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?

Island of Terror

Island of Terror, 1966. Dir. Terence Fisher. Watched on YouTube so you don’t have to.

0.45 Opens with an island quayside scene so cute you expect to see rabbits and dormice unloading the boats. Except they’re smoking pipes. And wearing duffle coats.

0.58 ‘Alright. Let’s have it on the truck’ says the gruffest rabbit. But he doesn’t mean sex, apparently – he means a crate labelled Phillips Laboratories, Chemical Equipment, Handle with Care.

1:05 I love the acting in these old films. There’s a guy with a clipboard – he carefully sucks the end of his pencil, slowly taps the pencil on the clipboard, then says ‘Is that all they need?’ You can say what you like about the Island of Terror, but the admin is thorough.

1.27 Actually, I have to say, so far it’s only an island of terror if you’re scared of duffle coats. Not sure where this island is – hard to tell from their accents. One of them sounds Welsh, the constable Northern Irish. The monster’s probably a cockney.

1.58 I mean – SO many guys in duffle coats, looking cold, moving VERY slowly. It doesn’t make me want to go and live on an island. Or buy a duffle coat.

2.41 Cut to: the lab! Dials and knobs and beakers and bubbling noises. What are they cooking in there? Crystal meth?

3.10 ‘The cell cultures are prepared. We’re ready to begin.’ says a white coat. About time. Three minutes in and all we’ve seen are duffle coats.

3.24 I’m guessing they cast the chief scientist because his eyebrows go up in the middle. It’s so easy for him to look sincere.

3.34 One of the lab techs mentions ‘…the vapour applicator’ I love that! I totally want a vapour applicator. Although maybe he just means the kettle.

3.50 Turns out they’re working on a cure for cancer. What they really need is a cure for duffle coats.

4.05 The screen goes red! We get the opening credits! Wow – I can’t believe this was all just the warm up.

4.15 ‘Island of TERROR’ blares the title. Big emphasis on terror. That’s why I don’t work in film. I’d have been tempted to emphasise ISLAND.

4.51 Favourite name from the credits: John St John Earl (the art director). If I say it over and over it sounds like a car I had once that never used to start.

5.44 A guy in a duffle coat is walking in the fog with a lamp looking worried. (The guy’s looking worried, not the lamp. It’s Hammer Horror, not Disney).

6.03 There’s a horrible noise coming from somewhere. That cave? He goes in to look. You hear screams, the light wobbles about. Sound effect like me eating cornflakes. Horrific.

6.50 Cut to the constable sitting at his desk drinking beer. You’d drink a lot of beer on the Island of Terror. Someone knocks on the door. Mrs Bellows comes in with her head in a scarf and her hand in a handbag (which sounds more terrifying than it is). Her husband is three hours late and she’s worried. ‘I’m sure he’s alright’ says the constable. Well I’m pretty sure he’s not, judging by the cornflakes sound effect and all the screaming.

8.00 The constable goes off to look for Mr Bellows. Finds his body lying in the cave. Looks disgusted. Prods it with his truncheon. The duffle coat is about the only thing left. Urgh. Mind you, if I was a monster and I ate someone, I’d probably leave the duffle coat, too. Even if I wasn’t a monster I’d leave the duffle coat. What am I – Paddington?

10.05 In the posh drawing room of Dr Lander, who’s practicing his fly fishing, never mind the antiques. The constable knocks on the door. When Dr Lander opens the door he almost has the constable’s eye out with his pipe. He’s like some strange Medic/Clown hybrid.

10.50 ‘I’ve just seen Ian Bellows and his body’s like jelly.’
‘Jelly?’ says Dr Lander.
‘Aye! It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.’ (Although it IS like jelly, which he HAS seen).

10.59 ‘…there was no face…just a horrible mush…with the eyes sitting in it….’
(Sounds like something I might serve up at a dinner party).
The constable takes him to the cave to check out the mush.

