Captain Collier (Patrick Allen) and his band of sailors show up to an English coastal town to investigate reports of Marsh Phantoms who ride by night spreading terror to the town. The Captain suspects that the local reverend (Peter Cushing) might be hiding something. Are the phantoms genuine or a cover for illegal smuggling activities?
Possibly one element of Hammer’s early horror films (Curse of Frankenstien, Dracula) that really got them noticed was the infusion of bright red blood and gruesome gore into otherwise sedate pictures. Captain Clegg doesn’t contain those extra elements – it is a tale of 19th century smugglers who disguise themselves as skeletal ‘marsh phantoms’ to obfuscate their wrong-doings. Despite references to having ears and tongues cut out, the horror element is very much in the background, and instead this is more of a period caper full of derring-do and spirited British performances. Sadly, this makes it substantially less interesting than Hammer’s better known output.
Yvonne Romain, who starred in the similarly anaemic ‘Curse of the Werewolf (1960)’ plays the subject of pirates’ desire and the daughter of Captain Clegg (Peter Cushing), and her co-star from that earlier film (although they never shared scenes), Oliver Reed is mostly wasted in the under-written role as innocent Harry, her would-be suitor.
This is a well-played, intriguing, mannered film with plenty of good performances. It’s a rollicking yarn - as a horror tale however, it doesn’t deliver the goods unless you are frightened by men riding around dressed as skeletons, on similarly disguised horses.