that he’s a naturalist newly arrived from Africa with some specimens to deliver to the professor. The sergeant narrows his eyes, but asks a constable to take him there.

24.06 Two seconds later and the butler is showing the naturalist into the drawing room. (Ironic he calls himself a naturalist, being about as natural as a mannequin on a trampoline). The butler has met his haughty match. Let’s just say they don’t exactly ‘haught it off’ (pause for thunderous laughter). ‘I hear you’ve had a murder here’. (Which is one here too many, if you ask me.) ‘The body of a man WAS found on the heath,’ says the butler, maxing out his haughty credit. ‘If you’ll excuse me, sir, I will tell the professor you’re here,’ he haughts, before the naturalist can deliver any further lines.

24.59 Wanda is watching from the stairs. There’s already a frisson between them (or is it me reading too much into her frills?) She’s wearing the same Marie Antoinette knock-off she wore in the spider incident, so I’m guessing they shot this scene the same day. ‘Mr Brightwell!’ she says, descending, one hand trailing seductively on the banister. ‘I’m Clare Mallinger.’ Turns out the professor is her father. ‘Come and sit down by me and tell me all about Africa,’ she says. ‘What’s it like?’ ‘Very hot’ ‘Yes, I can see.’

25.46 Mr Brightwell tells her he caught the sun. ‘When we were going up the Limpopo I was laid up with it for several days.’ Wanda says she’d be quite at home in the jungle and swamps. Mr Brightwell isn’t so sure. ‘Snakes, crocodiles.. all of them sting or bite.’ ‘And moths?’ says Wanda. (Maybe it’s just spiders she’s not good with).

26.30 She tells him the students are putting on a play and she’s in it. ‘What’s it about?’ says Mr Brightwell. ‘Wait and see,’ says Wanda. ‘You’ll be very surprised.’ (I’m guessing maybe moths).

27.05 The professor strides in. ‘Your daughter tells me she too is interested in entomology,’ says Mr Brightwell. Wanda and the professor share a look.

28.00 The professor and Mr Brightwell look at the chrysalids he’s brought him. ‘They’re magnificent!’ he says. Whilst he gloats over the pods, Mr Brightwell fiddles with the lid of a vivarium. ‘Don’t touch that!’ yells the professor (but doesn’t slap him like the student).

30.00 Cut to: the students’ play. A mad scientist electrifying a heart to the sound of thunder & lightning. The whole thing is meant to be cartoon-like and preposterous, but actually looks more authentic than the film, which is the risk you run with scenes like this, I suppose. I wonder what role Wanda plays?

30.55 The housekeeper comes on. She says there’s a man outside called Mr Stark Adder. ‘Stark Adder!’ says the mad scientist. ‘Goooood!’ He touches his assistant on the shoulder. ‘James? This may be it!’

32.00 Stark Adder and his mate, two Burke & Hare wannabes, sell the scientist a fresh corpse they strangled for a tenner.

Side note: This scene goes on longer and with less interest than the opening lecture about the potter wasp.

‘Connect up the batteries!’ says the mad scientist, with a level of desperation I completely understand.

33.30 The housekeeper runs on again. Tells the mad scientist his daughter Josephine has just been run over by a train.

34.00 Cut to: the inspector wandering around the grounds in the dark. If there was one thing Peter Cushing was born to do was to wander around the grounds of an old house in the dark. That and to sit reading in the LYE-BREH-REH. He peeps through the window.

34.30 They put Wanda / Josephine on the table. ‘She’s still warm!’ says the mad scientist. ‘Switch on the batteries!’ Wanda comes alive just enough to strangle the mad scientist – then dies for the second time. ‘Oh God!’ says the assistant (did I mention there was an assistant?) Curtains. The End (of this dreadful little play segment). Everyone claps – much like they did at the end of the wasp lecture. Wanda says she’ll see Mr Brightwell outside ‘for some air’. But she needs to take her wig off first. The professor chats to his butler. Says there may be something in galvanism, and can the butler get hold of any batteries? The professor asks the director where he got the idea for galvanic stimulation. ‘I made it up,’ says the director, staring wildly. I’m surprised the professor doesn’t slap him.

