If horror movie villains were real, I wonder what their favorite films would be? Mind you, I've never really put much thought into this, I've only considered the notion as a fleeting afterthought. I'm reminded of the idea after watching 'The Blood Beast Terror.' I bet Freddy Krueger, Jason and Leatherface have yearly 'Lord of the Rings' marathons while teasing poor little Chucky. Being the hopeless romantic, Frankenstein's favorite genre is the rom-com and feels he can relate to Steve Carell in 'The 40 Year-Old Virgin.' After spending the night sucking on the blood of others, the last thing Dracula wants to do is watch a vampire movie, so he likes relaxing to a loud action flick in his home theater. Having a very specific acquired taste, Hannibal enjoys classic Ingmar Bergman films while drinking a glass of 50-year-old Scotch.
Well, anyhow, back to 'The Blood Beast Terror,' a small, mildly amusing creature feature by Vernon Sewell, who a couple years later directed the quirky 'Burke & Hare,' which, sadly, was also his last film. I would wager this movie would probably rank as a favorite of Buffalo Bill's from 'The Silence of the Lambs.' Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if he grew up on the movie since it features his beloved bug, the Death's-head Hawkmoth. In fact, the six-legged flying creature with the vaguely human skull-shaped marking on its back is central to the mystery behind a series of grisly murders in a quaint English countryside. On the case is none other than Peter Cushing as Detective Inspector Quennell. A decade earlier, Mr. Cushing played the legendary Sherlock Holmes in 'The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)' though this character sadly lacks the same level of investigative intellect and perceptive skills of deduction.
Had the otherwise affable Inspector possessed such intuitive talents, the film would likely have been solved within the first fifteen minutes. The consulting detective would be quick to point out that the murders all appear to happen on or near the property of Dr. Carl Mallinger (Robert Flemyng). It's elementary, my dear Sgt. Allan (Glynn Edwards, playing the Watson type to Cushing's Holmes-like figure), two of the victims are actually students of the entomology professor, making him the prime suspect. Making it even more obvious, the respected doctor makes one those classic villainous faces with the eyebrows while snuffing the final breath of the latest victim, and Cushing's detective funnily misses the whole thing. Audiences have only just met Mallinger, and it's already revealed he has something to do with the deaths — either as the culprit or by hiding a secret.
It's somewhat interesting the filmmakers would disclose the plot's fairly major secret so soon, likely in an effort to create more suspense and tension between Quennell and Mallinger. Our suspicions are also drawn towards the doctor's daughter (Wanda Ventham) and the creepily scarred butler (Kevin Stoney). To that effect, the cat-and-mouse chase is entertaining to some degree. Unfortunately, this also tends to ruin much of the story's mystery, because after a while watching the detective piecing everything together, audiences will grow increasingly frustrated with the character's seeming incompetence. This is not through any fault of Mr. Cushing's performance — he's brilliant as always. It's simply a bad character trait written in the script of Peter Bryan ('The Plague of the Zombies').
Thankfully, the film's best part turns out to be the story's better surprise, the one aspect I would imagine Buffalo Bill probably gushes over when watching. The murders are committed by a genetically mutated, human-sized Death's-head Hawkmoth. Or more specifically, the real killer is a, ready for this . . . a were-moth! I admit the idea does sound pretty stupid and the furthest from scary, but at the same time, the device is rather original if not absurdly ingenious — a moth that can take human form! Producers also tried their best at dressing up the silly notion within a spooky, gothic atmosphere à la Hammer Films, which isn't all that surprising considering 'The Blood Beast Terror' comes from Tigon British Film Productions, an independent company wanting to follow in the footsteps of Hammer Horror.
In the end, this largely forgotten, atmospheric creature feature is a decently fun watch though the idea of a were-moth is laughably silly. Then again, it is a large part of the film's charm, making it worth revisiting just for its failed attempt to transform the notion into something scary.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Kino Lorber brings 'The Blood Beast Terror' to Blu-ray under the distributor's "Redemption" label. Housed inside a normal blue keepcase, the Region A locked, BD25 disc goes straight to the main menu with a still photo of the cover art and music playing in the background.
'The Blood Beast Terror' takes flight on Blu-ray with a great-looking 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. For an obscure 45-year-old movie, the print appears to be in fantastic shape because details and clarity are often extraordinary, revealing plenty of texture on facial complexions and the costumes of the cast. Background information is plainly visible and distinct although there are a few soft scenes with slightly poorer resolution which interfere with the presentation's steadiness. Supposedly made from original 35mm elements, the high-def transfer also displays bright, crisp contrast levels and blacks are generally true with strong shadow delineation. Brightness does tend to waver some during poorly-lit interiors, but colors are accurately rendered throughout. All in all, the video looks great though the print can greatly benefit from a full restoration.
Unfortunately, the English uncompressed PCM stereo track is not quite as strong as the video. Although dialogue is well-prioritized and intelligible, several conversations are obvious by-products of ADR work, often sounding hollow and slightly muffled with some mild reverb. There are also many instances of minor noise and hissing in the vocals, seeming generally off-balance while ruining the cadence and modulation of the voices. This continues with a rather weak and mostly flat mid-range, which also carries a good deal of noise in the background and shows little-to-no differentiation in the various frequencies while noticeably clipping in the upper ranges. It's fairly apparent there's something wrong with the mix, as there appears to be too much information in the low-end, creating lots of unusual bass in the vocals of some actors and the music but none of the action.
As with the video, the film's sound design can definitely benefit from a full restoration.
The only available bonuses are a Still Gallery collection and a set of Trailers for other movies in the "Redemption" line.
Starring the always wonderful Peter Cushing, 'The Blood Beast Terror' features one the silliest and most laughable notions for a horror flick, but that also makes for a good part of its lasting charm. It's not one of the better B-films from the Tigon British Film Productions catalog, but it nicely demonstrates the company's attempt to follow in the footsteps of Hammer Films, and it can be enjoyed as such. The Blu-ray arrives with a shockingly good video quality but greatly lacks in the audio department and supplemental features. Nevertheless, cult enthusiasts of forgotten B-movies will want to check this out.