Blood Beast Terror, The (1968)

The Blood Beast Terror (1968)

Detective Quennell investigates a series of murders in which the victims are found drained of blood with huge claws marks over their bodies. His investigation takes him to good friend and entomologist Karl Mallinger. Here he finds out that Mallinger has been conducting experiments that have caused his daughter to morph into a giant Death’s Head moth and she has been killing the men who are attracted to her.

 

Peter Cushing once remarked that The Blood Beast Terror was the worst film he ever took part in and he’s probably not too far from the truth. The Anglo-horror era in Britain in the 50s and 60s saw plenty of international smash hits churned out from the likes of Hammer. But there were also a few lesser known studios which wanted a piece of the pie and tried to muscle in on the market to little avail. This one is from a studio called Tigon who made the excellent The Witchfinder General but then struggled to keep the hits coming. It’s easy to see why they’re forgotten about when people continually talk about Hammer and Amicus.

The Blood Beast Terror is a complete mess. Even the worst of Hammer films usually had some form of coherent plot which made sense no matter how stupid some of them became. Here, there is nothing done to explain anything that happens. No doubt you’re wondering what the hell the plot is all about and it’s never explained throughout the course of the film. We don’t know how Mallinger managed to create a moth that big, let alone one that can change appearance between human and moth in the blink of an eye. Nor does it explain why the moth becomes a vampire, desperately needing blood to survive as opposed to nectar or whatever moths eat to stay alive. I guess any reasons would have been silly but at least we’d have a reason! It’s better than clutching at straws.

The film itself is terribly flat. Not a great deal happens. There’s a pointless subplot with Mallinger’s servant who continually harasses Mallinger’s eagle pet with a big stick before it pecks him to death and that plot thread ends. There’s a few deaths scattered around with a splash of blood on some of the bodies but nothing to get worked up over. The music adds nothing to the film whatsoever, with lots of misplaced and badly-timed cues of music which detract from some of the film’s most serious moments.

At least the acting is pretty reasonable with Peter Cushing being flawless as always (despite the absurdity of the material on hand) and Robert Flemyng being a bit of a turncoat as Mallinger. It’s the sort of role that Cushing can do in his sleep but one which he approaches with his traditional professionalism and ability to turn even the worst dialogue into intelligent science and fact. Wanda Ventham stars as the ill-fated ‘moth woman’ and it’s a thankless task. The moth costume looks ridiculous – fancy dress hire quality with its black bodysuit, big red eyes and some tacked-on wings.

The finale where Cushing builds a huge fire to attract the moth to it is so badly timed and rushed that it’s over before it begins. There’s one shot of something flying towards the fire but the lens seems to have been out of focus so it’s hard to explain what it is. Then the film ends. I had to read up on it in order to understand just what happened because it was all so quick and sudden. If there is one positive, it’s the great in-joke as some students put on a play of Frankenstein in Mallinger’s house. Cushing’s character peers through the window and smiles at the play, a self-referential wink to one of his greatest performances in The Curse of Frankenstein.

 

Cushing was right. The Blood Beast Terror was the worst film he ever starred in, through no fault of his own – but almost everyone else’s. It’s awful and not the way I want to remember British horror.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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