11.50 Dr Lander pokes the body of Mr Bellows with a stick. He says he doesn’t think the body has any bones. I’m hoping Dr Lander isn’t the Coroner, or if he is, he writes his reports in crayon.

13.00 No – he IS the coroner. Back at the mortuary he confirms that this IS the body of Mr Bellows. He recognises the appendectomy scar (and the duffle coat). He tells the constable he needs to get the help of the eminent Dr Stanley – which I’m guessing is Peter Cushing, because that sounds like the sort of part he might want to play.

13.58 Dr Landers meets Dr Stanley in his lecture hall (Dr Stanley’s lecture hall, not Dr Landers-es). I have to say Peter Cushing has the best voice ever. It’s like a glass of cold blood. With a biscuit. Absolutely top class. Now. What can I do for YOU?

14.50 I mean, the way Peter Cushing says LIBRARY. LYE-BREH-REH. Every letter articulated. Beautiful. My time is completely vindicated. LYE-BREH-REH. Mmmm.

15.02 They both go to see an eminent bone expert. We see him at home pouring a couple of drinks, a sleazy sax playing in the background. The shadow of a woman getting dressed just visible through an open bedroom door. This is the kind of life an eminent bone expert would lead, I suppose. Maybe golf – with a femur for a Pitching Wedge (and you can bet I Googled THAT)

15.13 She comes through, wearing his shirt. ‘How’s the dress?’ he says. ‘Oh, the spot’s out but it’ll take some time to dry,’ she says, sitting down. He sniffs her feet. Apparently they met when she wrote off a Maserati and broke her leg. He was the bone doctor and they fell in love. There’s some sexy banter, then they kiss – in that awful, mouth closed, head rocking from side to side way that they learned one afternoon at RADA.

17.40 Dr Landers, Dr Stanley and the eminent bone doctor Dr West talk about the strange case of the man with no bones. ‘No bones?’ ‘No bones.’ ‘Not a trace?’ ‘Not a thing.’ etc etc. Dr West has never heard of this before. At least he’s spared the constable’s description of the ‘horrible mush with eyes sitting in it. ‘With eyes sitting in it?’ ‘Eyes.’ ‘In the mush?’ ‘In the mush’ etc etc.

18.20 Dr West’s girlfriend offers them her dad’s helicopter if she can come to the island to see the body, too. ‘Are you a good screamer?’ says Dr Stanley. I’m kidding – but I bet she is. ‘Jolly good. I can show you my LYE-BREH-REH,’ says Dr Stanley. I’m kidding – I just wanted to hear him say library again.

19.02 For reasons I don’t understand, the helicopter can drop them there but can’t pick them up again for a while. Maybe it’s rush hour or something. ‘This means we won’t have any contact with the mainland,’ says Dr Landers, impressively.

19.50 Off they go in the helicopter. This scene takes a full five minutes. Maybe there weren’t many helicopters in 1966. Wow! I mean – look at those rotors… The orchestra gets pretty worked up, too. A xylophone plays loudly – which I suppose is reminiscent of a helicopter. Kinda choppy.

20.35 The constable is waiting for them on top of a craggy outcrop. He lights a bonfire then stands well back – just as well if a helicopter is going to be flying over a bonfire. We get an extended close-up of him looking at the night sky admiring the helicopter as it xylophones in.

21.00 Lots of hellos and what not. We get to hear about Dr Phillips, the reclusive professor hiding away on the island, working in cancer research. ‘Before we do anything, let’s go and look at that body,’ says Dr West, who’s really only here for the bones.

22.10 Cut to: Dr Lander’s autopsy room. He pulls a sheet back from Mr Bellows. We see his face for the first time. Looks like me after I’ve eaten too much risotto.

23.00 They talk about the results of their examination. The body is covered in tiny holes. Maybe something sucked the bones out through them? (I’m guessing they got their medical degrees online). They need to go to Dr Phillips’ lab for more tests, because he’s in research and enjoys more funding.

