Sunday, 18 March 2018

CALLUM MCKELVIE SUNDAY DOUBLE BILL : ITS A MESS! VAMPIRE GIRLS VAMPIRE GUYS AND PC TOO


OH DEAR. When I embarked upon this two-part examination of Peter Cushing’s four vampire films that didn’t feature him playing a variation of his Van Helsing character, I had no idea what I was in for. Now my first part concerned what are, essentially, two solid later day Hammers that stand up to this day. One, The Vampire Lovers, isn’t the best showcase for Peters talents, but it’s a pretty great film overall and a successful attempt by Hammer to eroticise their Vampire formula further than before. Twins of Evil, on the other hand features one of Cushing’s very best roles, as the vicious Gustav Weil. 


ABOVE: LAST WEEK'S FIRST FEATURE ON the theme of Cushing in VAMPIRE FILMS not playing one of his most popular anti-vamp roles, VAN HELSING: HERE! 


HOWEVER, WITH THOSE TWO out of the way, it was up to me to then tackle both Incense for the Damned (1970) and Tendre Dracula (1974), two films I had not seen. Now writing this piece…I wish I hadn’t.




WE'LL START WITH ABOVE,  Incense for the Damned, a 1970 British production starring Cushing as Dr Walter Goodrich. Goodirch is something of a high-up in British society, whose son has gone missing in Greece, having fallen under the influence of a mysterious girl. A group of the young man’s friends and a private detective embark on a journey to find him. On the You-Tube description for the posting of this film, my colleague Marcus opens by stating; From the 92 feature films that Peter Cushing appeared in during his long career in television, theatre and cinema, there only about five titles, whatever your person taste, that could be deemed as 'almost unwatchable'


A SENTIMENT I am afraid I must agree with. The film is truly terrible, with a sluggish and plodding narrative that makes tremendously little sense. The majority of the characters come across as childish and unlikeable, bickering constantly.  






PATRICK MACNEE, always a welcome sight, has a role and the film is elevated somewhat whenever he is on screen. Unfortunately, and this is not something I thought I’d say, the opposite must be said for Cushing. For once in his career he seems utterly bored and…well…is clearly going through the motions with very little vitality an energy resulting in a lacklustre performance. I don’t want to be too harsh, his role is very small and so its possible there’s just nothing for him to work with, for whatever reason the results are the same.





MOVING ON TO Tendre Dracula, I was mortified that Marcus had also included it in his list of the ‘five-unwatchable Cushing films’, stated in the video description mentioned above. None the less I soldiered on, sat down to watch it…and was not rewarded. A bizarre French comedy centering on an aging horror star, MacGregor, who has decided he only wants to play romantic roles. 


CUSHING THIS TIME, is the only good thing, probably enjoying playing a variation of himself but alas even he cannot save what is one of the most god awful train wrecks of a film I have ever seen. Crude, poorly acted, poorly shot and well just cringe worthy, Tendre Dracula may have Cushing giving it his all…but here it’s simply not enough. 



THERE'S A FEW INTERESTING snippets, a nice touch which clearly are supposed to reflect an actual horror star reflecting on his career through the guise of a fictional character but this is hardly a new idea. Of course the best example of this is Peter Bogdonavich’s Targets (1968), starring Boris Karloff and but if you want to see Cushing do this in a far better film I suggest Madhouse (1974). 


HERE HE PLAYS A WRITER, not an actor (that role goes to Vincent Price) but some of the sentiments shared between the two are clearly meant to be based in reality. In Tendre Dracula these moments come across as shallow and ineffective…what’s more it feels like instead of having a bit of fun but ultimately respecting Cushing, that the Director is actively taking the piss.




THE INFAMOUS and much maligned ‘spanking’ scene seems horrifically out of place and Cushing himself hardly seems pleased. I’m not really sure what I expected when I put this on, usually being a fan of the weird and oft maligned but what I got wasn’t even vaguely entertaining. Tendre Dracula deserves its reputation as a childish exercise in farce.


WELL AFTER THOSE TWO, I feel I need a stiff drink. But I leave you with a solemn warning. Whilst that old feeling that Cushing can save truly awful films is often correct, it’s not always. When he even he can’t, then you must wonder just how awful the resultant product can be. If you ever get tempted to sample these… delights, then I warn you dear reader, STAY AWAY. Down that road only madness lies. Until next time! 

HERE IS A FOOTNOTE to this review feature on TENDRE DRACULA. LATE last year, I received this email. I THINK I managed to provide a good answer, for their TV show. What do YOU think the answer would be?  


Hello Marcus Brooks
My name is Jose Puig, and I work as journalist for a cultural quiz show on the Spanish TV called ‘BOOM’. I’m writing you because we are working on a question about the Peter Cushing and I have thought that you maybe could help me confirming the information that we mention in it in order to be as precise as possible and make sure we don’t spread wrong information to our contestants and our audience. With your permission, I attach you the information we want to confirm:It would be really helpful if you could confirm us that Peter Cushing has never performed a vampire character in cinema in order to give this option as a false one for a question we are working for.


I hope you don’t mind helping us with our doubts.
Thanks in advance for your help and your time.
Best wishes,
JOSE PUIG




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