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  Blood Beast Terror, The Moth MythBuy this film here.
Year: 1968
Director: Vernon Sewell
Stars: Peter Cushing, Robert Flemyng, Wanda Ventham, Vanessa Howard, David Griffin, Glynn Edwards, William Wilde, Kevin Stoney, John Paul, Russell Napier, Roy Hudd, Leslie Anderson, Simon Cain, Robert Cawdron, Kenneth Colley, Beryl Cooke, Roy Evans, Joan Ingram
Genre: Horror
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Frederick Britewell (William Wilde) is an entomologist in Africa whose mission has been the subject of great interest by another scientist, Dr Carl Mallinger (Robert Flemyng). As Britewell attends to collecting moth chrysalises, the village where the doctor lives is suffering from a bout of bloody attacks on the men of the area, and it so happens tonight that it has occured once more. A coachman hears a cry as he rides through the darkened forests and rushes to the victim's aid, only to discover he has been too late - but what is that flapping of wings he hears? Something terrifying, that's what...

Of course, when I say terrifying then I mean in the context of the film, because watching The Blood Beast Terror now it all seems more than a little absurd. If this film has gone down in the annals of cult moviedom, then it is because of what its star Peter Cushing thought of it. This was the worst film he ever appeared in, according to him anyway (he must have thought this before he appeared in No Secrets) and so has been granted a kind of inverse glamour along the lines of, well, if Mr Cushing thought it was all-time bad, then we'll have to see how bad.

Actually, it could be that the star brought a touch of class to most of his projects, but this isn't really all that terrible, it's simply deeply silly. And it plays so earnestly under the direction of Vernon Sewell, a journeyman coming to the end of his career who had helmed Curse of the Crimson Altar the same year, making that two underwhelming horror pictures in the space of a few months. Part of the trouble is the monster, which could have been a more traditional vampire, was scripted by Peter Bryan as something else, perhaps to get away from the Hammer style - this was a Tigon film, after all.

So what the "Blood Beast" is is a giant moth, and Bryan appears to be ignoring the fact that most moths don't eat at all, so they wouldn't be able to feast on human flesh, but a moth that size wouldn't be able to fly anyway. The identity of the moth is kept a secret - yes, one of the characters is actually a huge shape-changing insect - but fairly easy to work out, although when we do catch glimpses of the villain transformed it looks to resemble someone in fancy dress, or maybe preparing for an evening of modern dance. Whatever, it's more ridiculous than scary.

Cushing is the Inspector on the case, ever the professional, but not even his skill is enough to make any of this convincing: you know you're in trouble when the opening sequence is supposed to be set in Africa and it's plainly a river in chilly England. As the cast are whittled down - it's surprising there's anyone left by the finale - suspicion rests on the experiments of Dr Mallinger and rightly so. Could his daughter Clare (Wanda Vetham) have anything to do with this? The script might have exploited some fear of women as its theme, but no, if there are any themes they're never invested with any conviction. By the time the inspector's daughter Meg (Vanessa Howard) is being threatened, there's only one thing to do. Well, how else would you get rid of a giant moth? It means the film ends with uninentional laughter, which is entertaining in its way, unlike most of the preceeding eighty minutes. Music by Paul Ferris.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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