Six young men have been brutally murdered, their throats torn to ribbons and drained of all blood. The sole witness has been consigned to a lunatic asylum, raving about something terrible with gigantic wings... Suspecting that some sort of giant bird of prey may be loose, Inspector Quennell (Peter Cushing) turns to local zoologist Dr. Mallinger (Robert Flemyng) and his beautiful daughter Clare (Wanda Ventham) for help in solving the case. But Mallinger has terrible secrets all of his own - secrets that may soon endanger both Quennell and his innocent young daughter Meg (Vanessa Howard)...
Spoilers follow ...
- The Blood Beast Terror review by NP
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This film is flatly directed by veteran Vernon Sewell, and involves a mysterious creature stalking the British countryside relieving local youths of their blood.
Robert Flemyng plays entomology professor Dr. Carl Mallinger in a role originally designed for Basil Rathbone, who sadly died before shooting began. His daughter Claire is persuasively played by Wanda Ventham. Peter Cushing stars as the perpetually chewing Detective Inspector Quennell with a subtle edginess compared to his usual genial performances. As the undertaker, Roy Hudd appears in the kind of role Miles Malleson might have essayed ten years earlier, endlessly making puns about corpses etc. Vanessa Howard plays Meg, Quennell’s daughter; in one of those bizarre decisions typical of films made at this time, her voice is dubbed, very badly, by an artiste who sounds a great deal younger than the character. This practice has always baffled me – why take the time to hire an actor only to rob them of one of their most important hallmarks, their voice? Glynn Edwards, most famous for his role in television’s ‘Minder’ is Sgt Allan (one of this film’s highlights is the occasional banter between Allan and Quennell, apparently suggested by Cushing) while veteran Kevin Stoney plays Mallinger’s scarred retainer Granger.
The cast are capable, but the film plods and seems to last longer than its 88 minutes - there are various reports that both Flemyng and Cushing were not happy throughout. In the opening scene, which the film didn’t need to show as events are recounted later anyway, Africa is represented by a muddy English river and forest with ill-matching stock footage of wildlife inserted (including a Central American Macaw!). There is an initially amusing amateur dramatics play performed that serves no real purpose, but seems to drag, for example, and far too much time is spent with minutiae at a time when the story could really do with building up some sort of tension.
The Blood Beast responsible for the film’s alleged Terror is a human sized death’s head moth, Claire’s alter ego. Impractically, to commit the various murders, Claire would have to transform from fully clothed and exquisitely made-up into the creature, and back again, from one scene to the next. The creature’s eventual destruction is very badly conveyed, but at least it brings proceedings to an end, dispelling a growing feeling that the film was going to last forever.