37.20 Just about everyone seems to be creeping around in the dark outside the house now, including the butler. Wanda and Mr Brightwell play hide and moth – sorry – seek. I’m worried something awful’s about to happen, like a dramatic moment.

39.46 If the moth attacks Mr Brightwell it’ll get a mouthful of splinters. Just sayin’.

39.55 The moth attacks Mr Brightwell. The inspector hears his screams and runs over. We get a glimpse of something standing over him, something unspeakable, in a ghastly moth costume. I’m not sure, but I THINK it might be Wanda, horribly transformed. Is THAT why she’s so interested in moths? (And doesn’t have any friends?)

40.40 The inspector attends to the mortally injured Mr Brightwell. ‘What did you say?’ he says, looking peeved, holding off on any first aid. The butler looks on from a bush.

41.25 The inspector takes Mr Brightwell to the professor. ‘If you’re quick you can save him’ says the inspector, forgetting how effective the professor was last time he showed him someone badly injured by a moth. ‘Well there’s nothing I can do,’ says the professor. ‘He’s dead.’ When the inspector asks if he knows who he is, the professor lies and says he’s never seen him before.

42.36 The inspector is talking to the incredible Chief of police again, a man with such lustrous locks Paris himself would sigh and lay down his golden apples. Or something. ‘That’s all he said,’ says the inspector. ‘Death’s Head.’ ‘A lot of them say strange things before they go,’ intones the Chief. He’d like to take the inspector off the case. He thinks he’s too close. The inspector respectfully declines. The Chief radiates godly knowledge and power over all things. Or something.

43.20 Cut to: the butler putting sheets over everything in the house, then picking up his broom handle to go and torment the eagle. Which sounds allegorical and very well may be. But the eagle is off its perch (can’t blame it). The butler goes down the cellar steps. The eagle jumps him and you hear the butler screaming. It’s probably a daily event.

44.10 Cut to: The inspector seeing his daughter Meg off to her holiday in Sussex – which is probably family code for a spell of treatment in the mental house. The sergeant tells the inspector about the last victim – a bug collector from Africa. ‘Claire House as fast as you can!’ shouts the inspector to the carriage driver, completely forgetting about Sussex. But you can’t blame him.

44.50 Meg watches from the safety of her hat as the inspector rings the doorbell. Then runs round the back. Forces a window. Walks through the house. Goes down into the cellar. Unbolts the second door (without the pervy helmet – oh, Peter…) Puts a hankie over his nose and mouth because it smells bad (the cellar, not the hankie). Sees lots of skellingtons on the floor (the orchestration is blaring trombones – which seems appropriate – that, or xylophones, maybe). Goes back out, covered in cobwebs, which he obviously finds distasteful, having on quite a nice suit. Takes the jacket off to give it a shake (I’d be the same if I just walked out of a cellar full of skellingtons). Puts the jacket back on. Finds another bit of dodgy moth material (which is a description you could apply to this whole goddamn film). Puts it in an envelope and walks back up the cellar steps. Goes into the professor’s lab. Sees blood coming from a pine wardrobe. Opens the door. The butler rolls out in a haughty heap onto the floor, dead.

49.00 The inspector goes back outside to see Meg. ‘Back to the police station!’ he says. ‘But I’ll miss the train!’ says Meg. She likes Sussex and doesn’t want to miss it.

49.30 Back in the mortuary, looking at the butler’s corpse. ‘Could the wounds have been self-inflicted?’ asks the inspector. ‘Impossible!’ says the doctor. Roy, the mortuary clown, mugs about in the background. The sergeant comes in. ‘Excuse me, Inspector,’ he says. He’s found the staff of Claire House. The inspector hurries away to interview them (and escape from Roy’s mugging).

50.38 The housekeeper tells him they were all given a month’s wages and told to leave at once. It was the butler what told them to go. The inspector sucks a mint. Something’s not right, what with all the murders, the skellingtons, the sudden termination of domestic contracts and everything.

51.40 It appears the professor has nicked off via Waterloo. The inspector interviews two cockney porters who say they wouldn’t forget the professor in a hurry. Had lots of wooden boxes with ‘im. Wouldn’t let anyone touch ‘em. But he did give them half a sovereign each. Which was nice. The labels on the luggage said Upper Higham. ‘Thanks for the clue’ says the inspector.

