Kino Lorber // 1968 // 88 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Jim Thomas // July 15th, 2012
You gotta be [censored] kidding me.
Have you ever been watching a movie, and you got distracted for a moment, and when you turned back, you were disoriented and had to rewind the movie several minutes to pick up what you missed?
That happened to me about eight times while watching Kino's The Blood Beast Terror. As it turned out, I hadn't missed anything at all -- the directing and editing is just that inept.
Virile young men are being brutally killed on the outskirts of London. At the last murder scene, a coachman caught a glimpse of the killer, but the sight drove him insane; he keeps babbling about a winged creature with huge eyes. Scotland Yard has put Detective Inspector Quennell (Peter Cushing) on the case, and he consults with Dr. Carl Mallinger (Robert Flemyng, Funny Face), a renowned biologist. Quennell suspects that a giant bird, perhaps an eagle, might be the culprit, but Mallinger quickly disabuses him of that notion. Shortly thereafter, we see Mallinger's butler feeding a very large, very temperamental eagle. Mallinger is a fairly popular professor, partly for the parties that he has for his students, and partly, one suspects, for his beautiful daughter Clare (Wanda Ventham, UFO). Another victim yields more clues, this time in the form of some oddly shaped scales.
Mallinger's attention is focused on some new specimens, unusually large moth cocoons, brought to him by Frederick Britewell, a naturalist recently returned from Africa. Britewell suspects that Mallinger is attempting to breed a larger species, but his attention is quickly diverted when Clare thrusts her heaving bosom in his face. Looking to do a little thrusting of his own, he follows her outside. To his doom, obviously.
You see, Clare is a were-moth. That's right, a were-moth. I still can't type that word without a reflexive eye roll.
Because the plot demands it, Quennell's suspicions fall on the Mallingers, but they have left town. Quennell decides to go to the country incognito to try and uncover what's really happening, taking his young daughter with him to bolster his cover. (It's never quite explained why he decides to go incognito given that Mallinger know who he is, but that's the least of the movie's unexplained plot points.) Mallinger, being the sort of stupid that you only find in movies such as this, thinks that the only thing better than one murderous creature is an entire race of them, and thus is on the verge of creating a mate for Clare, but needs the blood of a young woman. Because that's clearly how you nurture a maturing were-moth. Fortunately, Quennell's daughter is stupid enough to get into a carriage with someone she's never met before. Before long Mellinger has hypnotized her, given the maturing pupa a transfusion, and given her the usual post-hypnotic suggestions to return tomorrow, same moth-time, same moth-channel.
Because the production team has gotten bored with the entire ordeal, Quennell finally gets the last bit of information, and rushes to the scene, not knowing that his idiot daughter is also on her way there as well. Mallinger, who has finally realized that this role will not gain him the Oscar he has dreamed about for so long, announces that he's tired of Clare killing people, and destroys the cocoon of her mate. He then proves his Oscar-worthiness by acting appropriately shocked when she promptly transforms and kills him.
Quennell arrives, yada yada yada, dead were-moth.
A were-moth?! Sweet mother of Uwe Boll.
Actually, I can't really complain about the were-moth itself. God knows I've watched enough movies with critters at least that odd if not odder. The problem is the script and the direction are so incredibly inept. So much is never explained. Is Clare actually Mellinger's daughter transformed, or is she a critter that Mallinger discovered in his travels (sort of like the salt vampire in Star Trek's "The Man Trap")? Why does Mallinger tolerate his daughter's killing spree (until the eighth victim, at least)? What's the deal with the eagle (a subplot that does nothing but waste time)? In fact, much of the movie is devoted to wasting time: a morgue attendant mugging around with his lunch, a curious play produced by Mallinger's students. It's basically a Frankenstein tale, so you have a not particularly subtle nod to Peter Cushing, as well as loads of foreshadowing for viewers to dim to have figured out that Clare is the monster. Wanda Ventham is beautiful, confident, and has a way about her that simply screams "Danger, Will Robinson"; from the moment she appears, you know she's trouble -- which is why red herrings such as the eagle fail so miserably. That, plus the fact that they're such bad red herrings.
At some point, you can only conclude that the writers just said, "To hell with it; Peter Cushing will make it work."
Trivia: Wanda Ventham is the mother of Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock).
You have to wonder exactly why Kino went to the trouble to restore this particular movie, because let it be understood -- this is a first-rate restoration. The high definition AVC-encoded 1.66:1/1080p transfer, restored from the original negative, is first rate -- sharp and clear, with strong color and details. Some occasional film damage persists, but it's unobtrusive. The LPCM 2.0 Mono mix is also solid, with clear dialogue and little or no hiss. The only extras are a trailer and a photo gallery.
The movie was also released under the title Vampire Beast Craves Blood, which is ridiculous enough that it actually fits the movie better than the original.
Even the worst British horror movie boasts some decent performances, and that holds true here as well. Peter Cushing does his usual solid job; he plays Quennell as though he's in a police procedural, which kind of works given the film's languid pacing. The other actors, though, simply have nothing to work with. That's really it.
No, there is one other thing. I have to admit, the demise of the were-moth is amusing, and reflects the sort of presence of mind that is exactly why you cast Peter Cushing for a movie like this. Quennell smashes an oil lamp in a pile of leaves, creating a large fire...and you know what they say about moths and flames. It's hardly dramatic, but its brilliant simplicity is perfectly in keeping with Quennell's character.
Peter Cushing considered The Blood Beast Terror to be the worst movie he ever made. The court is inclined to agree with him.
Kino is found guilty of wasting considerable talent and resources on
restoring this film.
Review content copyright © 2012 Jim Thomas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Kino Lorber
* 1.66:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* PCM 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1968
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* Photo Gallery