Judge David Johnson thinks "The Creeping Flesh" is a sexy title. If that doesn't qualify as a fetish, I don't know what does.
A terrifying journey through the nightmare worlds of evil, insanity, and terrible revenge.
Genre icons Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee headline this dark, science-project-based film that feels like an over-extended Tales from the Crypt episode…in a good way.
Facts of the Case
The movie, set in the 19th century, opens with Emmanuel Hildern (Cushing), a successful scientist, explaining to a protégé his theory that evil is a disease, and can, in fact, be cured. The narrative continues in a flashback, as we see Hildern bring home an ancient skeleton. As he investigates, he realizes he may have found the missing link. But, wait, there's more!
The mystery deepens as he discovers, hidden in the remains, a potential key to developing an antidote to evil. He begins his research in haste, and despite the distractions of his jealous brother James (Lee), who runs an asylum, and the mental shenanigans of his daughter, Penelope (Lorna Heilbron), he produces an experimental serum that he thinks can take away the evil in a person.
And what better test subject than his zany daughter, whose mom (Hildern's wife) was insane? After a psychotic episode, Penelope gets a dose of the anti-evil serum. But, guess what folks, there's a good chance something will go wrong…and boy does it ever.
Penelope breaks loose of the house, mixes it up with some sailors in a bar, murders an escaped mental patient, and lands herself in her uncle's sanitarium, all before dinner!
His daughter's incarceration is the least of Hildern's problems, as the ancient skeleton may not be as sessile as he once thought.
A cerebral horror movie, more than anything, The Creeping Flesh has a title sexier than the actual film. The movie meanders, not picking up steam until late in the final third. From that point on, it gets fairly compelling, crossing the finish line with a snazzy little twist ending.
But be warned, it's quite a haul before we get to that point. The majority of the movie is dialogue-heavy and relatively laborious. There are too many sequences of Hildern just kickin' it in the laboratory; it's like a 19th century Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Lee and Cushing, both seasoned genre pros, are great as usual. Lee especially shines, as the snarling, envious brother, also dabbling in some shady science. And Heilbron, as the fiery Penelope, is a gorgeous spitfire of a redhead, who, when taking a flying leap off the deep end, adds some much-needed zest to the movie.
As she embarks on her crazed rampage, things get more interesting, particularly with her encounter with the nuthouse escapee, which becomes an almost surreal translation of the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Basically, The Creeping Flesh won't mesmerize, but it does become a pretty decent genre offering, whose ending adds a few more bonus points to the tally. The film is given an adequate widescreen transfer relatively free of major screen defects. It is an old movie, and as such, the stock is dated, but the transfer cleans it up a bit. A stereo mix—that doesn't do anything for me—provides the audio. Previews are the only extras.
There are worse things you can do than spend 90 minutes with The Creeping Flesh.
This bare bones release doesn't do much for the court, but the feature is half-decent. Released with three months probation and twenty hours community service picking up hubcaps on the freeway.
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