52.08 The inspector goes to see the Chief of Police, a man with curls as deep and iridescent as the night sky and a voice as hypnotically sonorous as the moon. The Chief gives the inspector authority to pursue the professor to Upper HIgham. He’ll take his daughter, Meg, too, who could do with a holiday, after her Sussex disappointment.

53.00 ‘Father! What am I meant to DO here?’ says Meg in the carriage on the way to Upper Higham. (and I hope that paints enough of a picture). The inspector tells her he’s in disguise ‘…a bank manager from Kingston… and you’re my daughter, Miss Thompson.’

53.26 Cut to: the gardens of a country house in Upper Higham (I’m guessing). Wanda comes out, wearing something draggy that looks like an unholy cross between a throw and a negligee. She wants to talk with the gardener, a muscular young thing who’s out in the garden fondling some privet. ‘Good day’ she says. ‘Good day, miss,’ he says, stroking the front of his trousers. HIs name’s Clem. They have a deeply sexual talk about where Clem lives, and how often he sees his parents. ‘Well – good day, Clem,’ says Wanda. ‘Good day, Miss,’ says Clem, touching his fly again, then picking up a spade. And… scene.

54.30 The inspector and Meg arrive at the Inn.

55.08 Cut to: The professor prodding dead frogs with electrodes (nice to have a hobby.) Wanda wanders in. ‘What do you want?’ shouts the professor. ‘You know very well,’ says Wanda. ‘You must be patient!’ shouts the professor, not exactly modelling patience, it has to be said. Looking a bit slappy, if you ask me.

56.12 Wanda wanders off to stare at Clem through the window. He smiles at her as he trains some clematis. Wanda looks extremely mothy in that get up. (strokes chin…sucks a mint).

56.30 The inspector – disguised as the bank manager Mr Thomson and looking EXACTLY like Peter Cushing – comes down into the dining room of the Inn. Stares at two stuffed pike for clues. Another stuffed pike – a businessman down for the fishing called Mr Wallinger – comes into the room for dinner, too. They drink madeira and chat about absolutely nothing at all ha ha, good man. Meg comes down. Gets introduced to Wallinger Jr, who’s a young entomologist – ‘at home known as Billy the Bug Catcher’ – which is NOT attractive, but may or may not prove useful later. A waitress dressed as a jar of marmalade very unselfconsciously serves dinner, being a floury loaf and a latrine of soup.

1.00.15 Everyone goes fishing. Everyone – including the director – seems to have forgotten about all the murders, the skellingtons in the cellar and what have you. Meg goes off to pick some blackberries. If I didn’t know better I’d worry they’d shot some documentary footage and accidentally left it in.

1:01.38 Billy the Bug Catcher is off catching bugs. With a big white net, of course. A peacock butterfly lands on Meg. She catches it, but won’t give it to Billy so he can kill it. With cyanide. Not an auspicious first date.

1.03.08 Cut to: Wanda in the garden, snipping the heads off dahlias. She sees a huge moth on the wall and stares at it in much the same way she stared at Clem, the gardener.

1.03.22 Billy and Meg are chasing butterflies together, seemingly over the whole ‘killing wildlife with cyanide’ thing. They’ve strayed onto the grounds of the professor’s house. Wanda sees them and runs over as Billy catches something in his net. ‘What have you got in there?’ she says. ‘A moth!’ says Billy. Wanda narrows her antennae – sorry – eyes. Meanwhile, the professor is doing more experiments with electricity in his lab. He fills a dodgy looking cylinder with electricity (which sounds like a battery, I know, but this one is bigger, with a hook). He takes it into the cellar where a giant chrysalid is hanging from a beam. He feeds the chrysalid the electricity, but the chrysalid only looks depressed, and I would, too. Wanda goes into the cellar. ‘I told you not to come in here,’ says the professor, slappily. Wanda is impatient again but the professor says electricity isn’t enough. It needs blood. ‘Human blood’. ‘Blood of a young girl?’ says Wanda. ‘That would do perfectly’ says the professor. A touching domestic scene.

