Wednesday, July 15, 2015

My Review of Night Creatures

night creatures aka captain clegg hammer poster

At Matt's suggestion, I am writing a review of Night Creatures, a Hammer movie I wasn't familiar with until very recently. Matt had recommended another Hammer movie, Dracula: Prince of Darkness. I set out to find that one on our library system's web site and couldn't, but I did run into a two disc set of Hammer movies (The Hammer Horror Series). A few of the movies on that set were obscure, at least to me. I saw that Night Creatures was included, so I decided to order it just to see something a little different.

If you're into Hammer movies you know what the usual fare is: Vampires/Werewolves/Frankenstein (pretty much the same monsters as Universal) a heck of a lot of fog, a horse and carriage, and some neon orange/red "Hammer blood" spurting around. What's different about Night Creatures is that there are no traditional monsters. Instead there is the legend of "The Marsh Phantoms" who ride their ghost horses around at night.

Retro-Fiend animated GIF

The phantoms are pretty cool for back in the day. (This movie was made in 1962.) There's even this shooting out at you!

So there are ghosts in the story and pirates and the grumpy Captain Collier bugging the townsfolk for tax money on the booze they're smuggling. This story is set in England during the 1700s. There isn't much of that Hammer blood at all, but there are some Hammer trademarks. That fog machine is still rolling, there's a busty exotic woman thrown in for good measure, and there's of course this guy:

Quite the wig, eh? I didn't recognize Peter Cushing at first as he was up preaching to a church full of people and wearing this hair. But the cheekbones were a tip off. You get to see a different side of Peter Cushing in this. He's at times dead serious and at other times mischievous and funny. I thought this was a more complex role for him. Actually, this entire movie was more complex than what I'm used to seeing out of Hammer. I'd call it more of a drama than a horror film.

It's hard to talk about Night Creatures without giving too much away. There are plenty of twists and turns that I don't want to ruin for you. The basics are...

Back in the 1700s, there's a pirate named Captain Clegg. Captain Clegg has a wife who is attacked and nearly killed by a man on his crew. Clegg is so angry that he treats this man as a traitor and gives him a really nasty punishment (removing his tongue and leaving him for dead on an island). After that gross scene, we're shown the church where Dr. Blyss the minister (Peter Cushing) is giving his sermon and Captain Clegg is buried. The Captain is said to have been hanged.

We're also told of the mysterious phantoms that are lurking about at night. Some demanding soldiers turn up looking for tax money on the smuggled booze I mentioned earlier and they've brought with them the tongueless dude who was left on the island. They conveniently rescued him. So there's all sorts of drama with the booze smugglers outwitting the soldiers with some pretty clever plans, the tongueless guy looking for revenge, and a little romance to boot. The romance seemed a little contrived, but this is Hammer so we have to have a random plot with two attractive young people and their love life.

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. It was dramatic and well thought out. Peter Cushing was very likable! There were a few parts that didn't quite add up to me or weren't altogether believable but I let that slide. I would have ended Night Creatures completely differently if I had written it, but that doesn't mean I don't recommend watching the movie. I just cannot figure out why they went in that direction at the end. My guess is that the writers couldn't figure out how to tie up a bunch of wild plots so they took a simple way out.

This is an interesting movie to watch even if you're just watching it on mute. The sets are atmospheric and I think atmosphere is Hammer's strong suit. Some of the actors are fascinating to watch, especially this guy:

That's Michael Ripper and he made some expressions that cracked me up! Between him and Peter Cushing there are a whole lot of amused looks exchanged.

While looking for photos from the movie, I ran across some videos from a band named "Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures". I was actually already familiar with one of their songs from a Halloween mix CD I was sent. It's a good one! "Zombie A Go Go"

I guess the women are the "Night Creatures"? You'll see more Hammer type blood in this short video than in all of Night Creatures.

So, I'd be interested to discuss Night Creatures with anyone who has seen it. If you haven't seen it yet, I think it's worth checking out. Especially for you Hammer fans! I think you'll appreciate seeing something different from the film company.

This is the trailer. It's pretty cool and won't spill too many beans: