Sunday, 28 January 2018


THESE DAYS IT CAN quite often appear to ‘Joe Public’ that the name Peter Cushing is tied to three things; Star Wars, some quirky Doctor Who off shoots and a number of Gothic Horror pictures from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Of course as fans we know this not to be true, though even then it appears that most of the aficionados of his work tend to admire his horror performances most. That’s unsurprising and personally I’m as guilty of this as anybody else, particularly as I am a horror fan first and foremost. That said, I thought I’d break away from the spooky and the space age this week and instead compile a handy list of the ‘best of the rest’ as it were. Some of the performances listed here are some of the finest throughout Cushing’s entire career and I’ve compiled this as a hand starting point for anyone thinking to check out his work, away from crypts and castles. As with my other lists this is unashamedly personal and is in no order. BY THE WAY, some of the films I have chosen for my list, can also be watched in their ENTIRETY on the PLAY LISTS at our  Peter Cushing Appreciation Society YOU TUBE Channel!

Cash on Demand (1961)
A tense two-hander between Cushing and another Hammer regular, Andre Morell, the film is a clever re-working of the Scrooge story within a ‘thriller’ context. Set in a bank, Cushing plays the tough and austere Manager who undergoes rigorous psychological torment by Morell’s Colonel Gore-Hepburn. 

HEPBURN ARRIVES AT THE BANK and announces to Cushing that he intends to rob him and has his wife and child hostage. Should he not comply, Hepburn will be forced to send the signal that will lead to their termination. Cushing’s portrayal of a man undergoing unbelievable stress and torment manages to be one of the most horrifying things the actor has ever produced. 

CONTRASTING THIS is Morell’s performance as the sadistic but undeniably charming Hepburn who manages to remain calm, whilst breaking PC down piece by piece. Set mostly within the one room the film can be incredibly uncomfortable at times, with Morell’s calmness bouncing well off of Cushing’s hysteria.

1984 (1954)
Ok so an obvious one and one that some may consider science-fiction, though I would wholeheartedly disagree. Similar to the above, this performance showcases the softer side of Cushing and again features Morell as his tormenter, giving the two an odd similarity. 

HOWEVER WHEREAS Cash on Demand still has elements of a moral superiority in its message, inherent in any Scrooge adaptation, the message of Orwell’s novel is far darker and depressing. Again Cushing astounds as a man put through unspeakable psychological tortures but this time the result proves far more terrifying than before. Lacking a proper DVD release, it’s a real shame that such a classic of British TV has yet to be given even this simple treatment. 

Sherlock Holmes and the Masks of Death (1984)
Ok, ok this is certainly an odd one I would never deny that. Cushing’s role as ‘the great detective’ is one that spans a number of portrayals but most notably Hammer’s Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) and the BBC series in 1968. 

UNFORTUNATELY THIS MEANS that Masks of Death is more often than not, overlooked. Admittedly it suffers from a somewhat plodding script and perhaps fails to get any attention at all, due to its unavailability on DVD or Blu-Ray. What really makes this odd little TV-movie however, is Cushing’s portrayal of a much older Holmes builds on his earlier performances but manages to provide something…softer, gentler. John Mills plays his Watson this time and the two work wonders together, making one wish for a mini-series or something of the sort. The plot attempts to root itself firmly in history, though the details are a little shaky…to say the least but it’s an interesting little film and a fun example of Cushing’s Holmes work.

The Violent Playground (1958)
Another somewhat bleak film, Peter Cushing provides a memorable turn as a Priest attempting to heal the social ill’s surrounding a Liverpool street gang led by David McCallum. 

THE HIGHLIGHTS are doubtless the sequences in which Cushing attempts to reason with McCallum who appears to have some sort of a bond with the Priest. This builds to a superb climax in which McCallum takes a number of school children hostage with a machine gun and Cushing attempts to talk him down. Brutal, gritty and uncomfortable the least said about this one before watching the better.

Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) 
Considering that (bar the one entry) this list has so far been made up mostly of quite depressing drama fare, it seemed right to end it on a good old fashioned swashbuckler. In Sword of Sherwood Forest, Cushing takes on the role of the Sherriff of Nottingham and clearly has a whale of a time. 

WHILST I WOULD HATE to describe any of Cushing’s performances as ‘Pantomime’ that’s the word that comes to mind here, but not through insult, through the sheer amount of fun he is clearly having. The biggest disappointment is admittedly Cushing’s death scene, which whilst firmly cementing his as the secondary villain is particularly lacklustre and seems an unfair dispatch for the character. Sharing the screen with such celebrated actors as Richard Greene, Oliver Reed, Nigel Green and Niall MacGinnis the film may not be wholly successful but is the perfect Saturday afternoon entertainment.  

WELL I HOPE you enjoyed my list.Of course the great shame with much of PC's early non-horror work is that a great deal of it was for the BBC, who either wren't in the habit of recording or later decided it would be fun to burn the few recordings they had. Although pieces like this won't make the list for obvious reasons, I sure would have loved to have seen his Pride and Prejudice. It may be an odd choice from these lost days but I'd give my left arm to see the 1953 adaptation of Number Three. As for my list here, I am sure there are a couple you may disagree with! Over at the facebook fan page, many are sharing THEIR TOP FIVES. It's lively! Maybe you'd like to join the thread? That's it for this week, more next week, I hope you join me!  Callum McKelvie

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