24.50 Dr Phillips’ house ‘looks like Wuthering Heights,’ says Dr Stanley. He probably read the book in his LYE-BREH-REH.

25.40 They ring the bell but no one answers. Dr Stanley takes a torch to find a way in. He forces a window and climbs in. Creeps around. Almost trips over the boneless body of Dr Phillips in the library. Lets the other chaps in. They creep around trying to find the laboratory. It takes them ages. It’s worse than the helicopter.

28.40 Actually, the lab’s in the crypt behind a door marked KEEP OUT : RADIATION. They go in.

28.50 ‘Isotopes!’ says Dr Stanley, looking inside. Maybe that’s a sciency swear word, I don’t know.

29.10 All the lab technicians are lying boneless on the floor. Typical lab technicians. I mean – the pay’s terrible, it’s repetitive work, they get creative with the isotopes…

29.13 Peter Cushing tips his hat back, which is Peter Cushing for ‘Fuck Me this is Awful’.

29.22 ‘Good news – they found a cure for cancer. Bad news – it sucks your bones out.’ (This is why I can’t ever be a script writer).

30.07 They look in the computer – sorry, filing cabinet – for clues.

30.10 Cut to: a worried looking villager walking down a creepy looking road (mind you, all the roads on Terror Island look creepy. It’s probably in the brochures and everything).

30.40 He finds a horse – or a cow? I don’t know, I’m not a vet – with all its bones sucked out. Runs to find the constable. Tells him he found one of his horses dead (Ahhhhh).

32.09 The constable rides over to Dr Phillips’ place to tell Dr Landers about the boneless horse. He lets himself in. Finds the bodies. Explores the rest of the house. Goes down into the crypt. Into the lab. Hear’s a noise coming from a room marked ‘Test Animals’. Opens the door. Gets a tentacle round his throat and his hat falls off.

35.00 Dr Landers goes round to the constable’s house. Rings the bell. Nothing. Gets back in his car. Drives down to the harbour where some guys in duffle coats are aimlessly painting the hull of an upturned boat (it’s the little details that make the film so authentic). The farmer is there. The farmer tells him about his boneless horse. Dr Landers jumps back in his car again. The farmer has the best quote of the film: ‘There’s some peculiar goings on going on on this island’. Try it for yourself. You can’t help but sound mysterious.

37.00 Everyone seems to be going to see everyone else about the peculiar goings on going on on the island. With their hands in their duffle coat pockets. The head of the island walks to his landrover with another guy at about the same pace the doctors walked out to the helicopter. But this time without xylophones.

37.20 Dr West is busy smoking a fag and explaining how Dr Phillips probably found a cure for cancer. Which is just as well. Toni, Dr West’s girlfriend, (I should edit that in earlier but I’m running out of time) – Toni says she doesn’t want to be left alone when they go off to look at the boneless horse. If the monster appears they’ll need a good screamer.

38.33 Toni watches from the car as the three doctors stand around the boneless horse prodding it with a stick. She hears a horrible noise. There’s a thud on the car roof. Something hideous and globular slides down the back window and when she realises it’s not Dr West she screams. The doctors come running but when they get there, it’s gone. ‘What did it look like?’ ‘I don’t know! I don’t know! It was greyish!’ Hmm. They get back in the car to drive to the village for help – but the next thing you know, they’re pulling up outside Wuthering Heights again.

41.00 They see the constable’s bike outside. Down in the crypt they find him lying on the floor, boneless (not that much different to when he was alive, to be honest). A tentacle sneaks out round the door and flaunts itself in their faces. Then the rest of the creature trundles round the corner. It looks like shit on wheels. A motorised pile of shit with a tentacle on the front. They turn to run, but there’s another pile of motorised shit in front of them, waving. Toni looks particularly distressed – having seen something similar back in Dr West’s flat.

41.55 Dr Lander grabs an axe that’s on the wall behind him. Whacks the motorised pile of shit (MPS for short). But the MPS grabs him by the tentacle – which is worse than it sounds – and sucks his bones out. Then it splits and a whole load of spaghetti comes out. Sorry to be so scientific about it. I can only describe what I see. One of these days I’ll write a paper on it and put it in the LYE-BREH-REH.

