Thursday, October 25, 2012


1967, Euro London/Image #ID5882EU, HF/LB, $19.98, VHS
#ID5888EUDVD, DD-1.0/LB, $19.95, DVD-A, 80m 22s

Reviewed by John Charles

Originally published in Video Watchdog #67

Routinely directed by Vernon Sewell (CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR), this minor Tigon period thriller holds little interest for anyone who is not a British horror completist and/or diehard fan of Peter Cushing (who reportedly considered this to be his worst film, though we would nominate the same year's CORRUPTION). A series of murders have occurred, with the always male victims drained of blood, and all of the witnesses driven mad by fear. With no solid leads to go on, Inspector Quennell (Cushing) suspects a bird of prey to be the culprit but local entomology expert Dr. Mallinger (THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK's Robert Flemyng) knows the real truth. Using his daughter, Clare (Wanda Ventham), as a test subject, Mallinger's experiments cause the girl to periodically transform into a human-sized deathshead moth that requires human blood for sustenance. When the inspector gets too close to discovering the truth, the doctor packs up his equipment and flees to the countryside with Clare, where he works to create a mate for her. Quennell follows, bringing along his daughter (Vanessa Howard) to perpetuate the illusion that they are on holiday. Clare soon abducts the girl, in order to provide her father with a convenient source of nourishment for the still-dormant male creature.

Peter Bryan's script shows little imagination, even resorting to hoary devices like hypnotism, and the mystery angle in the first half is compromised by Mallinger's blatantly suspicious behavior, which wouldn't fool a rookie constable, let alone a seasoned inspector like Quennell. No attempt is made to paint Ventham's character as anything other than a stock menace and it also doesn't help that, when transformed, she bears an unfortunate resemblance to the ridiculous titular creature from Roger Corman's THE WASP WOMAN (1959). The method Quennell uses to dispatch the creature is especially unsatisfying, as is the optical effect that depicts it. Ultimately, Cushing's customarily persuasive performance, attractive 19th century settings, and Paul Ferris' effective score (portions of which would later be recycled in other films) are the only substantial attractions here. The film was released stateside by Pacemaker Pictures as THE VAMPIRE BEAST CRAVES BLOOD on a double bill with Roberto Mauri's 1962 B&W film CURSE OF THE BLOOD GHOULS (aka SLAUGHTER OF THE VAMPIRES). In spite of these deliciously lurid titles, both features were given "G" ratings by the MPAA!

THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR was previously available in the US from Monterey Home Video and in Canada from CIC Video. We are unable to compare Image's new EuroShock Collection rendition with those versions but the 1.55:1 framing on this new release gives it a compositional advantage. The transfer, however, looks to be several years old: the image is sharp but grainy, with pale colors and pasty skintones. Bright whites also occasionally bloom. The sound is a tad hissy but clear enough to make overdubbed lines very obvious. At 80m, this version runs approximately 7m shorter than the original UK theatrical release. Neither release includes any extras but the DVD menu designer deserves a mention for providing some cute deathshead moth cursors.

[A much better quality version with additional footage is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Kino Lorber]

1 comment:

  1. Having recently watched CORRUPTION for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised by the emotional complexities of Cushing's character and his wife. There was a richer, deeper film buried in there, which ocassionally makes it to the surface.