Sunday, 5 November 2017

NO PARTICULAR LIST OR ORDER : CHOICEST CUSHING : CALLUM MCKELVIE



HELLO ALL! A little bit of a departure this week. Instead of my usual ramblings on a particular film or films, in my last three defending what I think can often be considered lesser Cushing entries, here I’m going to get a little personal! For roughly a month now Marcus has very kindly let be contribute a weekly post and given me pretty much free reign to write on whatever aspect of Cushing based fandom I wish. However I realise I’ve done this with very little introduction to myself, my name being slapped on post after post but with no one having any real idea of who I am.  . . .!


SO, I’m Callum McKelvie, a recent Masters graduate having studied history. I got into classic sci-fi around age six, and moving into horror at about 13 or 14 when I saw Quatermass and the Pit and it blew my mind. At university I wrote extensively on genre cinema as a historical source, examining the Quatermass trilogy in my undergraduate dissertation and the Occult boom of the 1970’s for my Masters diss.



SO, THIS WEEK I thought I’d make it a little personal by naming a number of my favourite Cushing performances and why. Not the top five by any means, but five which bring me special pleasure. This is in no particular order and it’s not the best film but the performances that bring me the most joy, concentrating purely on Peter and his interactions with the other cast members. You won’t find Hammer films 1958 'Dracula' or 'Horror of Dracula''Hound of the Baskervilles' or 'The Skull' here simply because we all know how amazing he is in those films. The purpose of this list is to highlight a couple of performances that, whilst generally viewed as good, are special to me (The Skull fits that bill too but it’s been written on so much I thought I’d give it a rest). I might mention a portrayal of the same character twice, but from different films. That’s because I’ve always admired Peter’s ability to change his characterisation ever so slightly, to fit the tone of the script. So, without further Aude…


'FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL' (1974)
SO YES, I KNOW there were several more Cushing/Hammer films after this, but for me this is their swansong. Designed as a throwback to the earlier Hammer Frankenstein’s, the feeling of the end of an era permeates the entire film. Cushing’s Victor Frankenstein is the closest to his portrayal from the first two, out of all the sequels. Once again he finds a middle ground between the viciousness of Frankenstein Must be Destroyed and the charm of 'The Evil of Frankenstein' and 'Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed'. However here he adds something else, exploiting lines of dialogue such as ‘You’ll learn…I had to’ and the brilliant ‘If I’ve succeeded this time…then every sacrifice will have been worthwhile’. Cushing brings an immense melancholy to Baron Frankenstein, showing us a man who is determined as always but is now desperate to succeed. The final shot of him sweeping up the glass, chattering happily about how to start again- finally having snapped, has something immensely fatalistic about it.



READ THE ABOVE FEATURE WITH FULL COLOUR GALLERY
AT OUR WEBSITE : HERE!


ON SET BEHIND THE SCENES PHOTO FEATURE ON 'HORROR EXPRESS' AT OUR WEBSITE:  HERE!

'HORROR EXPRESS' (1972)
FROM ONE OF Cushing’s more tragic portrayals to one of his most fun and lighthearted. Horror Express is in my eyes THE Cushing and Lee vehicle, giving them a wealth of screen time together, as friends for once and not as enemies. The result is easily one of the most fun and funny Cushing portrayals, from the memorable ‘MONSTER? We’re British you know!’ to his smirk as he attempts to bribe his way onto the train. 


Cushing and Christopher Lee on set with Director, Eugenio Martín during the shooting of  'Horror Express' . . .

Not only that but in Dr Wells he manages to mix humour with his usual sternness when preforming the autopsy on the body of the baggage guard. However the highlights are his interactions with Christopher Lee, indeed when Lee passed away a few years ago this was the film I chose to watch. Seeing the two old friends bounce off each other and have genuine fun is always a joy.



'SHE' (1965)
ANOTHER MORE kindly portrayal here and another example of how Cushing can masterfully mix a multitude of different aspects of a character. From the more humorous (including a rare opportunity to see Cushing dance), to the melancholic (‘All my life I’ve wanted to find a city like this…now I wish only to see it destroyed) to the furious as he rages at Ayesha during her attempt to kill Ustane, single-handedly out-acting every other cast member. 




IT'S A SHAME Cushing never got to reprise this role….although considering the state of the sequel perhaps not. But a much older Holly, lamenting the loss of his friend would probably have been up there with the emotional power of Grimsdyke in 'Tales from the Crypt'. Honestly though, it’s the little details that stand out for me and the sincerity with which Cushing answers the question, ‘Have you ever been in love?’ responding ‘oh many a time…and truly once’, always brings a smile to my face.




THE HISTORY OF SHE IN THE CINEMA AND BEHIND THE SCENES ON THE HAMMER PRODUCTION: COLOUR TRANSPARENCIES IN OUR FEATURE: HERE!

'THE SILENT SCREAM' (1980)
NOT ONE THAT IS LIKELY  to show up on a lot of lists, this was shown as part of the Cushing retrospective put on by the Abertoir horror festival in 2013. Grabbing some of my friends afterwards I was delighted to discover how many found this genuinely terrifying. It’s a pity Cushing never appeared in Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense but his one off performance stands as one of the highlights of the entire, Hammer House of Horror series. 




THE KINDLINESS that Cushing bestows into Blueck and the slow reveal of what a monster he really is provides the meat and bones of the story. Brian Cox acts off him brilliantly and the final moments when Cushing falls into a trap of his own making provides a chilling finale.




OUR 'REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN' FEATURE WITH VINTAGE STILLS COLLECTION RIGHT HERE!


'THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN' (1958)
THIS IT FOR ME. The gold standard of Cushing films. My favourite Hammer films, my favourite Cushing film and one of my favourite films in general. Say what you want about Sangster’s writing (and many people do) but I find the script here to be one of the most clever and thematically deep of all the Hammers. Sangster reverses the Paul/Victor and Teacher/Student relationship in The Curse of Frankenstein, here making Frankenstein the teacher. 



CUSHING RESPONDS to this admirably and considering Revenge was made only the year after Curse, manages to convince the audience that several years have passed for the Baron. His near-death experience has changed him, losing the spoilt brat streak of the first film and giving a more wizened, if even more dangerous determination. His monologue concerning his ‘revenge’ is exceptionally powerful and the drive that Cushing manages to instil in the Baron is genuinely terrifying, far more so than any of the Monsters within the various instalments.



CALLUM MCKELVIE'S REVIEW OF ''A TALE OF TWO CITIES' 1980 featuring Peter Cushing Chris Sarandon Alice Krige, Kenneth Moore . . . 



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