43.38 Dr Stanley manages to sneak past the shitty pile of spaghetti. Toni is too scared to follow, of course. But Dr West shouts at her and that seems to work. They escape up the stairs.

44.23 The car won’t start. So Dr West opens the bonnet to check the screenwash or something. Meanwhile another MPS is sneaking up on them across the lawn. ‘Hurry!’ says Dr Stanley. ‘I’m trying!’ says Dr West. ‘….I think that’s got it!’ he says, slamming the bonnet on his fingers (I wish). They speed off.

45.10 Back in a house somewhere. Toni is resting in bed. Dr West mixes some powder into some water, for menstrual cramps or screaming, I’m not sure.

48.00 Cut to: the docks. Two villagers meet with another villager. He’s only there because he wants ‘his guts’ (I think – no idea – must be an island thing). Tells them about all the doctors who came in last night on the plane – although it was clearly a helicopter, so … erm .. what about his guts? The villagers look suspicious and hurry away to find the doctors.

48.19 Nineteen seconds later and they’re walking in the door whilst the doctors are reading through Dr Phillips’ notes. Dr West explains about the MPSes, how they’re killing everyone and threatening the island. How they were the results of Dr Phillips’ anti-cancer experiments. ‘I’ll need ten good men in half an hour in the meeting hall’ he says. ‘Right,’ says the chief villager, or mayor, or whatever you want to call him. The one in the hat, anyway. ‘I’ll better go and tell the constable,’ he says. ‘I’m sorry. You’re too late. He’s dead,’ says Dr Stanley. ‘And Ian Bellows.’ Awks.

50.50 Everyone meets at the meeting hall for the … erm … meeting. Dr Stanley explains that Dr Phillips created a silicate monster that eats bone. Everyone looks at the village dog, for some reason. They make a plan to find as many guns and bombs as they can. Also to deny the MPSes food by hiding the cattle. The guys all go off and Toni is left to organise the kitchen and stop everyone from panicking (although she needed a powder earlier on, so….)

55.20 All the guys including the doctors go out with shotguns and bombs as it’s now MPS open season. The doctors shoot an MPS right in the tentacle, but it’s no good. Dr Stanley goes over with a geiger counter – which looks suspiciously like a lunch box – and almost gets filleted by an MPS that sneaks up on him. Dr West throws some petrol bombs. The MPSes seem to actually like the flames. At least it means they don’t have to wear a duffle coat. The farmer who lost his horse says he’ll get up closer. One of MPSes is up a tree and drops on his head. He ends up like his horse – a non-runner. ‘Come on – let’s try the dynamite!’ says Dr West. I wish he was my doctor. Although if he’s wary prescribing antibiotics, he’ll be even slower handing over dynamite.

1.00 A villager runs up. It’s his big moment. He gives a big, breathless speech about how one of the MPSes is dead after eating Dr Phillips’ dog. You know – the one that had all that radiation poisoning? He drags the speech out as long as he can, but it has to end sometime and they all run off to look, with him tagging on behind wondering when he’ll get another acting job (which is never, I’m guessing, on the strength of the radioactive dog speech).

1.01 Dr Stanley prods the MPS with a stick (I could be a doctor; I can prod stuff). Yes. It’s dead. They load the dog and the MPS on the truck and take them back to the clinic.

1.03 They examine the MPS. Decide that the only thing that can kill it is Strontium 90. If they can poison the cattle with Strontium 90 then let the MPSes eat the cattle – well, it’s not the vegetarian option but it’s some kinda hope. Dr Stanley and Dr West drive out to Dr Phillips’ place to get the Strontium 90. Jeez – there’s a lot of driving on Terror Island.

1.04 Back down in the crypt. The lights flicker. They go into the lab and put on some protective clothing. It takes them ages. Even longer than putting on a helicopter. The tension is undetectable.