1.06.35 Wanda catches up with Meg, who’s strolling down the lane. She apologises for her behaviour. ‘I can’t bear to see beautiful things killed or injured,’ she says. The horse rolls its eyes worse than the mortuary clown. ‘Why don’t you jump in?’ says Wanda. She does – and the next thing you know she’s lying on a couch being transfused directly into the chrysalid, who looks like me, completely desiccated, half an hour before lunch.

1.09.15 The professor has hypnotised her (a technique he uses to great effect in his lectures). He orders her to return again tomorrow. She goes back to the Inn and straight to bed without any soup because she’s got a headache (and a low blood count).

1.10.20 Clem is chopping wood. I’m sincerely worried for his feet, the way he handles that chopper. Then he lights a tiny pile of leaves, dangerously close to hedge – so I’m guessing Clem missed the session on Health & Safety at horticultural college. Wanda runs up (her cloak dangerously close to the leaves), straight into Clem’s arms. She leads him into the woods. They kiss. You see Wanda’s hand on the back of his head. Her hand goes all mothy. So that’s it! Wanda is a moth monster! Or mothter, for short. Cut to – the professor standing outside the house, hearing Clem scream. He runs over there. Finds Clem’s gorgeously muscular but lifeless body on the ground. Sound of flapping overhead.

1.13.10 Back at the Inn, Billy shows the inspector a Death’s Head moth. Explains about the scales on a moth’s wing – and shows him some under a microscope. The inspector realises what all the strange crap was the sergeant gave him on the heath. He goes off to the local telegraph office to send a message.

1.14.25 Wanda is back in the cellar, hanging out with the chrysalis. ‘You couldn’t wait, could you?’ says the professor, shaking her by the shoulders, then slapping her, just like a student. He suddenly realises what he’s created – and throws some explosive acid over the chrysalis, which goes up like Clem’s leaves. In fury, Wanda changes into the mothter again, killing the professor her father. Another touching domestic scene.

1.15.50 Billy and Meg go to tell Mr Wattinger they’re going for a walk. He’s fishing again – but his line gets caught. But it’s not a big pike, though, it’s Clem!

1.17.05 The inspector is back from the telegram office and reading not in the LYE-BREH-REH but in the dining room. The sergeant strolls in with a briefcase of clues. They sit down to go through them. They figure out that what they’re looking for is a giant moth. The landlord comes in and says thanks for coming so quickly Sergeant – he’s got the drowned guy on the table next door. They examine the body and decide he was killed like all the others. The landlord says it’s Clem, from up at the old house. Where Meg and Billy have gone.

1.21.18 They all drive out to the house. Meg is way ahead of them, walking in a trance. Billy is on the front porch talking to Wanda. He shows her his Death’s Head moth. Wanda says she knows about moths. Yes – and we know about Wanda.

1.22.51 Wanda shows him to the end of the drive because apparently she can see very well in the dark. Meanwhile, Meg walks into the back door as the professor commanded. Goes down into the cellar. Screams when she sees the professor on the floor, which wakes her from her trance. She grabs a lamp and runs through the house, but all the doors are locked. Trips and falls down the stairs, setting the house alight.

1.23.55 The carriage pulls up outside. The inspector and sergeant run inside and rescue Meg. The inspector carries Meg outside while the sergeant puts the fire out. Wanda turns into the mothter and attacks Billy. Billy screams. The sergeant shoots over the mothter to scare it away. Billy isn’t badly hurt, though (shame). The sergeant (who – it transpires – is called Alan – true story) shoots wildly in the air, but the inspector tells him he’ll never hit it. Instead, the inspector sets fire to a bush. The mothter is attracted by the light (I think), flies down to look, catches fire, and burns to death on the lawn in front of them, changing back into Wanda just long enough for the inspector and Alan to wince a few times. ‘What are we gonna tell ‘em, sir?’ says Alan, as the mothter disintegrates. ‘They’ll never believe this at the yard.’ ‘They’ll never believe it anywhere,’ says the inspector. Then checks his pockets for a mint.

And that’s it!
So what’ve I learned?

  1. Lepidoptery is not the study of leopards.
  2. A cellar full of skellingtons isn’t really such a big deal.
  3. Moths do best on human blood and electricity.
  4. Never prod an eagle with a broom handle.
  5. If you like swamps, why not try Henley?