1.05 They end up looking like inflated condoms. I bet they gave their agents hell.

1.06. Seriously? Now they’re putting on enormous gloves. Very slowly.

1.07 All to open a cupboard marked ISOTOPES. Mind you – I’m the same when I go to the fridge to check if the hummus is still in date.

1.08 Dr Stanley has the isotope gun in a briefcase and goes back up the crypt stairs. Dr West goes back – he’s forgotten the gloves (yeah, right). Dr Stanley is so busy locking the briefcase in the boot he doesn’t notice an MPS. It grabs his hand. He shouts for Dr West who comes running back up and cuts Dr Stanley’s hand off with an axe – which is possibly a psychotic response to the recent glove trauma. Then takes one of the gloves, shrugs and tosses it over his shoulder (just kidding – it’s horrific – poor Dr Stanley – how’s he going to fondle the books in his LYE-BREH-REH?)

1.10 Back at the clinic, Toni bandages his stump and gives him a paracetamol. ‘Thank you nurse’ he says.

1.11 Dr West goes all James Herriott. Drives over to the cows. Puts on some enormous gloves. I thought he was supposed to inject the Strontium 90, not shove it up their arses.

1.12 Back at the hall they hang lights around the hall like they’re going to have a ceilidh or something. The Island of Terror (and Community Dancing).

1.16 There’s a romantic scene between Toni and Dr West (just after he’s attended to Dr Stumpley’s stamp – I mean – Dr Stanley’s stump). He almost proposes – but Toni says Ssh and puts her fingers on his lips. All of them. ‘David? Be careful,’ she says. ‘I love you.’ They kiss (worse than being slapped in the mush by a tentacle). He doesn’t say he loves her back, though. She can totally do better. (Shame all those lab technicians got completely boned so early on).

1.18 The MPSes attack and eat the cows. Dr West, the Mayor and a guy in a duffle coat watch through binoculars. ‘It’s a nightmare,’ says the Mayor. Which is true. It’s night, he’s the mayor. Just sayin’. They hurry back into the hall.

1.19 The MPSes surround the hall. The lights go out. The villagers panic, light scented candles. But I’m guessing if Strontium 90 won’t do it, a Bay & Rosemary candle doesn’t stand much chance. Ironically, the sound cuts in & out on me at this point, so I panic along with the villagers. It looks like the mayor points the gun at the villagers and says nobody move, but I could be wrong. Tentacles smash windows. A villager gets deboned where he stands. Then an MPS drops down through the roof and debones another one. They all run out into the corridor. ‘Steady as you go’ says a marshall, the sound cutting back in. He sounds surprisingly calm, but that’s probably why he got the gig. They all retreat into the clinic and put clinical furniture up against the doors. It’s all looking hopeless. Dr West gets a needle ready to euthanize Toni (honestly? she REALLY could do better). But then the tentacles start to go flaccid. ‘Careful’ says the mayor. Dr West throws the doors open. ‘We’ve done it!’ he says. ‘They’re dead!’

1.24 The helicopter comes to pick them up. I know! A helicopter! ‘Have you searched the island thoroughly?’ says Dr West. ‘Yes. We killed them all. I’m certain of that,’ says the mayor. ‘If it had happened anywhere else, I don’t think we would’ve been able to destroy them,’ says Dr West, hugging Toni, who looks about as boneless as anyone at this point, TBH.

1.25 Cut to: A Japanese lab. A racist’s impression of a Japanese scientist knocks on a lab door, gets no reply. Opens the door. Cornflakes sound effect. Screams.

The End.

And that’s it!
So what’ve I learned?

  1. Motorised shit with a tentacle is surprisingly effective, except when it comes to duffle coats
  2. Helicopters sound like xylophones
  3. Never give a bone doctor an axe
  4. Everybody should hear Peter Cushing say LYE-BREH-REH at least once
  5. No. Seriously. LYE-BREH-REH. Mmmm…